While I may have gotten my feet wet with Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS in October, it was merely an appetizer course for what was to come. Its companion release, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U promises better visuals, more modes, and supports up to eight players simultaneously. And despite sharing the same roster as the 3DS version, this truly is a very different game. In fact, the console experience is such an improvement that I’d rate it as my personal game of the year and favorite game on the Wii U so far, period. Now you know what you’re getting yourself into for the next several paragraphs.
If you’ve never had the pleasure in partaking in Nintendo’s flagship franchise, it goes a little something like this. Various characters from decades of Nintendo franchises both popular (Mario, Pokemon) and niche (Fire Emblem, Xenoblade Chronicles) duke it out in large arenas to see who can reign supreme. Unlike a normal fighting game, you don’t inflict damage until your opponent’s health is sapped. Rather, the damage done is represented by a percentage, and once this gets high enough, you can “smash” them out of the arena and score points. Four fighters can brawl at once, and weapons, items and stage hazards all come into play in determining the victor. Playing with the standard Time rules, you need only KO a character to gain a point, whereas being KO’d yourself will subtract one. Stock rules are also possible, where you have a set number of lives and you must aim to be the last one standing. The Wii U version even has special rule sets where you can have matches to collect the most coins, deplete your opponent’s HP, or add special handicaps.
All characters have standard attacks and special attacks, with moves varying depending on what direction you hit when pressing the button and how you press it. You can also guard, throw, and dodge attacks. As your character gets knocked away (and again, depending on character) there’s usually a double jump at your disposal, plus an additional skill that can give you just enough distance to grab back onto the edge. It’s an incredibly easy game to learn, but difficult to master. There’s an entire community dedicated to this series and it’s often included in large video game tournaments.
Because it’s such a big deal, each game is closely examined under a microscope in terms of balance and mechanics. The Gamecube iteration of Melee is often preferred for tournament play to Brawl for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the silly tripping mechanic introduced in the latter (a “feature” that caused your character to randomly face plant when moving around). I can happily say that tripping is gone, and the speed of the combat rests somewhere in the middle of the two. Hogging the edges is no longer a viable strategy, as any player who grabs an edge that’s already occupied will cause the prior individual to vacate, changing up the formula quite a bit. The game balance has also been drastically improved. Characters like Fox and Metaknight have been toned down in power, and certain attacks have been removed outright (Pit). It’s still too early to tell, but so far it seems to be the most balanced roster they’ve ever done, which is nothing short of impressive when you consider it consists of forty-nine characters.
In fact, let’s touch on that roster a little bit, as there have been some major changes. First and foremost, Zelda and Sheik, as well as Samus and Zero Suit Samus have been split into separate characters, rather than being transformations. The Ice Climbers have been axed entirely, but in their place, such newcomers as Wii Fit Trainer and Little Mac have filled the void (an alarming number of which I predicted shortly after the game’s announcement). New guest characters, Mega Man and Pac-Man join the crew too, both of which are iconic and fit right in with Nintendo’s history.
Compared to the 3DS release where the controls actually held back the experience a bit, the Wii U edition is the exact opposite. The number of control options is staggering. As with other games on the console, you can use the Wii U gamepad, the Wii remote/nunchuk, and any variation of classic controllers. In addition, your 3DS can be used as a controller (though I don’t know why anyone would), plus there’s a version of the game that comes bundled with an adapter to hook up Gamecube controllers (one of which comes in the package). The adapter plugs into the USB ports on the console and has four slots for Gamecube controllers, plus a second adapter can be hooked up to bring the total up to eight. And yes, even the old Wavebirds will work!
Now, where Brawl had a neat little story mode to accompany the experience (Subspace Emissary), this has been axed entirely. The Classic mode is still present though, challenging the player to beat down several rounds of randomized enemies, concluding with a showdown with Master Hand. You can choose which enemy or groups of enemies to fight, with each bout leading to different rewards. All-Star Mode is back as well, except now enemies are organized by timeline. Look forward to beating down the entire cast in reverse chronological order!
The Wii U version contains Event matches, that are a compilation of themed battles that fix the player with certain characters and ask them to perform odd tasks. One stage has Fox defending his ship from parachuting Mr. Game & Watch clones, while another may have the Wii Fit Trainer attempting to beat a large Wario into shape. There’s also the single player only Master Orders and Crazy Orders that challenge you to bet money to take on certain battles in hopes of earning rewards. Smash Board is a tweaked version of the Mario Party formula, pitting four players against one another to roll the dice and travel around a board. Confronting each other will result in a fight and the winner can earn characters and stats boosts. When the game concludes, each player squares off in one final showdown using whatever they have in their possession to win (and having the most characters on your roster grants the biggest advantage).
Popular minigames from franchise past are back, including Home-Run Contest, which challenges you to nail a sandbag with a face on it as far as you can, and Multi-Man Smash, that has you clobbering as many foes possible within a time limit. Target Blast is a take on the Angry Birds formula, except you whack a bomb enough times to weaken it and subsequently launch it into a series of targets. Standard Smash can be played both locally or online, and Mii’s can be imported into the game to be customized with your own moveset (though the Mii’s can’t be used online). Amiibos are also compatible with Super Smash Bros. and tapping one to the gamepad will allow you to customize the stats and movesets for that particular character. These tweaks are then saved back to the figure and are then used in Smash mode either as a teammate or an opponent to fight (they aren’t directly controlled). As they are used, they begin to adapt strategies to use against their opponent, plus they’ll level up after enough combat. This isn’t the life changing feature that Nintendo wants you to believe they are, but it’s a neat concept and the figures themselves are good quality.
No, the real star of the show is the 8 Player Smash. For the first time in franchise history, eight people in the same room can throw down in one of the game’s massive arenas. Since there are stages set aside to accommodate this mode and they are quite a bit larger, beware that you may have to squint a little to see what’s going on when all of the players are spread out. Also, it gets incredibly hectic to keep track of where you are in relation to all of the chaos. Still, when these massive battles break out in the single player modes, they felt like a natural progression to the game. And while I’ve not had the pleasure of having that many people in the same room to see how crazy it REALLY gets, I get the feeling it helps the experience more than it hurts.
The online mode is so much better executed here than it ever has been. Brawl was laggy, optionless, and overall pretty much an afterthought. Instead, if you opt for matchmaking, you’ll be given a choice between For Fun (all stages and items turned on) or For Glory (ranked, no items, only flat stages). From there, you can do one-on-one battles, team battles, or free-for-alls. Unlike the 3DS version though, almost every match I fought online was met with some form of lag. Even battles where it was one-on-one. My hope is that it’s a side effect of everyone trying to logon and play at once (it did just come out, after all), but it sucks that I’m having more difficulty here than I did with the handheld version. At least two people can go online on the same system, though I didn’t notice any support for online 8 Player Smash.
If you get tired of all that, there’s still more to do. Collectible trophies are still around, with each one giving a summary of what they are and (vaguely) where they’re from. Challenges are back though, giving players a whole laundry list of stuff to do in order to unlock stages, music or parts for their Mii’s. The Wii U challenges are much harder than the ones found on the 3DS version by comparison. Fortunately, you do earn hammers which can instantly knock out a challenge for you and grant you the reward without every doing it, but these hammers are limited and they don’t work on every challenge. Any money earned can be spent in an in-game store for additional trophies, or used as collateral to bet on spectated matches between other players. Yes, the latest SSB has its own gambling simulation.
As an added bonus, most every single player mode can be played multiplayer. So Classic and All-Star can be run through with two players working together, and all of the stadium events (Target Blast, Multi-Man Smash, and Home-Run Contest) support up to four. The Event stages even have their own co-op version.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U looks incredible. The majority of the stages are different than the ones found in the portable edition, plus the ones that are the same have additional touches (such as the boss battle in the Xenoblade Chronicles stage). Some, like the Skyward Sword level, give you a taste of how much better that game would have looked had it been presented in HD. The character models themselves have all been redone from the ground up yet again, and have an impressive range of motion. The game lets you pause and take screenshots pretty much anytime you want, and there were numerous cases where I would find new expressions on each character that I didn’t know existed until I paused the game.
The soundtrack is simply excellent, consisting of remixed songs from all throughout Nintendo’s history. Everything from the Fire Emblem theme to Kapp’n’s Song from Animal Crossing are all here and it boasts over four hundred songs. There isn’t a whole lot of voice work outside of the announcer and the occasional grunts from characters like Link, but some of the more talkative ones (Shulk) are not shy about dropping a few one-liners here and there, so you’ll have that to look forward to.
At the end of the day, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is THE ultimate game for Nintendo fans. It represents a wide range of franchises both old and new that make an appearance either as playable characters, songs, or just trophies. There is a myriad amount of control options, a ton of modes, and the new 8 Player Smash is a welcome addition. I wish the online mode was a bit more stable, as it seems to be the main blemish on an otherwise stellar package. If you’re a Wii U owner and haven’t picked this up yet, get on that. If you don’t own a Wii U… well… go fix that too.
Short Attention Span Summary
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is here and it brings with it arguably the most balanced roster in series history. The visuals take advantage of the better hardware than the Wii U brings with it, plus the soundtrack is even larger than ever. Wii U exclusive modes, such as 8 Player Smash and Smash Tour add some more variety to an already extensive list of things to do, and a number of the existing modes can now be played multiplayer. The online play still needs some tweaking, as fights are laggy and it’s not easy to notify friends through the game that you’re ready to play. Still, it’s a small blemish on an otherwise stellar package, and Smash is more fun when you’re in the same room anyway. So bust out your Wavebirds; one of the best reasons to own a Wii U is finally here!