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Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Impressions: Is Wii's new fighter different enough?

It was announced alongside the Revolution itself, but it's still taken this long - almost three years in fact - for Super Smash Bros. Brawl to make its way into Wii owner's hands.

It's not a gameplay overhaul that's the reason behind Brawl's tardy arrival (in fact quite the opposite - it's still the same arcade fighter we're used to), but series mastermind Masahiro Sakurai's infamous attention to detail.

Tons of new characters, stages and modes are set for the fighter's third iteration, as well as a full-on level editor and online play via Nintendo Wi-Fi.

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Nintendo's pulled no punches for this one, and having just got our hands on a Japanese copy it just could be the best Wii brawler yet.

Challenger approaching...
The first thing veteran Smash fans will notice is obviously the number of newcomer fighters in Brawl - and there's quite a few of them. Just the starting roster gives you new faces Pit (Kid Icarus), Diddy Kong, Meta Knight (Kirby), Olimar and Pikmin, Wario, Dedede (Kirby) and Pokémon Trainer - and there's a few to be unlocked including Sonic and Snake.

One of the most interesting (and oddball) is Olimar, who requires radically different strategies from the sword-slashing, fireball-throwing veterans we're used to.

The tardy Captain controls almost exactly like he did back in the GameCube Pikmin games. The B button pops a bunch of Pikmin from the ground, which you can then lob at your opponents using forward and B. The little blighters then bunch and bite at the latched-on target until they're either killed or knocked off - just like they would in the proper Pikmin games.

The problem is Olimar himself - the slightly overweight and dim-looking spaceman - is completely defenceless. Once your Pikmin are latched onto a target the only way you can defend yourself from other attackers is to run away, which doesn't make him an ideal choice for close-quarters arenas.

Thankfully you can call your Pikmin back with down and B (his classic Pikmin whistle), but he's still very much a hit and run character. We spent most of our early games perched alone outside of the chaos, lobbing Pikmin into the carnage and hoping for the best. We haven't won yet, but Olimar's definitely one to be mastered.

Pokémon Trainer is another break from the fighter trend; first of all you don't actually play as the kid in the cap, but his trio of Pokémon. Using down and B you can cycle between Charizard, Squirtle and Ivysaur, who are controlled by the Pokémon trainer himself lurking cleverly in the background.

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Each Pokémon has a unique up, forward and standard B special move, but the problem is (from our initial time with Brawl) none of them seem terribly useful. Venisaur is quite useful for vertical attacks, whipping with vines and lobbing razor-sharp leaves into the sky.

Squirtle meanwhile seems to be a bit better at ground attacks and can zip along the floor inside his shell, though that leaves you a bit vulnerable at falling off the ledge of the battlefield.

Charizard meanwhile, who we expected to be a Bowser-like, fire-breathing behemoth, is just a bit slow and rubbish. Fire breathing lasts for half the time of Koopa's move, while his ability to jump is severely limited by the fact that he's well, bloody massive.

Because of this we quickly got stuck behind scenery and there was even the odd comedy 'infinite banana slip' which quickly took our damage percentage into the hundreds.

Pokémon Trainer is definitely another one to be mastered, but there's no complaining about a bit of variety.

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