Note: This review is only for the offline portion of the game, as the servers for online multiplayer won\’t go live until the game releases. Please look forward to our impressions of the online portion of the game in our upcoming Second Opinion review for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.
First and foremost: there are no character spoilers in this review, save for the pictures. If you\’ve somehow managed to avoid learning who\’s playable in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, you\’re safe to keep reading. There will, however, be spoilers regarding just about everything else, including how fun this game is.
For most intents and purposes, this is the best Smash Bros. yet. It has a great character roster, the new stages are interesting without being nutsy, and it\’s easy to pick up yet hard to master. The Wii U version also has far superior graphics, sound quality and better single player options than Smash Bros. for 3DS (with the exception of Smash Run).
Game Feel and Presentation
The most important thing about any Smash Bros. game is how it feels. There\’s a certain sort of satisfaction that can only come from getting your Smash Bros. avatar to do exactly what you want, when you want. So, how does Smash 4 feel on the Wii U? Good. Really good.
The controls were already comfortable in Smash Bros. for 3DS, but this game is worlds ahead of its handheld sibling. The Wii U Gamepad, Pro Controller, and even the Wii Classic Controller all feel great. The Wii U version\’s Controls menu also offers more customization options than does the handheld\’s. Still, nothing beats a good, old-fashioned GameCube controller.
And it should be no surprise that the first 1080p Smash Bros. is also the prettiest. It\’s a graphically impressive game that takes full advantage of the Wii U\’s processing power with every character model and stage texture. Animations also look much smoother than in the 3DS version. So far we haven\’t been able to make the game lag, even with eight players on every possible stage and Pokeballs set to \”high.\”
Speaking of which, the Wii U version has a perfectly balanced stage list. Wooly World starts out flat then moves into the sky (while proving that computer-rendered yarn strangely looks way better than real yarn). The Great Cave Offensive from Kirby Super Star is so huge that it has lava pits which delete your stock if you touch them while over 100%. Wii Fit Studio is as clean and relaxing as any yoga studio… probably, while battles on Garden of Hope are occasionally interrupted by creatures from the Pikmin universe. And of course, there\’s also the ? (or \”Final Destination\”) version of each stage, allof which have subtle differences. The new stages alone are designed to appeal to all different types of players evenly. And if that still isn\’t enough, the included Stage Builder also lets you draw lines on the Gamepad to create terrain, then drop in items and moving platforms as you please.
A moment of silence for the tragic loss of Brawl\’s brilliant Subspace Emissary. …Okay, moving on.
Customization is a big part of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and is probably its largest departure from its predecessors. Your own saved Miis can be turned into Swordfighters, Brawlers or Gunners, each of which have preset \”A\” moves. A huge array of unlockable Specials allow you to customize every character\’s \”B\” moves. Then there\’s Equipment, which affects a customized character\’s stats. Customizations can easily be toggled from any menu, so there\’s never any question of a friend secretly beefing up all of their characters before you can come over. The only real downside to all these goodies is that they can take a long time to unlock, especially if you\’re looking to find them all – but that\’s also a great reason to keep pouring time into the game\’s many 1-player options.
Classic Mode has been revamped and now functions by moving your character\’s representative trophy around a board of different fighter options. Difficulty (and the corresponding rewards) can be adjusted on a fancy sliding scale. All-Star Mode also makes a return, and its character groups are now organized according to the date range of their original games\’ release.
There\’s no Target Test, but there is Target Blast, an odd minigame which combines the Home Run Contest with Angry Birds. Beat up on a bomb, then knock it flying into a shoddily constructed building with targets and supporting beams layered haphazardly throughout. More exploded targets = more points. The regular Home Run Contest is also included for posterity, along with Multi-Man Smash.
Two new additions are Master Orders and Crazy Orders. Master Orders involve wagering coins to attempt one of three rotating challenges. Sometimes it gives everyone jetpacks; another pitted me against six Greninjas at once. Crazy Orders are more about endurance: you have ten minutes to play through as many matches as you want to stack up the rewards, but lose once and most of them will be gone forever. Oddly, taking more damage throughout actually increases your HP in the final stamina battle against Crazy Hand itself. Whose hands are those, anyway?
Smash Tour is the Wii U-exclusive equivalent of Smash Run (minus the running). Someone at Nintendo HQ probably exclaimed \”What if Smash Bros. and Mario Party had a baby?!\” and, after they had calmed down, Smash Tour was born. Four human or CPU players travel around a board, passing spaces that can increase stats, gift a Tour Item, or add another fighter. Bumping into players will cause a free-for-all with one of those fighters. After 15-25 turns, all players will fight in a free-for-all with each of their remaining fighters. Sadly, Smash Tour doesn\’t let you choose a stored nametag (meaning you also can\’t use customized control schemes).
All of the single player options are fun, but the star of the one-man show is definitely Event matches. A series mainstay since Melee, Event matches in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U are organized into several branching series. New Events are unlocked mainly by clearing the previous ones along each path. Their circumstances can get pretty creative: one calls for you to lock multiple foes into the ground at once, while another has you fight as a tiny version of three super-sized opponents while enemy-shrinking items fall from the sky. Every Event has a default character, but changing to another is always an option – a nice compromise that encourages you to go along with the given theme but also doesn\’t force it. Each Event\’s difficulty can be adjusted for varying rewards. Some are even multiplayer.
Looking Under the Hood
Throughout its development, Smash for Wii U was promised to be \”faster\” than Brawl. Now that we\’ve tried it ourselves, we can be more specific: run speed and jump acceleration have been increased significantly across the board. Peak jump height is a bit higher on average than in previous Smash games, which can make vertical movement somewhat unwieldy with certain characters. Attack start-up time and after-lag vary widely from character to character and move to move. Some attacks take a while to animate as they connect with their target, but that\’s also what gives them so much \”oomph.\” So, yes – this game is faster than Brawl\’s leisurely stroll, but it\’s still far short of Melee\’s frantic pace.
That said, Smash Bros. for Wii U shares Brawl\’s tendency to over-reward defensive play. Overall increases in character strength and speed help to mitigate this, but people who hate losing and love s\’mores will still be able to camp their hearts out in Smash 4. It doesn\’t help that most characters have excellent recovery abilities, or that grabbing a ledge now knocks off anyone who was already holding it (a nifty idea in general, but it does tend to extend characters\’ lifespans). Don\’t even get me started on the obnoxiously fast Roll option.
The game also features a new \”Rage\” mechanic which raises your attacks\’ knockback force once you pass 100%. This is essentially how Lucario worked in Brawl, but Smash Bros. for Wii U gives a weaker version of the effect to all characters. It may seem a bit silly at face value, but if you think about it, the Rage mechanic is Tripping done right. Novice players will have an easier time making a comeback, but Rage is predictable, it won\’t hugely affect the match\’s outcome, and it certainly never interrupts your own actions.
The much hyped-up 8-player smash mode is crazy and hard to control, but that\’s also kind of the point. It\’s a great choice for parties, as long as you don\’t go in with the expectation of complex strategy or not being bounced back and forth by who knows what. There are several stages designed just for this purpose, but they\’re mostly either too cramped, or not cramped enough. Some of the larger stages are so big that you\’ll rarely seem to interact with the other players, but they\’re perfect if you prefer your 8-player smash to be split up into four 1-vs.-1s.
Settle It In Smash
Smash 64 was the originator; Melee was the mad scientist; Brawl was the social butterfly; and finally, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the genetic super-child spliced together from elements of all three. It\’s got silky smooth gameplay, tons of single-player features, cool new custom moves and equipment, and is extremely well-polished all over. It also far outperforms the 3DS version in terms of the control scheme, sound quality, and especially the graphics. 8-player smash is probably too hectic, and the physics engine is still too tilted toward defensive tactics, but this is definitely the best Smash Bros. game to date.
If you want to hear how the game fares on a competitive level, be sure to watch for our upcoming Second Opinion written by a real-live professional Smasher.