Super Smash Brothers X (Wii)

Hype is a strange beast as it is mostly one-sided. Magazines, blogs and websites have been masturbating themselves silly for weeks, months now in anticipation of this game and even a rather tentative chin-rubbing post of my own regarding the subject was reproduced at various other sites and caused a flood of outrage and misinterpretation. If I wanted tens of thousands of unique hits to my blog today I’d say something inflammatory, like Smash Brothers X sucks! But I won’t because it doesn’t.

Kotaku screamed scarcity and reported lines in Akihabara, so it was with a little shock of recalling some sleepy memory that it was today the game was released as I walked past a central Tokyo electronics store totally devoid of people. Okay, I am one of those freaks who gets up and goes to work at a normal time in the morning so the stores weren’t open yet, but neither were there any eagerly anticipating otaku queuing up.
At lunch I contemplated walking down to the shops to get my copy but opted for a sit down, coffee and chain-smoking session instead. Colleagues had gone out to buy it and told me there were plenty of copies available.

So in the evening, tired of life and work, I walk past the store and think to myself why not check it out? To my dismay there were few people on the shop floor and fewer still in the queue. The display said to ask at the cash register for Smash Bros. rather than to pick up an empty box and take it there yourself. This didn’t bode well. But after a short wait I asked the clerk if they had any, to which she turned around and picked up a pre-bagged copy from several boxes stuffed with similar plastic bags. Apparently they had expected a flood of customers and to keep lines moving they had tried to avoid wasting time bagging the games when sold.

Now you may think they might just have had a new shipment in or something but no. The great DS drought of early to mid 07 Saw queues hours long before new shipments actually arrived.

There was no clamoring. There was no queuing. There were plenty of copies available in a major, busy central Tokyo electronics store. This would indicate that the game may not actually be such a hotcake as people might have thought and for a moment I felt very smug about my post of the game being too hardcore for Wii. But then I noticed that all other customers buying the game on either side of me were schoolgirls and young women. The men in the queue all had PSP games or DVDs to buy. A lesser person would have been mortified but my masculinity remains intact – as a foreigner in Japan I think there is an automatic presumption of otakuism. That said, it’s women that form the base, non-hardcore market in Japan, I thought, but that may have been utterly wrong.

So what of the game? Oh it’s wonderful – exactly what you’d expect. Tons of characters, tons of mad stages, tons of play modes and unlockables. Graphically it sits very nicely on the evidence shelf of the case of Common Sense vs. Wii Naysayers. The game deserves a medal for having an operatic opening sequence, which was utterly wonderful. We don’t need orchestral or techno, but a tenor here and there does the trick.

The reason it’ll appeal to the Wii core is the multiplayer aspect, of course, which has such an emphasis it’s the first option of the menu. Within it you’ll find an absolute smorgasm of play options to set up and tweak, hot-seat party modes and whatnot. The on-line section is easy as pie, though it was rather empty when I tried it. Single player has the usual CPU matches, mini-games and, by the look of things, a vast single player adventure mode. After two long-ish levels I cleared it 4%, so that bodes well.

The reason it won’t appeal to the Wii core is that, well, it’s hardcore. Like its predecessors things get hectic on screen and it’s all too easy to get lost. It’s still fun but a little overwhelming, even for an old seadog like myself. The characters are cute but some are a little obscure, if you just imagine yourself a middle-aged newcomer to the medium. Everybody knows Pokémon and Mario, but Pit and, Hell, even Olimar? Of course I know them but I am a sad geek with no life, but what of your average “non-gamer”?

Even though I don’t think this title has automatic appeal, it is the kind of game people could get into once you have a group of them all playing together. The moment a Nintendog jumps up on the screen and blocks all the action everybody will shout “Get down! Get down!” When the piece of ice that is the arena breaks off a glacier and slides into the sea it’s not only a poignant comment on the state of global warming, it’s also a mad rush that makes everybody holler. It is a great party game, and I’m sure some Wii-core players will pick up their own copy after playing it at their hardcore nerdy friend’s house.

I doubt this is the game to break the Wii Fit and Wii Sport stranglehold, if even a title like Super Mario Galaxy couldn’t, but to date it’s probably the best, most enjoyable hard-core multiplayer title available for the Wii. If you’re hard-core you must get this. If you’re not, you must try this.

7 comments:

  1. Have fun playing Brawl! Meanwhile I'm over here waiting for a release date. I don't get it. Sure publishers have heard about this little thing called the Internet. Everything there is to know about the game can be found on there besides the EU release date.

    Are you sure those guys picking up PSP where core gamers? DMC4 was also released over there and it doesn't get much more hard-core then that. Personally I think Brawl I gonna do fine with all sorts of gamers. I've noticed that people who don't game have no trouble picking up a fighting game. Sure it will turn into a button mash fest really quick and they have no clue what there doing but getting a change to kick someones ass virtually somehow seems attractive to a lot of people.

    I'm getting a bit tired of the whole casuals vs cores discussion. It's not like the core group all are playing the same games. I don't see why there can't be cross-overs. People weren't shouting casual when Parappa the Rapper was released. Different people play different games even if they belong to the same audience.

    I blame Reggie for starting all this, there is not an interview where he doesn't mention the division. But Reggie used to be a marketeer he's used to thinking in terms as target audience and whatnot. That doesn't mean we should.

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  2. What does Brawl need to do to convince you hardcore games can succeed in Wii? Obtain excellent critics from review sites? Sell a million copies? Bring copycats? All of those? Something else?

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  3. @reybrujo
    Pretty much just selling a whole lot of units. Good critics are a no-brainer. This would be a proof for publishers and developers that there is indeed a market for hardcore games on the Wii. At the moment sales for such games are still disappointing low compared to the installed hardware base.

    I wonder whether Brawl will be released in Europe before I get a job or a Working Holiday visa in Japan. I wouldn't have enough money to buy (or enough time to find and play) a Wii with Brawl and taking my European Wii with me wouldn't work this well anyway. Region Coding be damned.

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  4. I'm not anti-Nintendo, but when I was a kid, their consoles were too expensive for my single-mother-teacher household. I wanted for nothing, instead choosing arcades to get my game fix.

    That said, I have no loyalty to Nintendo franchises, and so the SSB games hold no real appeal for me. I was fortunate enough to get an import copy of DreamMix TV for the GameCube (and a cheap preload disc from work), so I could use Hudson's SSBM engine with characters I actually knew: Solid Snake, Simon Belmont, Bomberman, Optimus and Megatron, even the Gradius Moai head. I hold out hope they release a sequel, though I doubt I'd be able to import it without breaking down for a modified console at that point.

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  5. I've always thought of SSBB as the final word of what the Wii audience wants. Previous first-party games didn't sell as well as hoped, nor did good quality third-party (No More Heroes). I had it that if Brawl didn't rival the best of recent sellers, then a permanent change will proberbly occur.

    Will anyone bother to keep making these traditional Nintendo franchise updates if it's no longer their dominant market? I would never have imagined that Mario could get overshadowed by a plastic board or a sports game, but this seems to be the future.

    Nintendo may try to balance the two user bases they've created, but if they just wanna chase the money then Mario may have run his course. It'll be interesting to see what first-party titles are revealed in the coming year.

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