Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Super Smash Bros. Brawl review Part 2: The Main Attractions

Slight change of plans! I'm gonna write about the core of the game tonight, with the bonus features and such on Friday. Not only does this make more sense (Bonus features before the main game? What?), but I have more experience with Adventure, VS and Classic than anything else so far. So today we'll have The Subspace Emissary, Brawl and Classic Mode.

This part of the review is all about the real core aspects of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The parts that people are most likely to head to first thing after opening the game case. These are the main attractions of Brawl.

Perhaps the biggest and most unexpected addition to the Smash Bros. franchise is an in-depth adventure mode. Unlike Melee's stream of boss battles separated by platforming segments and no story holding it together, The Subspace Emissary is a true, fully in-depth adventure mode with a storyline.

The storyline? Basic. Happy world gets overtaken by evil force with no apparent motivation other than disrupting the content citizens. But really, story means little in any fighting game, so why should Brawl buck the trend? It serves it's purpose as a means of intertwining the universes of the characters within it, and that's all it really needs to do. Snake's presence is somewhat odd, though. He doesn't appear to be on any mission from the colonel or anything. He just seems to feel like fighting this bizarre force for whatever reason. And Sonic's entrance could have been a bit more explained, but eh, he's in Brawl, and that's what really matters.

The platforming segments in The Subspace Emissary are actually quite enjoyable, surprisingly. The stages are constructed well, and the original enemies created just for Brawl are all really interesting to fight. Each foe requires a different approach, but there'll all defeatable no matter which character you play as.

Speaking of characters, the first time you play any stage in The Subspace Emissary, your choice of fighters is limited to whoever is present at that point in the story. For example, in the first stage you can only play as Mario or Kirby. Whenever you lose a life, your current character is switched with the next one in line. So if you chose to play as Link, Pit, Meta Knight and Sonic in that order, Pit would become your fighter after Link's death, followed by Meta Knight, and finally Sonic. If you manage to pick up extra lives within the mission, the cycle will begin again, with Link taking Sonic's place.

The second time you play any stage, the character you play as can be anyone you've met up with so far in the Subspace Emissary. Say you've met up with twelve characters in story mode so far. You'd be able to choose a maximum of six fighters from the twelve to take with you into the level (Actual party sizes vary from level to level). If you've unlocked a character for standard play, but not had him or her join your team in the Subspace Emissary, they will not be selectable for use in and level until you get them to join your team. For example, even though 21 fighters are available for free play when first starting up Super Smash Bros. Brawl, only the ones you've met in story mode will be playable in The Subspace Emissary.

And of course, you can't play as a character you've unlocked in one save file if you're playing in another. The Subspace Emissary has literally dozens of save files for you to choose from. Finding it hard to keep track of which save file of the 30 saves is the one you wish to play? No prob, as each file can be named at the start of a new adventure. However, files cannot be renamed later on, so choose a good title! I've learned the hard way that leaving it blank is not a good idea. So name your files, folks, lest you lose them in the sea of gamesaves!

Having trouble fighting your way through the story mode on your own? Well, call over a friend and have him or her grab a controller! Every single level in The Subspace Emissary is prepped for cooperative action! When a second player joins in, they take the role of the next character in line. What if it's a stage with only one character? The second player plays as the same fighter as the first player, but with a different colour scheme. Sure, this raises even further questions as to what the heck's going on in The Subspace Emissary, but plotholes like this tend to develop when co-op play in integrated, so I guess we just have to deal with it. And besides, it's not like there's a whole bunch of storyline there to be corrupted.

The Subspace Emissary also brings with it a new way of collecting trophies. Want your own personal trophy of an enemy you see running around? Well, that's where the trophy stand comes in!

Gasp! A trophy stand!

Trophy stands are somewhat unique items. When thrown at an enemy, they can change them into a trophy for your collection! Certain weaker enemies are vulnerable to this item when at full health, but other more stubborn foes need to be weakened first. Think of it like using a Pokéball, but with the prize being a bit more foreign.

For some enemies, this is the only way to get them in trophy form. So you'll have to be diligent in order to catch 'em all!

Overall, I'm surprised at how enjoyable The Subspace Emissary turned out to be. You're first run through will likely clock in at about 10 to 15 hours, which is pretty amazing for a story mode that isn't even the main focus of the game! There are several difficulty levels and many unlockables begging you to come back, and I've found myself answering the call. The Subspace Emissary should keep any Brawl fan busy for quite a while.

Ah yes, here's the one mode people really get hyped about: Brawl! Yep, that's it's name, don't wear it out! The mode is exactly what is sounds like: A huge freaking fight. This is where you and three of your pals come to lay it all down and beat each other's brains out without having to call an ambulance.

You have plenty of arenas right from the get-go, with 23 new stages, 6 returning levels from Melee, and 3 demo levels from the Stage Builder (More on that Friday). Among these stages are brand new arenas with destructible environments, bizarre effects and insane premises. A little bit from every fighter's heritage is present in these stages, so they feel right at home in Brawl.

Speaking of playable characters, a whopping 21 are available to fight right off the bat, featuring brawlers hailing from everywhere between Pikmin and Pokémon, and even games beyond those! An additional 14 fighters can be unlocked through many methods, from reaching a certain point in The Subspace Emissary to playing through Classic Mode as a particular character. There's so many people to choose from in Brawl, it's hard to decide which one you like best!

You have a real good friend that you can't bring yourself to fight, but still feel like playing together? Team Matches sound just like what the doctor ordered! With you and your pal fighting together, you can face off against immensely tough computer enemies, or even another team filled with human players! It'd probably be neat for two gaming couples to face-off against each other. Love can conquer all, but can it defeat even more love? Tune in to find out!

And here's a game mode all long-time fans should be familiar with: Classic! Present in every Brawl game since the series began on the Nintendo 64, Classic Mode couldn't be any more aptly named. The premise is simple: Players fight their way through a gauntlet of foes from all the furthest reaches of the character roster. While the order may seem random at first, it does follow a loose guideline. For example, the first round will always be against a Zelda character, and round three will always feature a foe from the Pokémon series. The specific enemies from the franchise that you fight are random, though, and that's where the predictability gets tossed out the window. Oh, and the stage is random, too. I guess there really isn't anything to expect at all.

As was the case with The Subspace Emissary, Classic Mode also comes with several difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, Hard, Very Hard and Intense. So choose whichever flavour suits your skill level, and off you go. A dozen battles await you, and you've only got a maximum of five lives to carry you through them all. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Also scattered in with the Brawl barrage is the occasional Break the Targets! stage. I'll go more into detail on this on Friday, but basically, you have to break all the on-screen targets as fast as possible without dying. Well, okay, so that's basically all there is. There's a few tiny little aspects left to go over, but I'll leave that until Part 3.

There's certainly no shortage of content here from the Brawl fans. From The Subspace Emissary to Brawl to Classic Mode, there's tonnes of things to do here. But wait, there's more! Super Smash Bros. Brawl still has plenty more where that came from, and I'll review the rest of it Friday in Part 3! Until then, Brawl long and prosper!

Like what you see? Want to complain? Just feel like yakking? Feel free to blather on in the comments section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

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