I originally wanted to write a comparison review between the Mario Galaxy games, but seeing how they’re too similar and the sequel is better I decided to not do it. Instead, we’ll just compare the two most recent entries in the Smash franchise: Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii released in 2008 and Super Smash Bros. 4 Wii U that came out in 2014 for that console. After this review as promised, I will start working on reviews for PC games exclusive to Steam, such as Portal, Counter-Strike: Source, and Left 4 Dead (1) and then we’ll see where to go from there.
Sorry for constantly procrastinating and while I did have the time to write this review long ago, I just didn’t want to being the lazy ass that I was. Of course, I’m in college so I spent most of my time attending lectures and tutorials, cooking and eating meals (stove at my current rented place is slow as fuck), writing essays and assignments, and playing video games. Yes, I know that I’m supposed to play the games before I review them and that I don’t own a Wii U, but last year I managed to play Smash 4 on the Wii U belonging to a distant friend at that time so now everything is settled!
Gameplay – Brawl 0; Wii U 1
SSB Brawl -> As with almost any Wii game unfortunately, the developers decided it was a good idea to dumb down the mechanics to make it easier for casual gamers. This really annoyed the hell out of the competitive Smash community and ironically allowed Melee to not be replaced in pro gaming tournaments even to this day! Honestly, I mostly don’t mind the fighting mechanics being more casual, although it makes it feel too easy at times which can bore hardcore gamers. Essentially, almost all of the hidden techniques like L-Cancelling and Wave Dashing were removed for simplicity.
On top of that, the physics were modified so the movement of characters were more “floaty” allowing even less skilled players to not get knocked out easily. Thankfully, lots of characters from past Smash games that were extremely powerful got nerfed (i.e., Bowser) and those weak got buffed (i.e., Zelda), despite many newer characters like Meta Knight and Sonic being too overpowered or unfairly balanced. Newer game modes seemed to focus more on concepts appealing to casuals like cinematic cutscenes, arcade mini-games, and collectible items rather than fighting.
SSB 4 Wii U -> After realizing the mistakes they made, Nintendo and other companies involved decided to go back without making it too “hardcore”. I believe in some official interviews Sakurai himself stated how the fighting physics were superior to Brawl but still inferior to Melee. And when I tried out Smash 4 on an acquaintance’s Wii U, I realized how much more challenging it was compared to Brawl but still not as difficult as Melee. A lot of the casual features as mentioned above have been removed or dumbed down in favour of gameplay improvements and newer content.
Verdict -> This is a given as we all know Smash 4 has the superior gameplay, although due to nostalgia, I’ll probably state how Melee is the best in this department. Yes, Smash 4 still did not revive the advanced techniques from Melee…except like L-Cancelling through gear (I think), but at least it’s not as unbalanced and casual as Brawl. Later in this review, you’ll notice how increasingly similar Brawl is to Wii U even more so than how Melee was to 64 – actually, content was more or less the same for them while Brawl emphasized on content from Game-Cube era while Wii U the Wii era.
Content – Brawl 1; Wii U 1
SSB Brawl -> Brawl was the first game to take advantage of the IP from recent games during the Game-Cube and early Wii era instead of just NES, SNES, and N64. Quantity wise, Brawl probably has at least double the amount of content than Melee, with older characters and items having rebooted redesigns (like Link and Zelda resembling their Twilight Princess versions). Newer stages are much more interactive, have more unique transitions such as weather, time of day, and 2.5 D, featuring more locations than just traditional maps (Mushroom Kingdom and Corneria comes to mind).
Adventure Mode got the most changes as it became a full out cinematic, plot driven campaign in which you could play with different characters, go through levels not available in other modes, and be able to combine platforming and adventure. Then older game modes like Classic, Event Match, Stadium were changed slightly though still enough to be different from Melee and 64. Newer game modes were added like the one where you can play demos of Virtual Console titles, build your own freaking custom stages, and fight all the bosses from Adventure Mode back-to-back!
SSB 4 Wii U -> Sakurai claimed due to the internet sharing videos of in-game cutscenes, that was the reason for omitting Adventure mode in Smash 4 smh. But hey, at least they further improved upon older game modes, such as how in Classic mode you can choose which fighters to battle with and get more rewards the higher the difficulty. Also, they finally added 8-player Smash which apparently was supposed to be in Brawl and almost didn’t make it to Smash 4 due to hardware limitations. At this point, there’s not much Nintendo can add without making it become the next COD of fighters.
Ok, in the 3DS version there are some differences and the game mode that replaced adventure mode is far superior. But for the Wii U version, instead of playing in a labyrinth map with a free-for-all battle royale, there’s a board game simulator. I kid you not, you choose your preferred Mii and move them around the board and occasionally fight gaining or losing characters until a final match at the end which you use all the characters you acquired against other players. Oh yeah, and the online fighting is still barebones and you can’t even voice chat or use custom gear.
Verdict -> Quality is more important than quantity and while Smash 4 technically surpasses Brawl in both, I’m only reviewing the Wii U version. Brawl was the first in the series to introduce so much new and expanded content and changed the franchise forever, whereas Smash Wii U did little and even went a step backwards. Literally one third of the stages are from past Smash titles, and at least half the characters being from Mario which shows lack in diversity. I do admit that Smash 4’s inclusion of more third party characters and wider variety of past systems is a big step up.
Graphics – Brawl 2 ; Wii U 1
SSB Brawl -> Despite the hardware of the Wii being slightly more powerful than the Game-Cube, PS2, and Xbox while being inferior to the PS3 and Xbox 360, Brawl has still managed to produce visuals on par with early HD titles on those two systems. Everything from the polygon count, textures, models, particle/detail effects, lighting, shadows, etc., were beautifully well done and made Brawl the most realistic Smash game yet. No other Wii game aside from maybe Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Sonic Colors surpass the aesthetics; goes to show that like Half Life 2 strong hardware isn’t needed.
SSB 4 Wii U -> This time around Nintendo decided to stop with the realism approach and designed the graphics to look more cartoony (also lowering the ESRB rating). Polygon count, textures, and lighting and shadows are even more enhanced with the better hardware that the WiiU provides. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as good as PS4 and Xbox One titles that released at the time of Smash 4’s launch and official screenshots show that some visual assets haven’t improved that much from Brawl. Still though, it looks better than most WiiU titles and isn’t as ugly as Smash 3DS’ cel-shaded graphics.
While all Smash games run at a consistently smooth 60fps, the resolution for Smash 4 is not only HD and progressive scan but also in full 1080p FHD! This is a huge benefit as Brawl being a Wii game looked ugly on newer flat screen TV’s for being 480i/p (while Brawl and I believe Melee has an option for anti-aliasing to reduce the pixilation). Brawl also was pretty much the same resolution as Melee which also ran in 480i, being upscaled to 480p if being played on a Wii. The only way for Brawl to be played in HD resolution would be to play it on Wii U or Dolphin emulator.
Verdict -> Depending on your preference for either realism or cartoonish graphics, that will determine which game has better visuals. Overall though, I’d have to give Brawl the point for this comparison as unlike Smash 4 it was a huge leap from Melee’s visuals and actually could compare to games released for PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2008. I also got turned off by the cartoony graphics a bit as I’ve gotten used to the realism implemented in Melee and Brawl (and a little in Smash 3DS). Perhaps if Smash 4 continued the realism approach or could compare to PS4 or Xbox One titles then I’d change.
Controls – Brawl 2 ; Wii U 2
SSB Brawl -> For the first time in Smash history, players can use a variety of different controllers and even customize their controls much like on PC! Thankfully despite being a Wii game, there are no motion controls aside from I think one attack that could be assigned to a button anyways. Players can choose from using the Wii Remote (on its side), Wiimote & Nunchuk, Classic Controller (/Pro), or the Game-Cube controller. You can even save custom bindings to individual names so that if you invite friends over no need to worry about having them overwritten.
SSB 4 Wii U -> Smash 4 continues Brawl’s legacy of diverse controls by allowing the Wii U tablet controller, Wii U Pro gamepad, and even all options used for Brawl (albeit a GCN adapter is sold separately). Hell, you can even have 4 extra players with their controllers and those that own the 3DS port can use their handheld device as a controller too! I guarantee most people would simply use the Game-Cube and Wii U Pro controllers over the other options available. Anyhow, the new physics in Smash 4 also make controls more “hardcore” for those that enjoyed Melee and hated Brawl.
Verdict -> I’m gonna have to award Smash 4 with this one as it’s clearly obvious that not only did they expand upon the concept but also didn’t fix what wasn’t broke. Of course it’s going to be rare to actually have up to 8 players play with you locally, but this is a dream come true for hardcore fans and fighting tournaments. Oh right, forgot to mention that those toys called Amiibos can be bought then have its virtual content downloaded to the game allowing you to have a true AI-based fighter! Not much else to write about as the controls don’t really have any issues.
Soundtrack – Brawl 2 ; Wii U 3
SSB Brawl -> Again as a series first, almost all the music have been completely remastered for the fighting stages as opposed to majority being ports. A variety of different genres like orchestra, rock ‘n roll, techno/synthesizer, and more can be heard in the many compositions available. Hell, even music from third-party titles and from software like Mii Channel have been included for more diversity. However, I do have to complain about many of the original themes in Brawl simply being modified compositions of the main Brawl theme much like Twilight Princess.
SSB 4 Wii U -> Whereas Brawl only had music from games for the NES, SNES, N64, GCN, Wii and DS, Smash 4 has remastered music from later Wii games, early Wii U games, and even the entire soundtrack from the 3DS port of Smash 4! Plus, the Smash 4 theme is better orchestrated and while it does suffer from being used over and over in other themes, overall the Smash 4 soundtrack gave me more eargasms that I could count. Also like Brawl, the announcer/Master Hand’s voice is just as deep, enthusiastic, and professional if not even better as he sounds like a radio host.
Verdict -> Yeah we all know that Smash 4’s soundtrack surpasses Brawl’s in both quality and quantity. Just because a game may be the first to implement an amazing concept that gets copied by others later on, does not make it better (I’m looking at you Half-Life 1). Lots of other games that feature franchise crossovers will produce remastered and maybe some ported music so praising Brawl as if it was the first or one of the first to do that is pathetic. Who knows what kind of soundtrack will be made for Smash Ultimate – although to be honest, I won’t support that game or the Switch sorry.
Replay Value – Brawl 2 ; Wii U 4
SSB Brawl -> With a cinematic and exploration based Adventure mode that can take up to 30 hours to beat and a fuck ton of new/improved content, Brawl can be played easily for several hundred hours by oneself or with friends. While the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service got discontinued back in 2013 after IGN bought out the dedicated server provider for Wii games, it’s still best to play locally where you can socialize with people you know well and not deal with lag and toxicity. Extra arcade and casual game modes only adds more fun when you’re bored with the typical fighting.
SSB 4 Wii U -> 8-Player Smash alone brings so much possibilities that couldn’t be a reality back in its predecessors and has so much replay value. Add to the even more amount of new and old content, combined with custom gear and Amiibos to drastically change the core gameplay, and we’ve got ourselves a winner here. If other people are hogging the TV, simply just play on the touchpad controller or get a 3DS and play Smash 4 on the go…albeit with less content and worse graphics. I believe the online service for the Wii U may still be up so you can still play online to your heart’s content.
Ok I’m finally done with this review and I honestly am ashamed of myself for delaying it for over 3 months when I should’ve released it in May. Anyhow, now that I’m finished I can finally publish reviews for PC games and believe me, it will be almost like two years ago when I regularly published many reviews for Wii games. Since I’m quite passionate about reviewing games I just beat you needn’t worry about me delaying them, although I’ll straight up tell you right now that I may publish less than promised. Unlike in highschool I have full access to a PC allowing me to spend more time.
Literally the only reason for writing these two comparison reviews were because I didn’t write any reviews for over a year (now two years) so I needed some practice. Now that I have acquired such practice here on WordPress and on Steam, I can assure you that my reviews will have a writing quality better than ever before…plus writing essays and reports in college have helped too. I’m not going to provide a summary because it’s just me rewriting everything I wrote and I didn’t really want to write these comparison reviews to begin with. Hope to see you all in late August/early September!