As one of the best-selling franchises in Nintendo's arsenal, an appearance by Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U was inevitable. Based on the premise of having all-star Nintendo characters (and a few guest fighters) duke it out, the initial appeal of the series isn't hard to pinpoint. Watching Bowser dropkick Link or having Pikachu summon a lightning strike down on Donkey Kong's head is the stuff that longtime fans of the Big N dream of, but Super Smash Bros. for Wii U takes it even further and establishes itself as the definitive entry in the beloved franchise.
Featuring the same 49 playable character cast as the one that debuted in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, the Wii U version tries to keep the home console iteration feeling very familiar to the recent handheld entry. Despite this, there are a number of differences that make the home console version standout as a must-have regardless of whether or not consumers already own the newly released 3DS game.
Before getting into the platform-exclusive features, it must be said that Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is an absolutely gorgeous title. The high-definition beat 'em up comes to life by rendering the best batch of character models found in the series thus far, and the power of Nintendo's stationary platform has allowed each fighter to be brought to life via different facial reactions. Whether launching an attack or being blasted off the screen, the emotion each fighter emits will vary based on their current situation.
All of the stages are also treated to the same amount of polish that the fighters are. The backgrounds of some stages are so well crafted that it's easy to sit and stare at them in dough-eyed wonder. It also doesn't hurt that, for the most part, the battlegrounds featured in the game are entirely different than what can be found on the 3DS version. The stages are an absolute blast to fight on and the ability to select a Final Destination variant for each and every one ensures that competitive players get some much appreciated variety.
Of course, it's easy to overlook the quality of minute details in the heat of battle. Continuing the pace that was established in the portable version (we claimed it hit a pace that fell between Melee and Brawl in our review) the action is just as enjoyable in the Wii U installment, but the developers behind the latest Smash decided to amp up the franticness considerably by allowing up to 8 players to duke it out simultaneously. Only a handful of stages can support this hectic multiplayer option (which largely equates to utter madness regardless of screen size) but it brings into perspective just how multiplayer-focused Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is.
Even Classic, All-Star, Stadium and a returning Events mode have been altered to accommodate two players at once. No longer will fans have to traverse through battle after battle in a bid to unlock characters and earn trophies, because a friend can join them for every step of the way. This couch co-op incentive is something that longtime fans have been asking for for years, and Nintendo has done a bang-up job implementing it into this game. Whether teaming up in the Home-Run contest or throttling Master Hand and Crazy Hand in a bid for supremacy, making these modes feature two-player co-op makes them that much more enjoyable.
Sometimes, however, individuals won't have any immediately accessible friends or family to play with and those instances are when Nintendo's new toys-to-life line, Amiibo, really shine. These collectible figures will summon trainable sparring partners that will grow as players fight them. This could mean good or bad things depending on the skill of the individual(s) training with the special CPU, but it quickly becomes scarily engaging to buff these toys up to their maximum level of 50. If players turn items off then the character won't know how to use them when they do show up, if individuals never block then the growing A.I. won't either. Each Amiibo learns differently based on the environment it finds itself in and the end result is an underestimated and enjoyable option for consumers.
Not content with just additional multiplayer offerings or action figures, Nintendo and Namco Bandai have also added Smash Tour. This fight-fueled offering plays out similarly to a game of Mario Party, albeit a much quicker paced version that features an all-star cast of characters. Up to four players can hop into this mode, pick one of three different boards, and then proceed to move around the board however they see fit. The objective is to finish with the most Smash combatants to up the odds of winning the final battle. Some may have been conflicted by the mode's initial reveal, but the end result is a fun alternative to Smash battles that doesn't take long to play through and mixes up the way users can enjoy the game.
Another new option is Master Orders and Crazy Orders. This option allows players to put their money where there mouth is in a bid to earn items, unlock additional pieces of music or further their funds by scoring extra gold. Master Order is based purely on exchanging cash for the opportunity to tackle different challenges, and it works quite well – with a very causal environment being established in the process. Crazy Orders, however, tests the skill and willingness of players by allowing them to continue advancing through challenges as they see fit, but one loss and their winnings will be halved and their streak dismantled. Weighing accumulated damage, total remaining time and overall challenge of each objective, fans have a lot to lose and a lot to gain by testing their limits.
Another major selling point for the new Smash Bros. comes in the form of a refined and returning Stage Builder. Utilizing the GamePad, the stage creation option allows fans to literally draw the stage that they want to make and then drag and drop various elements on to it. It sounds great on paper, and it's much more diverse than what was available in Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii, but it's quickly made apparent that there's a cap on the creative freedom that fans are given. The object meter that limits the amount of items that can be placed in a single map reaches its max very early on and the items that can be placed on the stage-in-progress are very limited – making the whole option seem more like an afterthought than a true asset.
Last, but not least, there's the online component. After troubling issues surfaced in the 3DS version of the latest Smash game, it's it must be pointed out that there are still latency issues on the Wii U. That said, they aren't anywhere as severe as what we encountered in the portable version. While competitive players will become annoyed with lag found while executing an attack or making a life-saving dodge, it is a smoother experience on Nintendo's home hardware – albeit still not up to snuff.
Whether duking it out in For Fun or For Glory modes, gamers will still have fun being able to go toe-to-toe with people all around the world. The ability to spectate and bet on the outcome of online matches also makes its triumphant return, much to the delight of those who like to gamble with faux currency, although the only times we were disconnected happened during this mode. Nintendo still has time to iron out connection issues, but overall fans don't seem to have too much to worry about at this point in time.
Despite the shortcomings of the Stage Builder mode and some lag during online play, the overall quality of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is unparalleled. With a ton of trophies to collect, music to discover, challenges to complete, characters to unlock, stages to earn, fighters to customize and friends to smash, there's enough content to keep diehard fans and casual players alike satisfied for months to come. Add in the possibility of downloadable content (confirmed to kick off with Mewtwo in Spring 2015), and the latest Smash game is poised to be an ever-green blockbuster that'll keep Wii U owners entertained well into the new year.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U arrives exclusively for the Nintendo Wii U on November 21, 2014.
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