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Super Smash Bros for Wii U Review

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Have you ever wondered which of your favorite characters would win in a fight? Of course you have! In 1999, Nintendo set out to answer this question -- at least amongst their own characters. The Super Smash Brothers franchise pits Nintendo’s best (and some third-party characters) in battles against each other. Super Smash Bros for Wii U, also known as Smash 4, is the latest entry in the franchise. As ever, Nintendo has continued to build on the previous version, offering a larger game than ever before with an even more diverse cast of characters to battle it out.

Smash games deliver chaotic and fun combat. Various unrelated characters duke it out with powerful moves on colorful stages, amid a downpour of game-changing items. These are games that can pit Mario against Kirby against Mega Man against Pikachu. One minute Mario is knocking Kirby into the air, the next, Pikachu charges in from behind with a beam sword and sends Mario flying. The next thing you know, Mega Man has picked up a Smash Ball, and suddenly, a collection of Mega Men are unleashing a devastating blast. Smash has always been about bringing together lots of characters and this entry offers the biggest roster yet. The game currently features nearly fifty different characters. These characters are drawn from over thirty years of Nintendo’s history, putting characters like Bowser, Olimar, Ness, and the Wii Fit Trainer on the same stage. Of course, the massive lineup isn’t the only way that Smash 4 expands the fights. For its entire history, Smash battles have been limited to four players. Four person battles were fun and chaotic, and at no point did this number seem too small. And yet, the newly introduced eight person Smash battles are amazingly fun and epitomize the excitement of the franchise.

As I mentioned above, Smash 4 features the largest roster of characters in a Smash game yet, coming in at nearly fifty characters. These include many familiar characters as well as numerous newcomers. Characters like Zelda and Sheik or Samus and Zero Suit Samus have been split, creating two independent characters. Additionally, several reskinned characters like Wolf and Lucas have been removed. One of the more surprising removals are the Ice Climbers, although, I have heard that is due to limitations of the 3DS hardware. Nintendo has also revealed that the roster will be expanding in the future by at least one slot. Given the quality of the Mario Kart 8 DLC, I have faith that any additional characters will reach the same standard the current collection already meet. Each character is well designed and features unique moves that showcase the character and the character’s history.

Like so many other Nintendo games, Smash games have always been different than the majority of fighting games in the genre. Whereas most fighting games come down to removing your opponent’s health before they can remove yours, the emphasis in Smash is instead on piling on more and more damage until you can knock your opponent(s) off the screen. Lighter characters are faster, do less damage, and can be launched at lower damage percentages, while their heavier counterparts are typically slower and can give and receive more damage. No two battles are alike, and in one, you might be able to recover with 150% damage, whereas in another, a powerful hit sends you flying while under 100%. Another major difference is that Smash’s controls are typically far simpler than other fighting games. In most fighting games, players need to chain various button combinations together to pull off powerful moves. In Smash, players battle using joystick tilts combined with presses of either the A or B button. As a result, players don’t need to memorize pages upon pages of button combinations. While this leads to a game that’s fairly easy for beginners to get into, Smash appeals to more than just casual players. Those of you who have read some of my other reviews of Nintendo games have probably noticed a trend. Nintendo does an exceptional job of creating games that are simple enough for beginners, but also offer an impressive competitive environment. Like so many other fighting games, players can pour hours into Smash, trying to perfect their techniques. Thankfully, Nintendo has also released an adapter that allows players to use GameCube controllers, the only real option for Smash.

Many players typically associate Smash with frenetic and downright silly combat. It’s a franchise where Donkey Kong, wearing Link’s Bunny Hood, can pick up Captain Falcon and carry him off the map. However, Smash has also cultivated its own competitive fanbase. When Smash 4’s predecessor, Brawl, was released for the Wii, many players were disappointed that the gameplay felt slower and less precise. While Smash 4 is slower than the GameCube’s Melee, the combat feels a lot more refined than its predecessor. One of the most indicative changes is the elimination of the random stumbling that was introduced in Brawl. Two players can now enter into intense matches where both players know that their best skills are being pushed to the limit. For players who want the chaos and chance, it is certainly there with items and larger matches. However, the polish that has gone into Smash 4 has created a game that is incredibly enjoyable and satisfying for both serious gamers and those who are looking for a more light-hearted experience.

There’s no denying that having four (or eight) people seated on the same couch, battling it out against each other is incredibly satisfying. In college, Melee was one of the games that my friends and I played for hours, and over the holidays, a number of us got together to reminisce on those moments by wailing on each other in Smash 4. However, it is almost a necessity that multiplayer games also offer the ability for players to play online against players around the world. This feature was introduced in Brawl, but unfortunately, it was another disappointing aspect of that game. The original offering was so poor, at best, I think I only gave it about a month before never touching the feature again. For the most part, multiplayer in Smash 4 is seamless and smooth. I will admit, I have suffered some choppy and unstable games, but the number of flawless games vastly outweighs the poor. While it isn't exactly like playing against someone sitting next to you, that fact is often easy to forget. Players can engage in competitive, no item ranked matches or for fun matches where anything goes. I will say, I do wish the game offered more customizable online matches. Then again, I imagine that no item, Final Destination matches will experience the greatest longevity, so maybe it’s not that big an issue in the long term.

While Smash is most well-known for its multiplayer, previous games have also offered their share of single player game modes. While Smash 4 does have single player modes, the emphasis is clearly on multiplayer -- the initial menu is split in half between multiplayer and everything else. Several familiar game modes return -- Classic Mode, All-Star Mode, Home Run Contest, etc. However, the game lacks the grandiose story that was featured at the forefront of Brawl. While I'm sure the refined multiplayer content will make up for this deficiency in the long run, it's still fairly disappointing that the game doesn't have a real single player campaign. Even if it's not on the same scale as the Brawl's Subspace Emissary, an adventure mode akin to the one featured in Melee would have been nice. The game also introduces a game mode called Smash Tour. Smash Tour seems like it is designed to be a party feature -- something of a Mario Party board meets Smash type of game. Personally, I did not find it that enjoyable, but maybe that’s because I've only experimented with it against CPU opponents.

Smash 4 is also the first game to really use Nintendo’s new Amiibos. These are plastic figures which allow players to train and level up a character by using the Wii U gamepad’s NFC sensor. This should sound very familiar for those who have played around with Skylanders or Disney Infinity. Personally, I’ve only watched a few videos as the figures I want (Zelda and Sheik) will not be released till later (wave two and three, respectively). These figures are useful for training and battling, and overtime, they become stronger and more challenging. Honestly, since I haven't tried it out myself, it is hard for me to evaluate this feature, but from what I’ve heard, battling against fully leveled Amiibo characters is a truly challenging experience.

I’ll be honest, I have had a hard time writing this review. It’s not that Smash 4 doesn’t have a lot to offer; rather I kept wanting to say, “Stop reading this review, go buy a Wii U (assuming you don’t have one yet), and play Super Smash Bros for Wii U.” Smash 4 is just about everything I wanted out of a new Smash game. Personally, I would currently still rank Melee as a superior game, but I also poured countless hours into that game and have only played Smash 4 for just over a week. The game offers numerous game modes and ways to entice both beginners and experts. While I haven’t been able to devote the time necessary to truly explore every facet of the game (in fact, there are a lot of features I haven’t even touched on here -- character customization, challenges, Master and Crazy orders), I know that this is one game that I won’t stop playing for a long time. If you're still looking for a reason to pick up a Wii U, Super Smash Bros for Wii U is probably one of the most convincing reasons.

All images owned by Nintendo


  1. Sho -
    Sho's Avatar
    A very nice entry.