Show me your moves!
It’s been two months since Super Smash Bros. first launched on the 3DS in Japan, and by now the truly hardcore fans have pretty much passed summary judgment on this latest incarnation of Nintendo’s crossover fighting game. In short, it doesn’t offer as much technical depth as Melee, rolling is too easily abused, and limiting ranked online play to Final Destination messes up character balance.
I, however, remain smitten with everything this new Smash accomplishes, and it only gets better on the Wii U. If you haven’t heard, the home-console release shares all of its fundamentals with the handheld version?namely the selection of characters, how they control, and some of the secondary game modes?so I won’t waste much time gushing over the lineup this time around. I’ll just reiterate that the roster is, by far, the most diverse and entertaining the series has ever had from a gameplay standpoint, then point you toward my review of the 3DS version if you need a fuller picture.
As for what this new Wii U version brings to the table? Let’s start with 8-Player Smash, a new mode that does pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Is it hectic? You bet. Is it occasionally difficult to tell what’s happening in the fray? Yep, especially if two or more people are playing with the same character. But none of that really matters, because it’s more about being crazy and inclusive than being competitive, and from that angle, it’s loads of fun.
That’s not to say the 8-Player Smash is perfectly implemented. Since it’s an entirely separate mode with its own, more limited set of options, you don?t have access to as much variety as you do in four-player matchups. In particular, anything that’s locked away in Special Smash is off-limits, and that, unfortunately, includes both Stamina and Coin battles. In addition, some stages?Duck Hunt, for instance?appear to have their dynamic features disabled, though it’s unclear whether that’s for hardware reasons or simply to cut back on the visual noise. The final minor downside is that the bulk of the game’s stages are disabled in this mode (with a few more available for five or six players than for seven or eight). During my five-player party, we started running into repeats rather quickly, which is even more of a downer when not all of the stages are equally enjoyable.
Next up is Smash Tour, a four-player virtual board game that might best be summarized as the counterpart to the 3DS version’s Smash Run. Like in that mode, you’re trying to collect power-ups to increase your stats for a final showdown between all players, but there’s a lot more going on here. As you move around the board, you can also collect one-use items to tip the scales in your favor and fighters to add to your lineup, each of which will serve as a single life in the final contest. If you collide with another player, everyone enters into a random four-person event, be it a free-for-all Smash focused on a single item, a Home Run Contest, or some other competitive variation.
As for their in-game counterparts, it’s certainly neat to be able to level up a character and feed it items to grant new buffs. Watching it learn and grow more powerful over time can be fun, but now that I’ve got all three amiibo at level 50, I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to do with them. Do I throw them in as substitutes for CPU fighters to mix up matches? Do I battle them against my friend’s amiibo to see whose fighters come out on top? Neither option seems particularly compelling.
Smash Tour is about as complicated as a typical Japanese game show, so you’ll probably need to play a few matches before you learn everything that’s going on. Once you do, it’s a neat little diversion that’s great to pull out at parties, especially in light of the fact that you have almost no control over which fighter you’ll use next. It’s an excellent way to level the playing field against that one guy who insists on always using Little Mac and spamming his side+B attack every single chance he gets.
Special Orders is the final brand-new game mode?or, more appropriately, modes. It’s split into two similar-but-distinct challenges, Master Orders and Crazy Orders. The first is pretty basic: Shell out the coins, pick a challenge, and if you beat it, you win a prize. It’s not particularly compelling, to be honest, since there are plenty of far more entertaining ways to earn trophies and character upgrades without spending your in-game cash.
Crazy Orders, though, is a diabolical master stroke. The more challenges you take on in a row, the harder it becomes, but the better your rewards. You’re operating on a single life, and your damage carries over between rounds with only a small amount of healing, so the slightest mistake can knock you out. Knowing when to quit is important, but it’s not quite that simple. To finish up and claim the prizes you’ve earned, you need to face off against Crazy Hand in a final battle?and the more damage you’ve accumulated when you kick off that ultimate showdown, the more HP you have. There’s a constant temptation to just push a little bit further, and when you’re ready to quit, you’ll try to finish out with the highest damage possible, so you’re constantly at the limit of failing. Given that the cost of entry is so high?5,000 coins or a ticket earned somewhat infrequently in other modes?Crazy Orders becomes a tense, sadistic gauntlet every single time, and it’s easily one of the standout modes in a game that’s full of great ones.
Equally challenging is the returning Event mode, which tasks you with completing challenges ranging from simple combat showdowns to clever alternate objectives, like putting all of your AI opponents to sleep simultaneously as Jigglypuff. As in Brawl, you’re usually limited to a specific character of the game’s choosing, so it’s a great way to develop your skills on all the fighters while still having fun and making progress. Some of the later challenges will put your abilities to the test, especially if you’re looking to nab the tougher win conditions required to earn an extra reward.
Like the updated All-Star and Classic modes, Events support full co-op, but you’re not just having a buddy drop into the same challenges with you. Instead, there’s an entirely separate set of tasks to complete, designed exclusively for two players. They’re every bit as fun as the solo batch?but good luck finding a partner who’ll repeat the more brutal Events a dozen or more times with you.
And while it may not be the flashiest of differences, the single biggest advantage of the Wii U version over its handheld counterpart has to be control. I said at the time that the 3DS’ control pad felt like it compromised gameplay somewhat, and now that I’ve tried Smash Bros. out on the GamePad, Pro, and GameCube controllers, I can say that I was entirely justified in thinking that. With a proper analog stick, the game controls smoothly enough that it never feels like a missed opportunity is anything but your fault. (That means no more controller Johns, as the kids say.) In particular, the GameCube controller is surprisingly comfortable to go back to after all these years. It remains an excellent fit for Smash Bros.?goofy yellow C-stick, impossibly tiny Z button, and all. As far as I’m concerned, the adapter is well worth the $20 investment if you’ve got a few old controllers lying around.
All told, there’s so much going on in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U that it’s practically impossible for any fan of the series not to find something to love. The wealth of options and modes like 8-Player Smash make it the ultimate multiplayer incarnation of the series. The huge amount of single-player content delivers a surprisingly robust experience on that front, too; it’ll no doubt take dozens upon dozens of hours to complete all 130 of the game’s Achievement-like Challenges. Rarely does a game offer such variety with such a consistently high standard of quality. If you’ve been looking for a reason to get a Wii U, Super Smash Bros. is almost certainly it.
|Developer: Sora, Bandai Namco ? Publisher: Nintendo ? ESRB: E10+ ? Release Date: 11.21.2014|
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U offers the most modes, fighters, and stages in the history of the franchise, with a surprisingly high level of polish across the board. Whether you prefer multiplayer or toughing it out against CPU fighters, you’ll find hours of excellent fun throwing down with your favorite Nintendo characters.
|The Good||The definitive version of the biggest, most impressive Smash Bros. yet.|
|The Bad||Occasionally lengthy load times after matches.|
|The Ugly||How badly I’m going to lose online come launch day.|
|Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is?you guessed it!?a Wii U exclusive. Review code, a GameCube controller adapter, four GameCube controllers, and three amiibo figures were provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review.|