It would be incredibly easy of me to say that Brawl is a great multiplayer and co-op experience merely because of the number of options available. However, like any other game, Brawl shouldn’t get a pass because it has a lot of content. After all, the grand debate has always been quality versus quantity. However, Brawl seems to have both, an extremely unusual (but nonetheless welcomed) occurrence.
Nowadays many games live or die based off their multiplayer content, and if this theory is true, Super Smash Brothers Brawl is living large with a mansion and a nice pension plan. Along with some much-welcomed refinement, Nintendo has also made some previously single-player only modes into co-op experiences. To be specific, Event Mode and Home Run Derby have been given the co-op treatment. Home Run Derby is essentially the same as it was in Melee aside from the addition of a shield that keeps you from knocking old Sandbag off (the shield deactivates with too much damage, or when the timer runs out). The new two-player Event Modes are welcomed, and thankfully, they are not exact clones of the single-player Event Modes. Also, Nintendo was nice enough to play off the “two players” theme by having some event modes feature two great villains or two great heroes teaming up in all their fanboy-pleasing glory. The rules are the same: eliminate your enemies before you run out of lives, but the addition of an extra player helps take away from some of the frustration that Event Mode often causes.
The biggest new addition to Brawl is the Subspace Emissary, the equivalent of Brawl’s “single player” mode (though Classic mode still exists). However, like almost every other mode in Brawl, Subspace Emissary can be played by two characters. The cutscenes in Subspace Emissary are creative and fun, particularly for fans of Nintendo games. Your average gamer might find the story (with its lack of any dialogue) and the cutscenes to be simplistic, but if you grew up dreaming that all the Nintendo characters would team up together, Subspace Emissary is nothing short of a dream. Glowing trips down memory aside, Subspace Emissary is not without its faults. It is nothing mind-blowing, and plays things safe. It has some shallow RPG elements, via the sticker system, and combines platforming and action in a satisfying manner.
The addition of an extra player is only somewhat impaired by the fact that the additional player feels somewhat tacked on. This is partially because the first player can literally drag the second player along, as the game doesn’t require you to both be going in the same direction to make progress, only the first player counts. This leads to the second player feeling like a third wheel, constantly subjected to Subspace Emissary’s “teleport” feature, which is used to catch the second player up with the first. However, the game plays fine, and the addition of the second player is welcomed, as the final boss (or really all bosses in general) can be difficult for a person on his/her own.
The biggest drawl for Super Smash Brother’s Brawl (like all the Super Smash Brothers before it) is it’s versus mode, which is called Brawl in the game. As per usual, up to four characters can duke it out in Super Smash Brother’s unique fighting/action hybrid gameplay. The game features over thirty characters in total (including unlockables) and has been honed, refined, and delicately tweaked so that it is the most solid Super Smash Brothers game ever. The addition of the Smash Ball (which, when broken open give the player a super-attack) causes mini-heart attacks whenever it shows up, and there’s really nothing like Mario vs. Sonic vs. Solid Snake.
The game is fun enough to play with your buddies, but my roommate (who has been steadfast beside me playing all of Brawl’s many modes) and I really enjoy teaming up against the computer for some two-on-two action. Part of this is due to the superb AI in Brawl. I always found Melee’s AI to be somewhat simplistic, and the “average” setting on the AI was my starting point. However, like seemingly everything else in the game, AI has been tweaked for Brawl, and now the AI is significantly better in both scale (in that level 4s can hold their own and level 9s can beat you silly) and ability, as the bots in Brawl do things that their Melee counterparts never/rarely did, such as use items, as well as use their shield.
The AI really functions well as an substitute for a real person, and after playing Brawl for a while, by roommate and I actually preferred the AI over real people, since (1) AIs do not throw controllers when they get beat, and (2) Teaming up against an AI gives you a sense of camaraderie that playing against other people really does not give you. Maybe it’s because you can berate the AI and it doesn’t get mad.
So, all things considered, Brawl has become one of my benchmarks for multiplayer and co-op excellence for two basic reasons: quality and quantity. Brawl mode is one of the most balanced and addictive multiplayer modes ever designed, and Subspace Emissary is a great (if flawed) addition and a fun little ten hour excursion for you and your buddy. Add in the quantity of other modes, like Home Run Derby, Event Mode, Classic Mode, not to mention trophy and sticker collecting, and so forth. Brawl packs a little bit for everyone in one compact game.
The Co-Op Experience: The co-op mode allows you to play through the story part of the game with a friend.The online co-op is more challenge based. More info can be found here
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.