When Nintendo brought out Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 back in 1999, it was a neat idea, but more of a novelty then anything else. Two entries later, and this is a hit series that’s just reaching it’s stride. With a ton of characters, both old and new, stages that are a blast to play, the long and fun Subspace Emissary mode, a simple stage editor and even online play, this is easily the best Smash entry yet. It’s also an early contender for 2008 Game of the Year. The first thing you notice when you fire it up is that it takes very little advantage of the Wii’s unique controls. Betasim played exclusively with the Wii remote and nunchuck, but the only Wii-specific benefit it provides is a motion-based smash attack. Even the menus, which would be perfect for the Wii remote, don’t use the remote’s motion sensitivity for selecting things – you still use the nunchuck’s analog stick. The game plays fine this way, but it’s obvious that it’s built for a more conventional controller, like the Wavebird. Another thing you’ll notice is that the game controls almost exactly like Melee for the Gamecube. If you use a ‘Cube controller, it is exactly the same. This isn’t a bad thing, since it works perfectly fine, but it could have been a little more tweaked for the Wii.
Once you’re actually playing, you’ll find there’s quite a few characters on the fighter selection screen that weren’t there last time around. Fighters like King Dedede from Kirby, the Pokémon Trainer (don’t call him Ash) from Pokémon, and Captain Olimar from Pikmin among them. Pretty much each of them has a very unique style, particularly the Pokémon trainer and Olimar. Olimar relies on his Pikmin that he can pick at any time for fighting, and the Pokémon trainer himself is invincible, being in the background during the match, tossing one of three Pokeballs (Charizard, Squirtle or Ivysaur) into the fray at any given time. Unlockables include the devastating Solid Snake, Mario’s little bro Luigi, and Sonic the Hedgehog, who is a surprisingly fun and active character.
The maps, as well, are for the most part fun and well thought out. I enjoy unpredictability of the Pictochat and Warioware levels as much as I love the well thought-out design of the Pikmin and Mushroom Kingdom levels. The ability to tweak the music of the levels, as well as being able to unlock new music, is a great option. I’m also ecstatic to see the original Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. making appearances as unlockable levels. The stage editor is fun but a little too simple. The ability to rotate objects vertically as well as horizontally would have breathed allot of life into it, but the fact that Nintendo is releasing one user created level a day makes this a great feature. The endless amount of created levels means that you won’t get bored with them any time soon.
The Subspace Emissary mode is fun, reminding me of a really cheesy fan fiction, but not very well balanced, difficulty-wise. Most of it is very easy, offset by very hard areas. Some of the platforming is unnecessarily hard. You can play two players in this mode, which is a double edged sword. It means that you get some help on the bosses and someone to enjoy it with, but you can get in each others way on the more challenging platforming segments.
Smash Bros. is one of the those games that begs for showing off your best work, and Nintendo has provided it’s most complete effort in this area to date here. You can save recordings of any battle under three minutes long and take pics at any time, and then send them to anyone else with a Wii and the game via Connect24. Along with the free level-a-day, Nintendo includes a pic and a video, so you’ll have plenty to do and see from here on out.
If I had to pick weaknesses for this game, I’d point out that the graphics aren’t terribly improved over Melee on the Gamecube, and some of the characters are a little too similar (Fox and Falco, for example). Also, the Smash Ball, which is one of the big draws, is so obnoxious that I keep it turned off. Matches grind to a halt when one appears, as everyone chases it. Smash ball attacks are also terribly unbalanced
In the end, though, this is a great game. With tons of characters, maps, music, stickers and trophies to unlock, the Subspace Emissary mode to beat, and online multiplayer to enjoy, this is a masterpiece. Unlike many games you beat and then forget, this is one you’ll play for years to come, even after you’ve unlocked everything. If you like Nintendo’s universe, or just great games in general, this is a hard one to beat. Buy it and love it. Alphasim out.