It's been over six years since the last Super Smash Bros. game was released. Super Smash Bros. Melee was a smash hit for the GameCube when it was released, but in the intervening years we've seen three new console releases, new franchises shoot to the top of the charts, and a whole new host of gamers have come to games thanks to the Nintendo Wii.
If you've never played a Super Smash Bros. game but are thinking of picking up Brawl for your Wii, then this primer is for you. This primer is intended to be a quick and dirty get-started guide to the game. We'll talk about the basics: how to attack and defeat your opponents, the different moves that are available to you, and so on and so forth. It's not intended to be an in-depth look at every single character and move in the game; if you're looking for super-detailed information, then check out the GameFAQs.com page for Brawl. (The GameFaqs page for Super Smash Bros. Melee has plenty of still-relevant information about the series, as well.) For more details on the secret unlockables in the game, check out our Hints & Cheats page for the game.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl, like previous games in the Smash series, is all about fighting. It fits most neatly into the fighting genre of games, but unlike most games in the genre, such as Street Fighter or Soul Calibur, it's very free-form. Perhaps the biggest change is that characters don't automatically die after taking a set amount of damage; rather, the goal is to knock your opponents off the screen.
Finishing An Opponent Off
In order to defeat your opponents, you'll need to knock them off one side of the screen. You can finish off an opponent by knocking them upwards off the top, off of either side, or off the bottom of the screen. Getting them off the screen can be difficult, however (assuming they don't accidentally fall into a pit or something themselves). Enemies are heavy and resistant to damage. You can knock your enemies around more by using smash attacks. (See the General Moves chapter for more details.) Some enemies are heavier than others, however, and will be even harder to knock around. Luckily for you, there's a little gadget called the damage meter that will help you out…
The Damage Meter
The damage meter in Brawl indicates how much damage your character has taken. It might confuse you if you've never played a Super Smash Bros. game, but this meter can exceed 100%, sometimes by a large amount. The damage meter doesn't measure how much life your character has remaining, though. Instead, it determines how far your opponent will fly when you knock him backwards with a powerful attack.
The higher your foe's damage meter gets, the farther they'll fly. As it gets past 100%, you should start looking for a knockout blow with one of your smash attacks. The damage meter can go awfully high before the round ends, and you can even damage some opponents up to the point where their meter is 250% or more without finishing them off. This is only possible if you use a succession of weak, normal attacks, though; at around 150% damage, almost any smash attack will finish off your foe, or at least knock them so far off the screen that they can't recover.
One of the unique aspects of Smash Bros. are the items. In most game modes, you'll constantly be running across items that fall from the sky. These items range from the relatively innocuous, like food items that restore small amounts of health, to the very powerful, such as the home-run bat that can often instantly KO an enemy, even if they're at full health.
In most high-level competitive versus games, items are turned off; they're too random and create something of an uneven playing field. However, in Classic or Adventure mode, you're going to need to get used to the items in the game and use them to full effect. Items will often simply drop from the sky in most of the game modes, although they can also be knocked away from an opposing player. If you want to nab an item, stand on top of it and press your attack button; that'll pick it up. If an item can be held and used, the regular attack button will often be what you use to activate it. So, if you pick up a gun, press the attack button to fire it, or if you have a fire flower, hold down the attack button to shoot flames with it. Some items, like bombs, are meant to be thrown at your foes; this will also be done with the normal attack button.
Each item will have different effects, so you'll need to experiment a bit with each one to figure out what it does. (The training mode in the Solo menu can help, as it will let you spawn any item you wish at any time.) If you have an item that you don't want (such as a gun that's run out of ammo), you can always drop it by pressing the Grab button on your controller. Alternately, if your foe is in front of you, you can attempt to throw the item by moving your movement stick towards them and tapping the Grab button. (Again, if it's an object that's meant to be thrown anyway, like a bomb, the attack button will also throw the item.) This will send the item rocketing towards your foe, causing a bit of damage if it hits.
Pick a Character and Stick To It
One piece of general advice is to try and pick a character and stick with it as you start playing Brawl. Although some characters play fairly similarly (such as Ness and Lucas or Ike and Marth), most of the characters in Brawl will have very different styles of play. Some will be big and slow and powerful, while others will be light, quick, and stylish, while others will be a happy medium between the two extremes.
The thing to keep in mind here, as a new player of Brawl, is that it's easy to get overwhelmed by the number of characters in the game, especially if you dip into multiple characters one after another. Each one will have different moves and different timings that you'll need to get used to. Although the basic moveset is similar for every character, you can never be too sure what the buttons you're pressing will do, especially when it comes to attacks. Thus, if you're just starting out, you'll want to probably try a few of your favorite characters out, pick the one that feels the best to you, then concentrate on mastering that character (or at least getting pretty good at it) before moving on to the next one.
Each character has a certain number of standard attacks available to them. The specifics of each attack will vary from character to character, however. The buttons you're going to be pressing will be determined by the controller that you use, in addition. You have the option of using the Wii Remote + Nunchuk, the Wii Remote by itself, the Classic Controller, or a GameCube controller, if you have one handy. If you're curious as to what buttons you need to press to get a specific kind of action, check the Options - Controls panel, then go into Controller Configuration.
You have two types of movement in Brawl: running or dashing. Running is performed by lightly holding down your movement stick to one side, while dashing can be performed either by rapidly moving the stick to one side. Each form of movement will allow you to perform different attacks, so you'll want to fool around with each form to see what happens when you attempt aggressive actions while performing them.
Most controllers will have a button dedicated to jumping. By default, you will also usually be able to jump by tapping upwards on your analog stick or direction pad. It's generally better to get used to hitting a button for jumping (assuming you can; the Wii Remote by itself doesn't have this option). You can tap the jump button again in mid-air to double jump, and you can often get yourself even higher by performing some sort of aerial attack, usually an up+Special attack that will raise you up. This is often used to recover your character back to the edge of a platform after getting knocked off.
Jumping upwards will usually let you move through any platforms above you and land on them. It's also handy for avoiding enemies who have certain powerful items in their possession. You also perform different attacks while jumping, so explore your movelist to learn more.
The normal attack is your basic attack maneuver. Tapping the button repeatedly will usually start you up with a combo which can be strung together indefinitely. Some combos are fast and can be used to almost lock up an unwary opponent, while others will have long gaps in between the start and finish, allowing your opponents to recover. You may also want to try holding down the attack button; some characters will simply repeat their attack over and over again, very rapidly.
Normal attacks are weak, but quick. You can perform different normal attacks by holding any direction on the analog stick before attacking. Keep in mind, however, that moving the stick and pressing attack at the same time will result in a smash attack, which is a different kind of attack.
Smashes are very powerful maneuvers that deal large amounts of damage. You can use them in normal combat, as you like, but they're also often used as finishing moves, since they knock your opponents backwards a great distance if they're already badly hurt.
Smash moves can either be used with your normal attack button, or, if you're using a certain kind of controller, with another analog stick besides the one you use to move. (On the GameCube, this is the yellow C stick; on the Classic controller, it's the right analog stick.) To perform a smash with your attack button, tap the movement stick in a direction and simultaneously hit the attack button. You should perform a different attack than your normal attack or the normal running attack. To verify that you're performing a smash, try tilting the stick and hitting the attack button, but hold down the attack button. Smash attacks can be charged up for extra damage if you hold down the attack button. (Smashes performed with an analog stick cannot be charged, however.)
Another attack button that you have is the special attack. As you might imagine, this is a special attack that will be different based on what character you have. Most characters will have some kind of special, unique attack for their special move that will draw upon their character's history. You can perform different special attacks by moving the movement stick in a different direction before using your special attack. Mario, for example, can shoot fireballs by just tapping the button, or bring out his Sunshine water-sprayer by tapping down+special. Link, on the other hand, can fire an arrow by using the special button (charge this attack up by holding down the button), or grab a bomb from his pack by using down+Special. Zelda will switch between herself and Sheik by tapping down+special. Some special attacks can also be charged, such as Pikachu's forward+special rocket attack.
You'll need to play around with the special attacks of your chosen character before using it to its fullest effect; these are often what makes a character perform uniquely. Take your chosen character into Training Mode to try out all of its special attacks for yourself!
Up+special moves are often useful to reach high places or to recover after being knocked off the platform.
Grabbing an opponent can only be performed at very close range (although some characters, like Link, have a bit of an extended reach). When you grab an opponent, you can attempt to attack it with your punches and/or throw them off to the left or right by using your movement buttons. This can launch an enemy off the edge of a platform, into a spiketrap, or simply get them far away from you, as you like.
Every character can shield themselves by holding down their shield button. This will cause a large bubble to appear over them, which will continuously grow smaller as the button is held down or if they take damage. If the shield disappears completely, the character will be stunned for a few moments, allowing your enemy to freely attack you. Shields can be reduced more quickly if you're attacked with the Fan item, so be wary of enemies that use it. They do, however, gradually regenerate if you simply don't use them for a while.
If you hold down the shield button, then tap your movement stick to the left or right, you'll roll out of the way of whatever's attacking you. This is a handy defensive maneuver, so get used to rolling away from enemies as they attack. Keep in mind that you can roll forwards through enemies, as well.
If you hold down the shield button and tap downwards on your movement stick, you will dodge. This will very briefly shunt you backwards into the background, allowing you to dodge an attack coming your way. This can be useful, but is over fairly quickly, so if you're trying to avoid a powerful or slow attack, you'll probably want to roll away.
Advanced moves aren't necessarily any more difficult to pull off than normal moves are, but they may require some special conditions before they can be used correctly.
Meteor smashes are special kinds of moves that will often rocket your enemy straight down to the bottom of the screen when they connect, assuming both you and they are in midair at the time. Many (but not all) characters can perform a meteor smash by performing either a forward normal attack or a downward normal attack in midair. If you manage to make a solid blow on your opponent, they will usually rocket towards the ground.
This is good in most situations, since it's simply handy to be able to deny your opponent their normal movement options. If you can set the pace of a match and disallow your opponent to gain momentum, you'll likely win. Meteor Smashes are also quite useful if you use them after knocking your opponent off the side of a platform. They'll attempt to recover and jump back onto the platform, but if you manage to hit them with a meteor smash before they reach it, they'll rocket to the bottom of the screen and be KOed without any chance of a recovery.
You can attempt to figure out which of your character's moves are meteor smashes by reading some of the character FAQs at GameFAQs.com, or by starting Training Mode and telling the enemy AI to jump repeatedly. That'll let you practice your moves and see which ones have the desired effect.
Each character in Brawl has an ultra-powerful Final Smash which can only be used in a very specific instance: when a Smash Ball appears on the stage and flies around. If you see a Smash Ball, a small, rainbow-colored ball that floats around in the air, get close to it and start pounding on it. The character that breaks the Smash Ball open will start to glow, indicating that they can use their Final Smash, which is done with the special attack button.
Each character will have a completely unique Final Smash, so you'll need to play around with each character to discover what happens when you activate it. The effects are wildly varied from character to character, so you'll have Snake getting onto a helicopter and firing grenades at his foes, while Princess Peach will put everyone else to sleep and heal herself with pumpkins. Knowing what kind of Final Smash your character is capable of is key to making effective use of it.
Of course, most high-end play takes place with items de-activated, so don't get too reliant on using Final Smashes. A good player shouldn't need to use them to finish off a foe…