Smash is back, and it’s more Mewtwo than ever!
Format: Wii U
Released: November 21, 2014
Copy supplied by publisher
Nintendo can never be accused of doing things the orthodox way. Releasing near-identical versions of Super Smash Bros. for both Nintendo 3DS and Wii U is interesting enough, but naming them Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Super Smash Bros. For Wii U is just plain weird. Even weirder is launching the portable version weeks in advance of what one would assume is the “main” entry, with the Wii U alternative arriving a month after the 3DS one. That’s Nintendo for you – an absolutely demented company that somehow managed to make a successful business out of being offbeat.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is fundamentally identical to its 3DS counterpart, but it boasts several new features, as well as unique stages and characters. It also happens to be the first game to integrate Nintendo’s new Amiibo system, boasting features that unlock via the use of separately sold figures a’la Skylanders or Disney Infinity. As similar as the two contemporary Smash games are, they manage to be notably different beasts, and fans of one may benefit hugely from checking out the other. Plus, you know, Mewtwo’s coming to the game as a free update, and everybody loves Mewtwo… unless there’s something horribly wrong with them.
If you’re some sort of bizarre monster who’s managed to live this long without playing a Smash game, allow me to give you a brief rundown. The general premise revolves around multiple fighters in a 2D landscape, aiming to knock each other off the screen, Sumo-style. The more damage a player receives, the more prone they are to reeling through the air on contact with further attacks, to the point where one or two punches will send them careering out of the ring with no hope of recovery. Every character has a range of regular and special attacks, activated using a simple combination of button presses and directional movements, and the whole affair is dripping with nostalgia as dozens of Nintendo (and some non-Nintendo) characters duke it out across thematic stages. It’s an elegantly simple fighting game that even terminal scrubs like myself can have a blast with, one of the purest examples of a game that’s easy to learn and difficult to master, with modes, features, and gameplay that’s ripe for casual, highly skilled, and even professional play. You can also be a turtle if you want.
The same highly polished, gorgeous combat enjoyed on the 3DS is preserved in totality here, though there is plenty of fresh content to check out. As well as your usual selection of customizable one-off fights, Classic mode has been given an overhaul, taking place on a board with a multitude of battle options, rather than the more linear on-rails stage selection featured in the portable version. Here, you get to see multiple groups of potential enemies, each with their own fight conditions and rewards, and you may move your fighter freely to each battle – be warned that ignoring one battle for too long may cause it to disappear. One of these fights will feature a Rival, a fighter that brings a greater reward if you play other stages before facing it – risking it being defeated if you postpone that match one too many times. As you battle, you gain more gold and items, before eventually facing off against Master Hand and/or Crazy Hand.
Smash Tour is a board game for up to four players, each moving their Mii around a map to collect power-ups and acquire fighters. Along the way, they’ll be forced to fight each other for rewards, unleash traps to scupper opponents’ plans, and recruit a sizable army of characters, all before taking each other on in one final battle. You get to use every fighter you pick up during the board game, so the more you’ve won, the more chances you have to beat the opposition. You’ll also need to grab stat boosts before the big showdown as well, in order to further improve your odds. Smash Tour can be customized to feature more or less turns, and it’s a definite party piece, recommended for multiple players. Going up against the computer is possible, but not particularly thrilling.
Another new mode, Special Orders, consists of two different game types – Master Orders and Crazy Orders. These serial challenges are issued by the series’ infamous five-fingered antagonists, and can shower the skillful player with gold, trophies, and other useful items. Master Orders offer up fights with unique battle conditions, rated easy to intense, with greater rewards for harder fights. There’s an entry cost of gold for each battle, but if you fail, you go home with nothing. Crazy Orders have the player facing a series of challenges sequentially, retaining damage between bouts, before fighting Crazy Hand himself. One can challenge Crazy at any time, but the more fights you have between the face-off, the greater the reward.
In addition to all this, there are some bigger stages taking advantage of the HD visuals, as well as a whole bunch of fresh trophies, Mewtwo, a stage builder that uses the Wii U touchpad to craft your own hilarious adult-themed platforms, Mewtwo, and Mewtwo.
Disclaimer: Mewtwo isn’t in the game at launch.
Much has been made of Smash for Wii U‘s Amiibo functionality, and while it’s not really a game-changer in any meaningful way, it’s at least a nice little gimmick. In Smash, Amiibo figures are used to unlock partner characters bearing their likeness. Partner characters may serve as allies or opponents in a fight, but can never be directly controlled, and start out comparatively weaker than their playable alternatives. They can, however, level up as they’re used in the field, as well as acquire stat boosts and unique passive skills after being fed items unlocked during the course of play. Eventually, an Amiibo partner will be a force to contend with, making for a powerful helper or some stiff resistance. As Amiibos improve, they can be saved direct to the figure – just briefly hold the toy to the controller when prompted and all the data gets transferred.
As I say, it’s not exactly a game-changer, and I doubt we’ll see any future Amiibo functionality get much more dramatic than this. Of the compatible games announced, most seem to be using Amiibos as a way to get neat little in-game items or costumes, with Smash proving the most extensive. Of course, given the way Amiibo figures can be used across multiple Nintendo games, not just one specific title (and plenty of cash-in sequels), there’s definitely the potential for value in picking some of the figures up. I’d say the use of Amiibos is far from compulsory, as it really adds little to the overall experience, but its inclusion doesn’t take anything away either, and it’s enjoyable to mess with from time to time. Don’t expect your mind blown by the toy-based chicanery, and you’ll probably be satisfied enough.
In addition to all this, all the usual content is packed into the package. One-on-one fights with a range of optional tweaks, Arena mode with its multi-man battles, an altered All-Star mode in which you face every fighter in reverse chronological order, and the ever-enjoyable Trophy Rush. Eight-player battles can be fought on certain stages, though they only support local play, and both All-Star and Classic modes have support for two players instead of the usual one. Did I also mention that Mewtwo is in the game? If I didn’t, it’d behoove you to understand that Mewtwo is in the game.
Smash Bros. for Wii U is an absolutely gorgeous game to see in motion, demonstrating once more how vivid colors and competent art direction can piss all over raw technological horsepower. Characters are gorgeously animated, backgrounds immensely detailed and full of popping, contrasting color, and the special effects are suitably dazzling. Some of the bigger battles are hard to follow, with so much happening onscreen at once, but one expects a level of chaos when it comes Smash, so I’ll allow it. The soundtrack pilfers an age’s worth of classic tunes from across dozens of games, with both new and old songs putting in sometimes surprising appearances. I am highly amused that they threw the Sonic Heroes theme tune in. Why not, eh?
I used the GamePad for most of my interactions with the game, and found it served quite adequately. I’m personally quite fond of the ‘pad’s bulky layout, and now that I’m used to utilizing it for Smash, I’m disinclined to use anything else. Support for other controllers is included, however, allowing you to hook up a Classic or GameCube controller, or even wirelessly hook up your 3DS and use that instead. Sadly, there’s not much else in the way of interaction between the Wii U and 3Ds versions of the game, with the differences between the two games allegedly providing too big a barrier for cross-play options. Being able to have the two games talk to each other on a deeper level, even if cross-play wasn’t possible, would have been nice, especially as that kind of connectivity is usually Nintendo’s bag. It’s no dealbreaker, but I would have loved a reason to have both versions meet n’ greet.
Unfortunately, online play was not yet in operation during the review period, but I’ll keep you updated on that. I can say that local multiplayer is as tremendous as ever, allowing players of all ages and skill levels to bash each other’s brains in with distinctly family-friendly overtones. One of the great joys of Smash Bros., for me, is in how welcoming it is to everybody. From its varied characters to the retool potential in its rulesets, Smash is a series that doesn’t want a single person left out. I am not a fighting game player, generally. It would be atrocious for me to ever attempt reviewing something like Street Fighter IV or even Mortal Kombat. My ability to get into one-on-one fighters died with Primal Rage. I’ve never felt unable to talk about Smash Bros. though, a game that lets me continue to have fun whether I’m tasting glorious victory or nursing some embarrassing wounds. To be so accessible, but to still have so much depth that it draws in a professional crowd who can talk about tripping and L-canceling all day long is, is utterly impressive.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a beautifully polished, impeccably tight game. While I’d have liked more 3DS integration, and the much-touted Amiibo inclusion isn’t anything to go crazy over, Nintendo presents an absolutely stellar fighting game that I’m finding very difficult to tear myself away from. It’s packed with diverse content, can be tailored to suit anybody’s needs, and most important of all – it’s a ridiculous amount of bloody fun!