After playing Super Smash Bros. for Wii U for just a short amount of time, something becomes abundantly clear. Despite all of the considerable merits of the 3DS version, Super Smash Bros. is a home console game. When I sat down with 4 other friends to play 5-man Smash, I fully remembered why the game is so adored; it was akin to the feeling I got when I briefly played it at EGX London back in September.
Back at that event, I remarked at how the GameCube pad in my hands and the visual upgrade instantaneously drew me in. The same thing happened when I got the full game. The intro, a montage of the different characters (including parts of the stunning character reveal videos we have been receiving) is enough to get you excited and THEN you get playing. Safe to say, some of my thoughts at EGX are going to be echoed here – this game is beautiful, and exquisitely detailed from the fire behind characters on the character select screen to the fur of the giant Nintendog that will inevitably grace your screen. Also, yes, the GameCube controller and its substantial-feeling layout of buttons is still the best way to play – despite the zatrillions of other ways to play (Wii Remote, Pro Controller, GamePad, etc.). Sorry Josh.
If for some crazy reason you don’t know, Super Smash Bros. is a 2.5D-style fighting game where you battle it out as characters from Nintendo’s rich history – including some special third-party characters like the returning Sonic and the new Mega Man. As you damage enemies you build up their percentage, and the higher that percentage is the easier it is to knock the opponent out of the stage. It makes for an original and tactical game where you aren’t restricted by health bars. The roster is bigger and much more varied that previous Super Smash Bros. games; the much-discussed “clone characters” are much reduced and more clearly marked, and the rest of the 49-strong roster provides a great range of play styles. Rosalina has a Luma she can send into battle from afar, Little Mac is all about ground-level close-range combat, and Samus builds up damage with ranged attacks, to just name three.
The strengths and weaknesses of the characters fit their, er, characters, but most importantly it all feels balanced. There are certainly groups of characters that aren’t as good as others, but no one character sticks out as the “best”. Rather, finding characters you like and practicing with them works well. Crucially, it is very accessible too; not to beat the same old drum, but Nintendo’s “easy to learn, hard to master” tradition is very much present here. The controls are, at their most basic, essentially direction inputs and two main buttons; but if you get in-depth, Smash Bros. has many different tricks and skills to master. As a local multiplayer or spectator game there are few better, with 1-on-1 fights emphasizing the tension that often occurs.
But Super Smash Bros. isn’t just a fighting game, as it’s also an interactive museum. With every Super Smash Bros. game comes the surprise of how much has been packed into the game, and the doubt that it can be topped; the Wii U version of Smash Bros. certainly continues this tradition. From characters to stages to trophies to music to demos of classic games, this game seems inexhaustible. The music is a case in point. To start with, there is a ridiculous range of music from Nintendo’s past which produces classic at every turn. In addition, not only can you collect classic tracks, you can customize which and how often tracks are heard on each stage and screen. It only seems fitting, though, that after a fantastic year software-wise for Nintendo, (maybe not commercially) a game like this reminds us why the company is so precious and valued.
If there is one mode that leaves a sour taste, unfortunately, it is the new “main” mode – Smash Tour. Taking the place of Smash Run from 3DS as Wii U’s exclusive mode, this party-style game has you and friends/CPUs moving around a board, having battles and collecting characters which are used in a final face-off. The idea is solid and fun in theory, but the presentation leaves much to be desired and the board section often drags on. Your initial introduction is several slides of long instructions, and the board itself is cluttered with symbols and art. The 4-way splitscreen only worsens this, as everything is compressed down; if only this mode was laid out better and streamlined down, it could have the makings of a classic mode – as is, I would advise you to stick to Smash battles when playing with friends.
Smash can’t always be played with friends, of course. For these situations, there is a bountiful selection of modes to keep yourself occupied (though playing with friends is still an option). Smash Tour may fall slightly flat, but the updated versions of the returning Classic, All-Star and Event modes will be taking up most of your solo time. Classic has you taking one character through many battles, neatly presented on a game board, while All-Star challenges you to beat every character in the game with just your chosen one. Event match manages to shake up things the most, giving you certain (often hilarious) situations where you have to perform to set criteria. Battling two Giant Warios at the Wii Fit Studio with Wii Fit Trainer might’ve been the best one. For all of its unpredictability, Smash Bros. can get repetitive at times, so scenario situations like this are very welcome to give the game a fresh feel now and then.
But if you want to completely change the game up, look no further than the Stadium. Home-Run Contest is as addictive as ever, challenging you to build up damage and launch that poor Sandbag just a LITTLE. BIT. FURTHER. The new Target Blast has the same idea, but is Angry Birds-esque in that you need to think about the accuracy of your bomb when you launch it. Finally, Multi-Man Smash has plenty of settings, old and new, which force you into new ways of Smash-ing. Rival Smash stands out, as it challenges you to defeat more easy-to-Smash enemies than an opponent on the same stage – once again, welcome shaking up of the Smash Bros. formula.
Man, there is so much to talk about in this game. Oh yeah, I forgot; Master and Crazy Orders, another fantastic addition to the mode line-up. Master Orders gives you challenges of different difficulties you can try, while Crazy Orders sees how many fights you can take before fighting Crazy Hand itself; the more fights beforehand, the more the reward, but also the greater the risk of being weakened for the final fight and subsequently losing it all. The pair of Orders are both great ways to access unlockable material, as sometimes you are even told what you will win.
In fact, something huge this game has over previous Smash Bros. games is unlockable movesets and the ability to customize your fighter. This is limited to private and local matches, for obvious balancing reasons, but the ability to change up your fighter is liberating. Even better is when this is tied to your amiibo. Oh yeah, those things. The amiibo features of Super Smash Bros., are fun, if not essential; by scanning in your figurine and naming it, you get what is sort of an interactive pet. By giving it stat boosts and new moves you can immediately improve its skill, but the amiibo really comes alive when used as a CPU in battle. It starts out at Lv. 1 and is basically a punching bag, but watching it quickly grow (to a max of Lv. 50) was unexpectedly rewarding for me. It also gets pretty tough, much tougher than the hardest standard CPUs! While its use is limited other than this – as a more interesting CPU opponent – it is a nice addition.
It is a testament to how much is in this game that I am only now properly mentioning the online section. The one main drawback of Super Smash Bros. Brawl on Wii was its lag-laden online play, which is a killer in a reactive game like this. However, I am massively pleased to report few problems on the Wii U version of Smash Bros.. Other than small pieces of lag and the rare disconnect, my online experience was very smooth; imperfect at odd times, but the majority of the time, smooth. There is a great selection of ways to play online, as well. You can play against anyone or just friends, build your ranking in For Glory mode (or just have casual games in For Fun), choose between 1-on-1 face-offs or 4-player brawls, or even just sit back and spectate on other games. Having For Glory mode, where you build up a ranking on Final Destination no-item stages, is sure to keep competitive players online for weeks/months/years/decades to come (you think I’m joking? Look at Super Smash Bros. Melee.).
As you can tell from this review, there is just an overwhelming amount of STUFF to do in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. One of my biggest fears was that the single-player side would fall flat without a substantial mode like Subspace Emissary from Brawl, but despite Smash Tour being a weak point the polished returning modes – especially Event match – make up for it. The addition of Master and Crazy Orders battles are also addictive. Of course, multiplayer is where this game really shines. Get THREE friends round a TV and-
Oh, wait wait wait. No Final Thoughts yet. I mean SEVEN. To top off this game, 8-player has been introduced. With the special large stages and 8 players, Smash Bros. reaches its chaotic peak. The insanity is brilliant in a party setting, and as the field is whittled down it turns from a crazy free-for-all to a tactical final battle; it really is the survival of the fittest, bringing together both the party and competitive sides of Smash Bros.. I’ve mentioned shaking up the formula of Smash Bros. in this review, and this shakes up the multiplayer in a way we didn’t expect. It truly proves the local multiplayer credentials of this game.
To be honest, I still haven’t mentioned everything. There are so many little delights in this Smash Bros. that you won’t discover for tens or even hundreds of hours because you are too busy having fun in another mode. Stage Builder, which takes great advantage of the Wii U GamePad screen to draw out your own stages. Trophy Rush, where you destroy blocks to earn collectible rewards. I can go on, but I don’t need too. Exploring all these different options is part of the appeal, and really pushes that museum feel – every screen has multiple things to marvel at and admire.
FINAL Final Thoughts
What is possibly the biggest test for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U going forward is the lasting appeal of the game. Just like Brawl, it has easily enough quality gameplay and content to keep you going for years on end; but in Brawl‘s case, Melee still seems to reign as the Super Smash Bros. of choice. It may be too early to judge, but I reckon this one will be taken in by fans for a long time; it has both Brawl‘s seemingly endless content and the fluid gameplay polish of Melee. Honestly, time will tell; but if I have to judge now?
Melee, a new challenger approaches.
Images taken from http://www.smashbros.com/en-uk/