Almost Everything It's Hyped Up to Be.
Let's start with the action. The controls in Brawl are, in my opinion, tighter than they've been in either Smash Bros. game before it. You also get the much appreciated bonus of setting up your own control scheme. There are the four basic set-ups, of course, and there's likely to be at least one that will appeal to every player. I opted for the Wii-mote sideways thing, myself, and am very fond of it. But being able to set each button on your preferred controller just the way you like it really opens up Smash Bros. that much more. It's not only an option to make every player comfortable, it's an invitation to make the game your own.
So, you've got that. But what else sets Brawl apart from Melee? Well, the characters, as well as some other various extras, certainly breathe new life into Smash Bros., and if you're wondering whether the overall package is enough to justify another game in the series, well, it is. Some of the returning favorites have some minor tweaks and / or additions, so there's something new there to find, of course, but the newcomers really do offer a whole lot of value when it comes to mixing up the series. Characters like Meta Knight and Pit will be a delight for new players finding their feet, though Diddy Kong, Snake and Olimar will offer a nice challenge to more seasoned vets.
Production values? Aside from one or two occasional areas in the Subspace Emissary (SSE) that look a bit PS2 / Cube-ish, the game is really gorgeous. Every single boss battle – and the boss battles are excellent in SSE, by the way, and there are plenty of them – looks fantastic. Looking at Brawl is, for the most part, like watching a Pixar flick. That ain't too shabby for the Wii. Music and sound effects, too, are a sweet treat, and there are hundreds of songs to unlock. You can also create your own music settings for Brawl stages, and that's a very welcome idea to throw into the mix.
Brawl is awesome, Brawl is great. When IGN called the game "Nintendo-branded heroin," they were right on the money – it's damn fun to play, and damn hard to put down. However, that doesn't blind me to the game's shortcomings. The biggest of them being no motion-control gameplay. Actually, let me rephrase that: almost no motion-control gameplay. If you use the Wii-mote / nunchuk control configuration, you can set the Smash to be a "waggle." Yippie! But that's it. There's no other motion control in this game. Sure, I know every single Smash fan is going to reply with a resounding, "I don't want motion control in Smash! Smash was made to be played with a traditional controller!" Whatever. It's the Wii, and more motion-control gameplay should have been offered. I'm glad they gave players the option to use traditional controls, but they made it pretty much the only viable option.
The other major problem with Brawl is online play. Where is it? I think I've managed a total of two matches out of the hundred or so attempts I've made to play online. I've got a broadband connection, an official Nintendo WiFi USB connector, and all my other online Wii channels work without a hitch. That said, 95 percent of the time, I get nothing but error messages when attempting to play online matches. No way. They delayed this game, then they delayed it again. When all was said and done, Nintendo delayed it once more. Don't tell me you can't get the online right at this point. I don't want to hear it – not for the most anticipated Wii game ever – not for a $50 game, in which the online is perhaps the main new feature. It's a huge faux pa, and I'm pissed off!
There, I vented. I love Brawl. I can't get enough of it. My youngest son spends the most time with the game, but he's one of those fanatics for it. I'm not great, and he wipes the floor with me every single time we Brawl. However, I keep coming back for more because the game is simply magical. But it's not perfect. It's got some major flaws. The good thing is, those flaws are separated from all the other aspects of the game, so though you might not be able to enjoy those other expected elements, the game will still offer you an incredible amount of fun for your buck.