Smash Bash: Creating A Community Around Super Smash Brothers Brawl

Alex Byrne

Youth Services Librarian

Pierce County Library System

Jami Schwarzwalder

Teen Services Librarian

Pierce County Library System

Note: The day before flying out to the presentation, Jami took sick and wasn't able to present with me. She also had the demonstration Wii. Thankfully, the presentation still went off smoothly, because the presentation before had a Wii already set up.


This presentation is about using Super Smash Brothers Brawl, the third game in the Smash Brothers series, released in 2008 for the Nintendo Wii, as the basis for buliding a community of players who would come regularly to library programs, or at least think of the library as a destination for activities they were interested in.

At the point of this presentation, University Place Library had a Nintendo Wii for about a year, and Super Smash Brothers for about six months.

The presentation takes on three parts - a fast way of getting all the options unlocked from a fresh copy, some modes built in to the game that make it useful to a community gathering themselves, and finally, customization options that can provide even more game modes for extended play.

Swift Unlocking

Super Smash Brothers Brawl starts with a locked set of options and a small amount of characters available for play. Normally, a player would go through the single-player adventure mode called The Subspace Emissary to collect new characteres to use in the normal game, but it's unlikely that there will be a group that's willing to let only one or two people play the game.

The game wisely avoids forcing people to play one mode to get everything, and so it will also offer unlocking of characters, stages, and other options on a schedule of matches played, knockouts scored, events cleared, and stages played on.

The fastest way to arrive a fully unlocked system is as follows:

  1. Select the Special Brawl option from the main menu.
  2. Choose the "Stamina Match" and "Flower Head" options.
  3. On the character selection screen, set the CPU (or another player) to have 1 HP.
  4. Play 10 matches as Donkey Kong on the Halberd stage. [You'll unlock Ness and Marth when you defeat them at 5 and 10 matches played, and the stage Frozen Hillside at match 10.]
  5. Play 10 more matches as Donkey Kong on the Pokemon Stadium 2 stage. [You'll unlock Pokemon Stadium and 75M.]
  6. Play 10 stages as Kirby on the Battlefield stage. [You'll unlock Luigi at battle 22 and the Jungle Japes stage at battle 30.]
  7. Play 10 matches as Kirby. [You'll get Green Greens at the end of this set.]
  8. Play 10 matches as Luigi. [You'll get Luigi's Mansion at the third battle, and Falco appears at the end of battle 50.]
  9. Play 20 matches as whomever you like. [Captain Falcon appears at the end of match 70.]
  10. Play 10 matches as Captain Falcon. [You should get Big Blue and Port Town.]
  11. Play 20 matches as whomever you like. [Lucario will appear at the end of match 100.]
  12. Play 350 more matches as whomever you like. [Snake is match 130, R.O.B. is 160, Ganondorf is 200, Mr. Game and Watch is at 250, and he carries Flat Zone 2 with him, Sonic is at 300, and he has Green Hill Zone accompanying, Jigglypuff is at 350, Toon Link at 400, with the Pirate Ship accompanying, and Wolf is at 450.]
  13. Go to the Single Player mode, and choose the Event Match option.
  14. Complete Events 1-28. [#19 is Mario Bros., Spear Pillar is #25, and Hanenbow is #28.]
  15. Only one thing left to go! We need to accumulate 200 KOs in the normal Brawl mode to unlock More Options. To be sure we get all the stages, play first as Captain Falcon on Halberd for 10 matches, then Donkey Kong for 20, first on Pokemon Stadium 2, and then on Battlefield.

Congratulations. You should have all the stages, characters, and options unlocked. If the guide is correct, you should see that you've unlocked the "Random Stage Switch" option in the "More Options" menu. You will probably want to turn off including the Custom Stages in random stage selection. The kids might also have opinions about which stages they do or don't want, as well.

Brawl Variations

To build a community of players, variation in the games presented is essential. Just playing things with the same set of items, stages, or characters will make things old quickly. Plus, as the skill levels of the players become apparent, it will be difficult for players who aren't at the top tier to enjoy themselves without mixing things up some.

One of the easier options to include is to let players setlle their one-on-one bouts with each other. I usually do this as the end of our programming sessions with the Wii, and it works well as a way of de-stressing all of the complaints that have built up over the course of the match.

The players will probably want to play with a certain set of lives (or stock) to settle their matches. You can let them do this, but you'll also want to set a time limit for those matches (in the Options) so that people don't end up watching a cat-and-mouse game for a long time. It may also be wise to just set time limits for all the stock matches you play, not just the one-on-ones.

Keeping a list of one-on-one match requests is a good idea to have, so that everyone gets theirs in order and nobody feels slighted. It doesn't need to be fancy, just whatever kind of list you want to have available.

Team battles are another great way of keeping everyone involved. Players of one skill level can gang up against another, or the good players and the not as good players can team up against a computer player or team so as to feel victorious. Additionally, since those matches can be handicapped, it's possible to make things fairer to both sides.

At the end of each match, the summary provides various achievements/trophies and accompanying points values to each player. Almost everything that can be done in a match has a corresponding point value and achievement. It could be a great idea to not care as much about the knockouts and falls as the total amount of points earned at the end of the match or the biggest variety of achievements. Smash Brothers Brawl offers a lot of different ways of making sure that any player of any skill can have a good time and find something they can be proud of.

One of the most useful options I have found in Smash Brothers Brawl is the rotation mode. Instead of arguing over who should give up the controller to the next players that want to play, the console can be set up to take up to four players at any given match, and then change out anywhere from one to four players from the match with the next names on the list. The game can be set to rotate either the people who do worst or the people who do best in the match they're playing. The only limitation there is on rotation mode is that the list only accepts a maximum of 16 names at a time. Thankfully, most of my programs have not gotten bigger than that.

Special Brawl

To add extra mayhem to your Brawl matches, it's possible to include permanent effects during the matches that will drastically change the way the game works and put everyone back on a basically even playing field, no matter how much skill they have accumulated in the regular Brawl mode. These options are all hiding under the Special Brawl menu.

We've already used the Special Brawl option in the unlocking method discussed beforehand, so this menu will hopefully look a little familiar.

To set a Special Brawl, you can select one of the two options for each of the categories (or leave it OFF), allowing for quite a few additions to a normal brawl.

The options available to you on this menu are:

All players start with a 300% damage rating. Anything even mildly forceful will send them flying quickly. (This is the same as the Sudden Death mode at the end of the match.)
Rather than using percentage of damage, each player has a set amount of health, and every successful attack takes away health. Last player standing wins.
Mega Size
All players are pemanently one size bigger, which makes them stronger, heavier, and harder to knock around. (The Mega Mushroom item will stack on top of this.)
Mini Size
All players are permanently one size smaller, making them weaker, lighter, and easier to knock around. (The Poison Mushroom item will stack on top of this.)
Flower Head
All players will permanently take 1 percentage/HP damage every second. (The Lip's Stick item will stack on top of this.)
Bunny Head
All players move faster and jump higher than usual. (The Bunny Hood item will stack on top of this.)
Metal Body
The Metal Body makes all players extremely heavy, jump less high resistant to being moved by attacks, and silver-grey colored. (The Metal Box item won't change colors, but it will add weight and resistance.)
Clear Body
The Clear Body makes all players invisible and only really noticeable by getting hit or using special moves that reveal their position. (There's no item in Brawl that replicates this effect.)
Curry Status
All players permanently spew flames in whatever direction they are facing that will interrupt actions and cause a small amount of damage. (The Superspicy Curry item means even more possible fire.)
Reflect Status
Anything thrown, shot, or projected at any player will automatically bounce off them on contact. (The Franklin Badge item provides no extra protection in this mode.)
Light Gravity
All players can jump higher and float farther from their jumps. (The Bunny Hood item will stack with this effect.)
Heavy Gravity
All players jump lower and fall faster. (The Metal Box item will stack with this effect.)
Slow Speed
Every action, movement, and response from all players is in slow-motion, making anticipation even more difficult. (Collect a Timer item for even slower action.)
Fast Speed
Every action, movement, and response from all players is faster, making seeing what's going on even more difficult. (Timer items and Bunny Hoods will stack with this effect.)
Fixed Camera
The match will take place from one static point of view, instead of zooming in and panning around to give the players the best view of the action.
Angled Camera
The camera remains fixed, but also is tilted in such a way that the players will have difficulty gauging where anything is on the stage, whether player, items, or platforms.

Special Brawl Variations

Adding Special Brawl components to your matches means it's possible to bend Super Smash Brothers Brawl into a game that looks very little like the standard game. Depending on the items that are present or absent, many different options of gameplay open up.

Minefield Match
Set 300% damage, plus all the explosive items possible (Bob-ombs, Motion-Sensor Bombs, Smart Bombs).
Double-Up Matches
Setting statuses and items that will stack on each other, like Mega Size and Super Mushrooms, so as to create giant (or tiny) characters to battle with.
The Cameo Match
Add Assist Trophies and Poke Balls, and use King Dedede's ability to throw out characters when not summoning more characters to the field. The goal is to see if the Wii's ability to render allthe new objects can keep up or whether it will bog down.
"Red Plumber Needs Food" Match
Set a Stamina match with Flower Head (so constant ticking downward HP), and then add all the health recovery items, like Maxim Tomatoes, food, and Heart Containers. Who can eat and avoid for the longest?
Super Smash Bell Jar
Who can get KO'd in the most entertaining manner, based on the votes of their peers?
"Who Am I Again?"
Clear Body, Mini Size, Flower or Curry Head. Can you figure out which one is you?
"Where Am I Again?"
Fixed or Angled Camera, a big stage (like Temple or New Pork City), and Mini Size. Clear Body will present extra frustration for everyone involved.
The Offscreen War
Bunny Head, Light Gravity. Played on a stage like Pokemon Stadium 2, which has an additional stage component that will lighten the gravity, the entire match will take place in the space off the screen, in the maginfying glasses area. Players measure success by how long they are able to stay alive and off the main screen.

Demo and Thanks

At this point, the presentation switched over to a demonstration of some of the special modes to demonstrate their possible hilarity and variety to the standard Smash modes, which went well. Also, the method of setting up the fast unlock method was demonstrated. A good time was had by all.

That concludes the presentation. For many years afterward, the use of these modes and their variations helped sustain a vibrant community of Smash players at University Place until their graduation from high school. For a few years after that, the community disappeared along with the ability to Smash. After the restoration of Smash, though, the community returned, to create even more interesting ways of going about the game.