Super Smash Bros. Brawl may be old hat for all of you in Japan, but with March 9 still a whole week away, us North Americans are still chomping at the bit to get our hands on the game.
Luckily, due to my good fortune of being related to an EB Games employee, I was invited to attend the SSBB Retailer Event, held in five cities across Canada on Friday, February 29.
Each event was hosted by a boxing gym, in hopes of setting the dramatic stage for one of Nintendo's most anticipated releases. It also proved a good way to hide the event from the eyes of the general public.
Although I noticed after we left, it should have been a lot more obvious.
Walking into the gym, it felt as if we were part of some sort of secret club (despite the blatant advertising outside). We ascended two staircases to finally reach our destination.
And at the top of those stairs, it was an entirely different world. The boxing ring and other proof that in another world, this was a gym, were hidden from view, obscured by bright consoles and people everywhere.
We managed to avoid the main rush, so getting hands-on time with the games wasn't too difficult. The one thing I missed out on was the eight man tourney and the two player co-op demos going on in the ring, but judging by the rapt attention everyone in the ring was paying, I'm thinking they were both pretty good.
When I finally got my hands on a controller, I have to admit, I was pleasantly relieved. For me, I found Melee to be a frustrating experience: something didn't exactly mesh between the way SSB evolved into SSBM. This game, however, is easy to pick up, but takes a little bit to get really good at, just like the original Smash.
I'll be the first to admit I'm a fan of Nintendo and Smash, so me gushing over this game should come as no surprise. But even taking that into account, I do have to go on about how happy I am with the evolution of this franchise. This game takes all the ideas from the first two games, and moves in a very natural direction - something that shouldn't be unique, but often is. The characters and levels all look very clean and pretty, just like you'd expect, but it's the little things about the game that really made me take notice. In the first round I played, I was Bowser and my brother was Wario. If Wario transformed onto his motorcycle, but was then knocked off, Bowser could pick up the motorcycle and throw it around. More than that, he could throw pieces of the motorcycle around (I got a good shot in with one of the wheels).
While playing, I overheard two people discussing the game behind me. One guy said to his friend, "a lot of the characters are fun, but if you want to actually get serious and win, you have to pick one of the real fighters." Not entirely true, but an interesting sentiment to think about, nonetheless. Smash has evolved to now offer something to everyone. There's the fun, gimmicky characters that anyone can play, or there's the traditional fighters featured in the game, for people who want the feeling of a "real" fighter. SSBB is another step in the direction of Nintendo trying to cater to a wider audience - this time, without forgetting the real gamers - and they seem to have succeed.
What stood out to me were the final smashes (and really, shouldn't that be the way it is?). They took a little bit of getting used to, but once I got the hang of it, they look really, really cool. I pulled off a smash with Shiek, and watching him slice through two of your enemies really makes you sit back and go "...wow."
Of course, Smash has long been a game built around memories of the characters, settings, and especially old matches against friends. This was true for me even at this brief SSBB event, when I managed to pull off a very unexpected victory with Mario, my faithful character of choice from when I started playing at the age of 12. Winning a match of SSBB really does give you that same feeling of accomplishment that was so strong with the original Super Smash Bros, which I definitely think is a good thing.