Thursday, March 13, 2008


So, Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out this weekend for the Wii. It's a fun game - sort of a charming, fluffy timewaster. There are a lot of people who think the SSB series is manna from heaven, but I don't really "get" what it is they get out of the game.

While it's fun, it's a mess - it's basically a spastic buttonmasher - I don't doubt you *could* get good at the game, but I also don't doubt that people who have invested hundreds of hours in it still get beaten on a regular basis by total n00bs.

That said, it's fun. I'd like to get some chaotic, four-player action going. There are enough wacky control options that I can actually provide four suitable controllers, which is awesome. The problem, of course, is time and space. I can regularly play with four people - they're just not all in the same place at the same time. So the fact that SSBB comes with online play was a huge factor in why I picked it up. But here's the kicker(s):

1.) Setting up a friends list is nigh-impossible: You have to give them your SSBB "code" - a 12-digit code that is utterly without identity. You can then give the person a five-character nickname. Fine for me, but not for people with names longer than five characters. On top of that, THEY have to input YOUR code as well. There's (as far as I can tell) absolutely NO WAY to transfer a friend code online. That is pure insanity. It means that tonight, even though we'd agreed to play together, I had to text-message my coworkers my code, and vice versa. How stupid is that? Really, really, really stupid. It's cumbersome, user-hostile, and a giant pain in the butt. There's no way this should be acceptable in a post-Xbox Live world.

2.) No voice chat: There's no way this should be acceptable either, in a post-Xbox Live world. No voice chat at all. There's no support for a microphone peripheral, nothing. There's barely even text chat. You can input four phrases, and map those to your "taunts." That's it. When you're playing with friends, there's effectively no trash talking. When you're playing with randoms, there's enough that they can be incredibly annoying, but otherwise basically remain faceless, nameless might-as-well-be-AI characters. It's ridiculous.

Here's the thing that bugs me - SSBB has been getting rave reviews all over the internet. 9+ scores all over the place. But they agree that the Subspace Emissary mode (the bulk of the single player experience) is an incoherent mishmash of stuff that doesn't work very well with the controls, and that the 1995-era online implementation is abhorrent.

And yet, 9+ scores, all over the place.

I'm sorry - SSBB has a lot going for it. The core mechanics are fun, and it's fun when you have people over (I assume). But the lack of what are now *critical* features is a knock against it, and the fact that the core single-player experience is a total crapfest should also be a knock against it. I get that it's a party game. But as a multiplayer experience, it's missing the MULTIPLAYER EXPERIENCE for anyone who has a full-time job and whose friends are the least bit geographically distributed.

I enjoy the mechanics, but there's no way this can possibly rate higher than a 7.

For me, it's a D/85 - the core gameplay is technically accomplished, but it loses points for having a really badly designed single-player experience, and the lack of innovation is for an absolutely garbage online implementation - something that can barely even be considered to meeting the minimum standard.

Poor showing, Nintendo - while I expected as much, given past online forays, it's unacceptable that something as good as Live could have been around for more than FIVE YEARS and the implementation of online play in SSBB is so bad.


hapacheese said...

I think it's more fear and paranoia that prevents Nintendo from doing more with their online systems (this is pure speculation). Nintendo is very conservative company and carries with it a very kid-friendly image. It feels like the company is deathly afraid of ever being in the news where some little kid got harassed by some random adult online. So, they simply set up a system that allows for maximum control (and maximum pain-in-the-ass-age).

That being said, yeah... I don't get the 9s either. I mean, it's a great concept, but 9s? Reeeaaaally?

Amy said...

I agree completely. Good button masher, but not great, with some menu and navigation flaws.