In 1999, Nintendo released Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64, taking their most popular characters and dropping them into a simplistic fighting game that captured the hearts of millions of gamers around the world. Its sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee, was the best-selling title in the entire GameCube library, so you can see why Super Smash Bros. Brawl has a lot to live up to. The game is bigger, with more characters, more stages, and star cameos from a few non-Nintendo properties like Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake, but does it live up to the legacy of its predecessors?
The results are plain as red and blue.
* Tons of Characters: Impressive from the get go, once you've unlocked all of the characters that Super Smash Bros. Brawl has to offer you'll have one of the greatest assemblages of video game legends of all time at your disposal.
* Excellent Music: The musical talent assembled for the game reads like a who's who of famous Japanese game composers. Akihiro Honda, Koji Kondo, Yoko Shimomura - the soundtrack alone is worth the $US 50 price tag.
* Their Level Design, Your Level Design: As always, Masahiro Sakurai and his team have done an excellent job of creating fighting game levels that incorporate the elements of classic games. Rather than just being backdrops, the level you are fighting can determine how you play. Don't agree? Then see if you can do better, using the relatively simplistic level editor to create and share your own levels with your friends.
* Pretty Graphics: Some of these characters have never looked quite as good as they do in Brawl. Nothing too complex, but pretty enough while still maintaining a blazing frame rate.
* Extra, Extra: The game is filed to the brim with extra bits of fan service goodness. Trophies, game demos, music, and even a history of Nintendo game releases current as of December.
* Finally Online: Despite some issues with lag, online fighting via Nintendo WiFi is a dream come true for fans of the series. Extremely fun, while still quick enough to grab yourself a quick match before heading off to work or school. Potentially dangerously addictive. Even while not playing, I could watch Spectator Mode for hours.
* Wii Controls: If you don't own a GameCube controller, now is a good time to pick one up. Brawl just feels unnatural when played with the Wiimote/nunchuk combo, and the classic controller is too sensitive, which screws up jumping. It's odd when what could be the best game on the console does little to take advantage of the console's main selling point.
* Online Lag: A good quarter of the online matches I've participated in so far have suffered from extreme, stuttering lag, while a few times I had the game freeze in mid-bout and kick me out of the match. Even with a good group, the frame rate still suffers from time to time. Hopefully this is an area Nintendo can improve upon in future updates.
* Adventure Mode: Excellent cut scenes wrapped around 8 hours of poorly implemented platforming with repetitive enemies and some odd design choices. Remember the lesson of Tekken 5 - platforming and fighting game controls don't mix. The plus side? You don't have to play it to unlock characters - it's just a bit faster.
* Friend Codes: Screw the Friend Code system. Enough said.
Despite a few flaws, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the best thing the Nintendo Wii has going for it right now. With addictive multiplayer, tons of collecting to do, the ability to create your own levels and share them with friends, Brawl isn't just a game that will sit in your Wii for months, it's a game you'll actually play for months, if not longer.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl improves upon its predecessors in every way imaginable - a truly worthy successor to the Nintendo fighting throne.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl, developed by Sora, published by Nintendo, released March 9, for $US 50. Available on Nintendo Wii, story mode and several characters in solo mode played to completion. All characters unlocked except Wolf.