Nickelodeon’s All Star Brawl; The Good and the Horrible


Nickelodeon’s All Star Brawl (NASB) is finally here, making its debut on October 5th and featured on most consoles.  Fans of platform fighters such as the Super Smash Bros. series or indie titles like Rivals of Aether will be mostly familiar with the gameplay, but there are some mechanics designed to make the game more competitive.  These design decisions during development generated a lot of hype before the game had officially launched.  Many fans were excited to see an air dash included in the game to allow for mechanics such as wave dashing.  There would be rollback netcode, so playing online would be a smoother experience and relevant practice for offline tournaments.  The gameplay previews demonstrated crazy combos and fast-paced matches where many of the characters seemed to be viable.  Now with the official launch of NASB, we can see if the final product lived up to its hype.

The first thing to note about NASB is it’s lack of content.  This is first and foremost, a competitive platform fighting game and the developers were certainly marketing to that audience.  The game features a few different types of battle modes, training, and an arcade mode, along with 20 characters at launch but with more slated to be DLC.  The focus is definitely on the gameplay and duking it out with your friends and rivals.

So let’s talk about the competitive balance of the game.  NASB is already being featured at tournaments with generous incentives attached.  It’s appearance at SmashCon, for example, includes a $10,000 prize pool.  However, that same tournament has had to ban Michaelangelo (TMNT) due to a balancing issue where he could chain grab and combo from 0 to death with no chance to escape.  Michelangelo is also an extreme outlier, but the overall competitive balance of the game is still up in the air.  It may be too soon to make an accurate judgements about how strong or weak characters really are but that hasn’t stopped some characters from absolutely dominating this early period; characters such as April, the Ninja Turtles, and Spongebob with large hitboxes, fast combo starters that are difficult to punish, and powerful punishes for little effort.  The developers have been responding to feedback and pushing hotfixes consistently so these issues will not exist forever, but for a fighter designed around it’s competitive nature, this may demonstrate a lack of  polish on the part of the developers. 

Speaking of polish, there is a clear lack of it in the game’s visual and sound design as well.  To be fair, this may not be the fault of the developers, they may not have had much to work with compared to long standing and acclaimed series such as Super Smash Bros., but ultimately it leaves the game feeling lacking, hollow.  The online netcode may also need some adjustments, as there are many experiences of characters teleporting and lagging during online play.  These issues aren’t as prevalent when all players have solid connections but as with the online experience of any fighting game, this will not always be the case, especially in lower ranked matches.  

With all of this said, NASB is not a bad game.  In spite of some balance issues, the overall gameplay is fun and frantic.  When you land a combo and get that offstage punish, it feels incredibly satisfying.  The movesets of the characters are fun and are littered with references to their respective TV shows.  There is a lot that this game gets right, but it may not be the perfect competitive platform fighter that fans have been yearning for, at least not yet.  With continued attention from the developers, as long as they keep in touch with the community and respond to feedback, this game has a ton of potential to shake up the FGC, bringing something fresh and exciting, and maybe even lucrative to the table.


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