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The 2008 Wii release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl received much fan and critical acclaim, but a large part of the game’s hardcore competitive community were left in the dust thanks to Nintendo focus on catering to the casual audience. A huge competitive scene had developed around the previous Smash Bros. game, Melee, and those gamers were left disappointed by Brawl’s slower pace, removal of advanced tactics, and inclusion of random luck based elements to lower the skill ceiling required to play the game at a competitive level. Many felt as if the game had been designed specifically to exclude their style of play. An entire segment of the Smash Bros. audience couldn’t find themselves enjoying the latest entry in their beloved video game series.
However, instead of whining and complaining about it, members of the community would put their money (and time) where their mouth was and set out with a determination to “fix” it and make the game their own. The result was Project M.
Project M is a community-made mod for Super Smash Bros. Brawl designed to replicate the fast-paced gameplay of Melee and meld it with the new features of Brawl. This involved not only increasing the speed of play, but also adding back in rich, technical depth to a balanced cast of characters. The goal was to make up for disappointments in the original Brawl and make a product that was all-inclusive rather than exclusionary, fun for both casual and competitive players.
This mighty task came as a result of advanced hacking techniques that allowed the team to heavily modify the existing game engine, inserting their own code, textures, models, and animations. The team behind this major overhaul is known as PMBR, the Project M Backroom, and they are made up of members from all over the globe. They have put in more than two years of work, and this latest release is their biggest update yet. The first demo saw release in February 2011 with a small amount of playable characters, and Project M finally has a full roster with the release of version 3.0 in December 2013.
So what’s different about Project M?
First, check out this incredible trailer.
To the casual player, the most obvious change is that the game is much faster than the original Brawl. More technical players will notice many system changes, ranging from the minute to the major, such as changes to physics and the re-introduction of advanced techniques such as L-canceling and wave dashing.
Even if you are not a competitive player, you should still check out Project M. Personally, I’m not a very competitive gamer (I gladly accept the moniker “scrub” when it comes to fighting games), but I’ve had a lot of fun with Project M over the past few days. The faster gameplay makes sure there’s never a lull in a match, and my favorite character Samus is back to her old self (I didn’t like the changes they made to her in Brawl). Even casual fans can appreciate the larger character roster, including some new characters making their Brawl debut!
During the development of Brawl, Nintendo had to cut a few characters from its previous roster. Mewtwo from Pokémon and Roy of the Fire Emblem series were two characters that unfortunately did not make the cut. So if you wanted to play as these characters, you’d have to pop in a Melee disc and go back to the smaller roster. However, PMBR has made that wholly unnecessary. These two characters are back, and they play better than ever, with entirely new character models and expertly crafted animations.
Existing Brawl characters also have their fair share of changes and upgrades. Each character has new tools to work with when it comes to both offense and defense. The Pokémon Trainer is now split into three different characters with an additional special move to make up for the lack of a switching mechanic. Each Pokémon was further tweaked to play more independently.
Another example is Samus, my personal favorite. She’s no longer as slow or floaty like she was in the original Brawl, and she has an increased arsenal. She can now switch between ice and fire beams, modifying some of her attacks.
Project M 3.0 includes the introduction of “Turbo Mode,” and if you’re the type of player that favors chaos over balance, this might be the mode for you. Originally introduced as an April Fools prank by PMBR, Turbo Mode cranks up the dial of insanity in Smash Bros. matches. The mode allows you to cancel any move into any other move on hit, resulting in some long and extremely hype combos if you’ve got the skills. A match of Brawl suddenly starts to look like a set from Marvel vs. Capcom when you’ve got skillful players going at it in this nonsense new mode.
You’ll also notice a myriad of new stages to the game. Some are redesigned versions of the original Brawl levels, many are completely new, and some will be very familiar to you if you were a fan of the original Nintendo 64 game.
Even things like computer-controller character AI has been changed. CPU-controlled characters now take advantage of the new system changes and advanced techniques used by high-level players. You’ll see them wavedashing, pulling off combos, and an AI-controlled Falco will even taunt you upon your death with constant spamming of his reflector attack. The upgraded AI is definitely more challenging than the original, but also a bit more suicidal as they’ll often go for riskier attacks, which is actually in the spirit of the mod as a whole, incentivizing players to play more offensively, rather the defensive nature of the original Brawl.
It helps that the mod is gorgeous, with a polished, daresay “Nintendo-quality” presentation. Some characters feature entirely new animations that look professionally done, especially compared to the myriad of amateur hacks already out there. Many characters have alternate costumes that fit the game’s original theme of celebrating Nintendo’s history. For instance, Link now has a classic Ocarina of Time costume, and Meta Knight’s alternate model is based on concept art from one of the original Kirby games. Each model looks expertly crafted, as if Nintendo themselves had lent their hand to the game.
So even if you’re like me, and all the technical stuff like SHFFLing, L-canceling, and wavedashing are beyond your skill level, you can still appreciate the upgrades that Project M brings to the table.
Sounds cool! How do I get in on this?
Despite being a hack itself, Project M is playable without modifying your Wii, so there’s no need for scary system hacking or voiding of warranties. Assuming you have a Wii with an SD card slot (sorry, no Wii Minis!), all you need is a copy of Super Smash Bros. Brawl and a 2GB SD card. The mod even works with a Wii U!
Check out Project M’s official download page for instructions on how to install the mod.
Project M is entirely unofficial, a product created entirely by volunteer fans who poured in thousands of hours through years of hard work to deliver such a qualify fan project. The team has a strict set of rules and philosophies to get the best out of the game. For instance, in order to avoid the threat of a cease and desist from Nintendo, the PMBR team intends to never add anything to the game that isn’t already included in the base game in some way. So any new characters that they would like to add would already have to be present in Brawl, be it a trophy, an assist, or a sticker. That means no Mega Man for Project M! PMBR doesn’t want Project M to be considered competition for Nintendo, but simply a proud fan project.
Hopefully word of mouth will continue to spread regarding this incredible project. Because of the close ties to the competitive community, tournaments have been running versions of Project M for a while now. I would hope to see this version being played in more casual settings as well. I know I won’t be going back to vanilla Brawl anytime soon!
PMBR is still hard at work on the next release of Project M. They are far from finished, but as it stands now, Project M 3.0 is the most feature-rich release yet and will likely tide players over until the next Smash Bros. release, be it another version of this fantastic mod or Nintendo’s own sequel.
For more information and a full list of changes, check out the official Project M website.
By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra