You have four minutes to play the newest title in your favorite video game series of all time. Who do you play as? What stage do you pick? What do you focus on?
"You'll have three minutes per match and two matches total," the Nintendo rep told me as I stood 20 gamers deep in line to play the newest Smash Bros. He lied. When I got to the front I found that the matches would only last two minutes each, a whole third less than I had been told. Things were looking even worse for those who were just now ambling into Best Buy. Once four o'clock rolled around the line stretched nearly across the entire store, easily over 150 people milling about, ready to get their hands on Nintendo's newest brawler.
Eventually I made it to the front of the line and managed to get a glimpse of the battle. Each of the four players was given a pro controller, which was exactly what I had expected. Though the official E3 tournament players had used GameCube controllers I knew it was a stretch that they would be included in every store demo. Still, I was a bit disappointed.
The first thing that came to mind when I finally laid my eyes on the game was, Wow. It's beautiful. The Wii U has brought many well loved series into the age of HD, but not all of them all at once. The amount of polish on the game is astounding, especially considering the fact that I wasn't even looking at a finished product.
Fourteen returning characters and six new ones were available to players for this particular demo. Sadly no Pac-Man, who was announced just yesterday. I knew I had to pick a newcomer, but I wasn't sure which two deserved my precious four minutes. Even as I gripped the first player controller I wasn't sure who to pick. Little Mac? Mega Man? Greninja? Yeah, that one!
Smash will always be Smash, but after putting in literally thousands of hours with a GameCube controller I felt out of sorts hopping around with a pro controller. The button setup is almost exactly the same, but it was still enough to throw my playstyle for a loop. For this reason I decided right off that I was simply going to focus on running around and testing out the characters. If I actually hit anyone with them it was just icing on the cake.
Greninja is fast. In fact I'm happy to report that Smash for Wii U is faster than Brawl. It's not as fast of Melee of course, but it's a step in the right direction. Zipping around screen as a ninja frog is just as much fun as it sounds. Geninja's moveset is a great combination of long and short range attacks. His water shuriken charges fast and covers a great distance, though I did notice he couldn't hold a charge like Samus or Lucario. There was much disappearing and reappearing. Lots of watery kicks to the face. It's a little overwhelming to take in all the aspects of a completely new character in two minutes, but Greninja is already one of my favorite fighters in the Smash universe just based on his cool factor alone.
For my second round I went with Villager. Many of the players before me who had chosen him had switched him out for another skin, mostly the girl version. I stuck with the good ol' ax wielding maniac edition. Villager is quirky to say the least. He easily has one of the most creative and bizarre movesets I've seen. And I've seen them all. While missiles flew and swords collided I planted a tree. A swung a net. I dropped a bowling ball on Samus's head in a move of pure luck. What makes Villager so fun is that all his moves are mostly drawn from everyday actions and many of them are shown as accidents. Oh no! I tripped and smashed your face with a flower pot. Whoops! I cut a tree down and it hit you. One of Villagers not so normal attacks was a rocketized gyroid that you can choose to ride, or simply shoot off into a cluster of enemies. Coupled with his Balloon Fight influenced Up B, Villager has some amazing recovery. Just as with Greninja is was hard to focus on all of Villagers moves with a battle raging on next to me, but I could tell that this character would be one I would have to work hard to master. And I plan to.
I watched quite few matches after my own and can say with certainty that the most consistent winner, despite the player, was Little Mac. He packs a mean wallop and when he lands a solid hit everyone can feel it. A friend of mine made it to sudden death with Little Mac against the crowd favorite Mega Man. One shield roll. One punch. It was over in two seconds.
Overall Smash Bros for Wii U is still Smash Bros. The characters are faster and seem just a tad heavier, which is strange because I felt like many opponents went flying further than in Brawl or Melee. There's also an added aura of speed around the recently smashed that hasn't been seen before (see above) and it's a fantastic effect. The gameplay has certainly been tweaked ever so slightly, but this is still the series that I love. I remains my most anticipated title of the future and I look forward to playing it for hours and hours.