Nintendo’s smash hit (too easy?) Super Smash Bros is back after a long break of almost two months. Yes, I am playfully referring to the recent release of Super Smash Bros for 3DS, but make no mistake; Super Smash Bros Wii U is a very different game from its 3DS counterpart.
Yes, all the characters are the same, but on the Wii U, they are all captured in brilliant HD at sixty frames-per-second, compared to their fun, cel-shaded appearance on the 3DS. And with such an enormous cast of forty-nine characters so far there is still a lot to discover and master. Not to mention, that with this rendition of SSB, all characters can be customized to your liking with altered move sets and attributes. For example, my Toon Link character has an altered Up-B sword spin that propels opponents upward with a vertical slash at its conclusion. Mario’s signature fireball can be altered to fire faster, or it can be made slower but more damaging. With all of these minor tailoring options, there is a lot to experiment with and perfect this time around. As an added benefit, if you have customized characters on the 3DS that you don’t want to part with, they can be transferred to the Wii U very quickly and efficiently.
While the 3DS version played exceptionally well, Super Smash Bros Wii U demonstrates the quick, fluid, and intuitive controls that we’ve come to expect from a Smash entry. Here, they are as sensitive and responsive as ever if not more so. The pacing and balance of the game are meticulous, with updates rolling out for continued parity. The pace has found a very neutral position somewhere between the speed of Melee and the bulkiness of Brawl that seems perfect for the series. Plus, with the tripping mechanic which was introduced in Brawl removed, there won’t be any unwanted element of the unexpected involved. This goes without mentioning that with the immense amount of controller options, you can truly play how you want. I count a total of six controller options, from the Gamepad to a Wiimote with nunchuck attachment, to a pro controller, to the classic controller. You can even use a 3DS as a controller. My favorite, however, is using a Gamecube controller, arguably the most comfortable controller ever developed, connectable to the Wii U through a new controller adapter that released alongside the game. Running out of controllers is going to be the least of your worries, ensuring that everyone can play. And I mean everyone.
A new feature exclusive to this entry is the option to have up to eight people battle at once. At first, I thought that this seemed pretty excessive. Four-player battles get hectic enough, but after playing with eight fighters, trust me when I say the chaotic rumble is a romp you won’t want to miss. This option is only available on the same console, and not online, but it ensures that Smash parties will be something to remember. Other modes exclusive to the Wii U title are Master Orders and Crazy Orders, which allow the player to wager gold and then fight for rewards resulting in showdowns with Master and or Crazy Hand. I found both, but especially Crazy Orders to be a fun way to earn some trophies and abilities for my custom characters and a great addition. Classic Mode is also a distinctly different and welcome addition unique from the great 3DS counterpart. Instead of choosing a trail, almost like a pick your own adventure version of any other Smash game, you pick opponents, and sometimes allies, and battle until you are the only one left on the battlefield. Events also make their return in either solo or co-op mode. Brilliantly building off of the game’s predecessor, completion of an event opens multiple trails to other events, while meeting special requirements rewards the player or opens secret paths otherwise unavailable.
There is also the Smash Tour feature, which operates like a board game. Over a series of turns, players roll and move spaces, collecting stats and characters, preparing them for one final battle once all turns are up. Players can keep things interesting by sabotaging other players or battling them, and stealing their collected characters with short Smash rounds. All characters collected can be used in the final battle, which decides the winner. The concept is a novel one, but is undermined by short time limits in the final battle, resulting in many collected characters never getting used and frequent and irritating sudden death, conclusions despite said unused characters. I witnessed one particularly haunting round in which a player who would have otherwise been eliminated won in sudden death because, despite running out of characters, had racked up a high amount of kills with a strong character. That could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it, but I personally would prefer stock battles, which would reward players for playing the board game well.
The only other scruple I have with the game is in the Stage Builder mode, which, rather than improving what was offered in Brawl limits the player to what they can draw with the stylus on the Gamepad. Allowing the player to drag and paste blocks and pieces quickly and efficiently with the Gamepad would have made for a brilliant custom stage generator. Instead, I had to draw everything in to place, resulting in uneven, unaesthetic surfaces, and making it much harder to measure out distances and replicate old levels (a personal hobby of mine), despite offering a grid by which to measure. This was hardly the highlight of Brawl anyway, but it is still a missed opportunity.
There is, of course, the option to battle online. You can connect and battle with friends, always guaranteed to be a good time, or you can get matched up with strangers and fight either for fun or for glory. Fighting “for glory” ranks the player depending on how well they perform, and then pairs them with similarly ranked players, not unlike any other competitive multiplayer title. Unlike the lag-ridden Brawl, playing online on the Wii U is a quick, easy, and smooth experience. Matchups were fast and entertaining as the game sends you into a training mode once you’ve selected your character. I also had little to no connectivity issues, making sure all victories are player-earned and not giving players with a better connection an advantage. You can battle in a free-for-all mode, or on teams, or in a particularly thrilling one-on-one mode, making for some epic showdowns. It was fun to see other players strategies and character choices. There is even a Spectator Mode to investigate further, which gives the option to sit back and watch the fray rather than participate in it.
Super Smash Bros Wii U is a brilliant game, and quite possibly the best game to come out this year. Incredibly fun, beautifully rendered, expertly balanced, intelligently paced, with immense replay value, multiple ways to play, a staggering amount to achieve and unlock, and all of this wrapped in what is truly a celebration not only of Nintendo’s past but all of video game history as a whole. From the unique stages to remastered songs, to the included vintage characters including Pac-Man, Little Mac and a couple other secret fighters, the game perfectly blends the retro and the new. Not to mention the game is complete with incredible amounts of fan service, including the final inclusion of the long requested Mega Man, whose final smash is a celebration of his own complete history, to the ability to use outdated, but still favored controllers. With added features like amiibo figures and, at least, one coming DLC character, a fiftieth character in the form of the 150th Pokemon- Mewtwo (eventually to be free for those who purchase and register both the 3DS and Wii U versions of the game. How is that for fan service?), the game will only get bigger and better, despite already being a near perfect game. Super Smash Bros Wii U is a must have and is sure to be a beloved favorite played for years and years to come.
Note: This article first appeared over at www.soundonsight.org