Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Up, Up, and Away!

The Internet... the final frontier. These are the voyages of The Tempest Project. It's continuing mission: To explore strange new games, to seek out readers who tire of the mediocre and the mundane, to boldly go where thousands of blogs have gone before (But hopefully in a way which gets its author paid to talk about his favorite "hobby"). Christ, five minutes into this thing and I have already showcased my Star Trek nerdiness and I've come off as a pompous ass. And all these years people have been calling me an underachiever. Anywho...

Welcome intrepid blog readers (Who at this point most likely consist solely of friends, family, and acquaintances through the internet looking for more fodder to flame me about)! This is The Tempest Project and I am its author, Kevin. I hope through this blog I will be able to enlighten people on all things "video game" by posting reviews, impressions, and inane rantings on the subject of video games and the video game industry. Without further a due, let us get to the blogging. For such a momentous and highly anticipated occasion, I have chosen an equally momentous and highly anticipated game:

Unless you've been hiding in a cave the last few months, you've heard of the release of Super Smash Brothers Brawl, the 3rd installment in Nintendo's cross-franchise "brawler" (Pun possibly intended) series. Nintendo has been lurking every message board and forum and has finally given gamers the world over the ability to finally have some of their favorite Nintendo (And this time around non-Nintendo) video game characters face off in every NES/SNES owner's wet dream.

The gameplay has remained almost exactly the same as Brawl's predecessors (Super Smash Brothers on the Nintendo64 and Super Smash Brothers Melee on the GameCube) and while Joe Gamer (A horrible bastard who you will come to know as one of the key figures I believe is responsible for the decline of modern gaming) may think that this fact makes it little more than "Melee+New Guys", fighting game fans know this is pretty much par for the course. You take what works, you balance things, you add new guys, and we all eat it up. The game plays great, and that's all there is to it.

The "newness" in Brawl comes partly in the form of the new characters, including Pit from Kid Icarus, Ike from the new Fire Emblem and Olimar from Pikmin. Also stepping in the ring are the first non-Nintendo fighters in Smash Brothers history: Sonic the Headgehog and Solid Snake (Whose crowd cheer, by the way, is brilliant). But be not depressed "Hardcore" gamers, for many of the older and/or more obscure characters you love to tout over your "Casual" counterparts have come in the form of Assist Trophies, which temporarily aid you in battle. Some of the highlights include Little Mac from Punch-Out!!, Saki from Sin and Punishment, and what I was sure was the titular star (Literally) of Twinkle Star Sprites, but it turned out to be someone else.

Trophies have returned from Melee, and they come back with a force. I think there is something like 500 trophies (Which I might add you can do nothing with and show to no one save those you show on your own Wii), which I'm sure were added simply to give people the inability to bitch about "completing" the game until another Smash Brothers is made. The characters immortalized in these trophies are all of course Nintendo classics like Mario, Link, Star Fox (Twice in my trophy gallery) and Bannana Peel. Yeah, you read that right. You get a trophy of a bannana peel. You get a trophy of refuse. From what I have read the only thing you get for obtaining all these trophies is...wait for it... another trophy. Que Sera Sera, I guess. It's not as though you need to get all these things, but I do feel bad for the group of cubicle monkeys at Nintendo who were forced to work long hard hours searching and documenting through everything from every Nintendo game ever just to whet the appetite of perfectionists.

A feature new to Brawl is The Subspace Emissary, a platformer which has you playing as a number of characters in Brawl, who battle and eventually team up to face some kind of evil power threatening the world. This part of the game is truly the only sour note, but it is in my view, the sourest of notes. A "brown note", if you will. Consider the following: What is the driving characteristic of a 2D platformer? Moving across the screen in a vertical or horizontal fashion. What is the main way you get killed in a Smash Brothers game? Moving too far past the screen in a vertical or horizonal fashion. The missions become a guessing game of if and how the camera will follow you, if it will continue with you as your savior, or stop short on the map and hand you your doom. Another aspect of the game that draws my ire is the "Great Maze", which is the final level of the game, or should I say, every level in the game all over again. I can only imagine the development meeting for this thing.

"So, what should we do for the last level of this thing?"
"How about just repeating all the levels, AND, regardless of whether or not you reach the center of the maze expediently , you still have to fight every character and every boss all over again to open the door to the final boss?"
"Reusing level designs AND needless frustration? BRILLIANT!"

If it takes me the rest of my days I will find the individual responsible for this level and punish them. Severely. Couple that with the fact that this game is the "easiest" way to unlock all the characters in the game, and you can see why I am still waiting on my shipment of 6 wasted hours from Nintendo due to this... thing.

My qualms about the SSE aside, the Brawl itself is meant to be played with friends, and when it is, it is great. Whether your friends play video games a lot or hardly at all, there is a cast of characters, a learning curve, and level of enjoyment that encompasses all levels of play (Except of course the tournament level play: That shit be work.) which makes this a must own for the Wii.