Back when The Avengers was merely a dream starting to be realized through Iron Man, Nintendo already had their biggest crossover event to date revealed: the adventure mode in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, aka The Subspace Emissary. Now, I’m not a fighting game guy, I can’t go in depth on Brawl‘s mechanics or compare it to previous or newer games, I’m just going to talk about my thoughts on the story mode. As a result, this might be a bit of a shorter one, but who knows, I do have a history of going on for a bit too long.
Subspace features 34 characters from various Nintendo games, as well as Sega and Konami. The story starts with a highly-publicized brawl between Mario and Kirby, overseen by Princesses Peach and Zelda in front of thousands of spectators. If you’re playing in co-op mode (which can be activated at any time and turned off between levels), this is one of the few times the players will fight each other, with Mario and Kirby fighting to the finish. Whoever wins doesn’t matter, the loser will be turned into a statue and immediately revived by the other. Their celebration is short-lived, however, as The Halberd appears in the sky, turning the sky red behind it and dropping purplish gas, which coalesces into the basic grunts you’ll be fighting throughout the rest of the game.
Mechanically, fighting is the same as in the standard Smash mode, with some characters receiving nerfs and buffs to speed and recovery to make sure none will exceed or lag behind in the bigger stages, but for the most part everyone fights the same. The main difference is in the fighting style you have to adopt. Instead of dealing lots of damage to another player, you have to deal minor damage to enemies spread across the stage. It’s a lot easier (and more fun) with another player alongside, as Kirby and Mario will make quick work of the waves of enemies.
Once that’s done, another familiar face shows up. Petey Piranha traps the Princesses in cages, and knocks Mario far out of the arena. Meanwhile, two R.O.B.s will deploy and arm a massive bomb to go off in 3 minutes. Kirby has to take down Petey by himself (or by himselves, you’ll play as two Kirbys if you’re in co-op mode), introducing one of the other battle types: the boss battle. Bosses have a much larger health bar, and are more akin to a standard smash, as you have to deal enough damage to an AI to defeat them. Instead of a standard health bar, though, each of cages have their own health bars, and you can decide which to focus on. Kirby will rescue whichever princess’s cage he’s damaged the most by the end of the fight, and the other?
Once Petey’s out of the way, Wario shows up on the side of the subspace army, Dark Cannon in hand. Whichever princess Kirby didn’t rescue will be vulnerable and out of the way, allowing Wario to immediately turn her into a trophy and kidnap her. Kirby and the other princess will make chase, but seeing the bomb about to detonate, they instead flee on a warp star. The arena is consumed by a glowing purple mass, which will remain on the world map throughout the game.
Up in Skyworld, it’s revealed that Pit was watching the fight as well, and saw the attack on the arena. His goddess Palutena bestows on him his magical bow, and he quickly rises to the task of defending the world from the subspace army. This is the first scrolling level, the most common level type. Much of Subspace consists of 2D levels involving the characters have to fight from point A to point B, with both beat-em-up and light platforming gameplay throughout. There’s a wide variety of enemies in the first level, some of which can be avoided, but from time to time the stage won’t scroll until all enemies are defeated. Pit’s a good character for this platforming introduction, as his fantastic recovery stops most mistakes from being fatal.
Pit soon finds Mario and revivies him, and they unite in their search of the Halberd. They soon find it, but it escapes them. Fortunately, they’re not the only ones looking; Kirby and the princess land on the roof, and the Arwing quickly appears to fight as well. Unfortunately, the smaller ship is shot down, and the other heroes are knocked from the halberd and forced to continue their search on foot.
Wario isn’t the only playable character working for the enemy, the Kongs are quickly assaulted by Bowser, who also has a Dark Cannon. He tries to attack Diddy, but DK throws him into the jungle to safety and takes the hit himself, being turned into a statue. Diddy soon comes across the wreck of the Arwing and unites with its pilot Fox, where they team up to fight Rayquaza of all things. This is part of what makes Subspace so great, parts of every single Nintendo IP play off each other in increasingly weird combinations: the next level features Ness and Lucas fighting Porky, before Ness sacrifices himself to save Lucas when Wario attacks, so Lucas teams up with the Pokemon Trainer to rescue him.
Right after, we see Meta Knight team up with Fire Emblem boys Marth and Ike to retain the keep they’re in and eventually reclaim The Halberd. Dedede comes across a trophy of Luigi and uses him as Wario bait, before assaulting him and taking the Luigi, Ness, and princess trophy as his own. Samus rescues Pikachu and he helps her reclaim her power suit, Link and Yoshi team up and eventually fight Mario and Pit before teaming up with them too, and giving chase to Dedede along with Kirby. I’m going to stop my summary here, because although the game’s nearing on 9 years now and I’m sure most people have seen the stories, there’s really cool twists and increasingly weird combinations of characters that I don’t want to spoil for anyone who still hasn’t played it.
Eventually, the “dark hour” at the end of act two happens, and it’s up to Kirby to save the day. Again. You have to traverse through parts of all the different levels and rescue the other fighters’ trophies, reviving them for the final boss fight. At the end of it all, you’ll have whatever trophies got revived as characters to fight as, and you can pick six of them to fight against the hardest boss fight of my childhood. Nowadays it’s not really too hard, he has an OHKO attack that’s a bit hard to dodge, and he’ll certainly put up a decent fight, but once you defeat him, you’ll beat The Subspace Emissary and return the world to normal.
Ultimately, although the beat-em-up style can get a bit tedious in the longer levels, having over 30 characters to play as certainly adds gameplay variety, so things will switch up a lot. While Brawl‘s fighting is fun enough on its own, the real enjoyment from this game comes from seeing the ridiculous scenarios Nintendo came up with. Yeah, in the standard Smash mode you can have Pit and Lucario fighting Zelda and the Ice Climbers, but that’s got nothing on what Nintendo came up with. Looking forward to starting World of Light.
Max is a student at Rutgers who likes writing fantasy and playing video games such as Zelda, Mario, Undertale, Earthbound, and Stardew Valley.