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By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - And I haven't wanted to for a while now.
So Rawk wanted me to write this before Nintendo's E3 presentation revealing Super Smash Bros. 4 because Brawl would be obsolete by then anyway. Here we go. It's probably folly to try and talk about everything exhaustively about such a huge game in one article, so if something seems off or a point seems missing, you should divulge that in the comments.
Let me start by saying the Smash Bros. DOJO!! was the greatest hype mechanism ever created. It gave us reason to wake up in the morning! Or stay up really late for "Japan Time". This was six years ago and I think we can agree it was (one of) the best part of our lives. Sakurai went through every aspect of the game, one update at a time. We really hope he does that again. He also got some amazing quotes in there.
Okay, so Brawl. Obviously after all that hype there was no way the game would meet it. Well, it actually did. Maybe not all of it, but that wasn't measurable anyway and the DOJO!! provided value on its own independent of the actual game. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a really, really good game. It has the best soundtrack out of any game in existence!
However, over the years after 2008, it became apparent that Brawl would be the Wii's only popular local (and even online) multiplayer game. If you go to a convention's game room and there's a Wii, the game there will be Brawl. This continued for years until the Wii U came out! This meant that everyone who had a Wii had experience with Brawl with a popularity unmatched by anything except perhaps Mario Kart Wii. And there was an awesome sense within the entire Nintendo community that we could unite behind this massive game. It had local multiplayer, online multiplayer, fully customizable options, replays, stage creation, and even Subspace Emissary (which I actually liked).
...SSE is fine with Nintendo influence.
As you can see...
Actually, I would've liked even more of the concept of Subspace Emissary, because right now most of Brawl's content is obviously in the multiplayer. However, the gameplay for that is slow and floaty and just not intense. You have to look at things like APEX Finals for gameplay with SPEED and excitement, the kind that Super Smash Bros. Melee had all the time. That's not to say that I haven't sweated or anything during Brawl (oh man, Brawl double-handedly grimes up my GameCube controller), but the fighting lacked fluidity and combos and has the speed and flow of an Action RPG rather than a fighter. Now, I don't actually play fighters outside of the Super Smash Bros. series, but gameplay is gameplay. The mechanics really do fit a very expansive floaty platformer (Kirby on steroids) more. The platforming mechanics aren't tight like a real platformer like Yoshi's Island, and unfortunately Subspace Emissary's level design doesn't take the specific abilities that the specific characters in the story that the player plays as in those levels have into account. The nigh-impossibility of dying with enough teching, momentum-canceling, sticker-steroids, and directional influence is taken advantage of in the forced fights, especially in Intense difficulty; the platforming mechanics aren't. We can compare the mechanics between Melee and Brawl by comparing them with other Sakurai games, being Kirby Super Star and Kirby's Dream Land 3. The first in those sets move quickly and tightly, while the second of the pair are very slow. They're both available on the Virtual Console on the Wii U so you can check out the comparison for yourself.
So the guys in our Koopa Keep chat are always asking to play Brawl online. A lot of themed stuff with certain item/character/stage combinations, like "Koopa Keep Anniversary Brawl" (good), "Jessie Go Jr. Remedial Algebra Brawl" (Donkey Kong as Jessie Go? Ganondorf as Martin Luther King Jr.? Black Olimar as Casper Go?), "Boston Bombing Brawl" (I don't come up with these... a lot of explosives), or "Republican Primaries Brawl" (with Kirby as Newt Gingrich and Wario as Mitt Romney). These can have really cool moments that exploit quirky mechanics people wouldn't see if they were just playing competitively.
Koopa Keep Brawls also tend to end weirdly.
However, these still aren't as fun as say, Super Smash Bros. Melee, where you regularly sweat in a combination of mindgames and technique. I have real-life friends who I get together with to have "Sakurai Gatherings". This term was made because not only were we supposed to play Melee, but I wanted people to also play Kirby Air Ride. Unfortunately not everyone recognizes how brilliant Kirby Air Ride is so it's pretty much just a competitive Melee experience. These started after Brawl came out — I was checking GameFAQs for live updates during school and writing them on the board during the famous Melee vs. Brawl Game of the Decade contest! (Obviously I wanted Melee to win.)
With Melee, I spent a lot of time in the local VS. mode just playing against the CPUs. Even though Brawl has the better AI (it LEARNS), I found it fun to come up with "stories" using made up character-to-character relations. This was less fun in Brawl, despite the expanded character selection. Maybe because a lot of characters in Melee play truly differently from one another in functionality, character attributes, and feel, while everyone in Brawl is floatly and you can just spam Smash attacks generically, so they feel a lot more same-y and less unique. Also because the handicap system is a lot better in Melee than in Brawl, especially for storytime purposes.
It's widely recognized that I'm the best Melee player in my town, but even so, dominating someone in Melee is much more satisfying for everyone than Brawl because the control mechanics are so much tighter and you have the opportunity to be much more fluid and flashy. The simple freedom of movement in Super Smash Bros. Melee compared to Brawl, even at low or medium level play, is so obvious, exploitable, and enjoyable! Brawl is so sluggish by comparison. Sure, it makes for the better party game, and if you're looking holistically (and not just competitively), Brawl has more content depth. It's the better game. But content depth is no substitute for adrenaline and freedom — Melee is the better experience.
Brawl's online is also kind of messed up. With Anyone is terrible, and I'm the type of guy who would like Taunt Parties. They just end up being repetitive. With Friends is obviously cooler, although the reduced content compared to local multiplayer is disappointing. However, something like the Official Planet Koopa Advertisement Video is ONLY possible via Brawl's online.
And because I mentioned it earlier, here are the APEX 2013 Brawl finals. If you don't want to watch the whole video, then at least start at 43:10 (you're missing out though!). It's really awesome and the most fluid play you'll see in Brawl — but this type of fluidity is only accessible to those in the very upper echelon of competitive play. You disagree? Sound off in the comments!
Oh, right, I almost forgot. No one cares about Super Smash Bros. 64. And don't talk to me like I don't know Project M exists.
Ludwig's friend list in Super Smash Bros. Brawl is full at 64/64, although he is willing to delete deadbeats. His friend code is 4511-0150-1059 — he's had that code memorized for years. As you can see, many of his YouTube videos are of Brawl. Check them out if you want.