We are less than a year away from a brand-new Super Smash Bros. console experience. It’s kind of surreal. The first time I got my hands on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, training as hard as I could with what little time we had available before the Invitational at the Nokia Theatre, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Some players jumped in, attempting Melee-like advanced techniques to no avail; others felt the Brawl tendencies right away, but it was hard to judge at first when all we could do was play free-for-all with items.
However, at the end of the three-day E3 excursion, I could safely say that not only was this another solid installment in the Smash series, but it was more than just another Smash game or a sequel to Brawl. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is, through and through, a one-of-a-kind game. For the first time in a long while, it really did feel like a fighting game, despite what creator and director Masahiro Sakurai may like us to believe. Every hit felt satisfying and powerful, and true combos and set-ups were abound. Every character seemed to have a trick up their sleeve, even if it wasn’t apparent at first, and everyone seemed like they could hold their own.
Of course, it’s hard to judge a game based on a demo and playing only hours of it at a time. Yet, I felt right at home as a Smasher. Every menu screen fueled my hype for the next match. Selecting a character made me antsy – I couldn’t handle the demo loading times because I wanted to jump into a match again and again and again. True to form, Super Smash Bros. continues to be a game that you cannot put down after just a couple of games or so. Smash for Wii U is frantic, in-your-face, and ridiculously gorgeous in full high-definition. It’s hard to keep your eyes off the game with the special effects, beautiful stages, and devastating blows being traded left and right. True to form, Super Smash Bros. continues to be a game that you cannot put down after only a couple of games.
Although I was disappointed in not being able to use Linda, the female Wii Fit trainer, in the Smash Invitational, I was pleasantly surprised with my choice of Little Mac. He seems to be one of the most fun and satisfying character Smash Wii U as it stands. Unlike its predecessor, which facilitated aerial play, this title is all about the ground game — and that’s exactly where Little Mac excels. When his feet are planted, he is an absolute beast; his agility puts you close and personal with any opponent of your choosing, opening up grand opportunities to lay the smackdown with his terrifying attacks and specials.
The game surprisingly feels like it is trying to return to its roots — Smash 64, to be exact — and this may be why I fancy the game so much. Several members of the Original 12, such as Mario and Pikachu, seem to be at their strongest in quite some time. Kirby was an absolute powerhouse, partially because of how the game has changed slightly since 2008.
Super Smash Bros. is quite a physics- and movement-based fighting game. When you are clobbered by an attack, you can manipulate your trajectory as you go flying by using Directional Influence (DI), which involves analog stick movement to keep your character alive longer. The competitive Smash community has developed guides to help explain this technique, although never specifically or officially mentioned by developers. In Smash 64, you could Smash DI instead of DI, which involves tapping the analog stick to escape multi-hit moves.
Now, in Smash Wii U, it seemed to be the reverse — you could DI, but not Smash DI a majority of multi-hit attacks. Some exceptions seemed to be Greninja and Little Mac’s jab combos. In simpler terms, multi-hit attacks were less effective in past games because you could Smash DI out of them before taking a lot of damage; it now seems like you do not have this option. This is one of my favorite changes to Smash and characters with multi-hit attacks are now more dangerous than ever. Watch out for Kirby’s down-air drill kick, you’ll be sorry if you don’t avoid it!
Smash Wii U continued to catch my eye with its subtle changes, like the numerous improvements made for returning characters to the increased landing lag when you air-dodge into the ground. The latter is a tactic common in Brawl because there was extremely minimal landing lag when doing so. At other times, my mind was boggled by some of the design choices; many stages felt far too large because their “blast zones” — the invisible box around a stage that, when crossed, causes you to die — while the ridiculous amounts of landing lag on aerial moves made the game feel clunkier. Though concerning, these facets are likely the result of the game still being in development.
Despite being a rather basic demo, Smash Wii U was one of the most polished games available at E3 2014 — although Splatoon was far and away the most polished, even though it won’t be out until 2015. Super Smash Bros. is still a game that can be enjoyed however you want to play it and for what it’s worth. Being able to use GameCube controllers, thanks to the GameCube Controller Adapter, was one of the biggest positives about the game’s appearance. Even if I was stuck playing free-for-all with items on Dr. Wily’s Castle — easily one of the jankiest and most frustrating stages to play on — I at least had my GameCube controller with me, so it was well worth it.