When the last console Smash Bros. title launched I was a freshman in college.
My roommate looked on in bewilderment as I practiced Super Smash Bros. Melee day and night in anticipation. I woke him on more than one occasion with a joyous shout due to the daily outpouring from the official Smash Dojo website. I dedicated my entire Spring Break to playing Brawl while he partied on the beach. He didn't understand how I could be so excited for a video game.
Smash Bros. is one of those titles that doesn't come around often, but always leaves a lasting mark in the world of gaming. The average game fades away into obscurity over time, but some titles never seem to lose their luster. For me, Smash Bros. is one of these series. I can go back and play any title in the series (there have surprisingly been only four in the last 15 years) and come away entertained and satisfied. We're on the brink of another Smash Bros. launch and the hype amongst Smash fans and gamers in general is through the roof. Can Super Smash Bros. for Wii U deliver?
A Colossal Roster
What's a fighting game without any fighters? The Super Smash Bros. starting roster was beyond stacked when the handheld version dropped earlier this fall, but the Wii U is taking the starting numbers to a whole new level. We're talking the biggest starting roster in series history. This is possible due to the fact that Nintendo decided to include a few of the 3DS unlockables (Ganondorf, Bowser Jr., Ness and more) as starting fighters. And of course there are still a handful of characters that can be added once you progress through the game.
The number of well-known Nintendo (and third party) series that made it in is astounding and the amount of variety is staggering to say the least. It would take you hundreds of hours to master each character and learn the ins and outs of their particular move set. There were times when I completely forgot about characters because the roster was so overwhelming. Oh yeah, Ike is back! Oh yeah, they added Rosalina! With so many character options, Smash for Wii U will make you feel like you have short term memory loss every time you reach the roster menu.
Original Multiplayer Madness
Smash Bros. is a series best played with friends. Friends in your living room, not the ones online who are struggling to hear you through your $10 headset. While the classic "Smash" mode is still the way to go with a group, Nintendo has added in a multiplayer aspect to many of the well-known staples of the series. Classic mode, All-Star mode, and all the Stadium games now feature the ability to add in a friend. Never again will you have to take turns playing through Classic so you can unlock all the character trophies. Play through together and get two trophies at once! Mind blowing.
While some may feel that Smash Bros. original multiplayer offering hasn't changed enough over the years, I find it reassuring that the best part of the game has remained virtually untouched. It's still as fun as ever.
The Best Soundtrack. Ever.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of memorable Nintendo tunes in the company's long history as a video game manufacturer. It would be nearly impossible to compile all of these tracks into one game, but Smash for Wii U comes damn close. Over 400 nostalgia-inducing melodies have been remastered and remixed to grace your ear holes as you methodically beat your opponents into the ground. More than a few times I had to pause and sit with my eyes closed as I took in the music of my childhood and the tracks I had grown to love over the years. It sounds beyond amazing. It sounds absolutely incredible. It's not a good soundtrack, it's the best soundtrack. Ever.
You want to play with a Pro Controller? You got it! Wiimote? Sure. GameCube controller? Just buy the adapter. Bongo Drums? Turns out you can. The point is that there's a ridiculous amount of options for playing this game. Not only are there a lot of controller options, you can also customize any and all button setups. Of course you have to remember to tie it all to your Smash handle or you'll be back to the defaults. It should be noted that the 3DS can also be connected and used as a controller. It's a surprisingly smooth option, but it's still impossible to beat the curvy cradle of a classic Cube controller. Oh baby, it feels so right.
Classic and All-Star Mode
Standard modes such as Classic and All-Star are staples of the Smash series and they've been tweaked for a new generation of Smashers. All-Star mode is very similar to the 3DS version with the one change being that you fight all characters from most recent to retro and not the other way around. It's still a challenge and it still yields the same alternate trophy. Luckily it's also still a good time.
Classic mode has been changed considerably, even when compared to the series' 3DS take. There is much more freedom to choose who you fight, how many fighters are involved and what kind of rewards you earn. It's simple, but requires a bit of strategy if you want to come away with the most treasures. For a detailed look, take a gander at my preview in the video above.
Collectables and Customization Galore
I'm a sucker for collectibles. I grew up with platformers like Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 which encouraged players to seek out and obtain every last item in the game. I still play with that mind-set to this day and go out of my way to collect every trophy, character, stage, custom move and masterpiece. Usually this takes a very long time, especially with games like Smash Bros. that have so much to offer. I'd like to say that after the solid 40 hours of play I've put in that I'm close to having it all. I'm not. I'm far from it. The Big N has packed Smash for Wii U with so much content that it's unfathomable. I hate to admit it, but I'm not even sure I'll ever be able to get every collectable the game has to offer. And that's a good thing.
A huge part of the collectables in the game comes from the addition of customizable moves, badges and Mii outfits. These items can help players add a touch of personal flair to "custom" characters and Mii Fighters. This works just the same as in the handheld version of Smash, and custom characters can even be ported over through a 3DS to Wii U connection. It's very enjoyable to customize your favorite Nintendo fighters, but more enjoyable still to create your own brawlers based on your friends and family.
Many were saddened to find that Super Smash Bros. for 3DS was lacking a stage builder. After all, what's better for hand crafting a 2D fighting space than a touch screen? Answer — a bigger touch screen. The ability to actually draw out platforms and walls is a fantastic feeling and one that makes level creation a breeze. Dropping items in and out is as easy as selecting them on the screen and dragging them to your desired position. Though my favorite part was picking from the hundreds of in-game tunes to set your stage's soundtrack. The tools may seem a bit limited when compared to other level creation modes, but as with any creative community I'm excited to see what dedicated players will bring to the table.
New to the Smash series is the Special Orders mode, which features overlord bosses Master Hand and Crazy Hand. Master Orders are simple - you pay the coins to use a ticket and fight a battle. If you succeed you are rewarded with coins or customizable gear. If you fail you get nothing and those hard earned coins are wasted. It's very much like the Event Modes from games past, but with more of a gamble. Usually there are a few stipulations, such as everyone being metal, the launch rate being 1.4, or winning a match that lasts only a minute. Harder tickets cost more, but yield better loot. It's a wonderful way to collect items within the game as a single player.
Crazy Orders is a different story. First you must pay your way in with a sizable 5,000 gold coins. Or just use a Special Pass. Special Passes can be earned in other parts of the game such as Classic and Event Modes, and they're not exactly scarce. Once you've bought your way in you must choose from one of three tickets. Each ticket is just like those in Master Orders, only you don't have to pay and the rewards are greater. The catch here is that you can play through as many tickets as you like, but your damage stays with you throughout and your last ticket (which is always an option) must be defeating crazy hand. The more tickets you complete the more you are rewarded, but there's a worse shot of you making it out of the final battle alive. Die during any battle and you'll lose a good chunk of your earned items. It's a devastating gamble, but that's half of what makes it so enjoyable. I've only ventured as far as ten matches in, before I felt the pressure to get out while I still could.
While Super Smash Bros for Wii U is not the first title in the series to feature Event Matches, it's easily the best. Each event is given its own cutesy backstory and has you complete a task in a certain time or in a certain manner. There are three different difficulty settings and every single event has a special reward that can be unlocked by hitting certain specifications, such as "complete on hard", "complete without taking damage" or "Complete in under 30 seconds". If you're more of a solo smasher this (and the Special Orders) are going to be your bread and butter. Patricia has a great look at more than few of the Event Matches that are featured in the game.
Oh, I almost forgot, there's also a two player Event Match mode and they're completely different! Now if only I had a friend...
During my first play through of Smash Tour all I could think was, "What in God's name is happening?" There is a bit too much to take in during this new board game mode and it's a tad overwhelming at first. Basically you move around the board collecting powerups (the same ones from Smash Run on the 3DS) while attempting to bump or not bump into other players. If you do cross paths with someone else then everyone must fight. Though it's not always a fight, sometimes it's a race or a home run contest. The actual point of the game is to pick up new fighters to add to your bench. At the end of the game you get to battle with every character in your arsenal. There are also trophies you can pick up along the way to give your characters items and small boosts within their fights.
Much like Smash Run, this is a mode that's much more enjoyable with a group of rowdy friends who aren't taking it too seriously. It's not really on par with Mario Party (though that hasn't been up to snuff since the N64 days, IMO), but it's a fun little addition and definitely worth checking out when you have a few buddies over.
If you played them in the 3DS version then you know what you're getting into. For those who haven't, you're looking at three main games — Home Run Contest, Multi-Man Smash, and Target Blast. Each serves as a mini game of sorts where you can compete with any character to try and achieve a higher score. While Home Run and Multi-Man Smash have remained virtually unchanged since their inception in Melee, Break the Targets (now Target Blast) is a definite downgrade. I truly miss the days when breaking the targets was about skill and timing and not being an Angry Birds rip-off. All the Stadium Games have their fun times, but the times don't last very long.
I'm still not sure about Amiibo, as their worth as an actual gaming peripheral seems a bit too limited. I've given them their own little review, which you can read right here.
5 to 8 Player Smash
As stated above, and as everyone already knows —- the heart of the Smash Bros. series is couch co-op. It always has been. Nintendo apparently knows this and said, "Screw it! We'll just let everyone play at once." This is both awesome and terrible. Five player fights are not much different from four, but when you get past that threshold things get a little too chaotic and frustrating. It's absolutely still fun, but getting mobbed by seven players at once is claustrophobic. I will say that the embiggened stages certainly help break up the insanity. It's a confusing blast to get eight Captain Falcons all punching and thrusting in one confined area.
There is much to do online in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. You can spectate and gamble on matches, play with friends and random strangers from across the world, and dabble in both "For Fun" and "For Glory" modes. ever since Brawl's unfortunate online went live players have dreamed of the day when they could play through a solid mathc without any lag. That day has come... sort of. While Smash Bros. for the 3DS was a vast improvement over the last console offering it still had its issues. The Wii U version is the same.
Online play on the Wii U is the epitome of "results may vary". I found that roughly half the matches I played online, be it "For Fun", "For Glory", with friends or with anyone, flowed smoothly. the other half of matches had lag that ranged from very slight to match-droppingly bad. Obviously this has everything to do with your connection and the connection of who ever you're up against. If you're rocking some seriously fast wifi you'll find that most matches are worth your time, but the ones that aren't can be beyond frustrating.
Author's Note: The section "Load Times" was removed from the Not Bad section due to vast improvement after launch. "Online Play" as been added. 11/26/14
It's impossible to play a game like Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and not compare it to other titles in the Smash series, especially the recently released 3DS version. While the mobile version of Smash was a fantastic addition it's clear that Nintendo really pulled out all the stops for their newest home console iteration. As they should. Smash is a game better played on a huge screen surrounded by chums.
When compared to other console Smash offerings Smash for Wii U feels like the most balanced game to date in terms of the "casual vs competitive" argument. It falls right between Melee and Brawl when it comes to speed and accessibility, but excels by having the tightest controls and deepest roster to date. It's the Smash Bros. game we've all been dreaming of, and that dream is now a reality. 3... 2... 1... GO!
For a second opinion on the newest Smash Bros. offering head on over to Kotaku proper and check out Patricia's review.
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