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February 19, 2015 / Jett

Super Smash Bros for Wii U Review

My memories of playing Smash Bros. prior to the Wii U version are hazy at best. I remember having a great time with the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube iterations, though I went cold turkey once Brawl came out. Not to say that the Wii game did anything wrong per se, but I just had my fill of Smash Bros. at that point. With many years of recharging under my belt, now isn’t a bad time to come back.

As with many of Nintendo’s premier franchises, this marks the first time we’re able to play Smash in HD. Characters and backgrounds feature a ton of detail while maintaining a solid 60 frames per second throughout. In local play, things even hold up when you’re playing the local 8-player mode, which is new to the series.

Speaking of, it’s crazy that the game supports upwards of eight players at once with virtually any combination of controllers. If you’re lucky enough to have scooped up the Wii U Gamecube controller adapter, you can use four Gamecube controllers to make up 50% of the mix. Otherwise, you’re free to use any combination of the Wii U gamepad, Wii remotes, nunchucks, classic controllers or pro controllers. Heck, you can even sync your Nintendo 3DS as a controller too. This mode may not be for me, though it’s certainly a huge bonus for players that want to engage in the most epic of free-for-all matches.

This sounds great on paper, though I have a few problems with it. For one, unless you’re playing on the largest of screens, I find the camera to be zoomed out too far. I get that it needs to do that in order to keep everyone on screen, but it makes every character so small that tracking them becomes very difficult. Furthermore, I find 8-player battles to be overly chaotic to be fun. Surely there are many who will get more out of it than I did, though I much prefer to duke it out with 4 players.

With 2-4 players on-screen, I think the combat system really shines. Many will play it largely as button masher, which is just fine and a lot of fun. However, now that I have a background in fighting games, it’s interesting to see how well the mechanics hold up for more serious play. The concepts of combos and zoning matter a lot, as well as a very important emphasis on movement. Understanding how to maneuver around the screen in order to either put yourself in an ideal situation to strike or float back to a platform after getting knocked off is critical to success. Should you want to put in the time and effort to master the finer points of combat, you’ll certainly be rewarded for it. Having been the victim of some legit players in 1-on-1 For Glory matches, I can attest to how serious things can get.

All of the characters from the 3DS game appear here, with some of the new notables including Mega Man, Little Mac and Pac Man. At this point, I think Nintendo has gotten just about everyone you’d want to see as a playable character in there, and probably a few that you wouldn’t have expected, such as the Wii Fit Trainer. I like how much variety there is in terms of play styles. Little Mac in particular stands out, as he’s particularly strong when fighting on the ground, though he’s terrible in the air. If you are trying to choose characters based on how they play in the game versus nostalgia from other titles, it shouldn’t be hard to find one that fits. The one notable removal is Ice Climbers, as they got cut due to the 3DS version not being able to run them.

Between the two new versions of Smash Bros., they differ a bit in terms of stages. For one, this features 8-player levels to accommodate for that platform-specific option. They also have stages that are inspired by home console specific games. You won’t get the Pictochat level here, though you’ll get to play one where Ripley an active character that goes out of his way to kill everyone. In general, I like the ambition behind most of the stages, as well as how they range from basic to insane in terms of bells and whistles. However, some of the stage designs do fall a bit flat for me. The aforementioned Ripley one and the Mega Man stage are obnoxious to play as due to the AI boss characters that pester players. Also, the Donkey Kong Country stage where you can fight within the foreground and background isn’t fun to play on at all. Aside from a few missteps, most of the stages here are great.

I never played Brawl, but one of the things my brother used to always complain about was how poor the online experience was. Because matches were so laggy, the online experience was basically useless. Thankfully, the net code works incredibly well most of the time. Most of my matches are silky smooth, even with players that clearly aren’t from my neck of the woods. A few of my matches have featured lag, though that doesn’t occur often. Having the online be at least functional goes a long way towards making this a game you’ll play for a long time. For me specifically, this is probably where I’m going to spend most of my time.

Online modes are split between For Fun and For Glory. For Fun fights feature all of the stages and weapons, though wins are not tracked in this mode. For Glory matches are for players looking for a more ‘pure’ Smash experience, as weapons are disabled and only simple stages are used. Where you spend your time is a matter of personal preference, though I generally prefer For Glory matches.

If scrapping online isn’t for you, this game features a ton of different single player modes. Of course, there’s a classic mode where you play an assortment of matches until you fight the final boss. The biggest new addition here is Smash Tour, though it’s flat-out awful and the less said about it, the better.  There are also an assortment of different challenges that help you unlock trophies and other goodies for your Amiibo figures.

Speaking of, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U features the deepest implementation of Amiibos to-date. You can scan your Amiibo figure in and fight with or against it. As it plays, it learns how to fight like you and levels up. You can even feed it loot you’ve unlocked to strengthen its stats or customize its special moves. Being able to train Amiibos to fight in different ways is a neat idea, though it’s only usable within the main smash mode. If possible, I think it would have been awesome to let players use their Amiibos to help them in other single player modes and challenges.

Prior to launch, my expectations for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U were lukewarm at best. Not to say that I thought it would be a bad game, but one that I wouldn’t have much interest in. Instead, I’ve caught the Smash Bros. bug in a big way. The core combat is excellent while backed by an avalanche of modes and features to keep this game fresh for a very long time. Once I burn out on the single player stuff, the solid online play will likely keep me around for far longer than I ever would have expected. This is a must-have for Wii U owners, and possibly a game worth buying a Wii U for.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Prof.mcstevie / Feb 19 2015 6:53 PM

    Upsetting how Smash can’t get camera right but a small Bleach game on the DS called Blade Of Fate had a fantastic camera when four people were going at it.

    • Jett / Feb 19 2015 11:29 PM

      Thanks for the comment!

      I’m very familiar with the Bleach DS fighting games. I imported both from Japan long before they made it to the west. Actually, I wrote about the second one awhile back:

      The difference between Bleach and Smash is that Bleach doesn’t have to worry about the Y-axis nearly as much as Smash. As such, it’s easier to control the camera when you don’t have to worry as much about height.

      With Smash, as the series progressed, so did the scope and ambition of the level design. Levels got bigger, more players were added and they had to zoom the camera out to levels that I’m personally not comfortable with. I get why they did what they did, but it’s just not for me.

      • Prof.mcstevie / Feb 22 2015 2:01 PM

        I know some people though the outline in the 3DS version was awful and odd but it would be very beneficial on the Wii U for 8 player smash.

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