Now, let's just stop and state that, unless you have strong feelings against cartoon violence, fighting games in general, or the insane addiction to collectibles our society exhibits (such as baseball cards or all things Pokemon), you should find this game entertaining in one way or another. Actually, even if you don't like fighting, but enjoy collecting, this latest iteration has a "Spectator Mode" for you to join in the collection craze without having to master a series of inhuman combo maneuvers.
Exactly like its predecessors, there is a "Classic" battle mode as well as a "Multiplayer" mode (this time called "Brawl") and a more story-driven "Adventure" mode, called the "Subspace Emissary". The "Classic" is the standard 12-level variation of 1-vs-1, 2-vs-2 and 3-vs-1 battles, two "Target Test" and the final encounter with the "Master Hand". The "Brawl" mode gives you many more "Stages" to fight in and includes several "Melee" favorites.
The "Subspace Emissary" replaces the 12-stage "Adventure Mode" from "Melee", which was a generic adventure that you chose to play, in its entirety, with a single character from the roster. Instead, the 31-stage story of the "Subspace Emissary" incorporates all the characters in the roster as well as many of the unlockable characters, allowing you yet another method of unlocking the hidden characters and their associated stages. For the cooperative fanatic, the "Subspace Emissary" also allows a second player to play through the entire story, mostly as the "Ally" in the storyline or as a duplicate of the main character.
The "Target Test", "Homerun Contest" and the "Multi-Man Brawl" have been consolidated into the "Stadium" mode, the latter two also available for Wi-Fi mode on the Wii as well as cooperative mode. Instead of each character having their own "Target Tests", though, there are five levels of "Target Tests" common for all characters.
Still in the mix are the "Events" where you have to solve various predefined scenarios involving the characters in the roster. Some events can only be unlocked once you've unlocked a particular character. I believe that "Melee" had about 51 events, whereas "Brawl" seems to have about ten less. However, once again cooperative mode was incorporated into this feature and "Co-op" mode boasts an additional 21 "Co-op" only events.
Overall, the graphics of the characters are more detailed in this release. For instance, Mario appears to be wearing actual stone-washed denim overalls instead of the familiar cartoon blue ones. It is possible that some of your favorite characters have been removed from the current version of the series to make room for some new characters like Solid Snake, King Dedede and Pokemon Trainer, but fret not, perhaps that character is one amongst the dozen or so unlockable characters.
Previously, the series had a considerable amount of unlockables: characters, stages, trophies, songs, etc. This time around, they've added stickers as well and a "Challenges" screen which, like the NASDAQ wall of monitors, displays a large grid of challenges to unlock, varying from "Playing 100 hours" to "Beat Target Test with 10 Characters". For the average obsessive-compulsive game player, this just added several more weeks, perhaps months, of trying to unlock all the goodies on this Dual-Layer disk.
The "Smash Bros" series started with a collection of classic Nintendo characters with one or two Pokemon characters along with HAL Labs' own beloved Kirby. In "Melee" they started revitalizing really old classic characters, like Ice Climbers and Mister Game and Watch, as well as some additional Pokemon. They've done the same in "Brawl" by adding additional characters from Fire Emblem , Pokemon, Mother and Kirby. They've even added non-Nintendo favorites like Sonic and Snake from Metal Gear Solid. And they've revitalized oldies like Pit and R.O.B. from the original Nintendo Entertainment System.
All this seems like a great cross-marketing scheme to either give some of us nostalgia or, dare I say it, sell more games. This goes a step beyond in "Brawl" as they include a few levels of the actual classic games to sucker the obsessively nostalgic into possibly purchasing the Virtual Console games from Nintendo themselves. I would normally think that such marketing was shameful, but it was such a brilliant idea that I applaud their efforts as well as their methods.
I believe HAL Labs threw in everything this time around (except, perhaps, the proverbial kitchen sink). In addition to the "Spectator" mode I mentioned above, which was designed for the non-fighter, there is a "Rotate" mode that allows more than four players to enjoy the brawl by (you guessed it) rotating the number of players who want to fight in and out of the four allotted slots. There are probably some additional features that I may have overlooked but, seeing as my friends have just about finished their "Brawl" match, it is almost my turn to rotate in so I'm going to have to stop typing and go "Smash"...
By Kent Lee