Back in 2000, when the original Super Smash Bros. was released for the Nintendo 64, my sister and I would refer to it as simply “that game where Mario beats up Link”. Now, 14 years later, the core gameplay of the Super Smash Bros. franchise remains largely unchanged. However, the additional features that have been added since make for one of the most casual, yet surprisingly in-depth, fighting games of this generation.
In essence, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (hereafter referred to as Smash 4 3DS and Smash 4 U, respectively) are the same game. However, Smash 4 U offers a virtual truckload more options than Smash 4 3DS. I like to think of Smash 4 3DS as the appetiser, with Smash 4 U being the main course.
The Wii U-exclusive modes include Smash Tour, Special Orders, Events, Special Smash, and Stage Builder. Events, Special Smash, and Stage Builder all return from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, whereas Smash Tour and Special Orders are brand new game modes that are exclusive to this version of the franchise.
Smash Tour is a little confusing when you first jump in, but it’s really quite simple. You choose your board size, how many turns you want the game to last, and you’re off. You’re given 2 random fighters to begin with, and you make your way around the board with dice rolls, attempting to power up your stats and acquire more fighters. Meeting another player (or CPU) on the board initiates a free-for-all with one of each player’s fighters. Whoever wins will steal the fighter that was knocked out last. Smash Tour culminates in a final battle wherein everyone is able to use all the fighters they have acquired. Smash Tour, while fun with friends, is tedious with just CPU opponents.
Special Orders is a relatively simple mode. It includes two options: Master Orders and Crazy Orders. Master Orders is simple – players pick a character and a mission (which are random and have difficulties rated from 1-5 stars), and – should they succeed—receive a listed reward.
Crazy Orders is a slightly different affair. Pay 5000 Gold (or redeem a Crazy Pass, which is acquired by playing through the various game modes) and you receive 10 minutes in which to complete as many missions as possible. Rewards are only provided when players select the “Fight Crazy Hand” mission and defeat the enemy. The more missions you complete, the more rewards you get. Fail at any of them and your run is finished… and you lose the majority of the rewards that you have earned. Crazy Orders is a lot more fun, but also a lot more frustrating if you are a trophy completionist.
Time to dig into the part that everyone wants to hear about: Amiibo. Amiibo is Nintendo’s take on the “figure craze” that began with Activision’s Skylanders, and continued with Disney Infinity. Amiibo represent Nintendo characters (I personally purchased Metroid’s Samus) that can be used to create your own personal AI to play with or against. Enter a one-on-one battle with your Amiibo to teach it new tricks. Want to teach it to grab more often? Grab it a lot. Want to make it use its “Up Smash” attack often, as it’s very effective? Use “Up Smash” a lot. There are a lot of ways to train your Amiibo. My own personal Samus likes to taunt after every KO, which makes me giggle. It’s a strange sense of satisfaction watching as your Amiibo learns the way you want it to play. Inititally, at Level 1, the Amiibo simply walks back and forth and doesn’t do much. If trained properly, though, when it reaches Level 50 (max), it will prove a considerable challenge – even more so than a Level 9 CPU. Amiibo have other uses in other Wii U titles, but they are most heavily integrated into Smash 4 U at present.
Online is a mixed bag at best – at least at the time of writing. When playing against friends, the connection was stable, with a minor hiccup here and there – it’s really very simple to join or create a game just for friends. The “Play With Anyone” option is a completely different story.
The lag experienced in my time attempting to play with people around the world was, to put it simply, ridiculous. Inputs are horribly delayed, characters jump around the screen seemingly at random, and it’s generally impossible to tell what is actually going on. This is, of course, only if you’re lucky enough to actually connect to a game. I am reserving judgement due to this review being written so soon after release, as the servers are potentially overwhelmed at present. I will be coming back to the online component in a few weeks to try again and see if there is any improvement.
Classic and All Star modes return from Smash 4 3DS; however, they differ slightly. All Star mode, which sees players progressing chronologically through Nintendo’s history on the 3DS, has you travel in reverse, from most recent to earliest. Classic is similar, although instead of choosing a path to progress down, you simply select the group of enemies that you wish to battle. Any enemies you personally KO during Classic can be chosen later as teammates for team battles.
The music is great throughout. There are some familiar themes from the many returning stages, as well as new ones for all the new characters. As you play, you’ll collect CDs, which unlock more music. Once unlocked, you can change how likely each track is to play for each stage. You can even change the menu music to the themes from Super Smash Bros. Brawl or Super Smash Bros. Melee. It’s a great little touch and one that was not lost on my sense of nostalgia.
Smash 4 U, while it has its flaws, is an absolutely essential title for anyone that owns a Wii U. This is the kind of game that can be anything you want it to be – it can be a competitive fighter, a party game, a relationship ruiner… anything. The amount of overall polish is staggering. It looks especially incredible in HD on a big TV. In addition, with the myriad of controller options on offer (Wiimote, Wiimote + Nunchuk, Game Pad, Pro U Controller, Classic Controller/Pro, Game Cube controller), you can now play Smash with whatever you feel is the most comfortable.