60 Reviews

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Review: Is this a challenger approaching or an old-hand retiring?

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It's a narrative mish-mash and bloated as hell. We're pretty sure Subspace is a remake. Mother's Lucas pairs with Pokémon Trainer, Diddy Kong gets punched in the face and we'll leave you to find out what fate befalls Olimar's beloved Pikmin in a laugh-out-loud encounter with someone's boot.

Its strengths? Barking mad cutscenes and some lovely retro boss battles - even though these scraps feel like reskinned versions of the classic mode's Master Hand encounter. As a platformer it's not great.

He may have left HAL, but Sakurai's days as Kirby's dad are felt in the dull level design and unnecessarily tricksy warp door antics. Kirby's platforming smarts never matched Mario's; Miyamoto should have helped with these bits.

Also, using as it does the control mechanics of the fights, you have to manoeuvre tricky platforming segments with controls designed for arena combat. Bad idea.


Are we looking a gift horse in the mouth?

They didn't have to give us Subspace, and it's not like anything was removed to make room for it. And at eight hours it's quite sizeable - though the second half cheekily regurgitates past levels.

And there's an undeniable thrill from seeing these Nintendo legends interact in this bizarre manner - though this is a tad undermined when the true hero of the piece is revealed to be of non-Nintendo origins. This 'legends' angle leads us nicely to the ace up Sakurai's sleeve: the element that best reveals his 'last Smash Bros ever' philosophy.

We've never seen such a comprehensive shrine to one company. Brawl is an archive of Nintendo wonderment that you unearth by playing an immensely satisfying fighter. The iconography of Nintendo is cemented in the characters, the stages, the collectible trophies (hundreds), the stickers and the retro demos.

And the sounds? You cannot imagine the effort that has gone into this: experimental compositions of classic themes, orchestral revivals of forgotten tunes and pieces you've never heard before that win you over in an instant; you could purchase Brawl as a music album and be perfectly content.

Brawl is everything that makes Nintendo culture great: the characters, the humour, the heritage. Want to show someone why you've stuck by Ninty all these years? Show them a portly plumber chasing a green dinosaur with a massive hammer.

But Brawl also represents Nintendo as a company. Returning to your stock franchises guarantees games a heritage like no other; likewise it shackles you to old ways. Brawl is sublimely tuned and inexhaustible in its attempts to make you happy, but it's not new. But this is by no means the end of the world. Sakurai is saving his masterpiece for that one.

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The verdict

Nintendo love spills from every pore and the multiplayer can't be beat, but Smash Bros risks growing too familiar. It never breeds contempt, but it doesn't quite muster that Galaxy magic.

Nintendo Wii
Beat 'em Up