Super Smash Bros. For Wii U Review

I know I’m late to the party with this one, and everyone has told you that this game is worth picking up 1,000 times over. Is this game good? There’s no question. Is this game overhyped? Possibly. Can this game do any wrong? Absolutely, though not what you might expect. This game addresses the concerns fans had with the previous game, while bringing along a couple of new decisions fans might fret over. But no game is flawless right?

PROS: Improved visuals, features, online experience, and a lot of content.

CONS: The campaign feature in Brawl, and Melee is gone. Some character cuts.

AMIIBO: While you don’t need one, the game may make you want to own a few.

Super Smash Bros. is now around 15 years old. Where has the time gone? With every iteration over that time span, each brought something new. Obviously the core concept for the series came with the first one. While things have changed, that set of fundamental design has not. Melee made things faster. A lot faster, and a large number of fans quickly realized that it could hang with the likes of Street Fighter even though it was a wildly different game. It’s sequel Brawl, tried to make things more accessible. After all, by the time it came out, many people were talking about insane techniques needed to win against professional players. Melee was showing up in tournaments, and developed a hardcore cult following in the fighting game community. A following that has only grown over the last decade. Brawl ran much slower, allowing people new to the series to be able to pick it up, and learn the mechanics. It had its own level of challenge, and was a very good game in its own right. It introduced online play, even if it wasn’t always the smoothest or most responsive game online. It expanded the roster even further, and even tried to add a bit more pizzaz to its single player campaign.

But a rivalry broke out in the fan community that lasts to this day, with many screaming the praises of one game, while disdaining the other. Super Smash Bros.for Wii U does a number of things to alleviate that, and bridge a gap between the two flavors of game play. For the handful of you who may not be familiar with Super Smash Bros., or at least those who have seen it, but never really understood it, it’s a fighting game. It’s a very unconventional fighting game that celebrates the last fifty years of Nintendo’s intellectual properties. There are characters, and worlds from Nintendo’s greatest franchises, and products. Super Mario Bros. Donkey Kong. The Legend of Zelda. Metroid. Pokémon. Even many of their lesser known titles end up represented somehow.

Where SSB really differentiates itself from other fighting games is how you defeat opponents. In most fighters, each player has a life bar. The goal is to deplete your opponents’ life bar two out of three rounds. In SSB however, the goal is to be king of the mountain, or a proverbial Sumo wrestler. Ring outs are the key to victory.  What makes the game addicting, and challenging however is that players have the ability to get back in the ring if they are knocked out. Each stage has an invisible border around it. Knocking a player beyond that point gets you a victory. As you attack other players, their damage percentage goes higher. As they take more punishment, each attack knocks them back farther. This goes on until someone can’t make it back.

Each game has had two major ways to play it. Stock rules or Time rules. Stock rules gives each player a decided upon number of lives. Each ring out, costs a life until there is only one person standing. Time rules, gives everyone unlimited lives, and everyone plays until the clock hits zero. At the end of the game a winner is chosen by the number of times they knocked out other players. If there’s a draw the game goes to Sudden Death, where everyone has high damage percentage, and even a minimal attack can knock you out. The last player standing then wins.

Each game also allowed players to play with or without items. These would show up, at random to give whoever picked them up an advantage. Baseball bats, guns, bombs, Super Mushrooms, and more would show up. Some of the items, called Assist Trophies, would summon NPC characters to attack other players. When Brawl came around, it brought a new item called the Smash Ball. Getting one of these meant your character could perform a finishing move, much like Street Fighter’s Ultras, or Mortal Kombat’s Fatalities. Except of course they would usually result in a knock out.

Finally, the biggest departure from other fighting games is the insistence upon simple inputs. Most fighting games involve learning complex button combinations to do anything from a special move to a combination attack. SSB is much simpler. You have four directions, a jump button, an attack button, and a special move button. Pressing a direction with either button performs a move. One can also press the attack button, and a direction at the exact same time for what the game calls “Smash Attacks” these are usually the most powerful moves the game has to offer, as they can also be charged. However that simplicity only goes so far, as you still need the zoning, and unpredictability you use in other fighting games to win. Players have a shield button, as well as a grab button. Shielding is essentially a block button. But to prevent people from playing too defensively or turtling, the block will explode if you hold it too long. Shielding allows you to dodge, and parry too by combining it with a direction. Finally, the grab button will allow you to perform holds, where you can add damage, as well as using it with a direction to throw an opponent. Something that can be handy as you can then attack their airborne character with follow ups. All of these moves can have different results in the air, and most of the characters can add a third jump (you can jump twice with the jump button) by using their up, and special move button after jumping.

There are plenty of other in-depth mechanics between the games that I really won’t delve into here. But know that Super Smash Bros. For Wii U keeps all of these core rules in place. What it does differently from previous games is moves the speed somewhere between SSBM, and SSBB’s. Something that makes it accessible to both groups of dedicated players. The roster has been updated again. Some of the characters that didn’t return in Brawl have returned here. Others are entirely new, while some haven’t returned at all. Many will be happy to know that in addition to the better run speed, a lot of rebalancing has also occurred, and while not perfect, everyone is pretty viable. For most players there won’t be a vast gap between character match ups. For the hardest of the hardcore? Well it’s still going to be awhile before we start seeing consistent tier lists, but there is still plenty to love. Cross ups, two in ones, and advanced combos are all here, and some astute diehards have already discovered a handy technique they call perfect pivoting. I’m certain some may still prefer the old Gamecube version, but this Wii U iteration is certainly deep enough to sate most any fan.

If the tweaks to the core formula weren’t enough to get you to check this out yet, some of the other new features just might. For starters, the internet play is much, improved over Super Smash Bros. Brawl. While I’ve still had my share of disconnects, or a lag ridden match on occasion, that frequency has been greatly reduced. It is irritating when it does happen, as you will see the wrong move pop out as the game isn’t sure what you’ve pressed. Or to see things creep down to five miles an hour. But thankfully those moments have been pretty rare. At least in my case, most rounds go pretty smoothly. Those with wired connections may see even fewer instances of hiccups, as there might be interference in some homes that conflict with a wireless signal. While no means flawless, it is a vast improvement over the last game’s internet performance.

Online mode also has been split up into two modes. For Fun, and For Glory. The former is designed for those who love the random craziness Super Smash Bros. is known for. Items are in full bloom, no holds are barred, and records aren’t kept. Some may have a small nitpick with this mode though. That is the game’s over reach on stopping griefers. In order to keep things civil, the game will disconnect, and put an hour-long ban on you if you target one specific player, over, and over again. While it is commendable that there is a game that really takes this sort of behavior seriously, it can be a little overzealous for some. Sometimes if one player consistently attacks, another, and also consistently fails at it the defender may suffer the consequences. To be fair it seems to be a rarity, and most of the time one has to actively work to make it happen. But there could have been a better concept implemented here. That said, it is generally the zany fun you are accustomed to.

The second mode sets things up similarly to what you might find in a regional tournament. Super Smash Bros. Wii U adds a new map feature called Omega Mode, where maps are converted to a similar layout to the Final Destination stage every game in the series has had. That is, there is but one platform in the center of your screen. For Glory mode also means that no items are in play. Not even the Smash Ball. Games are timed to 2 minutes, and you play for the most knock outs possible. This is easily the most popular mode for people who want a challenge. The mode can also be played in a 4 player mode, a 2 on 2 team mode or a 1 on 1 mode. SSBWU also has an online stat tracker for anybody obsessed with wins, losses, and character stats.

There are also challenges you can take part in by choosing certain characters. Nintendo updates them under a section called Conquest. Going under here simply notifies you of what characters are in play. Using them in For Glory modes, will add points to the character’s team. It doesn’t seem to reward you with anything, but it is something you might have a passing interest in. You can also spectate matches. Going here, and picking a character will find games where the character is being used, and then broadcasting the match to you. If you are the sort who enjoys watching streams of high level play, or any sort of competition, it’s another avenue for you.

You can also play online with friends, which allows you to play up to four players on any given stage, with or without items, in stock or time rule matches. One of the cool things about playing online is that you can have a player, and his or her friend as a guest play online simultaneously. It’s great for anyone who has a roommate, spouse or sibling, who share the same console.

If all of that were it, it would be enough for some, but it isn’t all there is. Players who have local parties with friends can play 8 player battles. This is in addition to the regular 4 player battles. The only drawback here is that not every map in the game was designed with 8 people in mind, so some of the maps are not useable in this mode. Using Omega mode opens up more, but the inability to play on every stage is a minor disappointment. Still, it is a blast if you can get 7 other people to visit or if you’re bringing the system, the game, and some controllers to a party.

On the subject of controllers, the game allows for several kinds of controller options. Obviously you can use the Game Pad, or the Classic Controller Pro. Both of these controllers work great, giving you the versatility of using a second stick for quick Smash Attacks. You can also use the Wiimote on its side, with a Nunchuck, or with the Wii Classic Controller. Using the latter is pretty much like the Classic Controller Pro. Using the Wiimote by itself, or with a Nunchuck isn’t the most ideal way to play as you lose some of the benefits of having analog movement, and easier to pull off smashes. That being said, if you are really good at knowing the precise timing to pull off smashes, then it’s less of an issue. Nevertheless, having some Classic Controller Pros, or Classic Controllers for Wiimotes are going to be a more ideal solution. The game is also compatible with the Nintendo Gamecube Controller. Which is what the absolute purists will insist upon. It isn’t an insurmountable advantage over the Classic Controller, or Classic Controller Pro. But it will feel more familiar to anyone who played an awful lot of Super Smash Bros. Melee. How exactly do you use a GCN controller with this game? Nintendo released a USB adapter that four controllers can plug into, and even supports using two adapters for eight controllers. The only problem? Not very many were produced, and most of them were bought up upon release. If you are fortunate enough to find one at retail, or a copy of the game bundled with one, it is a nice option. Particularly if you have old controllers knocking around. Barring that, the Wiimote, and Classic Controller or Classic Controller Pro are your most ideal options. There is another option for those who own the 3DS version of the game, and that is using the portable as a controller, so long as they have the game plugged in. You can also transfer some character data with it as well.

Smash Tour replaces the single player campaign, and it combines the arbitrary rules of Mario Party, with the challenge of Super Smash Bros. You can play this against the CPU, or against three other people. It’s a board game that allows you a set number of turns (15 being the lowest number), in which you’ll move across spaces upon every turn. As you play you’ll collect characters to use in combat, as well as items, and assist trophies to help you in battle while levelling up. Bumping into other players, will often times start a round of Super Smash Bros., with the winner gaining items, and costing the other players items. At the end of the board game there is a final battle with everyone using the characters they’ve collected. As in the Mario Party games, there are also random items generated for players depending on certain events. The object is to try to have the most stuff going into the final round, as it devolves into a handicap match. Someone will almost always have far less characters to use than the others. So skill building from the main game is still paramount.

Another new duo of modes are Master Orders, and Crazy Orders. Master Orders will give you the opportunity to spend gold to enter special challenges. Winning them gives you rewards for your Mii fighter creation, and Amiibos. Crazy Orders is similar but you can use tickets or gold. The difference is Crazy Orders will give you better prizes the longer you can go without losing. Once you lose, you gain nothing. Some of the challenges in the game require you to accomplish certain feats in these modes so you may want to play them. Another key thing in Crazy Orders is that once you’ve beaten as many challenges as you think you can handle you fight Crazy Hand. If you manage to win that battle you’ll retain all of the prizes you’ve claimed thus far.

The game still has the less touted single player modes of previous Smash games however. There is the Classic mode, in which you’ll have to go through a gauntlet of matches, until you meet the final boss. There is a really challenging spin on the mode here however. When starting the game, you’ll be able to choose a difficulty setting, and the higher you choose, the better the rewards for winning. You’ll also need coins to choose the higher settings. You earn these in all of the various modes, along with other items. If you can get to the end of the game on the highest setting, it not only puts you against both the Master Hand, and Crazy Hand (which turns into a number of different forms depending on difficulty level), but puts you into a side scrolling secret stage similar to the end of the original Contra. You’ll have to destroy 3 hearts while hordes of minions try to stop you.

Here’s the thing that makes this an even bigger challenge than in previous games. Even using a single continue will lower the difficulty setting. So you cannot get the highest possible win if you continue. Each consecutive continue lowers the difficulty further. All Star mode also returns, which is essentially a gauntlet through the entire roster. You’ll have to beat every character in a row, on one life. If you can manage to do that, you’ll be rewarded with items, and trophies of each character’s Final Smash.

Also returning are the event stages, which task you with objectives during matches, like beating a character in under 30 seconds, or not letting an enemy touch the stage floor during a 2 minute match. Clearing these can result in some harder to find items, and unlockable stages. Other returning modes are the Home Run bag mode (where you send a sandbag flying for a high score), the multi man NPC smash battles (Beat a number of computer controlled enemies), and target (Break round targets in the shortest time possible)challenges.

But wait! There’s more! Mii’s have become the series’ create a wrestler mode. You can take any given Mii on your system, or  a new Mii, and customize them to create new characters. You can choose from three attack types, a projectile heavy character, a speedy character,  or a brawler. From there you can change around their move sets, costume designs, and more. You can also take an existing character such as Mario, and retool their move sets for interesting results.

Super Smash Bros Wii U also is the first Nintendo game to make significant use of their Amiibo toy line. Instead of unlocking weapons, or skins, they become sparring NPC partners. After setting them on the Game Pad, the character can be renamed, and given custom move sets. Once that is done, playing against it will level it up. As it levels up, it will actually analyze the way you play, and find workarounds for many of your tactics. It quickly goes from being easily squashed to impossible to defeat. What is pretty cool about this is that it will help you learn your weaknesses in a way that a level 9 CPU character simply can’t. The toys can be levelled up to a rank of 50, although they’ll continue to evolve their tactics around your improved tactics. Moreover you can give your Amiibo many of the items you’ll find playing the various modes.

These influence its strengths, and weaknesses. Depending on what you give it, it will veer toward a fast, projectile, or brawler character much like the Miis. You can also only give the Amiibo so many items at a time, before the game will tell you it is full, and has to fight in more matches. In between fights it can be given more items.

In terms of unlockables, the game also has them in spades. The most important ones, are the characters, and stages which can be unlocked by playing enough matches or by meeting certain conditions. Such as beating classic mode, clearing a certain event, and so on, and so forth. But the game also has a lot of trophies for you to collect as well. Hundreds of them. Also carried over from Brawl, are the Nintendo demos for the old games the characters come from, as well as the stage creator, and snapshot features.

Stage creator is a great feature for anybody who likes to create mods. It isn’t going to be the deepest tool. But it does allow you to pick textured block designs, create a nice layout, and even add hazards like lava, or spikes. These can be saved to an SD card along with screenshots you take. Screenshots can be taken like most Wii U games, by pressing Home, and then posting on MiiVerse or a Website. But you can also use the game’s pause menu to save photos to the earlier mentioned SD card.

Super Smash Bros. Wii U really does succeed in many ways at bridging the gap between Melee, and Brawl. But it isn’t quite flawless. While most won’t be bothered by the omission of a campaign, some may be saddened that Solid Snake doesn’t return, nor do the Ice Climbers. Rosalina shares some of their tactics as she has a Luma as her proverbial tag team partner, but still plays wildly differently. The Pokémon Trainer is also gone. Instead, Charizard comes on his own, GreNinja enters as a newcomer, and Pokémon fans still get to play with Pikachu, Jigglypuff, and Lucario. (Mewtwo is also going to return down the line as DLC) Despite these, and other roster changes (Zelda, and Sheik are no longer tied to each other, as is the case with Samus, and Zero Suit Samus) things still seem much better here. Mega Man functions nearly identically to his 8-bit NES counterpart, Pac-Man is a lot of fun to use, and you’ll also see some other classic, and contemporary Nintendo characters showing up here. There is a lot to love here, and few games of any genre give you this much content these days.

If all of the modes weren’t enough, you have the aforementioned trophy hunting,  as well as an album function for your photos. The game also has a wonderful soundtrack. All of your favorite series’ songs are represented here. There are symphonic renditions, the original chip tunes,  Rock n’ Roll, Electronica, and so on. You can even set the frequency of each song’s playback for all of the game’s stages.  At the end of the day, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a must for anyone with the system.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

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