Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is very much a Super Smash Bros. clone with questionable graphics, but it’s full of charm thanks to the nostalgic characters, interesting and familiar fighting mechanics, and room for potential growth.
Growing up in the ’90s and the 2000s, watching cartoons on Nickelodeon was one of my usual past times. Some cartoons that stand out as some of my favorites include The Fairly OddParents, SpongeBob SquarePants, Jimmy Neutron, Hey Arnold!, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. With these existing properties, gaming developers have also tried to adapt video games out of them. The most successful and critically acclaimed one, in my opinion, is SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. I mean, it did get remastered after all, which I feel speaks volumes. There are a few others I remember playing growing up as well. However, overall, I feel there have been many missed opportunities not creating more games based on the cartoons, stories, and characters. Then, along came Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, which is heavily inspired by Nintendo’s insanely popular fighting/party game, Super Smash Bros. It may not be as polished or as aesthetically appealing as the Smash games, but after putting a few hours into it, I think it’s a fairly good fighting game and one that could continue improving with regular updates and tweaks.
Since this was first announced, I was immediately intrigued. I may not play Smash Bros. as much as I used to, but it will always be a game I’m fond of. Now, you throw in some nostalgia with these classic Nickelodeon characters and you have my full and undivided attention. What I appreciate the most about the game is it knows exactly what it is, who these characters are, and the developers do an impressive job creating distinct fighting skillsets for each fighter, which stays true to the essence of who the character is, at least in my opinion. Some of the taunts these characters make will remind you of iconic moments in some of our favorite episodes, along with memes that have been made throughout the years. Now, does it play as smoothly as I hoped it would? Not quite.
Sure, the game borrows just about everything from the Smash Bros. series in terms of the stage design, the different fighting moves, and the movements of the characters. In fact, some characters feel very similar to characters I’ve played in the Smash Bros. series. For example, Korra feels a lot like Ganondorf. She’s very slow in her movements, but has very powerful attacks. You can even wave dash, which is a skill heavily utilized in Super Smash Bros. Melee. However, overall, it does feel a bit clunky at times. It may be I haven’t gotten it all down packed just yet or I’m simply not as skilled as I want to be, but I do think it has a some ways to go before it’s as polished as Smash Bros. Of course, in today’s day and age, this is all possible with frequent updates to characters and the game in general.
Speaking more on the gameplay and the features, I’m very impressed with how smooth the online feels. Granted, fighting games have had functioning online modes before, but I’ve had bad experiences with Nintendo’s lackluster online features and since this closely resembles a Nintendo property, I came in with pre-conceived notions about it. To my surprise, however, every online match I’ve played has felt incredibly smooth and fluid. I believe it balances the casual and competitive components perfectly as well, similarly to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. A game like Melee isn’t really a casual experience because of all the hidden tricks and the meta of simply using Fox and no one else since he’s, easily, the best character in the game. I’m not saying the game still can’t be played casually, but throughout the years, the competitive scene has really taken a hold of Melee and I’m not sure many players play it casually anymore. With All-Star Brawl however, I think all kind of gamers will be able to pick this up and enjoy it.
The roster is also fleshed out pretty well, although it is missing some other characters I feel would fit the game perfectly. Like, where is the Crimson Chin? Or what about Timmy Turner, Jimmy Neutron, XJ-9, Rocko, and so on? I’m almost sure these characters will be added on in the future, so I’m not too worried about it. That being said, as mentioned, there’s a pretty substantial amount of characters to choose from already. The same things goes for the stages. Playing on some of these stages brought back a ton of memories since they’re so recognizable and recreated extremely well.
The biggest flaw for me is the technical shortcomings. The game runs pretty well, but I do feel the graphics could’ve been much better, along with the sound design. The start-up screen, menu lobby, and announcer all sound fantastic, but as soon as the matches start, all the life and blood of these characters go out the window. Why isn’t there any voice acting for these characters? I would even take these characters making familiar sound effects or sound bites. It really does take away from the overall experience and considering these are actual cartoons and a big way to distinguish each of these characters is by their voice, it’s truly disappointing and, in some ways, shocking it was all left out. I’ve seen mods going around already with the voices and sound effects included, which is awesome to see, but I do hope the developers follow up with an update that’ll make this an actual in-game feature.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, in its current state, is a pretty fun time and pays homage to an era of cartoons where many of us grew up in and stays true to the designs of these characters. Its shortcomings with the audio design and smoothness of the game slightly take away from its potential greatness, but I do think it’s a solid starting point for a game made to please fans of these Nickelodeon cartoons and the Super Smash Bros. series. The best part is I know this game will only continue to improve by tweaking the gameplay elements and adding new characters, stages, and so on.