Mid-2006 was when I became aware of an announcement that blew me away. A third Super Smash Bros. game was on the horizon. I was already spending hundreds of hours on Super Smash Bros. Melee with my brothers for the past few years before then, so I would already be down to play a sequel. One look at this trailer, though, and I realized just how huge this was going to be. In just the two and a half minutes the trailer spanned, Nintendo fans everywhere learned so much about what was to come.
It’s been ten years since Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out. I repeat: It’s been TEN YEARS since this game was released for the Wii. There has been a successor on two systems, and another is on the way. I just can’t believe it; for the longest time it felt like it didn’t even age a day. Only with the recent advances of technological prowess and clarity do I now think “Okay, yeah, this game does look somewhat pixelated these days.” But back then? You couldn’t tell me the Wii was underpowered compared to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Nintendo knew exactly how to up the ante with the power they’ve got, and there is arguably no other game that looked as crisp on the system as Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Super Smash Bros. Melee was already a humongous step up from the Nintendo 64 original, but Brawl was crammed to the brim with stuff to play around in. I don’t even know where I could begin. Do I start with the core Smash Bros. gameplay? Or do I go on to discuss the numerous little features like demos of classic games and the return of virtual trophy collections? It’s like they saw just how much they could fit into Melee with its 9-month development time, and they wanted to see how much more they could fit in an even longer span of time.
How about the thing that coats the entire game, the fanservice? Never has a game felt more like a Nintendo love letter than this, thanks to (among other things) its widened roster of characters and elaborate stage designs. New characters include fan favorites like Wario, Wolf, Ike, and ROB, while series mainstays such as Mario, Link, Kirby, and Samus get brand-new attacks to go with their established movesets. Even third-party newcomers Snake – of Metal Gear fame – and Sonic the Hedgehog get the same kind of celebratory treatment as if they were native Nintendo characters! Stages felt less like simple battlegrounds and more like embodiments of the games they are based on, making it all the harder to want to play on the relatively flat Battlefield and Final Destination. My personal favorite’s the WarioWare stage, where it plays out just like an average marathon of WarioWare microgames.
That’s not to say all that is perfect, of course; some elements are better than others in every category. Sonic’s special attack is so overpowered that it alone is a reason why many people stopped turning Smash Ball items on. These attacks are usually avoidable and provide quite the visual flair at times (like Mario’s wavy flames and Captain Falcon running over people with his vehicle in the coolest fashion), but they can be pretty uneven in results. Just look at Jigglypuff’s; she inflates, then deflates. It’s incredibly rare for anyone to be blown off the stage even when standing next to her!
This kind of uselessness can even extend to certain regular attacks. For the most part, they are as effective as they are in previous games in the series. However, there is an oddball or two that’s sprinkled into the mix. Mario’s FLUDD attack come to mind since it just slightly pushes people; it’s a neat callback to Super Mario Sunshine, but is so worthless of a move that I never used it after the first time. And of course, characters tripping all of a sudden becomes a dealbreaker for the most hardcore players out there.
If you were ever fortunate to play Wii and DS games online via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, you’d likely have experienced the horror that was Brawl‘s online play. No ranking data is present, input lag and slowdown were always present, and you were unable to change settings unless you were playing against friends. Mario Kart Wii, which came out a couple months later, completely crapped on this online experience with its own.
Obviously, certain aspects of the gameplay don’t hold up as well as others, but the parts where Super Smash Bros. Brawl shines make some of the biggest everlasting impressions one could ever get from a Wii game. Offline customization options are through the frickin’ roof; you could make players be metal throughout the match, fight with up to 300 HP, and even build a surplus of your own stages with the tools the game provides you in the Stage Builder. They may be blocky, sure, but the possibilities never cease to satisfy. You could attempt to recreate other stages, build ones around games like Tetris, or just make the entire thing an elaborate hazard to troll CPUs with.
Unlockables were also massively increased; not only are the extra stages and trophies present and well accounted for, but now you have all kinds of music to discover, hidden demos for classic games, and stickers for use with the Adventure Mode. Stages now have more than two music tracks that alternate at random, but you can adjust the rate of how often each one could show up when a match takes place on the stage. Not only is the quantity extraordinary, but the compositions themselves are absolutely masterful. Never has the Super Mario Land pyramid theme sounded more epic, nor have the WarioWare songs been so fully realized. We even get to hear a lot of tunes from Sonic‘s history, including the main theme for the disaster that was Sonic ’06. Ahh, memories…
But easily the biggest change-up of all is the Adventure mode. Enter The Subspace Emissary, a big-budget platform-fighter that features an epic plot, cinematic cutscenes, and Nintendo characters coming together to save the world! Other than The Great Maze at the near-end of it, I fell in love with this inclusion. It was practically its own game, yet it serves as mere bonus content in this already-crammed Wii disc! It cemented the idea that Super Smash Bros. Brawl was more than just a Smash Bros.game; it’s the developers’ and Nintendo’s big-hearted Thank You to the fans.
Hardly any other game on the Wii (Heck, maybe even the entire console generation) was as eventful as this behemoth. If Super Smash Bros. Melee didn’t already demonstrate the true potential of the series, Brawl showed the level of effort Nintendo and co. would reach to provide an extraordinary experience. It may be overshadowed nowadays by Super Smash Bros. 4 and the upcoming installment that will be fully revealed by the time of this writing, but Brawl forever remains a shining masterpiece of Nintendo glamour.