Friday, December 10, 2010

A Look to the Past: Games of the Years 2008 - Super Smash Bros. Brawl


Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

I count myself as a pretty big Nintendo fan, as this Games of the Years features has no doubt highlighted. From the early days of the NES to the present day Wii, Nintendo has consistently put out some of the best, most high-quality products on any platform. When you combine over thirty Nintendo characters, over forty Nintendo-inspired stages, and over two-hundred-fifty Nintendo songs, it essentially creates Heaven in video game form. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is yet another game on the list that is too big for words... unfortunately, this blog is generally constructed of words, so I'll have to do my best. In 2008 the madcap fighting style of Super Smash Bros. was unleashed upon the world once more, making everybody within a hundred yard radius exceptionally happy. I wouldn't go so far as to say Brawl perfected the series like I think Halo 3 did; Super Smash Bros. Melee's gameplay was superior in some ways. However! Brawl upped the overall quality and content (especially in the music department) so dramatically that it barely makes a difference. New characters were added to the fray, and most of them were fun to play as and interesting choices. Of special note was the inclusion of two outsiders: Konami's Solid Snake and Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog. These were among the greatest newcomers to arrive in Brawl, and helped to set the stage for even more crazy, fan-fiction-inspired showdowns. Levels were bigger and more interactive than ever, showcasing a great Hylian bridge that comes under attack by evil forces, a guided tour of Delfino Plaza's sunny entirety, and a Mario Kart track rife with reckless racers to name a few. The many, many songs set to these levels were composed by dozens of renowned video game musicians, from Nobuo Uematsu to Koji Kondo to Akihiro Honda. Most of them were remixed tunes from Nintendo's past, and the music as a whole was fantastic. Almost every piece was a winner, and some topped their original forms. Brawl was clearly intent on having both quality and quantity in all respects.

I don't know about you, but this is exactly what my crazy fan-fiction showdowns look like.

Well, in almost all respects. Although the Subspace Emissary (Brawl's attempt at a story) didn't hit all the right marks, the other modes and options made it easy to forget. Players could create their own battlegrounds with the stage creator, which made great strides in replayability. If you ever got tired of the excellent developer-designed stages, you could throw some blocks together and get a whole new experience. As the most notable new addition, it was simple but effective, and the flat-out amazing gameplay made even the slightest differences in stage design meaningful. And of course, the nostalgia-inducing trophies made a triumphant return, acting as 3D collectables to honor past Nintendo history. Other modes and options deepened an already deep game, which is, in essence, what Brawl did to the series overall. Now, I've never played Grand Theft Auto 4, BioShock, or Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (rather popular entries in the 2008 repertoire of games). However, I have played some eye-openers from that year, including Burnout Paradise, Soulcalibur IV, and LittleBigPlanet. Although each of those games were fantastic in their own rights, Brawl knocked them down like bowling pins. It was everything a video game should be: it conjured up images from the legends of yore; it presented new, fresh ideas; it boasted strong multiplayer options; it contained endless variety; it had amazing music; its visual style was both pleasing and impressive; and, last and most importantly, Super Smash Bros. Brawl was just plain fun.

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