Hands-on with Super Smash Bros Brawl

I had the chance to have some quality time with Super Smash Bros. Brawl at the Nintendo media event in San Francisco this past Friday. As you all know, I’ve been following this game very closely and have been eagerly awaiting the release of this game.  

Check out my extensive report on what I thought of it and read about some of the new stuff that have yet to be revealed on the DOJO

Veterans of the series will be pleased to know that this feels and plays just like the past Smash games. With that said though, it was very hard getting used to playing the game using the Classic Controller. This was actually the very first time I’ve ever had this controller in my hands so that really didn’t help matters much. I eventually got used to it, but my hands were so mapped to the GameCube controller that I would have trouble here and there during battles. I tried playing the game with just the Wiimote itself, but I quickly decided to never ever play Brawl with the Wiimote again. The analog stick is the only way I can ever move a character in Smash. I think the Wiimote by itself will be very good for a beginner, but for seasoned vets and pro players, they will either need the Classic or the ‘Cube controller to really be good at this game.

All of the matches were 2-minute K.O. battles and Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus, Fox, Pikachu, Diddy Kong, Pit, Meta Knight, Ike, Peach, Yoshi, Sonic and Bowser were all available to play with. Most of the characters that were from previous Smashes all had the same basic moves. Some had extra animations, for instance, now when Bowser swipes at you, he’ll jump into the air with you and do a body slam.

As for the new characters, my favorite has to be between Meta Knight and Ike. Meta Knight is all around super fast with his moves and his Smash attacks will inflict plenty of damage on your opponents. Ike however is extremely strong (Imagine Roy or Marth but ten times stronger). His moves inflict a lot of damage and will send you flying. Diddy Kong is also a very fast character and has a lot of great combo style attacks. Pit seemed very similar to Link in control and fighting style — well except the whole flying thing. It may be hard to knock Pit off of a stage too since his Up Smash attack allows him to fly for a long time. Sonic, of course, is very fast. Overall, I felt his moves were weak but his speed will allow him to do the run in and retreat tactic (a.k.a cheap little bitch move).  

11 stages were also available to battle on, most of which have been revealed already at the DOJO. Overall, I really didn’t like any of the stages. Either the stages were too small, or the stages would transport the players from location to location in short periods of time. That happened in Melee, but it happens a lot more often in Brawl. It just felt like the stages that would transport you would take away from the battle. It may just have been trying to get used to the levels that was throwing me off though. 

A few gameplay elements have changed as well. For instance, if you do a dodge in the air, you can still do a jump afterwards. In Melee, if you did midair dodge, you couldn’t recover until you landed on the ground. Another change is the fact that you can catch items that are thrown at you. You could do this in the previous Smash, but it was extremely hard to time it right. It’s much easier to do it in Brawl now though. And yes, if someone throws a Pokeball at you and you catch it, the Pokemon will now be under your control. Another great new addition to the items is that you can also grab them in midair when they’re falling from the sky. You don’t have to wait until it lands to grab the item. 

Items weren’t on extreme heavy rotation, but I did catch a few new things:

  • The bumper is back and is more annoying than ever.
  • The energy sword is now blue instead of pink.
  • There’s now a Spring Jump pad (like the Spring Jumps from the Mario series).
  • Screw Attack will stick to your chest so you can grab another item and still use the Screw Attack.
  • There’s an item that looks like a poker chip with the letter B on it. It’s a bomb and will easily inflict 70% damage onto you if you get hit with it.
  • There’s an item that sticks to you and shoots out fireballs for about half a minute.
  • There’s an item that looks like a cross between a Thwomp and a Spiker. You can pick it up and throw it at people.

That’s some of the new items that haven’t been shown at the DOJO yet. There’s also a few other things like Bob-ombs, Fire Flower, Poison Flower and a few other things that were in the demo too that were from past Smashes.

Some new Assist Trophies were also revealed. First thing you should know though about the Trophies is that the second you grab them, they shatter automatically and your Assist character will come out. A lot of the Assist characters that were in this demo were revealed before too, but here are a few new ones:

  • Metroid. Yes, a f*cking Metroid! It will attack whoever is close, latch onto them and suck their energy out.
  • Little Mac. The classic Punch-Out fighter will run around the map boxing whoever he can.
  • Drill Dozer. From the highly underrated game comes Drill Dozer as she Drills people.
  • Sin and Punishment character. She shoots and slashes at whoever is closest to her.

A few new Pokemon were also shown off. Now I don’t know what the hell their names are, so I’ll try to describe them as best as I can.

  • A giant blue whale that can fly. It shoots out water.
  • Two metallic looking birds. One was blue, one was pinkish. They each come from either side of the screen and I guess use Tackle Attack on whoever gets caught in their attack. It’s actually pretty strong and hard to get out of it.
  • A little chicken that’s on fire: It uses Flame Thrower attack.
  • A penguin. It uses Ice … Thrower attack.

I also spotted a few old ones like the green dinosaur with a leaf on it’s head and Snorlax.

Finally, I’ll talk about the Smash Ball, the item probably everybody is really curious about. I’m glad to say that the Smash Ball won’t be anywhere near as cheap as I thought it would be. For starters, you have to “break” the Smash Ball open. Once the Smash Ball comes onto the stage, it will float around in the air and you have to smash it open. It will take several hits before it finally opens. Of course, there will usually be a lot of people trying to go for it, so if you do grab the Smash Ball, watch out! It can be knocked out of you and it’s another free for all for the Smash Ball. For most of the Final Smash attacks, you’re going to have to be near a character to use them. You have only one shot at it and if you miss, you lose your power up. 

In order to activate your Final Smash attack, you just have to press the neutral Smash button (don’t point the directional stick). Most of the Final Smashes have been revealed already so I’ll just mention the ones that haven’t yet. First, Peach’s Final Smash causes the camera to just zoom in on her while a couple of graphics from the Peach DS game come on the screen. When the camera zooms out, your opponents have fallen to sleep and dozens of peaches have appeared for you to eat and regain health with. Ike’s Final Smash is identical to Link’s Final Smash. Ike will slash at you several times and then knock you into the sky or off of the stage with his sword. Meta Knight will grab his opponents and just do a slash at whoever gets trapped by him which usually results in an instant K.O. Pikachu transforms into a dark energy ball and can fly anywhere on the map. I was playing with Dyson most of the time and he had no idea he could fly with Pikachu’s Final Smash. So he just stood there as Pikachu and I decided to walk right into him. I instantly got near 600% damage. It’s very hard to control Pikachu when you’re flying (it’s also very similar to Sonic’s Final Smash) but it will inflict a lot of damage. Finally, Zero Suit Samus’s Final Smash is just getting her suit back and also radiating a lot of energy around her that will hurt you, but won’t do significant damage.

All in all, I was very pleased with what I played. Super Smash Bros. Brawl will be out on February 10th next year and look for the first public demo of the game at E For All next week.

[Update: I’ve been playing Melee since 2001 and never knew I could catch items midair with the Z button. God damn it.] 

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Hamza Aziz
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