Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl might give Super Smash Bros. a run for its money
A new challenger approaches!
After Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl's initial reveal, many were understandably skeptical. On paper, a Super Smash Bros. clone filled with licensed Nickelodeon characters sounds like a fantastic idea. Unfortunately, we've seen far too many titles try and fail to capture the magic of the iconic fighting franchise. Let's take a moment to pour one out for Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion XL and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.
As an enormous fan of Super Smash Bros., I have and likely will play pretty much any attempt to replicate this formula. However, what has some members of the competitive fighting game community excited about Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl how Ludosity and GameMill Entertainment genuinely seem to get what makes Super Smash Bros. so special. This team isn't trying to reinvent the wheel or introduce cheap gimmicks but instead caters to what the most hardcore fans want from a platform fighter.
After watching several developer deep-dive videos on the mechanics of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, as well as multiple character moveset breakdowns, I'm feeling good about this game's release. While this title isn't quite the Xbox first-party mascot fighter of our dreams, it very well could be the most successful Super Smash Bros. clone we've seen on Xbox far.
What is Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl?
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is an upcoming platform-fighting game that pits a host of iconic Nickelodeon characters against each other in vibrant 2D arenas. Duke it out as SpongeBob, Nigel Thornberry, Powdered Toast Man, Ren & Stimpy, and countless more. As a Super Smash Bros clone, players battle to rack up damage percentages against opposing players. As your damage percentage increases, so does your character's knockback.
To ultimately defeat an opponent in a platform-fighter, one must smash them off-screen. This emphasis on stage control and environmental awareness is drastically different from traditional fighting games that involve depleting a health bar.
Every character in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl sports a unique range of moves and attacks based on a universal control scheme, with an interchangeable combination of basic attacks, heavy attacks, and special attacks. In a fighting game, this approach creates a more level playing field for combatants. It makes matches feel more like an intricate chess game than a combo-driven slugfest. However, the ingenious design created by Masahiro Sakurai for Super Smash Bros. makes every character easy to pick up and play but offers immense nuance for dedicated players looking to truly master their favorite fighters.
We are still awaiting the final list of modes and features available when Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl launches on Oct. 5. Right now, it's unclear if this title will feature a traditional campaign or suite of single-player modes, but it appears that there will be plenty of content to enjoy multiplayer. However, the team has confirmed four-player local and online multiplayer as well as roughly 20 playable fighters. The team from GameMill has also done a great job of trickling new character reveals ahead of the game's launch, so there may still be surprises in store.
Why Super Smash Bros fans should be excited for Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl
The leadup to the release of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl has been filled with nostalgia, amazing Nigel Thornberry memes, and most importantly, feature announcements specifically catered to longtime fans of Super Smash Bros. Players like myself who've been smashing for over 20 years now are generally quite keen on GameMill's apparent dedication to providing an incredible platform-fighting game experience, especially for the more competitive community. Let's celebrate the return of a beloved movement technique and, hopefully, dramatically more stable net code.
Super Smash Bros. has always had a rocky relationship with the fighting game community. Members want Super Smash Bros. to cater more heavily to competitive play, but Sakurai and company don't want to see it as a strictly competitive fighting game. This disconnect has led to a rollercoaster of controversial changes amongst various entries in the series.
One of the biggest and most debated alterations in the franchise's history was the removal of wavedashing after Super Smash Bros Melee, a movement ability that causes a character to slide along the ground without walking or running. This advanced technique provided a way for players to use the momentum of dodges to their advantage. Wavedashing was an essential tool for competitive play for the most hardcore players and one many seasoned fans still hold the muscle memory for. The feature was so popular that there were even mods dedicated to bringing wavedashing to later titles like Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl seemingly brings back this cherished movement technique, as seen in a gameplay video. It's unclear how the technique in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl compares to the original, but this has the competitive community feeling a certain way.
Another area Super Smash Bros Ultimate has historically struggled with is online play. It was a huge deal when Nintendo announced that Super Smash Bros. Brawl would be launching with online multiplayer — a first in franchise history. Unfortunately, it was easily one of the most miserable online fighting game experiences. Even with a hardwired Ethernet connection, I couldn't enjoy a stable match. This abysmal netcode led to a relatively speedy decline for the game's online player base. While Nintendo made drastic improvements to online play with Super Smash Bros Ultimate, the series still struggles compared to some of its competition.
As what appears to be another answer to frustrations from the Smash Bros. fandom, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl proudly utilizes rollback netcode. When it comes to fighting games or other genres that require low input delay and precision, proper netcode can make or break the online experience. Universally-praised titles like Mortal Kombat 11 and Killer Instinct feature rollback netcode, which simulates frame inputs from opponents rather than waiting for responses like standard delay-based netcode. Generally speaking, this reduces input delay and offers nearly lag-free online matchmaking. If properly implemented, we'll be living in a world where Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl has better netcode than Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Can Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl fill the Smash void on Xbox?
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is unquestionably one of the most brilliantly-crafted fighting games of all time. However, hardware restrictions and less-than-stellar online performance keep it from reaching the heights it deserves. While there are currently some impressive Super Smash Bros alternatives on Xbox, such as Rivals of Aether and Brawlhalla, they all suffer from various limitations, and none truly fill that platform-fighter void. I love my Switch, but if I could play Super Smash Bros on my Xbox with the benefits of Xbox Live, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl has all the makings of a worthy Super Smash Bros competitor. With a focus on competitive play through wavedashing and improved netcode, as well as a general love for these iconic characters (I mean, they even put in the Stupid SpongeBob meme as a taunt), there's a real chance this game gives Super Smash Bros. a run for its money. At the very least, hopefully this becomes one of the best fighting games on Xbox and provides some smashing fun for Xbox players while we wait for Microsoft to throw Master Chief, Senua, Marcus Fenix, Banjo & Kazooie, and Voodoo Vince in their own mascot fighter.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl releases on October 5, 2021, for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
SpongeBob versus Powedered Toast Man!?
A wacky fight awaits!
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is a Super Smash Bros. inspired platform-fighter game that that lets you battle as your favorite Nickelodeon cartoon characters.
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Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.