Completion level: Beat Subspace Emissary
This is going to be an extraordinarily short one.
I wasn't even sure I would write on this topic for a while. What do you say about SSBB? It's got standard Mario-style graphics (I touched on this in the Mario Galaxy dissection), it's been painstakingly balanced to a knife-edge, and it's hugely popular. I was originally just planning to note that, yes, I played it, and really didn't have anything to say about it. They don't do anything particularly notable extraordinarily right, and they certainly don't do anything wrong. So there we have it.
But there's one thing I decided I wanted to say.
SSBB has a single-player mode called the Subspace Emissary. In this mode, Mario and Co team up to defeat the Bad Guys. Most of the missions include a rendered cutscene at the beginning and the end, showing the interactions between the characters and the inevitable action-movie-esque "Hey! You really are on our side!" moments.
The cutscenes are fantastic.
They're funny. They're entertaining. They're beautiful. They do a phenomenal job of setting the stage without ever actually interfering with the player's enjoyment of the game. There's no Final Fantasy "okay, go get a snack, you're going to be here for twenty minutes" moments. There isn't a single cutscene that becomes boring. They're just all excellent.
And they're done almost entirely without dialog.
I think Snake says something when he shows up for the first time. That's all, though.
The interactions are shown with body language – and considering that we're talking body language between an anthropomorphic fox, a mobile pink marshmallow, a monkey, and a lot of robots, this is a nontrivial task. These aren't even simple interactions. There's betrayal, there are turncoats, there are characters whose motives are unclear and contradictory in the beginning . . . and all of it is explained by the end. Nonverbally. It's really incredibly impressive, and if you don't plan to play the game, I actually recommend watching them. 1 2 3 4 5 6. Yeah, that's about an hour of video. If you don't want to watch that much, at least check out the Donkey Kong/Fox arc – 6:00 to 7:30, 1:50 to 3:40, and 7:55 to the end.
You'll notice that this clip is in Japanese. You'll also note that it doesn't matter. The only thing you miss is what the names of the various characters are. Even with those short Japanese clips, you get a reasonable idea of their personalities and interactions.
That's damn impressive.
I think, in my next game, I'm going to try hard to make the game's plotline understandable with dialog removed. I do plan to have dialog – but I'll add the dialog after the game makes sense without it.
And that's really all I have to say on this game.
Yeah. I just wrote a page about Super Smash Brother Brawl, focused entirely on the cutscenes in Subspace Emissary mode. Deal with it.