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“I’ve Heard Legends” How ‘Super Smash Bros. Brawl’ Holds Up 10 Years Later

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Super Smash Bros. Brawl is perhaps the most provocative entry in the Smash Bros. canon. Coming on the heels of the universally acclaimed and competitively popular Super Smash Bros. MeleeBrawl was saddled with great expectations from its onset. Blessed with a much more popular console that its predecessor, Super Smash Bros. Melee and with the excellent sales to prove it, Super Smash Bros. Brawl developed into one of the Wii’s best titles and a game that, despite the release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS nearly four years ago, is still worth playing.

Symphonic Sublimity 

The music in Brawl is, without a doubt, its greatest strength. With names such as famed Final Fantasy maestro, Nobuo Uematsu, renowned Chrono Trigger artist, Yasunori Mitsuda, Metroid series composer, Kenji Yamamoto, and legendary Super Mario composer, K?ji Kond?, united behind the production of its soundtrack, Brawl blew previous entries in the Smash Bros. series out of the water and, in the process, created one of the greatest soundtracks of all time.

Brawl‘s main theme, an epic Latin choral arrangement that feels right at home in the series’ trademark grandeur, is the pinnacle of the game’s musical excellence. Recorded with the help of Nobuo Uematsu and opera singer Ken Nishikiori, Brawl‘s main theme connotes intense emotion, giving a feeling of epic scale and struggle that fits the game perfectly. Such excellent music is enhanced by the inclusion of an equally excellent Sound Test. I have forgotten how many hours I spent as a kid essentially using my Wii as a giant CD player while cleaning my room or doing chores, filling the air with Brawl‘s wonderfully diverse cadre of music.

Brawl’s remixes of classic Nintendo tunes are impressive as well. With over 258 different pieces, Brawl’s soundtrack mixes together the best music from over twenty-five years of Nintendo games and, as a result, remains one of gaming’s greatest soundtracks, a testament to Nintendo’s symphonic sublimity.

Pixel Pushing Puissance

While not as polished as its successor on Wii U, Brawl pushes the humble Wii to its absolute limit. Despite releasing on hardware that was essentially a slightly overclocked GameCube, the difference in graphical fidelity between Brawl and its predecessor, Melee, is incredible. Detailed textures, complex character models, and vastly more complicated stages set Brawl apart from its predecessor and show off the Wii’s processing capacity impressively.

brawl

New Pork City, based off of Nintendo’s ‘Mother’ series, was a technical marvel on the Wii.

Running at a buttery-smooth, series staple, sixty frames per second, Brawl looks and feels impressive despite its age. With the exception of aliasing that results from the upscale from standard definition to high definition on modern TVs, Brawl looks great, utilizing an impressively implemented 16:9 mode and excellent graphical design to remain an impressive-looking game, even ten years later. Stages such “New Pork City” from the Mother series and “Norfair” from the Metroid series pushed the technical envelope and showed the incredible depths that series creator, Masahiro Sakurai, and his team went to in order to create the ultimate Smash experience.

A Rad Roster

While Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS revolutionized the series with over fifty-eight playable characters, Super Smash Bros. Brawl included the first third-party characters in Smash history. As the debut Smash game for not only Sonic the Hedgehog, but also Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid, Brawl rewrote expectations for the series and excited veteran fans and newcomers alike.

brawl

Mario didn’t see it coming and neither did we.

While Sonic is still playable in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DSBrawl remains the only game in which Metal Gear Solid protagonist, Solid Snake, is able to be played. Seemingly not a natural fit for the family-friendly world of Nintendo, Snake nonetheless fits well within Brawl, complemented by an excellent moveset that has made him a favorite of competitive players and casuals alike.

In addition to Snake’s surprising inclusion, Brawl also introduced another fifteen new characters, expanding Smash‘s roster to a then-unprecedented thirty-seven characters. In addition, newcomers, such as Meta Knight, Zero Suit Samus, and Diddy Kong, made their series debut. Never before had so many Nintendo (and non-Nintendo) characters from such differing series come together in one game. 

An Amazing Adventure 

While most of the above praise may make it seem as if Brawl has been superseded in nearly every single way by its successor, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS, there is one key category that Brawl holds as a key advantage: the inclusion of a story mode, the Subspace Emissary.

The Subspace Emissary has received a lot of criticism since its release. Fans have decried its bland locations, boring gameplay, and lackluster main villain for years. While these concerns are applicable if the mode is analyzed in a vacuum, they fail to consider how excellent the Subspace Emissary was at its primary purpose: bringing together Nintendo’s characters within a coherent story.

brawl

Yes, this was actually in a ‘Smash’ game.

The Subspace Emissary isn’t perfect and some elements of the story leave a lot to be desired, but it is a love letter to Nintendo fans, full of epic moments both triumphant and sad that, far from being pull down the game, lift it up to excellence. Besides, there is something about the novelty of seeing Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf working together within the story of the Subspace Emissary that makes its absence in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS a shame.

Conclusions

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is an excellent, timeless game and easily one of the Wii’s best titles. An experience that redefined the series upon its release in 2008, Brawl remains a must-play for any fans of Nintendo’s fighting game series. Although it was superseded in quantity by Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DSBrawl did and continues to do things never before done in the Smash series. The Subspace Emissary, the game’s inclusion of Solid Snake, its excellent graphics, and its expansive cadre of music make it an incredible experience. Although its ten years old, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is as legendary and impressive a game as when it was released, one of the Wii’s best games, and a benchmark for what great games should aspire toward.

Although a gamer since before I can remember, there is not a better definition of me than these three words: Christian, moderate, and learner. I am steadfast in my Faith, my Beliefs, and in my Opinions, but I am always willing to hear the other side of the discussion. I love Nintendo, History, and the NBA. Currently a PhD Student at Liberty University.

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Game Reviews

‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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Games

‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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