Platform: Wii U
I’ve been playing Super Smash Bros. 3DS for about a month now, and as wonderful as that game is (it received an aggregate score of 85 on metacritic), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the console version. In addition to having a 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second, the console version allows you to ditch the often finicky controls of the 3DS in favor of the old-school wired controller—something longtime aficionados of the series will recognize as must-haves for re-experiencing the nostalgia-inducing wonder that is Super Smash Bros.
As the online functionality of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U won’t become active until the night before its release date on Friday on Nov. 21, this review will only touch upon offline portions of the game. Understanding that a huge appeal for the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS lies in the online matchmaking system, we will be releasing a Part II of this review on Friday that covers the online aspect of this game.
From franchise stalwarts like Yoshi, Bowser, Fox, and Kirby to entirely new characters like Mega Man, Pac-Man, Greninja, and Little Mac, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U has the largest cast in the series. With an initial roster of 37 characters (Melee had a total of 26 characters), 12 unlockable characters, and one additional one as DLC (Mewtwo), you are likely to find your favorite virtual mascot in no time.
Just as in the previous titles, each character has four special moves that differentiate their attacking abilities in addition to varying stats for speed, attack, and defense. The idiosyncrasy of these moves really help bring the venerable mascots to life, and I spent my first few hours with the game just trying out what made each character special.
So far my favorites are: Pac-Man chugging a pellet in front of him and transforming to his 8-bit self to eat it (and whatever opponents are on his path), Mario flushing out enemies with his F.L.U.D.D. cannon from Super Mario Sunshine, and Olimar using different-colored Pikmin to gain an advantage in the battlefield. In addition to the sheer depth these different characters bring to the game, Nintendo has done a great job at capturing the essential quirks of each mascot—which guarantees you'll be exploring them for quite some time to come.
If you’re unhappy with any of the stats your favorite character may have, Super Smash Bros. features a fairly intuitive character editor that allows you to customize the both it's stats and abilities. Should you want to take things a bit further, you can also import your own Mii character and customize it through one of three templates (brawler, swordfighter, or gunner). Just like the original characters, your custom Mii characters may be improved by feeding them different badges for stats, but, unlike the originals, you can really customize the appearance of your Mii (mine had a vampire outfit and a top hat).
In many ways, it is the characters of Super Smash Bros. series that make the game. Nintendo knows this, and has clearly spent countless hours designing, improving, and adding characters and character-customization options to make sure they have everything down to a T. While I did not have a chance to test out Super Smash Bros. with the Amiibo figurines, I was able to play with them earlier last month. Although not crucial to enjoy the game, I think the Amiibo will make for a fun little mini-game for those seeking to squeeze extra juice out of the game's vast arsenal of gameplay modes.
So what is there, other than traditional smash?
If you haven't had a chance to check out Super Smash Bros. 3DS prior to the release of the Wii U version, rest assured, Nintendo has successfully managed to make smash battles just as fun on the console version as they are on the handheld. The meat and potatoes aside, Nintendo has introduced quite a few gameplay options on the console version that you won't be able to find on the 3DS. Here's a breakdown of the ones I found to be the most worthwhile:
Complementing the handheld's Smash Run gameplay mode (which is vastly different), Smash Tour pits you again three other opponents on a game board that is somewhat reminiscent of the Mario Party series. Walking through the board grants you various characters and items, and should you happen to occupy the same space on the board as one of your opponents, you'll jump into a quick smash round between all the players that will yield rewards to the winner. Once all the turns are completed, all characters will fight in a 'Final Battle' where you'll be able to use all the characters you've collected (each character represents one life) to fight for first place.
I've played Smash Tour twice, and I find it to be quite entertaining. It's not as adrenaline-inducing as the traditional smash mode, but I think this is actually a good thing as it allows for a more relaxed atmosphere, though the grand finale is likely to bring out your blood-hungry inner-smasher.
8-Player Smash (What?!)
When I first tried out 8-Player Smash at Nintendo's Los Angeles offices, I couldn't really believe it. Considering how few games these days allow even a split-screen two-player option (never mind four players), I was stunned at Nintendo's decision to include an 8-player local multiplayer option. In addition to the four controllers you would hook up to the Wii U wirelessly, you can buy a Wii U GameCube adapter that plugs into the console's USB port, allowing you to add an additional four wired (or wavebird) gamecube controllers, bringing the total to a whopping eight players.
Understandably, not all maps in the Super Smash Bros. map pool are available in 8-Player mode, as the doubled player size would make the smaller maps too claustrophobic and chaotic. This isn't to say that 8-Player mode won't feel chaotic, as the sheer number of players makes engagements hard to prepare for, and oftentimes a successful smash or an unfortunate defeat is owed to pure luck. Nevertheless, I think there are a few map-dependent winning strategies that you can formulate, which may or may not involve camping (shh...).
Overall, I welcome the addition of the 8-player mode for Super Smash Bros. as it hearkens back to the long-forgotten tradition of having a group of friends over for a night of combat, one-upmanship, treachery, and fun.
In case the dozens of items and customization options for regular smash mode weren't enough, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U comes with a 'Special Smash' mode that allows you to manipulate various attributes of all the characters before jumping into battle. Probably the goofiest game mode, Special Smash lets you make all the characters giant, (or tiny) have jetpacks, move really slowly (or really quickly), and, well, you get the idea.
Similar to Smash Tour, this mode is meant to turn the competitive atmosphere of smash into a much more relaxed setting that is as much about garnering laughs as it is about winning. During the few rounds that I played with Special Smash, I really enjoyed experimenting with different settings. In one game I had the characters be giant, have jetpacks, and I set the gravity to light, which caused me to unwittingly kill myself a few times by floating too far up and off-screening myself. In another game I made everyone metallic and on-fire, which resulted in one of my opponents, Meta Knight, to have a damage counter of 430%.
By far one of the most delightful additions to the Super Smash Bros. series is the introduction of the 'Stage Builder' mode, which allows you to construct your own stages. Taking full advantage of the touchscreen and stylus of the Wii U Gamepad, the Stage Builder is very intuitive and easy to use, and the transition between constructing and testing the level takes mere seconds, allowing you to constantly tweak and re-adjust your level to perfection.
While there aren't too many customization options for the Stage Builder, I found the interface and experience of building my own levels to be very enjoyable, and it reminded me of something out of the Little Big Planet series. The Stage Builder does have a "weight limit" handicap that prevents you from going nuts and adding every kind of bell and whistle (presumably for stability reasons). Although this may sound like a negative to some, I found the seemingly arbitrary limitation to push my creativity, as every object placement had to be more deliberate than randomly dropping things in.
During my visit with Nintendo in October I remember asking about the shareability of user-generated maps. Their answer was that users could play on custom maps with their online friends, however the functionality for downloading other peoples' custom maps was something they said may be considered as an added feature in the future.
Special Orders and other Game Modes
The final game mode exclusive to the Wii U version worth mentioning, is 'Special Orders,' where you can buy a ticket with in-game coins and compete in challenges that net you additional items and rewards. The challenges range from defeating all the enemies within a minute to beating 13 simultaneous opponents, and they can be quite difficult to compete. Overall, the 'Special Orders' mode lets you actually spend a lot of the coins, and serves as a fun way to improve your skills.
Just as in the 3DS version, Super Smash Bros. Wii U lets you play fun mini-games like 'Home Run Contest,' which challenges you to hit a punching bag as far as possible, and 'Target Blast,' an Angry Bird-esque mini-game where you have to clear fortified structures using bombs.
Two other modes, Classic, and All Star mode, let you take your character through the 'Campaign' mode of the game, where you'll fight against various opponents as well as the series-regular, Master Hand. While completing the Classic mode can be done in fewer than ten minutes, the All Star mode, which only gives you one stock and has you fight against every character in the game, will take yo much, much longer.
With more game modes than you're likely to find in any given game, Super Smash Bros. succeeds at catering both to hard-core franchise enthusiasts as well as those who would like to take a more casual approach to the series.
Graphics, Levels, Music
Super Smash Bros. Wii U does a great job at differentiating the console title with its 3DS counterpart by producing pristine animations at a gorgeous 1080p resolution. The characters look a lot more fluid than they do on the 3DS, and both the menu options and character selection screens feature vibrant and powerful colors.
The levels in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U are elaborately crafted with many interesting details and animations, bringing the home worlds of the game's mascots to life. From the obscenely large 8-player maps to the small and cute transition-focused stages, the map pool in Super Smash Bros. places a great emphasis on variety and depth, which is an important consideration if you think about the hundreds (if not thousands) of times you're likely going to play on them. With the confirmation of Mewtwo as a future DLC character, we're likely to see new maps added on down the line, which further increases the replay value Super Smash Bros.
As far as the musical score is concerned, Nintendo revels in classic nostalgia by bringing back soundtracks from previous games as well as adding new ones. Acknowledging the fact that you're likely to tire of some songs quicker than others, Super Smash Bros. also allows you to customize what music you'll hear, which is great news for finicky gamers such as myself.
Overall, Super Smash Bros. has a stellar production quality that really pushes the Wii U's hardware to its limits. The gorgeous graphics, intricate stages, and balanced soundtrack give the game an very polished feel that reminds me of the production value in Mario Kart 8.
Picking up the gameplay in Super Smash Bros. should feel very familiar to those who have played previous titles in the series. The learning curve for certain characters may be trickier than others, and the default gameplay on the Wii U gamepad may feel tricky at times. While there is a practice mode, I feel like a game as complex as Super Smash Bros. could have used a guided 'training' mode.
Bringing back the regulars and introducing completely new characters, Nintendo has done a wonderful job of recreating an atmosphere that hearkens back to the franchise's roots. While this may sound nitpicky, I wish that Super Smash Bros. would have included a 'Melee' mode that would allow competitive Smash players to play this title in tournaments.
The extremely polished graphics, unique levels, and nostalgia-inducing soundtrack make this game one of best looking and best sounding titles you can get on the Wii U.
Replay Value: 10/10
With tons of gameplay modes, the addition of Amiibo figurines, customizable characters, and a map maker, Super Smash Bros. has a seemingly never-ending amount of stuff to do.
Overall Score: 9.5/10
Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U lives up to its promise by delivering stellar gameplay, superb production value, and endless multiplayer opportunities. It is a must-have for those who own a Wii U, and a great incentive for those who don't yet have one to do so.
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