How on earth do you begin reviewing what has to be one of the most hyped games ever? After all, you only have to look at how well Super Smash Bros. Brawl has already sold in both Japan (one million in the first two weeks) and the US (1.4 million in just the first week!) to know that Europeans are going to buy it whether we think it's a good idea or not.
There's also the small matter of the game's innermost secrets being spilled all over the internet by rabid fans, avid users and even the game's own producer, Masahiro Sakurai.
So, where do we start? Probably by pointing out that Brawl has been well worth the wait.
Never have we seen a game so crammed with detail, so packed with things to do and elements to reveal, and so absolutely over the top in terms of representing its genre. It is, without question, the ultimate iteration of the Smash Bros. series, but even more importantly, it's also the ultimate celebration of all things Nintendo.
Fight, Fight, Fight
One thing it's not, however, is a proper fighting game and we'll oppose anyone who suggests otherwise.The Smash Bros. games have never been beat 'em ups in the truest sense, which is probably why they polarise audience opinion. Many applaud the simplistic control scheme that makes every character's moves instantly accessible, the heavy focus on four-player action and the frantic brawls that can see even the most accomplished player beaten in the blink of an eye, while others hate it for exactly the same reasons. As cliched as it is to call it a Marmite game, Smash Bros. has always been exactly that - never quite enough of a beat 'em up to satisfy hardcore enthusiasts, but more than sufficient for everyone else.
Not surprisingly, the formula hasn't really changed much for Brawl. The main focus of the game is still very much the multiplayer Brawl mode, every character's moves are still accessed by pressing one of four directions and then hitting A or B, and being skilled at playing still doesn't necessarily guarantee you victory. Ultimately then, this means one of the series' biggest flaws still remains. If you've never liked Smash Bros., Brawl will do very little to change your mind. It's a refinement of the franchise rather than a full-scale improvement; an already assembled pile of LEGO that's had extra bits built onto it instead of being broken down and recreated from scratch.
But oh, what a lot of extra building there's been. Looking at the entire package, Brawl is a giant vessel into which Sakurai and his team have poured not just ideas, but also a heap of Nintendo adoration until it overflowed. There's a whole heap of things to do in Brawl besides multiplayer fighting.
Only The Lonely
Admittedly, some are familiar and while that's nice, it might have been nicer to see something more original. We've smashed sandbags with baseball bats and broken targets countless times before, so doing the same again now is more of a means to a reward-based end rather than something we'd do by choice. Still, the other additions more than cover for this slight laziness.
Take the Subspace Emissary mode, for example, which we initially thought would just be single-player filler. Having played it through to its conclusion and racked up around ten hours of playtime in the process, we're impressed at how decent the experience was. Okay, so it's still quite simple and wouldn't hold up if released on its own but the combination of exploration, general combat, boss battles and treasure collection (not to mention the ability to play through it with a friend) really hangs together nicely.