Super Smash Brothers Brawl

posted March 18, 2008 by Jer


When I was a kid, my parents used to take me into Washington DC to see the fireworks on the 4th of July. Back then, it was the greatest experience I could fathom. We spread out a blanket on the mall, had a picnic as it got dark, the anticipation building as the orchestra played until finally, the sky was lit with colorful explosions. Once, and only once, did I try to experience this as an adult. I road the crowded metro to walk through throngs of pungent Washingtonians to try and find a square of the urine-scented backyard lawn between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building where I sat moist and uncomfortable to watch a poorly-coordinated firecracker display. And then it rained. The only good part of it was I felt like I accomplished, nay, endured something that somehow made me stronger. That, in a nutshell, is the Super Smash Brothers Brawl experience.

The first thing I realized when I started up SSBB is that I've played this game before. Yes, it's a little shinier with new content, but that is the lone selling point of every next gen version of a last gen game. Next in line of disappointments is the fact that most of that new content is not initially unlocked - oh no - you have to earn it. Most of this earning is done in SSBB's single player story mode, entitled "The Subspace Emissary."

It is entirely possible that I am being unfair due to circumstance. Had I purchased this game during a normal week where I am my regular shut-in/loner self, I would have rightly enjoyed killing 30 hours in a long, drawn-out single player adventure platformer all in hopes of unlocking the spiky blue bastard I intended to master to the point of guaranteeing Big Josh's repeated humiliating defeat. However, I purchased this game while Allison had come to town in hopes of hours of good natured, righteous whomping between light saber battles and trips to Mt. Rainier. Instead, the quest to unlock characters took repulsively tedious precedent. So I hated unlocking the characters. That's not a new feature. I could give SSBB props for at least making it interesting, as opposed to the repetition that its predecessor forced us into.

I can't gripe about the gameplay, because it is exactly the same. Sure, you can play with the Wiimote, adding the bonus feature where freaking out and flailing the controller is an effective strategy at times, but ultimately the only real way to play SSBB is to dust off your Wavebirds and play like it's a GameCube.

What I can and will complain about at length is the music. In the age of Overclocked Remixes, we've learned that old school BGM can be re-orchestrated to be quite beautiful. There were some amazing compellations in all those beeps and blips that have been begging ever since to be performed with actual instruments. The GameCube version of Smash Bros truly respected this, giving us nothing but epic re-orchestrations. Yes, there was the atrocious Donkey Kong rap, but it was easy enough to deactivate that level in random selection and beat down anyone who selected it with a blunt instrument - a procedure that subsequently made them easier to beat at the actual game. But did SSBB really need the Pokémon Center BGM? The Brain Age theme? God fucking damned "Seven Rings in Hand?" When most people I know make a mistake, they learn from it and move on, but apparently Nintendo's preferred method is to take that mistake, use it to craft a crude auditory dildo and proceed to rape your ears with it.

I need to conclude with the inclusion of Sonic the Hedgehog. When I did finally trudge my way through Subspace Emissary and unlock the character that never should have been voiced by anyone other than Jaleel White, it felt like a dream - and I mean that literally: the whole experience of playing as Sonic in the Smash Bros engine was surreal, like it was never supposed to be and making it so was an affront to every concept of reality. Sonic simply doesn't fit in with the rest of the crowd, and that's a shocking statement for a crowd that includes a bad ass mechanically enhanced space bounty hunter and a gooshy pink ball that waddles when it's not riding on a magical star. Sonic's dubbing is nonsensical - even by accepted engrish standards - and three of his four special moves are - for as far as I can tell - exactly the same. It's not that I'm not happy to see Sonic duking it out in the grand brand-character arena, it's just that he seems not all the way thought out. Playing as Sonic is as fulfilling as any fan-candy, but ultimately lacking in the epic arch-rival Plumber-vs-Hedgehog substance I so deeply hoped it would be.

Despite my venom, SSBB is actually good. Of course it's good, it's the exact same game as the last iteration which everyone has already vocalized the merit of at length. Most of the music doesn't suck, I just wish the portion that did was smaller. Subspace Emissary was tedious, but it succeeded in making all the Nintendo brand characters look epic and cool, even the pud-like ones. And I could take another cheep shot at the unchanged gameplay, but that really was the only way to serve the game to us, as any real changes could only diminish the franchise's well established perfection. It's neat to have three options when taunting, final smashes are epic and cool, Zero Suit Samus needs to fuck Solid Snake and make beautiful babies, and for better or worse, Sonic the god damned Hedgehog made it in.

You don't need me to tell you to play it. Just don't expect your world to change. I give it four espresso shots for the tedium and sleep lost to endless whompings. Enjoy.

Rating: 4.0 espresso