Originally published in 2014, for The Australia Times Games Magazine.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS
Format: Wii U and 3DS
Developer: Sora Ltd/Bandai Namco Games
So, Super Smash Bros.
Ever since the 1998 debut of the original N64 game, Nintendo’s seminal fighting series has acted as a cornerstone of the company’s key software output. Aside from Mario, Zelda and Pokémon, Masahiro Sakurai’s mascot brawler is the most important franchise within the hallowed halls of the Kyoto firm; with each sequel met with a fevered anticipation that is simply unmatched by any other fanbase.
After Super Smash Bros. Melee represented a quantum leap from the modest polygonal original – and Super Smash Bros. Brawl further built upon that by stuffing it full of content – Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS is the culmination of everything that has come before; two games that are the products of 16 years of fine-tuning by Sakurai and his motley crew of talented developers.
Now, let’s get the obvious out of the way first – Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is one of the best games on Nintendo’s stereoscopic handheld. Heck, it’s probably the best. And Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is one of the best games on Nintendo’s tablet-powered console. Hell, it’s probably the best. Er, Also.
In terms of content, nothing else comes close. It’s incredible just how much stuff Sora and Bandai Namco have managed to cram in such a dinky little cartridge and/or disc; to the point where it shames most other videogames.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. It would be lousy of me to talk about the sweet, sweet features – without first going over the gameplay basics for those unfamiliar.
You see, Super Smash Bros is a fighting game. However, it isn’t a fighter in the conventional sense. Unlike games such as Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, Smash Bros takes on a more party-based slant, with a greater emphasis on the ‘improvisation’ of fighting – rather than highly technical movesets. Instead of a traditional health bar, fighters possess a percentage meter that represents their stamina. Beginning at 0%, the percentage rises as damage is taken – and the higher the percentage, the easier it is for the fighter to be knocked out of the arena, which is how fights are ultimately won.
There are no complex button inputs. Indeed, part of the appeal of Smash Bros is its ‘simple to learn, hard to master’ mechanics that are such a trademark of Nintendo games. There are two buttons used to attack; and holding a direction whilst pressing said buttons alters the offensive maneuvers. You can double jump, and use your up+B move to act as a last ditch effort to recover from a fall. Additionally, fighters can block by holding R, grab with L and even perform a few cheeky taunts with the D-Pad. These inputs basically act as the foundation to the surprisingly complex gameplay that can be found in this title, in addition to the alterations of the core fighting mechanics.
“What alterations?” I hear you ask, dear reader? Well, this is where the whole ‘content’ thing comes in. You see, the party-based nature of the gameplay leads itself well to manipulation, and this represented in the incredible amount of modes that are on offer; modes that make Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS much more than just a simple brawler.
First, the single player. The most obvious of these modes is the Classic…Er, Mode. This is basically the standard ‘fighting game’ thing, where you select a fighter to take on a bunch of other fighters in order to reach the final boss (the returning Master and Crazy Hands). Even then, this mode is given a Sakurai twist; there are branching pathways, and gold (which is used to buy stuff) can be wagered for higher difficulties, much like Kid Icarus: Uprising. Similarly, All-Star Mode is a fight to the top; however, this is done in a chronological order (older characters toward newer characters – reversed for the Wii U), and it all must be completed with one life. However, players can enlist the help of another player, which greatly helps in acquiring character-specific trophies.
Stadium Mode takes the core gameplay of Smash, and has fun in creating new ways to play. The ever-popular Home Run Contest returns, which sees you given 10 seconds to bash a sandbag with a baseball bat, before launching it with a final super smash in the hopes of achieving incredible distances. Personally, I was chuffed when I managed to get over a thousand metres… Before seeing the seven thousand-plus that others managed to achieve.
Target Blast is a surprising riff on the Angry Birds formula, which plays similarly to Home Run. However, this time, a bomb must be bashed, before tossing it into a creaky tower full of targets and special items. You get two tries for this, and the bomb can be tossed at different speeds, depending on the damage it receives.
Multi-Man Smash is back too, which pits you (and a friend, if you want) against waves of enemies that can range from pathetic (100 Man Mode) to downright horrifying (Cruel Mode). Besides them, there is also 3-Minute Mode, 15 Minute Mode, 10 Man Mode, and even an Endless Mode.
Possibly the biggest 3DS exclusive feature is the Smash Run mode; which sees you (and up to three other players) run around in a massive map under a five minute time limit. This environment is littered with enemies, which must be (you guessed it!) smacked around in exchange for power-ups that give boosts to your power, speed, agility, etc. At the end of each round, you must put these abilities to use in a random game against the other players. This entails everything from a traditional smash, to a footrace that is vein-poppingly stressful. Of course, you can set whatever end game you wish to play in the settings, but I personally love the random aspect, as there’s no telling how useful your upgrades will really be.
At first, Smash Run can be particularly frustrating, as enemies will constantly kick your ass – but there is good reason for this. You see, this mode acts as somewhat of a colourful introduction to the biggest feature in this iteration of Smash Bros – and that is character customisation.
Each minute upgrade you gather for your character makes them stronger and better, and grinding the Smash Run mode sees you become noticeably more powerful. In a special menu, each character has room for 10 different custom variations, and each of these variations can be tailored to your own tastes. Not only can you choose a preferred costume, but you can give upgrades (which are found in virtually every mode) that boost power, speed and defence. Not only that, but you can completely change the movesets of every fighter, which results in a hell of a lot of variation.
On the other side of the fence, the Wii U edition prides itself on Smash Tour, Special Orders, and 8 Player Smash. ‘Smash Tour’ takes the form of a Mario Party-style board game, with players amassing teams and special powers in order to win various battles that litter proceedings. This was designed to be an anarchic (and occasionally, even unfair) mode where anything goes. It’s a startling look into the more ‘lawless’ nature of Smash Bros; a nature that gleefully gives the two-fingered salute to absurd notions of ‘balance’ and ‘fairness’ seen in the pro-gaming community.
‘Special Orders’ has players take on challenges issued by series baddies Master and Crazy Hand, in exchange for wagered gold (or a free ticket). In each round, you are presented with a choice of three challenges. Every time you complete one, you then have the opportunity to finish the session by fighting whichever omnipresent appendage you have chosen (Crazy is the harder of the two). However, you can also choose to continue with more rounds – which get progressively more difficult. It’s a nice risk/reward element that is more forceful than in any other part of the game; one where you can practically hear Sakurai telling you to ‘put up or shut up’.
Despite all of this, perhaps the Wii U version’s biggest selling-point in the 8-Player Mode, with (you guessed it) eight players duking it out in specially designed stages. It’s quite amazing seeing this in action, as the game doesn’t drop a frame, nor does the visual fidelity take a hit. I’m loathe to constantly point out the flaws of other gaming companies in my reviews – but when I see eight highly-detailed fighters duke it out in 1080p and 60 fps, I can’t help but wonder why the competition has such a tough time with creating stable visuals on more powerful hardware. Sure, Smash Bros isn’t exactly an open-world game… But geez.
Phew. This has been a lot to take in, isn’t it? Believe it or not, there’s still more!
Now, let’s talk about online. Because of the game’s party roots, the network mode has been split into two; For Fun and For Glory. ‘For Fun’ is basically no holds barred; everything is allowed, and nothing is forbidden. Items, Assist Trophies, stages… It’s all there. In contrast, ‘For Glory’ is for the serious folks; a pure and technical community that shuns gimmicks in favour of fighting prowess. Whichever mode you choose, you’re guaranteed to have a great time, and the network service is superb. Griefers are punished swiftly, and there is very little lag to speak of. It’s a far cry from Brawl’s horrendous service, that’s for sure!
Finally; characters. The main crux of the game, there are 49 fighters in all, and I guarantee you’ll find a favourite in there somewhere. Old stalwarts like Mario, Link, Samus and Donkey Kong return with a vengeance, along with new characters like Wii Fit Trainer, Rosalina, Little Mac and Shulk. Third party folks are back too, as Sonic, Mega Man and Pac-Man are on hand to represent the non-Nintendo (Snake doesn’t make a return, unfortunately). Even Miis are here, with three variations (Brawler, Gunner and Swordfighter) ensuring that anyone can now be a fighter (Hank Hill is bringin’ the pro-pain!). There are still a few clones and palette swaps, but the sheer number of original characters is nothing to sniff at. Also, keep an eye out for the future release of Mewtwo…
There are an incredible 34 stages to play in the 3DS edition, with personal favourites of mine being Spirit Track’s Spirit Train, Pac-Man’s Pac-Maze, and Xenoblade’s Gaur Plains. They all look superb, and are accompanied by one of the 115 (!!!) musical pieces that are included in the game. In contrast, The Wii U version has 47 stages, and 437 musical pieces. I don’t need to tell you that this is an insane amount, and I particularly enjoy the side-scrolling Pac-Land and Game & Wario’s terrifying Gamer (where you must actually hide from 9-Volt’s devil-mum).
Trophies too, are almost too innumerable to count. Well, to be technical, there are 685 of them on 3DS, and 716 on Wii U – with each one being a viewable 3D model with its own humorous description. It’s simply baffling how they could’ve fit them all in – but they’re there. The aforementioned gold is used to buy them from a store, which contains special discounts and revolving stock. Gold can also be used to ‘buy’ time in the special Trophy Rush mode; for a maximum two and a half minutes. You basically smash boxes that contain gold, badges and trophies, whilst trying to keep a multiplier going. It’s addictive. Just like everything else. Shocker.
2017 Edit: Since its release, Smash Bros. has gotten even bigger. Bolstered by substantial DLC, the final product resulted in a tally of 58 fighters, including shock entries like Cloud Strife, Bayonetta and Ryu. The Wii U version ended up with 55 stages, 743 trophies and 511 music pieces, whilst the 3DS one had 42 stages, 707 trophies and 135 music tracks. Unreal.
So, Super Smash bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS is clearly jam-packed with content – but how does it actually run?
Unbelievably well, of course. The game runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second on both versions, and characters are incredibly detailed; with hilarious facial expressions and poses that lend themselves well to the screenshot and replay features (I did mention them, right?). Colours are bright and bold, and look truly magnificent on the 3DS XL screen or TV. The 3D effect for the former – while nice- is hardly essential, but it’s impressive that it’s there at all, considering how much grunt the game packs. The music too, is wonderful, with fully orchestrated pieces from 42 different composers. Yes, you read that right.
In conclusion, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS is a true feat of game development. It displays a loving tribute to Nintendo’s 125 year past whilst also showing-off just how well the development staff can maximise the potential of a relatively weak piece of hardware. In a way, I feel conflicted; my last review was the perfect-scoring Bayonetta 2 – and I hate myself for handing out another 10/10. But… Did you read the review? Do you see why I can’t give it any less than double digits? Because for me – games like Bayonetta 2 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS represents videogaming at its absolute best; products that are meticulously polished, a tonne of fun, and are filled to the brim with replayability (I still haven’t mentioned everything that’s included). In today’s age of DRM, buggy messes and penny-pinching DLC, it is wonderful to see gaming design still exist in its absolute finest form.
You’d be doing yourself a massive disservice by missing out.
10 out of 10
So, customisation is a major part of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, and Amiibo will play a major role. So, what is Amiibo? Well, it’s Nintendo’s attempt to take a slice of the Skylanders/Disney Infinity pie, with a range of NFC capable figures that are now on the shelves. “Wait…KFC?” I hear you ask, stomach growling in agreement. No, silly, NFC. Or ‘Near Field Communication’, to be precise. Basically, there will eventually be Amiibo versions of all Smash Bros characters, and these figures can be scanned into the 3DS (using an upcoming peripheral), or the Wii U GamePad, in the pursuit of creating your own custom character. You can then write the data into the figure itself, and take it with you to fight with other Smash players on 3DS or Wii U. It’s an ingenious idea, and one that isn’t limited to a single game. The Amiibo figures have been confirmed to work with games like Mario Kart 8, Hyrule Warriors, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Yoshi’s Wooly World! Bizarrely though, some toys have been incredibly hard to find – with certain characters supposedly already being discontinued, despite only being two months old. Nintendo, what are you doing?!