I'm gonna keep both this introduction and the review short. I just have been thinking a lot about the games I've played throughout the years, and while admittedly I'm not very much into video games anymore (learning to program better/Linux/social life/schoolwork takes up too much of my time) but I still have a place for them in my heart.
With that, this review kinda came out of me just wondering about how Brawl held up. Just like with my experience wtih games in general, I mostly played between 2011-2014, took a few years break, and in the ase of Brawl specifically, I took it up in 2018 again, and quit again after the start of 2019 until 2021 when I took it up again for what will likely be the final time seeing where my life is headed.
With that, and with my desire to write more in general, I decided to make this review.
Honestly, nostalgia probably got the best of me through this review... which says a lot, because it's without a doubt that Brawl is the worst entry in the Smash series. And it sucks, because Brawl had so much potential to be the best.
Why do I come to this? It ultimately comes down to hte fact that the gameplay at its core just does not hold up to other entries in the series, even the original. It's fine ot make it more approachable to newcomers - hell I bet a lot of professionals started off with Brawl in childhood at this point - but it does gneuinely go too far. Hitstun cancelling is honestly the worst of it, as is the general overfloatiness, rnadom tripping, and the nerfs faced by the cast, which brings us to our next point...
A fighting game - particularly one with such a large cast - relies on the balance between characters to make it diverse. And, as anyone who has ever played this game or even heard of it knows, this game does not have that. The meta is just completely broken and polarized to where, out of a game with 38 characters, it feels like less than a third are truly without a doubt viable, and of them 2 stick out way too much. That's in no way, shape or form ok. Yes this is salt from me not maining said 2 characters (marth ftw) but it's also just bad design.
I'm gonna go more in detail about this. I do not consider myself a competitive player by any means, and while I do think I'm above average in the game on the casual level, I only really train to beat my friends. That being said, it is just so blatantly obvious how noncompetitive the cast it. Meta Knight and the Ice Climbers simply reign supreme over everyone else - MK being inherently broken by design and Ice Climbers abusing the new adjustments to mechanics such as chaingrabbing to break the game. There are a few other fundamentally good characters - Olimar, Diddy Kong, Marth, Snake, Falco, Pikachu, Zero Suit Samus, Wario, Lucario (questionable), DeDeDe (questionable), Toon Link (though he's questionable imo outside of hte Ice Climbers matchup), and Wolf (who I think is underrated but still questionable). That leads us to... 2 broken, 8 good, 4 questionably good, 14 total. That's just about it. Literally the rest of the cast begins a slow but eventually very hard fall into irrelevancy as they just do not hold up, to where there are characters such as Ganondorf that just could have been excluded from the game and nothing would have changed because they're just so insanely bad to the point of being unusable. This lack of balance is the single biggest reason this game does not crack a high score from me.
And as I said earlier, it sucks because everything else is just SO GOOD. The music is the best in the series by far - the main theme is unrivaled and the track selection is just amazing. The game looks beautiful - it's an incredible step up from Melee considering hte similarity of the hardware. The Subspace Emissary is fun and nothing has really been too similar to it since (World of Light/Darkness didn't really touch the same bases). It just feels like the stage was set just right for this game to have been amazing, even moreso than Ultimate. But it wasn't.
Also another minor nitpick - controls are no good, and by this I mean the control scheme can be really awkward. This is moreso the fault of hte Wii remote not really being meant for fighting games. They really tried to make the Wii remote work but it just does not, coming from someone who mains the Wii remote since I have nothing else. Nunchucks don't really help, the Wii classic controller sucks, so really unless you have a Gamecube controller leftover, it's not gonna be good.
Overall, I can't give this game better than a 7/10. And I tried. I really tried, both for nostalgia and for the genuinely good parts of the game. But ultimately it's just not possible to. As a game it is just too flawed in its core mechanics. It's like that movie or play that has everything right but hte plot, but ultimately the plot is the meat of it and it fails because the plot falls apart. It could have been that underrated gem, that masterpiece in the series. But it just doesn't work.
I'd buy this game in 2021 if and only if:
Otherwise, with a very heavy heart, I recommend skipping out on this one. After all, with an old Wii that supports GameCube games you could get Melee, and as I'll write later, that's worth it at least moreso than this one.