By Jacob Rich, Daily Arts Writer
Published November 23, 2014
To call “Super Smash Bros.” a great video game series would be an understatement. In the last several years, the popular fighting game has certainly attained cultural phenomenon status, with the Ann Arbor area becoming one of the many epicenters of its massive competitive scene.
Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire
Sora Ltd. and Bandai Namco Games
Its newest, biggest release, “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U,” is an enormous, painstakingly crafted multiplayer video game, one that deserves a hallowed spot in any collegiate gamer’s library. It has yet to reach perfection in its single-player offerings, but there exists no better option for local multiplayer fun this console generation.
“Smash Wii U” is a unique entry in the series because its hardcore audience is already more than familiar with its characters and gameplay, thanks to the popularity of its portable sister “Super Smash Bros. for 3DS,” which was released in October. The game is inherently similar to its 3DS equivalent, but a few distinct features along with its incredible presentation make it worth purchasing in tandem.
The game’s most distinctive new feature is its expansion from four player to eight-player support, effectively elevating the series from “the best dorm room game ever” to “the best dorm hall game ever.” Based on trailers and promotional materials alone, the idea of eight-player Smash may appear to be confusing and daunting. In practice, it works shockingly well. The five, six, seven and eight player matches I played with my friends were certainly more frantic than their smaller counterparts, but just as fun as each of the four-player binge-sessions I’ve had with the Smash bros. series for the last 15 years.
The game also looks absolutely fabulous in HD, running at a very consistent 60 frames per second. The intricate designs of each character are more consistent with each other than ever, and their simpler color schemes work swimmingly with the increased resolution. The animation of each movement of each character is nearing Pixar levels of excellent, sensible onscreen motion.
Like the 3DS game, “Smash Wii U” ’s fighting mechanics certainly won’t replace “Melee” (the most popular game in the series) in the hearts of competitive players. However, it is overwhelmingly evident that both casual and hardcore players will be able to find hundreds of hours of fun here. The combat is much faster and significantly more nuanced than its polarizing predecessor “Brawl,” thanks in part to its wider variety of characters, tweaked ledge-grabbing mechanics and increased speed in many of the fighters.
“Brawl” does have one advantage over this new entry, however: its superior single-player modes. Those holding out hope that another single-player campaign to match the scope of “Brawl” ’s “Subspace Emissary” mode will be disappointed, as “Smash Wii U” lacks any kind of adventure mode. In its stead is an overly-simplistic board game mode called “Smash Tour,” in which up to four players compete to collect fighters and increase their stats on a minimalized version of a “Mario Party” game board. Like the 3DS’s “Smash Run” mode, it feels quite half-hearted and likely won’t entertain for more than a few playthroughs. It simply doesn’t have the style nor substance of “Subspace Emissary.” That mode felt like the best fan service a Nintendo fan could ask for, this feels like the only lazy part of an otherwise intricately and intentionally crafted game.
Luckily, “Smash Wii U” sees the return of series staple “Event Match” mode, which was unfortunately absent from the 3DS game. Similar to previous games in the series, “Event Match” is a set of challenges and scenarios often inspired by the events and characteristics of each of the classic games represented in “Smash Wii U” ’s roster. This time, though, each of the many expertly designed events comes with an additional “For Reward” challenge, many of which are among the most difficult and engaging challenges the game has to offer. And, like “Brawl,” “Smash Wii U” sports an entirely different set of “Events” to be completed in two-player co-op.
“Smash Wii U” supports a staggering number of control options. Essentially every Nintendo controller released this millennium works with this game, in any conceivable combination. The GameCube controller is the best, most familiar way to play this game. That is, if you can track down the currently sold-out GameCube Adaptor, which, in a brilliant move, Nintendo released simultaneously with “Smash Wii U” specifically to cater to its hardcore audience.
It would be criminal to review this game without mentioning its absolutely enormous soundtrack: the game sports perhaps the largest soundtrack in video game history. I have over 350 unique songs unlocked, and judging from various articles online, it would seem that I still have a lot more to find. It must have been a licensing nightmare to pull so many different songs from so many different series under so many different publishers. The My Music feature also returns from “Brawl,” presenting an easy way to navigate the soundtrack and toggle on and off your preferred songs.
It remains to be seen whether the game’s online features are viable or not. I experienced some significant lag in online matches in the days following launch, but it’s impossible to judge from these few sessions whether the mode will be viable in the long run. Consider monitoring online smash forums for the next few weeks if your purchase hinges on the viability of online play.
But Smash has never really been about online play, nor single-player for that matter. The inclusion of expanded online features feels unimportant; it’s a concession to modern gaming conventions that didn’t necessarily need to happen. Smash is about having an excellent time with the friends that are physically in the room with you.
Does “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U” deliver in that regard?
Without a doubt.
”Super Smash Bros. for Wii U” was reviewed using an advance retail copy provided by Nintendo.