Super Smash Bros. Brawl is perhaps the most provocative entry in the Smash Bros. canon. Coming on the heels of the universally acclaimed and competitively popular Super Smash Bros. Melee, Brawl was saddled with great expectations from its onset. Blessed with a much more popular console that its predecessor, Super Smash Bros. Melee and with the excellent sales to prove it, Super Smash Bros. Brawl developed into one of the Wii’s best titles and a game that, despite the release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS nearly four years ago, is still worth playing.
The music in Brawl is, without a doubt, its greatest strength. With names such as famed Final Fantasy maestro, Nobuo Uematsu, renowned Chrono Trigger artist, Yasunori Mitsuda, Metroid series composer, Kenji Yamamoto, and legendary Super Mario composer, K?ji Kond?, united behind the production of its soundtrack, Brawl blew previous entries in the Smash Bros. series out of the water and, in the process, created one of the greatest soundtracks of all time.
Brawl‘s main theme, an epic Latin choral arrangement that feels right at home in the series’ trademark grandeur, is the pinnacle of the game’s musical excellence. Recorded with the help of Nobuo Uematsu and opera singer Ken Nishikiori, Brawl‘s main theme connotes intense emotion, giving a feeling of epic scale and struggle that fits the game perfectly. Such excellent music is enhanced by the inclusion of an equally excellent Sound Test. I have forgotten how many hours I spent as a kid essentially using my Wii as a giant CD player while cleaning my room or doing chores, filling the air with Brawl‘s wonderfully diverse cadre of music.
Brawl’s remixes of classic Nintendo tunes are impressive as well. With over 258 different pieces, Brawl’s soundtrack mixes together the best music from over twenty-five years of Nintendo games and, as a result, remains one of gaming’s greatest soundtracks, a testament to Nintendo’s symphonic sublimity.
Pixel Pushing Puissance
While not as polished as its successor on Wii U, Brawl pushes the humble Wii to its absolute limit. Despite releasing on hardware that was essentially a slightly overclocked GameCube, the difference in graphical fidelity between Brawl and its predecessor, Melee, is incredible. Detailed textures, complex character models, and vastly more complicated stages set Brawl apart from its predecessor and show off the Wii’s processing capacity impressively.
Running at a buttery-smooth, series staple, sixty frames per second, Brawl looks and feels impressive despite its age. With the exception of aliasing that results from the upscale from standard definition to high definition on modern TVs, Brawl looks great, utilizing an impressively implemented 16:9 mode and excellent graphical design to remain an impressive-looking game, even ten years later. Stages such “New Pork City” from the Mother series and “Norfair” from the Metroid series pushed the technical envelope and showed the incredible depths that series creator, Masahiro Sakurai, and his team went to in order to create the ultimate Smash experience.
A Rad Roster
While Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS revolutionized the series with over fifty-eight playable characters, Super Smash Bros. Brawl included the first third-party characters in Smash history. As the debut Smash game for not only Sonic the Hedgehog, but also Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid, Brawl rewrote expectations for the series and excited veteran fans and newcomers alike.
While Sonic is still playable in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS, Brawl remains the only game in which Metal Gear Solid protagonist, Solid Snake, is able to be played. Seemingly not a natural fit for the family-friendly world of Nintendo, Snake nonetheless fits well within Brawl, complemented by an excellent moveset that has made him a favorite of competitive players and casuals alike.
In addition to Snake’s surprising inclusion, Brawl also introduced another fifteen new characters, expanding Smash‘s roster to a then-unprecedented thirty-seven characters. In addition, newcomers, such as Meta Knight, Zero Suit Samus, and Diddy Kong, made their series debut. Never before had so many Nintendo (and non-Nintendo) characters from such differing series come together in one game.
An Amazing Adventure
While most of the above praise may make it seem as if Brawl has been superseded in nearly every single way by its successor, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS, there is one key category that Brawl holds as a key advantage: the inclusion of a story mode, the Subspace Emissary.
The Subspace Emissary has received a lot of criticism since its release. Fans have decried its bland locations, boring gameplay, and lackluster main villain for years. While these concerns are applicable if the mode is analyzed in a vacuum, they fail to consider how excellent the Subspace Emissary was at its primary purpose: bringing together Nintendo’s characters within a coherent story.
The Subspace Emissary isn’t perfect and some elements of the story leave a lot to be desired, but it is a love letter to Nintendo fans, full of epic moments both triumphant and sad that, far from being pull down the game, lift it up to excellence. Besides, there is something about the novelty of seeing Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf working together within the story of the Subspace Emissary that makes its absence in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS a shame.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl is an excellent, timeless game and easily one of the Wii’s best titles. An experience that redefined the series upon its release in 2008, Brawl remains a must-play for any fans of Nintendo’s fighting game series. Although it was superseded in quantity by Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS, Brawl did and continues to do things never before done in the Smash series. The Subspace Emissary, the game’s inclusion of Solid Snake, its excellent graphics, and its expansive cadre of music make it an incredible experience. Although its ten years old, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is as legendary and impressive a game as when it was released, one of the Wii’s best games, and a benchmark for what great games should aspire toward.