Midnight Special: The Subspace Emissary

subspace.jpg From the big NP to Famitsu, Super Smash Brothers Brawl has gotten full-score mag-reviews across the board, so there shouldn’t be too many multi-player gaming fans who are on the fence about picking this game up come tonight’s midnight releases-or tomorrow’s morning rush. It almost seems unnecessary to “review” the game as a whole. But now that the Wii isn’t so hard to get (especially in Japan), and simply having one doesn’t mean your house is swamped with rabid gamers every-weekend, I decided it might be important to shed some light on the single-player aspects of a very anticipated multi-player game. Without spoiling any of the fun!

The hype machine really went into overdrive for Super Smash Bros. Brawl. IGN has a launch center just for the title alone, and you can already get FAQs, character guides, and watch you-tube footage of almost every second of the game, and even a bunch of demented looking grabs from hacked copies of the game. This kind of pre-game coverage resulting from the gap in release dates hasn’t happened in a long-time, since Nintendo has recently taken to releasing games in the US first and Japan only shortly there after.

One thing there hasn’t been a great deal of coverage on is “the Subspace Emissary,” Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s fleshed-out single player mode. After exploring the games many features for the month leading up to tonight’s release, it becomes apparent that this is one of the games most unique additions. The classic adventure mode akin to the one in the original Smash Bros. is also there for a quick-and-dirty arcade style single player throw-down, but it lacks the side-scrolling levels from Melee. Conversely, the Subspace Emissary is comprised of a ton of side-scrolling levels in ranging-complexity that can be completed with a wide variety of characters, boss battles, and a plot that is moved along by many many many pre-rendered cut scenes. The game progress can of-course be saved and took me about three weeks of playing after work (maybe 10 cumulative hours) to complete the game. I would wager, though, that a dedicated and very skilled smasher could complete the game in one sitting.

While I really liked being able to pick-up and play through the beginning of the single-player game to re-introduce myself to the SSB franchise after a long hiatus from Melee, I found the difficulty level to remain the same throughout most of the game- with a few inconsistently difficult levels thrown in towards the end. Having said that, you can choose the difficulty you play at every time you load-up a single player game (even if you’ve already started it at a certain difficulty), and also select to re-play any level at a different difficulty. Personally, I would’ve liked to see Emissary’s difficulty curve twist more like an adventure game and was a little bit disappointed to see that it remains like a fighter in that aspect. It can make the game feel repetitive in the middle when you are playing through a lot of similar levels that aren’t getting any harder-even if you are enjoying the beat-em up.

There are a good amount of levels and since you can play through them over with characters you earn later in the game and on any difficulty you choose, with one OR two players, the reply value of Emissary almost rivals’ that of melee. Each level has its share of secret rooms and items to find, and you can pick up stickers to upgrade your character’s stats (I couldn’t tell the difference though), of course statues for your collection, by playing levels over. The levels range from being very simple to a bit complex, and there is one incredibly large level with multiple rooms and save-poitns all its own. Though a lot of the levels felt like beat-em-up stages, I definitely found myself impressed by a good amount of clever obstacles and platform elements, and there are a couple key-finders, but nothing too puzzling.

The background graphics change depending on what part of the game’s map you’re playing in, and are different enough to keep things interesting but none of them look too spectacular and the backgrounds don’t add too much to the gameplay. They do work well with the story though and personally I think the soundtrack is fantastic. I often found myself delighted at how many of my favorite Nintendo tunes were chosen to be incorporated in the single player (even some obscure ones) and I liked pretending that my musical taste might be similar to Nobuo Uematsu’s while playing .: giggles :.

As for the characters in Emissary, you start out with a few of the default players and eventually end up using a great deal of the characters in the game (occasionally playing as secret characters will unlock them, sometimes it won’t), but not EVERY character is revealed through the single player mode. The game does however force you to use a lot of different characters during your first-run through the game, so it gives you a lot of practice using different types of characters, and even discover some you might’ve been afraid to play.

Overall I think if you are interested in the game but are worried about it still being fun when your friends go home, the Subspace Emissary will definitely make you feel like you still have game to play when the multiplayer session is over, but it will never match the endless variety of a human rivalry.
This is exactly why with a good wi-fi connection, even single-players who finish off the Subspace Emissary can just look at it as polishing up for an online match. But even though it wasn’t a flawless single-player experience I can definitely say I felt motivated to run through it before I started exploring the other-modes and even though I bought a used copy of Zack and Wiki in the middle- it definitely kept me coming back for more!