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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Games: 24 Hours Into Super Smash Bros. Brawl

posted by on March 6 at 14:16 PM

For the uninitiated, Super Smash Bros. is a fighting franchise in which Nintendo’s cutesy mascots beat each other up. Mario kicking Pikachu. The Princess smacking Zelda with a frying pan. Etc. When SSB came out roughly ten years ago, other fighting games were convoluted Street Fighter clones—press a joystick 100 directions, then hit a three-button combination, and your little guy/girl might do some anime-styled move. What worked for Smash Bros. back then was that you didn’t have to memorize a technical manual’s worth of codes and moves to play. You had two buttons to attack, you could jump, and you could throw stuff. Simple. Get to kickin’ ass. Plus, four people could fight at once, making it a good party game next to its N64 sibling Goldeneye. The series wound up becoming one of Nintendo’s biggest worldwide properties.


The newest version, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, somehow reached my hands before its hyped release on Sunday, and I’m already hooked. I’m the target market, though—this is a game heaped with gaming nostalgia. Kid Icarus’ Pit shows up to whoop an ass. Wario farts to make foes dizzy, then runs ‘em over with a motorcycle. And the playground Sega/Nintendo debate is revitalized by this game’s Sonic vs. Mario duels…hopefully a Pogs resurgence isn’t soon to follow.

But this game isn’t meant for the Wii. It proudly boasts that you can use a zillion different controller types to play it, and that’s because the Wii’s default controls barely have enough buttons for this game. There’s no motion control—you won’t swing your arm to smack anyone, though the game has a hidden “wrist flick” option. And most importantly, the simple game ain’t Wii Sports-simple. The pick-up-and-play core is still intact—wear your opponent down, and instead of draining energy like Street Fighter, you eventually launch foes off a floating platform. But there are tons of other little bits and pieces to the game, strategies to learn and items to make sense of, and the game doesn’t do much to ease outsiders in. Other than a brief how-to video, it’s either trial by fire, or, ugh, study the game’s 36-page manual.

Doesn’t bother me, but I’m the target market. If you ever played and enjoyed Smash Bros before, you shouldn’t even question buying it—SSBB is a perfect mix of refinement and new blood for the series. (My only knock so far is that the series’ first-ever online mode stinks. Though it may be a temporary issue, my online play so far has been full of lag; making fights all kinds of herky-jerky. At least it’s not a paid service.) And I don’t think Nintendo should worry about this game specifically; you look at the box, covered in angry-looking game mascots, and you know whether or not it’s your bag. Nintendo’s proud about this game’s niche, and judging by the way the game has played for me so far—the spit-shined balance and variety of different fighters, the dozens of little modes, the, um, nostalgic Nintendo virtual sticker-collecting mini-games (I got an Eggplant Wizard sticker this morning, and I’m sad to admit that I was thrilled)—they’re serving their diehard nerds right.

But Nintendo’s got a problem with scheduling and with serving all niches. Where was last Christmas’ Wii Sports-style game, complete with crossover appeal and super-simple, super-fun motion gaming? That’s right—none came out, and grown-ups who dug the Wii (and actually managed to find one) have to wait until May for Wii Sports’ heir apparent, Wii Fit—the fitness game that comes with a weight-sensitive balance board (think skiing, yoga, and, er, hula-hooping). It’ll be a welcome weird game, but Nintendo had years to work out a strategy, to really make the most of their crazy Wii, and as of right now, they really haven’t. I enjoy playing games w/ outsiders; Wii Bowling with my mom is easily my #1 gaming memory, and as good as SSBB is, it’s not something I’d ever expect to play with her, my girlfriend, or a lot of non-gaming friends. And as a grown-up gamer with shit to do (aside from, er, collecting virtual nerd stickers), I think it’s a fair criticism.

RSS icon Comments


I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

Well... luckily, Sunday is my birthday. My birthday present better be this game. And to be left alone.

And whiskey.

And strippers.

And coke.

And a pony.

Posted by Graham | March 6, 2008 2:22 PM

I don't hate you. I hate the Wii.


Posted by Mr. Poe | March 6, 2008 2:27 PM

Just when I thought my gaming geekdom had been cooled due to time away and a new relationship, my heart skipped a beat with the possibility that Smash was on sale and I had not bought it yet. oh Sunday will be a glorious day

Posted by Kong Diddy | March 6, 2008 2:28 PM

Oh man oh man oh man

Posted by Peter F | March 6, 2008 2:37 PM

My son hates your guts.

He so wants this game - and is convinced the profits from his 101 shares of Nintendo (NTDOY.PK) will skyrocket since it's flying off the shelves in Japan even this many weeks past the launch day.

Now he's going to bug me to get it for him - and his birthday isn't until May!

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 6, 2008 2:37 PM


Posted by kid icarus | March 6, 2008 2:39 PM

I don't think you're a virtual nerd, Sam.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 6, 2008 2:43 PM

Do you need a new best friend until Sunday? I bet this game is way more fun with more players.

Posted by Mike | March 6, 2008 2:44 PM

Other reviews haven't mentioned that the "online mode stinks" - just the opposite, they've said it works really well. Are you *always* seeing lag with your set up?

The Christmas Wii game with "crossover appeal and super-simple" controls should have been Super Mario Galaxy, but that game sadly wasn't a super duper hit here (and it didn't have much motion gaming).

Posted by stinkbug | March 6, 2008 2:50 PM

OK. Which people at Nintendo do I have to kiss up to in order to play this game before Sunday?

Posted by apres_moi | March 6, 2008 2:53 PM

@9: I think online play works better when you link up specifically against a single friend. I'm not able to do so since, well, nobody I know has it yet... I'm stuck doing the "play against anyone" option, which was a lag-filled nightmare for the collective hour and a half I played online (when I was actually able to connect to anyone, no less). Since I really think this is the mode players will be more likely to use, I think it's a big enough issue, but then again, I'm only 24 hours in. It could get better, or it could get MUCH worse once the service gets overloaded with players.

Posted by Sam M. | March 6, 2008 2:58 PM

So it's all about the friend codes, then?

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 6, 2008 3:03 PM

@12 - yup.

Posted by Sam M. | March 6, 2008 3:04 PM

"We fought some other matches across multiple levels ... and we had a fairly smooth experience. Here and there I would notice a slight delay between my character's movement and my button presses, but overall it was a generally smooth and pleasant session." - from a recent post

Posted by stinkbug | March 6, 2008 3:08 PM

oops, just saw your note above. Yes, I guess I have read that the random online play can be a bit laggy at times.

all I know is that I'm excited about the (SPOILER... SPOILER...) donkey kong stage.

Posted by stinkbug | March 6, 2008 3:14 PM

I'll see you worthless cocksuckers in line for the midnight release!

Posted by smashmash | March 6, 2008 3:20 PM

@11. Sam, The reason you might have experienced the lag is because Nintendo might have restricted the # of connections allowed to their servers for the NA release of SMBB until this weekend. I'm sure if you tried it again on Saturday night, you might see some major improvements.

Posted by apres_moi | March 6, 2008 3:26 PM

wait, when is the SSBB Slog tournament?!

Posted by stinkbug | March 6, 2008 3:38 PM

@17 - or you might suddenly watch it crawl as millions of US and Canadian gamers all get online at the same time to play until they drop from exhaustion ... best time might be early Sunday morning.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 6, 2008 3:39 PM

Mr. Game-And-Watch is my baby daddy.

Seriously, is there anything cooler than a 2D liquid crystal character that attacks enemies by flipping flapjacks at them? He even makes the 80's "plink plink plink" sound when he runs!

Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | March 6, 2008 3:49 PM

I was totally gonna buy this game for the Wii but then I got sidetracked found this really awesome looking horse riding game called My Horse & Me so I bought that instead. Amazon is supposed to have it on my doorstep tomorrow and it better be there goddamnit! I'm going to dress up my horsey and become world champion by the weekends end goddamnit!!!

Posted by Queen_of_Sleaze | March 6, 2008 4:00 PM

during winter, i pretty much played super smash bros, and smash melee everyday for 3 hours. with friends of course. it's simply the best 4 player fighting game, ever.

Posted by danny | March 6, 2008 4:05 PM

Hey Sam,

They're still heavily tweaking/testing the online random play mode. Friend mode should work properly. Wait till Sunday, it'll be fun.

Posted by this guy | March 7, 2008 12:49 AM

I love the original so much. Melee is pretty good, too, but I always got my ass handed to me when I played in college.

Posted by Greg | March 7, 2008 7:14 AM

considering it's only out in Japan, my guess would be online play is connecting to those folks (by more chance than anyone local), and hopefully, with it's US release, online randoms would favor people here, as shorter distance = less lag (hopefully).

Posted by Jeff | March 7, 2008 10:43 AM

'The Princess smacking Zelda with a frying pan.'

You mean Princess Zelda smacks Link with a frying pan?

Okay. okay. My boyfriend has pointed out to me that I call Link by the name Zelda all the time. Let's move to have a petition cause this to be true.

Uh, no, I don't work in the legal industry, why do you ask?

Posted by subwlf | March 7, 2008 2:57 PM

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