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There are times when I'm reviewing some Nintendo games that I have to ask myself the question: is this game really as great as I think it is, or is it just that it hits so many of the right nostalgia buttons that I can't really tell the difference anymore? This came up a lot when I was looking at Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess, and again when I've looked at the likes of Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart Wii and Super Paper Mario. In most of the above cases I've been able to answer myself "Don't worry! It really is that good." With Super Smash Bros. Brawl it's not that simple. It is, without doubt, an extremely good game, but is it the 10/10 masterpiece you might think it was from the scores on Metacritic? Of that I'm not so sure.
Of course, if like me you're a long-term Nintendo fan, then Brawl is going to rekindle a lot of warm memories. The Smash Bros. series has always sold itself as the fighting game in which Nintendo stalwarts scrap it out, with up to four players hitting the screen at once in the guise of Nintendo heroes, jumping around the 2D level, battering each other off platforms and using a variety of bonus special items to administer vast quantities of vicious looking yet ultimately harmless damage. Brawl ups the ante even more than previous installments. Now 39 playable characters can be found loitering inside, covering everyone from the usual Smash Bros. suspects - Mario, Link, Yoshi, Bowser, Samus from the Metroid games, et al - to less well-known heroes like Ness from Earthbound and Marth from Fire Emblem as well as forgotten vintage Nintendo stars such as Pit of Kid Icarus fame. The game even manages to bundle in Mario's longtime Sega rival, Sonic, and Metal Gear Solid's Solid Snake. Play for a while and you'll also come across a huge range of classic Nintendo scenery, enemy characters and even peripherals, with R.O.B. the NES robot putting in a cameo appearance, and the old SNES SuperScope turning up in the guise of a pick-up weapon.
The key to finding all this good stuff is exploring Brawl's substantial single-player mode. In most fighting games this acts at most like a trainer for the multiplayer option, where the meat of the action really lies. Those games like Tekken or Soul Calibur that have tried to expand it have usually failed. However, Super Smash Bros. Melee on the GameCube delivered a vaguely satisfactory adventure mode, and Brawl takes that to its logical conclusion with a huge single-player adventure called Subspace Emissary. Told over innumerable chapters, complete with snappy cut-scenes and minimal exposition, it expands Brawl from being a beat-em-up with platform elements to the point that it mutates into some weird hybrid, shifting massive-scale scraps to old-fashioned 2D platforming to classic arcade adventure to boss battle, occasionally within the space of a single level.