Coming on the heels of the 3DS release, the Wii U version has enough new content to set itself apart. It contains the same robust character list, but has a different set of stages. The bright and beautiful transition to full 1080p HD is stunning on the Wii U. This is a gorgeous game that makes the Wii U hardware seem like it can hang with the more powerful PS4 and Xbox One. The lightning fast action runs and a silky smooth 60 frames per second, and that’s even with a full cast of eight simultaneous players.
“Super Smash Bros.” has always had hectic brawling at its core with different modes and activities in the periphery. That core is more than enough to keep “Smash Bros.” fans happy. Sakurai and company at Sora Ltd. made welcomed tweaks and changes to the gameplay. It was smart to eliminate the much maligned tripping that was first introduced in “Super Smash Bros. Brawl.” The full cast is impressively balanced, and each stage has a Final Destination setting to make the battleground one long platform with no shenanigans. But if hardcore competition isn’t your thing, there are plenty of zany stages with shenanigans aplenty.
A clear goal was to make this brawler as accessible as possible. That goal has been achieved thanks to a myriad of controller inputs. The GameCube controller is compatible via the sold-separately GameCube Controller Adapter, as are the Wiimote, Nunchuck, Wii and Wii U pro controllers, Wii Classic Controller, 3DS and 3DS XL. Almost every type of controller that Nintendo has ever made for the Wii and Wii U platforms can be used to play “Super Smash Bros.” Use whatever controller is comfortable, but stick with the GameCube if you want to be competitive. That remains the best option.
Also aiding in accessibility is the easy-to-use, difficult-to-master control scheme, which has been untouched from “Super Smash Bros. Brawl.” Every character still has a main and special attack button with the A and B buttons, while different moves are achieved by pressing a button and a direction.
This simple gameplay can be played with two-to-eight players on the Wii U. Four players can jump into any stage, while five-to-eight-player matches are forced to be played on larger stages. Eight-player “Smash Bros.” is perfect for large parties or gatherings as it provides pure chaos and laughter, but don’t expect it to catch on with the more serious “Smash” crowd. These matches are just too hectic to house any kind of competition or skill. It’s far too easy to lose your character in the madness of color, sound and fury. It runs flawlessly and is a great option to have, but is more of a novelty than anything else.
On the opposite end of the eight-player spectrum are the single player offerings. Gone is the Subspace Emissary of “Brawl”; the mode that added some context for all the included characters. Instead, single players can trudge through the Classic or All-Star modes, which have been “Smash” staples since “Melee.” Completing these modes unlock character trophies, as they have in the past. Rounding out the activities are the events like the Home Run Contest and Target Smash, and the challenges that are similar to the 3DS version. As a fan of the Subspace Emissary, I would’ve liked to see more single-player offerings.
I’m not surprised at the lack of single-player modes, since “Smash” has always been about playing with others. Each of these single-player modes can be played with a buddy for two-player co-op.
Some other modes have been swapped when comparing the Wii U version to its 3DS counterpart. The Smash Run mode of the 3DS is gone and has been replaced with Smash Tour: a board game infused with “Super Smash Bros.” This new bizarre wrinkle in the formula pits four Miis against each other on a game board. Rolls will move players around the board, earning boosts and power ups that take effect at the end of the game. It’s a nice option to have when looking for multiplayer variety, but I can’t see it replacing the classic fighting that the series is known for.
Character customization has been added for the first time in the series, and level creation is the most robust that it has ever been. Character movesets can be improved and altered, although customized characters can be toggled on or off at the character selection screen. Mii fighters can even be created and customized as one of three fighting styles, which adds to the already large cast.
Level creation is much more open ended than it’s ever been thanks to the GamePad’s touchscreen. Different obstacles and boundaries can be drawn and altered with the stylus. I hope Nintendo has a stage ranking system, so some of the most popular stages can be available for download.
While every aspect of “Super Smash Bros.” seems deeply calculated, it’s odd to see the new Amiibo functionality crudely thrown into the game. Amiibo are Nintendo’s attempt to recreate the goldmine that is “Disney Infinity” and “Skylanders.” Figurines of the Nintendo cast can be placed on the Wii U GamePad to bring the characters to life in the game. The only problem is that the full cast is already in the game. So what’s the point of including Amiibo in “Super Smash Bros.”? That’s a question with no definitive answer.
The easy answer is that Nintendo wants to give Amiibo a big push, so it makes business sense to place them in a huge release like “Super Smash Bros.” But it just doesn’t make sense to purchase them strictly for this game. Touching a figurine to the GamePad allows players to train that character; making it stronger, and improving its move sets. But who is going to allow Amiibo in a friendly battle at a friend’s house? It creates an unbalanced playing field; something that is never good in a competitive fighter. Future Nintendo titles may find strong uses for Amiibo, but this game isn’t one of them.
While Amiibo inclusion and the so-so Smash Tour can be considered odd additions, they don’t take away from the frenzied fun that is at the center of the “Super Smash Bros.” experience. If any game in the “Super Smash Bros.” series has ever been the go-to game to play with your group of friends, this new Wii U version will replace it. A new “Super Smash Bros.” game is the only suitable successor to a previous “Super Smash Bros.” The king is dead, long live the King.
Online play went live for “Super Smash Bros. Wii U” at the minute the game launched on the east coast. In an era of botched launches and broken online features (see “Master Chief Collection), Nintendo nailed theirs right out of the gate. In what is a huge improvement from “Brawl,” the new “Smash” has plenty of settings and online modes to please different fans that are looking for different online experiences.
Online play is split into two modes just like the 3DS version: For Fun and For Glory. For Fun play can be with up to four players on any stage. These matches also include items. Players in this mode can alter match settings just like it were a local battle. As the name of the mode suggests, these battles aren’t ranked and records are not kept.
Friends’ lobbies can be joined in the For Fun mode similarly to the online setup of “Mario Kart 8.” A list of friends who are online is populated, and friends with an open lobby can be joined. This setup works despite the lack of an invite system, but I could not find a way to make a lobby private. Lobby organizers receive a prompt when a player attempts to join, which can be rejected, but there should be a way to bar people from joining altogether.
For Glory matches are ranked. These can also be with up to four players, or strictly one-on-one. For Glory battles are only on Final Destination levels with no items.
All these settings are well and good, but it doesn’t make any difference if the gameplay isn’t stable. Stability was inconsistent in the two hours of online in which I played, but was solid for the most part. Most matches among friends were responsive with minimal lag, while a few suffered from severe stutter. Only one match disconnected completely, which isn’t so bad in a two-hour play session on the night of the game’s release. The one-on-one battles are noticeably more responsive than four-player fights. It was a good move to not include eight-player online matches. Those would’ve been a network nightmare. Overall, “Super Smash Bros.” for Wii U contains an impressive online suite.
9.5 out of 10
Same great gameplay with good tweaks and changes
Unbelievably balanced cast
eight-player smash is madness
Amiibo feels shoehorned
No Subspace Emissary