For Fun, For Glory – Super Smash Bros for Wii U delivers a pulverizing smash of fun and action!
Well, the time has come. All the waiting, all the pondering, all the excitement – everything has finally reached its apex. Super Smash bros for 3DS entered the ring back in October, but we all knew that this was little more than a taste of what was to come. Any true Smash experience belongs on a couch, with a bunch of friends and an even bigger bunch of energy. Super Smash Bros for Wii U not only carries on the legacy of the Smash Bros series, but strikes what might be the most perfect balance between the franchise’s previous entries. Collect your hype, Smashers.
The Smash Bros series has certainly had some ups and downs in its time, and fans were ready for a change. Super Smash bros Melee on the Gamecube is largely agreed to have been the best in the series in many ways, with the best sense of gravity and weight to its combat. Some, though, say that Melee was too weighty, and that it was hard to maneuver with more than a select couple characters. Super Smash bros Brawl on the Wii was panned for its floatiness, but also introduced a fantastic roster of new characters, some memorable stages, and a full story campaign that enthralled a lot of players. It was also more accessible in some ways, coming off more as a party game of sorts. However, frustrations with Brawl’s overall combat led some players to move staunchly back to Melee, even eventually creating the Project M mod for Brawl, itself a bridge between the two.
So here, now, comes Super Smash Bros for Wii U. The game boasts 48 fighters, the largest the series has seen by a fair margin. This roster includes 13 new characters, and a lot more with noticeable modifications and changes from previous entries, in a concerted effort to balance out the roster. The total count doesn’t even include the game’s customizable movesets or custom Mii fighters, both of which add a ton more variety to the game. A few characters don’t make the cut – mostly those dubbed as “clones” – but those can be well-replicated given the right custom moves.
Every character in Super Smash Bros for Wii U feels distinct. All of the new fighters are very different from both each other and the veteran fighters, each with a distinct feel. You’ve got your slower, faster, and middle-of-the-road characters; you’ve got the heavy-hitters and the quick-paced flurries; you’ve got your adaptable fighters, and you’ve got those tooled towards a certain kind of stage, opponent, and advantage. In short, you’ve got a little bit of everything. With any control option under the sun, from wiimote and nunchuck to Gamecube controller (via a special adapter), every player will find the perfect play style just for them.
If you want nothing more than to start experimenting right away with all of the fighters new to Smash, fear not; the vast majority of the game’s characters are already available to you when you first start playing, with only eight characters to be unlocked through playing more and more matches. This number itself is a step down from the 12 unlockable on the 3DS version; what this means is ultimately up to you. If you’re like me, your larger goal is to get good with a coupe characters over a long period of time, and play with a variety of other people. There’s no better way to facilitate this than having the full roster available without too much fuss, so you will surely find this fact to be a boon if you, too, are such a player. However, if half the fun for you comes from unlocking more fighters, you might be a bit disappointed. It’s not something that can really be factored into an objective score, but it’s important enough to sway players one way or another.
In some ways, Super Smash Bros for Wii U is Smash as it always has been; normal matches can hold up to four players, with battles determined by time, stock, or coin-gathering. Players can still be divided into teams, the color of which no longer determines what skin your character sports. (hey, I like playing as blue-haired Robin, okay?)
Super Smash Bros for Wii U changes all of this up by expanding the number of players per battle to eight, arguably creating the most fun aspect of the entire game. Throwing down with six or seven friends has created some of the most fun I’ve had in a video game this year, and undoubtedly some of the most memorable Smash matches I’ve experienced in some time. It can be a bit pandemonious, but that else would you expect? Smash is a chaotic game by default, and eight-player matches are a perfect representation of that chaos. Eight-player matches run perfectly, with no lag while supporting eight controllers. Next time you hear a naysayer talk about the Wii U’s lack of power, show them eight players Backslash-ing it up as Shulk, and see what they think.
Not every stage can be played in matches of five players or more, but the game handles this issue wisely. The stage selection is great, with a good balance of new stages and classics from previous series entries, and includes Omega Mode. This mode changes a variety of the game’s stages into more standard areas, reminiscent of the standard Battlefield stage. This was done mainly to accommodate competitive players who prefer to play on a more standardized stage, but it also creates a greater number of stages that can support more players, due to those stages having less going on in the background than they otherwise would. A lot of new stages are massive, such as Palutena’s Temple and The Great Cave Offensive; stages specifically crafted for large-scale matches.
Even more stages are yours to create via the game’s completely revamped stage builder. In Super Smash Bros Brawl, custom stages were generated by combining different blocks, platforms and setpieces in one of three sizes of stage. In Super Smash Bros for Wii U, the Wii U’s gamepad is used to its fullest. Players can make stages by drawing surfaces of all kinds, adding custom-placed moving platforms and a couple other types of structures. This new system promotes more creativity than Brawl ever could have done, and encourages experimentation and craftsmanship in spades. Not every stage you make will be optimal, but that’s up to you to decide. My first stage was a bunch of floating astrological signs, because hey, why not? The battlefield is, quite literally, at your fingertips.
Of course, one of the other staples of Smash Bros is the cornucopia of different modes the games offer. Classic mode returns in the new Smash, but with a whole new twist. One or two players will face off against groups of other characters, all arranged across a sort of game board. Those groups will be fighting each other as well, with some growing stronger if you wait to long to take them out. Difficulty is determined when you begin a Classic mode run; reminiscent of the hearts system in Kid Icarus: Uprising (a game by Masahiro Sakurai, just like Smash Bros), coins can be wagered to increase difficulty. Higher difficulty means better prizes, provided you can push through the challenge. Each time you fall in battle, the difficulty will be lowered at the cost of some of your spoils in battle.
A new addition to the series is Smash Tour, a sort of Mario Party-like game where players go around a game board for a certain number of turns, collecting fighters and power-ups and engaging in small skirmishes, all culminating in a match where the player who scores the most KOs gets a huge bonus. Then there’s All-Star mode, a gauntlet of matches against every character in the game, divided into groups in reverse chronological order. There’s also Trophy Rush, yielding players the simple objective to rack up points that will gain them new trophies to add their collection. The Events mode is back too, putting players in specific roles, fighting against specific characters under unique parameters.
One final pair of modes to enjoy are the Special Orders modes, Master Orders and Crazy Orders. In the former, Master Hand will give you three tickets to choose from, each with a different order to fulfill. These will range from timed and stock matches with a couple foes, to horde matches with foes spawning in waves. Each order you complete successfully will yield you a prize of some sort, and then allow you to move directly on to the next selection of orders.
Crazy Orders requires you to pay a fee to play – either 5000 coins, or a special pass you may collect as a reward in another mode. Crazy Orders will include team battles, free-for-alls, and battles with all characters sizes doubled. The prizes here can be great, but there’s a catch; you won’t get any of your spoils until you finish your Crazy Orders run by facing off with Crazy Hand himself. Give that gloved maniac the carpel tunnel syndrome you know he’s got coming, and the rewards are yours.
Reward is the name of the game in all of Smash Bros for Wii U‘s modes that are not normal Smash matches, and there are more rewards in this entry than in any previous. Not only can you collect trophies and CDs, the latter adding more music to each stage, but custom moves for different characters as well. If you want every possible move for each fighter, you’ll find yourself pushing through a lot of these modes to make sure you collected them all. You’ll also collect items you can feed to characters, to change their stat balances between strength, defense and speed; these are especially useful when creating Mii fighters, or working with Amiibo fighters. You can also spend coins on trophies in a special store that offers new trophies daily.
One other thing players of Smash Bros have wanted for a long time is quality online play. While the Wii was capable of connecting its games to the internet, online play in Brawl was less than ideal. Playing online in Super Smash bros for Wii U is better, but still shows some of the inherent issues that come with putting such a game online. To put it simply, Smash Bros is very fast-paced, and in many ways, this entry in the series is more so than any other. As such, maintaining that speed of combat, especially in stages with a lot going on, can’t be easy with less-than-great internet, especially when the Wii U has no built-in port for a wired internet connection. The result is online play that is functional, but often pretty choppy. Unless your internet connection is perfect, or you happen to have a USB-to-ethernet converter cable handy, playing Smash online still isn’t quite what it could be.
It cannot be ignored, be you veteran or newcomer, that Super Smash Bros for Wii U is a very pretty game. Every stage looks great in full HD, and combat is full of bright and colorful visual effects that keep the game very visually engaging. The action never drops below 60fps, and you’ll find yourself absolutely awestruck at the visual detail in some areas of the game. The game also boasts the largest track list in the series by over 300%, with a PiratesBay user’s dream-haul of music to shuffle through. As always, you can set which tracks play most often on stages and menus, as a sort of Super Smash DJ.
The final player in this close-combat battle of elements is the Amiibo figures. Serving as Nintendo’s answer to Skylanders and the like, Amiibo launched day-and-date with Super Smash Bros for Wii U. Although they already function in a couple different games, including Mario Kart 8, their functionality in the new Smash has taken front and center in promoting the figures. I’m not one to try and collect every figure in a series, but who am I to pass up a free Amiibo for pre-ordering the game at the right retailer?
What I found when I first tapped my shiny new Samus Amiibo to the adage was more than a gimmick. Your Amiibo can be named, its default skin chosen, and sent right into battle. Amiibos act as a special CPU character, learning and evolving as they fight. Amiibos start at level 1 and will eventually get all the way to level 50, growing not stronger, but smarter, as they go. As with other customizable characters, you can feed Amiibos equipment and assign them custom moves as you see fit, and everything is saved right to the figurine. What’s more, Amiibos grow stronger when you use them on someone else’s Wii U console. You can create a super-quick Donkey Kong, or a slow and defensive Marth; the choices are endless.
There’s something kind of charming about assembling your own team of personal fighters to customize and train against, all of them sitting right there on your table. I slapped the Metroid Fusion color scheme on my Samus, named her “Lotus” after a horrible Metroid fanfiction I once wrote, and haven’t really stopped using her for very long since. It’s a cool feature, to only be perpetuated further as more and more Amiibos are launched. I would heartily recommend picking one up with the game.
Super Smash Bros for Wii U is what every Nintendo-loyal combatant has been wanting for a long time. The game strikes a truly excellent balance between the physics present in Melee and the more casual, party-like atmosphere of Brawl, finding itself at home in a place where both the casual and the hardcore can have an endless amount of fun. All of the new characters added are distinct in great and original ways, and every veteran has received a tweak or two to make things feel fresh and new. The new roster is remarkably well-balanced, and the new eight-player mode is pure, chaotic fun. The game accommodates competitive players, casual groups of friends, and avid item-collectors in one fell swoop. The only flaw to be seen in the entire game is its online functionality, which, although improved from its predecessor, still isn’t quite what fans were hoping for. In every other regard, Super Smash Bros for Wii U makes a final smash worthy of the record books. I give it 4.5 fighters with goofy lines out of 5!
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Wii U (Reviewed); Publisher: Bandai/Namco; Developer: Nintendo; Players: 1-8; Released: Nov. 21, 2014; Genre: Fighter; MSRP: $59.99