Hey, you. Yes, you – the one living under a rock. Super Smash Bros. Brawl features a four-player online mode on Wii, which means that the fighter's robust multiplayer experience is no longer confined to the living room couch. (Not that local multiplayer isn't amazing – it certainly is – but now you have other options if you so desire them.) A couple of weeks ago, Nintendo released the first video of the game's online mode in action. In it, the company showed a four-player battle conducted between its Tokyo and Kyoto offices and the footage highlighted a very smooth, seemingly lag free experience. (This, despite claims by the Big N that online matches over long distances could really bog down – a truth that had more than a few Brawl hopefuls downright terrified.)
Well, we wasted no time putting Nintendo's claims to the test. Shortly after we received our import copies of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, we held a few contests between our San Francisco and Los Angeles locations. Bear in mind a couple of notable differences from Nintendo's own tests. First, our offices are a little farther apart – nearly 500 miles, to be exact. And we lowly Americans don't have the benefit of one of the world's fastest Internet backbones, as Japan does. Still, we're very happy to report that our two-on-two experience perfectly mimicked Nintendo's own – in other words, one-hundred percent lag free and two-hundred percent awesome.
To play against your friends in Smash Bros. Brawl, you must first exchange friend codes. The game does not use your Wii System number, as some had expected. Once you've done that, you simply choose the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection option from the title's main menu, wait for about 10 seconds to connect, and then choose from one more option: friends or random battles. Friend based battles are represented on-screen by a clickable heart icon and random battles show a globe. Obviously, for the purposes of this test, we chose to select competitors from our friends list – specifically, a Wii console owned by IGN Nintendo Team executive editor Craig Harris, who loves Yoshi and hates democracy. The connection process was extremely simple, enabling us to quickly jump into the character and stage selection screens, and then eventually to a load screen equipped with a punching bag, which you can practice against as you wait for the battle to synch up.
It was very easy to plug in an extra Wave Bird locally and add a second person to our console – and the same goes for Craig and another player in San Francisco – so that we could host a four-player battle over a single connection.
The connection powering the fights themselves was invisible, meaning that – save for the initial load screen, which is interactive, as we've explained – you wouldn't even be able to notice that you are battling over a network. Basically, in our tests it was flawless – we couldn't ask for better. As you can see in one of our new videos, while the game does not support voice over IP via headset (boo, Nintendo!), you can send simple one-line messages mapped either to the D-Pad on a traditional controller or A button + D-Pad on the Wii remote. The Japanese build does not censor out vulgarity, we learned – many of our catch phrases were exceptionally colorful. (You cannot send these messages, however, in random battles.)
Speaking of which, we attempted to connect to several random battles against players in Japan and were never successful. It's possible that Nintendo is currently blocking US-based servers from participating in online games, although we have no proof – other than being repeatedly locked out of online matches – to support this theory. Interestingly enough, we could participate in a number of spectator matches, which enable you to watch other players duke it out. You can even bet on the matches before they begin using coins you've collected throughout your experiences.
We still have many more hours to put into the online experience and there are still several unanswered questions. For one, how does the experience hold up with four different connections versus two? And will regular DSL or cable modem connections perform as well as our dedicated lines from the IGN offices? We're certainly hopeful. At the very least, gamers who have better than average home connections – fiber, anyone? -- are guaranteed an amazing online experience. We'll let you know about the rest just as soon as we finish conducting a few more tests.
Meanwhile, we've also posted a couple new movies of Solid Snake in action. We'll be sure to grab the Metal Gear Solid hero's final smash in the coming days, so stay tuned