Instead of jumping straight into multiplayer battle royale with Super Smash Brothers Brawl I started my experience plugging hours into The Subspace Emissary to unlock characters. I honestly thought I could blow through the entire single player mode in one sitting. After all, Super Smash Brothers Melee had a short adventure mode and the Brawl’s main appeal is bashing friends with Nintendo mascots. However, I’m pleased to say the single player mode is a deeper than Melee’s by a magnitude of at least ten. The (spoiler filled) journey begins with a battle between Mario and Kirby…
After a FMV sequence you get to choose your fighter. I picked Mario and knocked Kirby out of the stadium with a swift uppercut. The match ended and the game cut to another silent FMV. This is the second of many cutscenes in Brawl’s adventure mode. Poor, defeated Kirby turned into a silver trophy. Mario walks up to him and touches his silver arm to revive the pink puff ball and a spaceship dropping robots comes out of nowhere. Peach and Zelda join the two heroes on the stadium ready to fight defend it. The frame freezes and you get to choose, which hero you want to use.
Individually the robots aren’t challenging, but Brawl piles around four on the screen simultaneously. I adamantly tried testing out Mario’s F.L.U.D.D. water spray here, but it was hard to find a hiding spot with so much action going on. The eventual blast was uneventful, a small shot of water pushed a robot back. Mario’s punches and kicks were a much better option to dispatch the Primid swarm. Remember the character select screen? If you lose your first character, you lose a life and your second character appears on the battlefield.
Keeping the Primid at bay was a temporary victory. The Ancient Minister drops a bomb on the stadium, which two R.O.B.s open. A timer ticks and Mario rushes forward in an attempt to diffuse the bomb, but is turned into a trophy in the process. Meanwhile, Petey Piranha captures Peach and Zelda in birdcages. Lone Kirby is left to save the day. Ill tempered Petey Piranha attacks by jumping on the battlefield and furiously swinging the two cages. The trick to this battle is not to worry about beating up Petey, you want to hit the cages to free Peach or Zelda. However, you can only save one of the princesses. The first time I saved Zelda and a FMV played showing Wario shooting a dark arrow from a gun turning Peach into a trophy. I replayed this level and saved Peach, which resulted in Zelda being captured by the garlic loving villain. The timer runs up on the bomb and the stadium explodes. Kirby and the remaining princess escape on a flying star. I assume all the spectators perished in the blast.
The whole time Pit was watching the stadium and control switches over to his 2D stage. You start with a freefall then bounce on clouds searching for Mario. Primid populate the stage with the occasional flying Cloud enemy to fight. Pit can use his bow from a distance, but he is fine charging straight into battle with a spinning sword strike. He can also temporarily hover, which I imagine could be useful in later platforming levels. Somewhere in this level I collected my first sticker, but I almost missed it. Items are commonly dropped in Brawl, but the stickers are small pieces of brown paper. They look like tiny post-it notes and are harder to notice than precious trophies.
Once you get stickers you can customize a character by placing them on a circular badge. Derek from Elite Beat Agents (yeah, he’s in the Japanese version of Brawl) boosts intelligence. A Solid Snake sticker from Metal Gear Solid 2 boosts explosion power 19 points. So far my sticker collection is meager even though I have some neat additions like the Eggplant Wizard from Kid Icarus, Andy from Advance Wars and Pelly the mail bird from Animal Crossing. However, each sticker can only be placed on one badge. Early in the game I noticed myself peeling stickers on and off badges to give a single character a maxed out badge. Thankfully, there is a command that fills up a badge in seconds. It doesn’t optimally paste stickers on the badge, but for a fast solution it works well.
The Subspace Emissary mode continues to rotate through characters and each has a predicament to worry about. In each stage Brawl typically teams one newcomer up with a veteran. This is a bright idea because it encourages players to test out the new characters while giving them the safety of a familiar one to fall back on if they happen to die. Here are some highlights from the later stages.
Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong chase Bowser to retrieve a cart of bananas. This stage takes place in a jungle with level design reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country. You have to jump into rotating barrels to cross large gaps.
Bowser has a gun just like Wario’s and tries to shoot Diddy. Donkey Kong knocks Diddy into the sky with a punch and shields him from the menacing arrow. Fox McCloud teams up with Diddy in a battle against a shadowy Bowser. I chose to use Diddy and his peanut shooting guns to get revenge for Donkey Kong. Speaking of the guns, there is an over the top cut scene where Diddy shoots peanuts in slow motion, which looks like it’s from a summer blockbuster movie trailer.
In the Earthbound level frightened Lucas has to flee from a giant statue creeping from behind. He handles similarly to Ness, but has a new PK Freeze attack. There wasn’t any time to try the move in this level because running from the statue was the goal. Fighting enemies was at best a secondary objective. At the end of the stage Ness teams up with Lucas for one fight, but is quickly turned into a trophy. Fortunately, for Lucas the Pokemon Trainer is around to save the day. The first time you use the Pokemon Trainer you control Squritle while the Trainer hides in the background. The Pokemon Trainer cannot be hit and he sporadically vanishes/reappears if you run past him on the stage.
The Fire Emblem level takes place in a castle and you start controlling Marth. (Note: Completing this stage unlocks Marth.) After cutting through the ancient castle and poking switches to open up gates Metaknight joins the party. He reluctantly teams up with Marth and the duo enter an underground mine. There are mine carts you can ride to hastily pass through level, but you have to jump out of them when you see a flashing arrow. Fail to do this and you plummet into the abyss. Metaknight makes this level extremely easy because he can fly and sword dash through enemies.
In the next stage, Link teams up with Yoshi who is napping in Hyrule forest. His level is packed with red balls tethered to a track. If you hit the ball with a sword strike or a bomb it propels forward destroying anything on its pre-set path. Occasionally, these orbs need to be hit to break blocks so Link can progress through the level.
Brawl teases gamers with a FMV showing a moving box. I thought the next stage would have Snake, but instead you get Zero Suit Samus. Her level is the first where you get to knock some sense into an army of R.O.B. robots and have to backtrack. In the beginning there is an elevator that you can ride up or down. I started exploring the lower levels until I realized I was stuck in a loop. The level wasn’t as linear as the others because this path was optional. On her quest Samus saves Pikachu from a capsule who happily teams up with her.
In case you were wondering what the Initial character roster is here you go. It’s a sizeable list right from the start!