This past Sunday was the release of Smash Brothers Brawl and since I didn’t have a Wii, I headed out to Toys R Us before opening hours to camp out for a bit. I had previously purchased a Wii during the week of Super Mario Galaxy’s release but promptly sold both on eBay after I finished the game.
Mario Galaxy was captivating for the 12 or so hours it took to beat the main quest, but when I started to go for the complete 120 stars, I realized I didn’t have the drive to play through all those time trials and coin collect-a-thons. All for what, an artificial gaming badge of honor? I had sapped the sweet nectar from Mario Galaxy and was ready to move on to the next promising gaming bud.
So this was my second chance with the Wii. Smash Brawl is exactly what you’d expect, a fun party/pseudo-fighting game steeped with Nintendo lore. One of the biggest new modes is Subspace Emissary, a side-scrolling adventure mode revolving around a campy storyline that is essentially a thinly veiled Nintendo fan fic. This is a world where Link walking in the forest passes by a sleeping dinosaur (Yoshi) with hardly a second glance, and where Fox and Diddy Kong team up to fight a giant Pokemon. The actual gameplay is a real chore since you have to navigate through mazes to find the end of the levels, but watching the entertaining cutscenes makes it almost worthwhile, plus you can unlock most of the characters by going through this mode.
However, the real feature is the online play of course. In theory, this is what Nintendo fans have been wanting for years, but the execution thus far has been pitiful. I am spoiled by the Xbox Live experience, no doubt, and I can understand Nintendo’s position on limiting their online service to protect kids from predators. But everybody not under 12 years old suffers as a result. Each “Smash Bros. friend” you want to add to a friends list requires inputting a 16 digit code. If you want to share custom stages with that person, you’ll need to add him as a “Wii friend”, which requires inputting another 20 digit code. No voice chat and a bare-bones online presence are what I expected and Nintendo delivered exactly that.
All that can be forgiven if playing random strangers actually works, but it’s very spotty. In the first several days of release, getting into a game was almost impossible as Nintendo was clearly unable to handle the server load. Last night and today, I was finally able to get into a few games and had some fun, though the lag is immense at times. I’m talking 2 frames a second lag. Perhaps later this week or next week, the online play will be smoothed out.
Despite all the negativity, Brawl is the best game on Wii without a doubt and I’ll probably be keeping the Wii this time around. The fighting mechanics at the core are solid and it’s great fun to beat up all these Nintendo characters. But for now, stick with playing local multiplayer.