The last Smash Bros. console iteration was released over 6 years ago and the gap before that was 7 years. That’s okay though, because it makes this gathering of the iconic and memorable characters all the more special each time it happens. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U arrives in a context that is in stark contrast compared to 2008’s Brawl release. Nintendo’s latest and first ever HD machine is struggling and the company has to prove the system’s worth with titles two years into the Wii U’s life cycle that could make or break the console’s success. A lot of pressure has been put on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and it needs to be absolutely stellar to meet the expectations both Nintendo and fans have put on it.
Smash Bros. is an atypical fighting game where bouts between characters are based on whether one person can stay on a board or platform longer than the other. The objective is to attack your opponent to deal more and more damage and the higher damage inflicted on the character means the more susceptible they will become to getting knocked further off the stage. It’s a constant King of the Hill scramble to remain in the game and the last man standing is the victor. Playing a game is chaos especially when considering you have to deal combos, chase after helpful items and be wary of hazards on the stage itself to survive – and I love it. Fighting is also available on many control schemes, including GameCube controller via special adapter, so every player will find their comfort level with this game.
The roster is the biggest the series has ever seen and there is a character for every demographic, taste and preference. Mario, his Nintendo gang and a handful of guests from other publishers, including Pac-Man and Mega-Man, are crammed into this singular game and the amount of epicness is at an all-time high. Each character follows the same template of moves as far as input goes, but plays different enough from each other to require skill and time to master. Link has long range special moves like boomerangs and bombs while the more grounded Little Mac is much more of a close-range fighter. Each character also has attributes to consider while in battle, so you’ll have to take into account Ganondorf’s sluggishness or Pikachu’s aptitude to recover and return to a platform when knocked too far.
Modes are plentiful and all the favorites are back. Classic, All-Star, Home-Run Contest and Target Blast make their return and trophies are yet again collectible. Customization of Mii’s and Smash Bros. characters, which was introduced last month in the 3DS iteration is also back and can be transferred over from the portable version, too. New to Smash for Wii U this time around includes some extra modes and multiplayer features. For the first time ever, routinely single-player experiences like Classic, All-Star and Multi-Man challenges have been opened up to co-op experiences. This is exceptionally great with unlocking trophies in Classic and All-Star mode, because one run through can unlock two trophies at once when playing with a pal. Also, Cruel Smash, which up to this point has been an insanely tough 5 super beefed up Mii’s against you, is a much fairer fight when it’s 4 human players against 4. Also, 8 players playing on a single console arrives here as a first for the series and it is, in simplest terms, madness — the good kind of madness.
An exclusive mode, Smash Tour has some similarities to the 3DS’ Smash Run, but is a totally different beast all on its own. Up to 4 players wander around a party board in a set amount of turns gathering character traits like power, speed and jump and the goal is to collect fighters as you go. Random items can be used before each turn, such as setting up traps to disrupt each other or self-improving power-ups like doubling up the number on a dice roll. You get to play as the characters you collect and battles take place if players cross paths. In the end, the final battle pits all the characters you’ve collected with all the stats gained against each other and the player to get the most KO’s is declared the winner. Smash Tour is a welcomed and fun multiplayer option that I feel is better than Smash Run, which was a much more isolated and lonely experience before the final showdown.
Smash Bros. for Wii U is the first time the series has stepped into HD and it is very, very pretty. The game is a solid 60fps and the only time I noticed it dip was during the credits sequence. Otherwise, it ran smooth even during the most demanding 8-man matches. The music in Smash for Wii U is completely out of this world. The sheer volume of original and remixed tracks is staggering, but the quality of some of the songs is the real kicker. A Super Mario World boss theme with a Latin flair seems a bit strange on paper, but sounded both fitting and appropriate by every stretch of the imagination. And then there are the lesser known themes, like the final boss theme of Bowser’s Inside Story, which is a personal favorite of mine and was included into this soundtrack. This not only shows Nintendo is putting care and attention to their score, they’re also paying close attention to what the fans want.
About half of Smash for Wii U’s stages are from past titles, which, of course, have been bumped up to the visual standards of the rest of the game. As good as the old stages were, new stages introduced here are refreshing like the Metroid: Other M‘s Pyroshere stage and Star Fox: Assault‘s Orbital Gate Assault stage. The game also has stages of future games like Yoshi’s Woolly world which arrives sometime next year. Unlockable stages and music is also available, so the already impressive lot of content continues to grow as you play.
Amiibo is launching alongside with Smash for Wii U and it adds a bit more to the game. This optional purchase will allow you to level up your figure player and learn your playstyle to stand in as a computer controlled fighter. It’s a bit funky and not a perfect science, but gives you a little more for the nice figurine you just bought. It’s a very throwaway feature, but I do like the toys very much. Amiibo can also be used for other games, so it’s not entirely a waste if you find it pointless for Smash Bros.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U plays great, sounds great, looks great, has a robust roster and there’s a ton of modes to keep coming back for more. Also, with Mewtwo as a playable character promised as upcoming free DLC, you can assume there may be more stuff on the way. As far as downsides go, the menus are still confusingly laid out (addressed by many as a flaw in the 3DS version) and the Amiibo functionality isn’t anything grand to write home about. That said, this game gets so much right and gives a lot of play for your buck. Like Melee and Brawl on their respective consoles, Smash for Wii U is a must have for any Wii U owner.