Friday, March 14, 2008

Saturday's Column

'Brawl' has split personality

It's finally here.

"Super Smash Brothers Brawl," the Nintendo Wii installment of this highly popular series, hit the shelves this week after months of delays.

The game pits a vast array of mostly stock Nintendo characters against one another in a manner not unlike many other fighting games. The fights take place on levels which are themselves references to many Nintendo games. In this installment, Nintendo included Solid Snake from the "Metal Gear Solid Series" and Sonic the Hedgehog, two character cameos from other developers.

The unique combat system of "Brawl," which allows up to four players at once, is fast-paced and full of booby traps. On the one hand, "Brawl" is a self-referential homage; on the other, it's a drunken knife fight.

The year 2008 finds "Brawl" well, with great new characters and — gasp — an online feature. For most game fans (Nintendo loyalists in particular), the possibility of playing "Smash Brothers" online was like watching the sky open up and having God say to us, "Yeah, I like you guys."

But playing "Brawl" online left me wanting. The online play can be very laggy at times — and that's when it works. It did not work at all the first few nights. I received constant error messages, which referred me back to the Nintendo Web site.

Among the list of reasons for the problem: server trouble. After reading about similar experiences using these newfangled Internet tubes, I concluded that Nintendo obviously didn't plan for this.

The most asinine part of Nintendo's online experience is the use of "Brawl codes." Before you can seek out and play with your friends online, you must register their 12-digit friend code and vice versa.

The only time I want to remember a long strand of numbers is when a government check is involved. All the time I spent manually typing in each stupid little number was time I could've spent playing the game. Nintendo should find a way to streamline this process. Allowing a copy-and-paste function on the numbers or registration through via e-mail would be nice.

That said, there are several basic modes in "Brawl." The first is the four-player slugfest, which is always fun. There's also the "classic" single-player story mode, which I highly recommend for new players. It will put you through the paces of single and then multiplayer battles.

There's also the "Subspace Emissary" side-scrolling adventure. It uses the same combat mechanics as the brawl game and slaps them over a story which makes little or no sense. It does look pretty, and it gives you an excuse to train with lots of different characters. Sit back, push buttons and look at the pretty pictures.

The non-online portions of "Brawl" get five buttons out of five. I'm taking a wait-and-see approach before I make a decision on playing more "Brawl" online, however.


Chris Pittman said...

I have yet to successfully play a match under the "With Anyone" option. Fortunately, the offline potion of the game really is near perfect. I have lost hours upon hours of sleep hopping from mode to mode.

I am so sick of friend codes. I wish that Nintendo would adopt a proper online program (see PSN or Xbox Live).

The online mode needs serious patching by Nintendo or I will simply abandon it entirely. I just hope the company is prepared for Mario Kart next month. That game pretty much requires a smooth online experience for replayability purposes.

Dan Whisenhunt said...

I have had some success with that mode- and you're right- the non online portion is damn skippy.