Nov 26 2014

Review of Super Smash Bros Wii U

i_422344 Stars

So I said a lot of nasty things about the 3DS version of Smash Bros last month, and while I’m not going to back down from my opinion there, I did leave a caveat in that review saying that the Wii U version just might save things. Well thank god for caveats because the console version of Super Smash Bros is a better game in pretty much every way. Super Smash Bros Wii U fixes almost every issue I had with its handheld counterpart and adds enough interesting functionality to make up for much of its own shortcomings. While it’s still very much the same overall game as the one I reviewed not so long ago, it’s clear that this is the version of that game to get, regardless of whether you’re planning to play it by yourself or with a room full of friends.

So writing this review is somewhat odd for me because I’ve already covered the broad strokes of this game in my review of the 3DS version, and as such I’ll be focusing more on what’s new and improved here rather than the game as whole. While normally I try to judge each game by its own merits, rather than measuring it against its competitors or its inspirations, this release skews a weird line between port and original product, and it’s clear that it was meant to be played alongside and in comparison to the 3DS version. Naturally that means you should probably go read my review of that version if you haven’t already (it’s hyperlinked above) as I’ll be referencing specific complaints and issues I had with it and how the Wii U version stacks up against them.

They've outdone themselves with some of the alternate costumes, such as Fierce Deity Link above.

They’ve outdone themselves with some of the alternate costumes, such as Fierce Deity Link above.

Probably my biggest issue with SSB3DS was that the single player content was not only very light but also lacked context, feeling like nothing more than a simple practice arena for the multiplayer. SSBWiiU, while still lacking a true cohesive single player campaign in the vein of Subspace Emissary, does put a lot more on the table for the solo gamer and improves upon what was in the 3DS version. Classic mode is now a bit longer, includes some more varied fights, and has a more interesting structure; it depicts things more as an actual tournament with multiple fights happening at the same time, rather than simply proceeding forward along a dull line like in SSB3DS. They’ve also brought back Events, which are one-off fights with a basic story or mechanical conceit to them, similar to MK9’s Challenge Tower. Events were one of my favourite parts of Brawl and Melee as they offered a lot of fun twists on the classic Smash formula, and thankfully that remains the case here. Also new are Master Orders and Crazy Orders, which are randomized fights that switch up combatants and statuses in some really fun ways, all while incentivizing the player with a strong (if not a little naked) risk/reward system. In Master Orders you have to spend smash coins to enter each fight; win and you get a prize, lose and you get nothing. In Crazy Orders you only have to spend coins to enter the overall mode rather than for each fight, but your health is persistent between each match and in order to cash out your prizes, you have to fight against Crazy Hand and win. The last appreciably different piece of single player content is the All-Star Mode, though the only change there is that you now fight everyone in reverse chronological order, which honestly seems like a needless alteration.

One of the other major issues I had was with the controls and how unsuited the game felt for the 3DS hardware, unsurprisingly the Wii U makes a much more comfortable fit for the franchise. The Wii U tablet is a serviceable enough controller, with tight feeling analog sticks and an intuitive control scheme. The game also looks quite good on the tablet’s screen; things can still be a bit hard to see when the action pulls out too far, but it’s not nearly as much of an issue as it was on the 3DS. Of course the biggest advantage this game has in terms of controls is the sheer variety of options available, the game is compatible with pretty much every kind of controller you can plug into the Wii U and in any combination. For a series as divisive when it comes to control schemes as Smash, this is a huge deal, because it means everyone at the party can play in exactly the way they want without compromise, assuming you have the hardware. It’s also worth noting that the game runs buttery smooth on the Wii U and as a result looks absolutely gorgeous, with that same wonderful art and sound design only being enhanced by the greater processing capability of the console.

If you thought chasing after the Smash Ball was hectic with only four players? Think again.

If you thought chasing after the Smash Ball was hectic with only four players? Think again.

Super Smash Bros Wii U also thankfully addresses many of my other concerns as well; the AI is significantly more tenacious than it was in the handheld version and the online mode feels near perfect, with only the occasional stutter here and there to mar the experience. So with my complaints out of the way, let’s move onto the new things this game brings to the franchise at large. The biggest addition here is that of eight player battles, which double the amount of active combatants on-screen. These fights are intense and dynamic but also a little hard to follow; Smash has always loved its particle effects and crazy animations, and as such having eight separate characters throwing fireballs all around can make things somewhat hard to parse. Visual confusion aside though, these massive melees end up being a lot of fun, and thankfully these larger fights aren’t constrained to their own isolated mode. Much of the single player content also makes use of the extended player count, which really livens some of that stuff up, especially in the Classic Mode. The other major new feature in this game is the amiibo integration, which turns your amiibo figures into embittered rivals for you to play against. The figures act as opponents that you can slot into local Smashes, and with each fight the figures will level up, learning how you play and getting stronger as a result. You can also customize your amiibo, much in the same way you’re able to with the regular fighters, granting them variant moves and increased stats. Basically the amiibos act as friends to play Smash with, for when you don’t actually have any friends around to play Smash with, which is a surprisingly cool idea. My only gripe with the feature is that you can’t play any of the co-op stuff with the amiibos, as it’s limited purely to the Smash mode, curtailing their use somewhat.

Lastly, there are also some interesting Wii U exclusive changes to the core meat of the game. For example, there’s no more Smash Run mode, which is fine because I didn’t really like it much in the 3DS version anyways. Instead it’s replaced by Smash Tour, which is like Mario Party but with all the mini-games replaced with Smash Bros matches. Much like Smash Run, it’s pretty much entirely focused on collecting stat boosts so that you can come out on top during a big final confrontation. Also of note is the fact that the majority of the stages available in SSBWiiU are different from the ones available in the 3DS version. The stages in that game focused on Nintendo’s handheld legacy whereas the ones in this game instead cater to Nintendo’s home console work. Personally I liked the unique stages in the 3DS version more, but there are a couple of gems to be found here nonetheless, with the delightful Super Mario Galaxy stage in particular coming to mind. Curiously, they also decided to mix up the opening line-up of fighters, switching around who’s unlocked from the get-go and who you have to earn. That seems an odd thing to change but the remixed roster doesn’t really hinder anything and if you’ve been playing a lot of the 3DS version then it does help to liven up the opening hours a little bit.

There’s simply no question as to which version is superior and if you’re determined to get in on this generation of Smash Brothers, then the Wii U is the way to go. Now as to whether this generation of Smash overall is any good? I still feel that the lack of a dedicated singe player campaign really hurts this outing for the series, especially when compared to Brawl, but the interesting new characters and stages introduced here make up for it to some degree. It should go without saying, but if you’ve been a fan of the series in the past, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this round of nostalgia induced beatings as well. That said, if you’ve never had a taste for Smash then SSBWiiU/3DS certainly won’t change your mind on the matter. As such I’m giving Super Smash Brothers Wii U a 4 out of 5 stars; it fixes most of the flaws exhibited by its handheld counterpart and acts as a very well made-if not somewhat aimless-entry into this long running series.

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