Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
War is hell. Smash is heaven.
By Louis Balzani
Posted 1:12 pm on Dec 22, 2014
Tags: nintendo, super smash bros., video games, wii u
PLAY THIS IF:
- You love Smash Bros. and couldn’t wait for this one to come out.
- You like fighting games with competitive depth and loads of unlockables.
- You need to justify buying a Wii U.
Let’s not sugarcoat it. The Wii U could still use some help. With third-party support remaining limited at best, the success of Nintendo’s console heavily relies on the quality of its exclusive releases. The company needed Mario Kart 8 to be amazing, and it was. It needed Bayonetta 2 to be amazing, and it was. Now, as the anchor for its all-important holiday lineup, it really needed Super Smash Bros. to be amazing. And it is.
You’re probably familiar with how the series works by now, so I’ll spare you a breakdown of the gameplay. What you need to know is that the core mechanics of the game are as strong as ever. The one thing every fighting game absolutely needs to nail is its controls, and Smash on Wii U does just that. Every action, from moving and jumping to charging attacks and using items, feels fluid and responsive no matter which controller you’re using. That’s a good thing, because this game supports lots of different setups; you can use the GamePad (though not its touchscreen), the Wii Remote, a Wii Remote with a Nunchuk, the Pro Controller, your 3DS, the list goes on. In a nod to hardcore Melee fans, there’s also an adapter that lets you use your beloved Gamecube controllers.
Smash has always been about choice and variety in its content, and the Wii U release gives players more of this than ever. The slew of unlockable trophies, stages, and music tracks has expanded well beyond even what Brawl offered, and dedicated completionists will surely sink their teeth into this for weeks and months on end. New combatants this time around include Villager, Wii Fit Trainer, Palutena from Kid Icarus, Rosalina and Luma, even Mega Man and Pac-Man; Nintendo has successfully mined their storied history just enough to generate another round of new characters and items, but I’m starting to wonder how much farther down memory lane this series can go. Anyway, the newcomers join the chaos alongside customizable Mii fighters, and nearly all your favorite characters from past entries are back as well. This results in a massive roster of fighters, one that encourages you to find your own favorites and customize their move sets to your liking.
With the underwhelming Subspace Emissary mode now a distant memory, Smash’s single-player offering has improved dramatically. Old favorites like All-Star and Classic mode return alongside some exciting new modes as well. My favorite new addition is the Crazy Orders mode, wherein you take on various challenges to earn rewards before choosing to fight Crazy Hand mano-a-mano to actually collect them. Fail once, however, and most of your rewards disappear, so the stakes start high and only get higher. It can get surprisingly stressful, especially since the ability to play the mode is tied to rare items or huge amounts of gold. Although the occasional cheap death can cause undue frustration, it’s still really fun. Also of note is the new Smash Tour mode, which pits you against several other Miis as you traverse a Mario Party-esque game board to power up your fighters and engage in battles; it’s a bit confusing at first, and although it’s a fairly good way to rack up gold and gear, it wasn’t good enough for me to want to play it more than a few times.
Perhaps the most exciting addition is the inclusion of 8-player Smash. This extends into single-player offerings, where matches and challenges can include more than four characters, but the addition shines the brightest when you can gather seven of your friends around a big TV and stage the craziest Smash battles to date. These wars are limited to arenas that can support that many players, and although it’s fairly easy to lose track of your own character amidst the chaos, the mode really does bring the insane multiplayer fun of Smash to a whole new level.
Unfortunately, online multiplayer still isn’t the seamless experience you’d expect (or even demand) from a technical game such as this. There are two primary online modes: For Fun, and For Glory. The former is your standard Smash setup for solo runs or teams, and the latter is every hardcore player’s dream: fights with no items on Omega versions of stages, which means the terrain has been leveled to make room for the fairest fights possible. The For Glory mode itself has three different ways to play it: traditional Smash battles, team fights, and one-on-one brawls. The latter is far and away my favorite of the three; there’s something seriously addictive about going up against a singular opponent with nothing but wits and pure skill.
Both modes cater to their respective audiences well, and online play is a lot of fun when everything works; however, that’s not always the case. Many of the For Fun matches I played online were plagued by framerate issues and input lag, some to the point where the game were nigh unplayable. I rarely have issues with any other Wii U game I play online, so I’m inclined to blame Smash itself for these issues, and that’s pretty disappointing. To its credit, though, For Glory games generally went off without a hitch, as well they should if the mode wants to serve as a competitive hub. I’m not exactly sure why this performance disparity exists between the two modes, but it’s nonetheless a glaring blemish that I hope Nintendo will address.
The game looks about as good as you’d expect it to; in many ways, it resembles a high-definition version of Brawl, as the menus, stage graphics, and character animations all feel very much like that game did. That’s not necessarily bad, though, as the Wii U’s additional processing power has definitely improved the presentation; animations are more fluid than ever, colors and textures look great, and setpiece-centric stages overflow with excitement and activity. No one element of the visuals will ever leave you with your jaw on the floor, but everything looks good enough to get the job done, and let’s face it: we’re all here for the gameplay, anyway.
There’s so much more I could talk about. amiibo support allows you to train and level up fighters from your figurines. More advanced custom stage creation means your designs can be even wilder. 3DS compatibility lets you can transfer data between console and handheld. The feature list for this game is a mile long, and I could spend three reviews covering it all. Suffice it to say, then, that Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the most exciting, ambitious, and complete entry in the franchise to date. It’s not without its problems, but the core gameplay remains exciting and rock-solid, and the overwhelming list of unlockable extras should keep die-hard fans busy for quite some time. There’s no doubt that many players and fans will consider this the best version of Smash yet, and considering the series’ pedigree, that’s pretty high praise.