Super Smash Bros For Wii U
Well, it’s been almost 13 years, but Super Smash Bros Melee can finally be laid to rest: Smash Wii U feels that good. That it finds a sweet spot between pacy, deep brawling and broad party appeal is remarkable, but to do so consistently across a roster of 50-odd characters, and so many wildly different playstyles, is astonishing. Yes, it’s built on the same core ideas that have powered the series since 12 fighters duked it out on N64’s crude platforms, but here they’re refined to ingots of explosive, impulsive pugilism bound in a gloriously crisp and colourful HD wrapper, Brawl’s pratfalls left behind as slag.
Smash is often labelled as a fighting game, but it’s so atypical as to stretch the category, or even break out of it. It tests some of the same skills – reading fighters, controlling space – but its heart is usually lighter, ditching complex combo inputs and instead setting up scrabbles for a Poké Ball, say, which could either produce a legendary to wipe the stage clear of foes or, tragicomically, a Goldeen to flop uselessly about. It is about reacting to background chaos as much as honing abilities and your metagame.
Smash Wii U doubles down on both sides of its nature, pushing the boundaries farther out into the serious and the silly. Eightplayer Smash mode is anarchic carnage, skill hard to express when you’re facing attacks from three directions, but the handful of large stages split the pack into boisterous pockets of flailing limbs that suit a room full of lightly competitive friends. Online one-on-one, meanwhile, gets as close to traditional fighting games as Smash ever will without a reboot, its Omega form stages dropping the phase shifts and tricks of standard platforms, and items banned altogether to ensure a balletic dance of reactions, counters and specials decides the victor.
Thanks to the lithe way fighters move, both ends of the scale are excellent, and with an array of input devices supported, Smash has never been so flexible. Custom control setups could be easier to deal with, though – you’ll have to reselect them after every mode switch, online and off, which is easy to forget until your rebound special hops you into the air.
Not every addition is for the better, either. The new Smash Tour joins the 3DS version’s Smash Run on the list of modes to rinse for unlocks and then leave alone for evermore. It’s a fast-moving but still drawn-out affair of rolling dice and moving about a board to collect stat boosts and characters for a royal rumble at the end. Short-lived bouts are sandwiched in, too, but since trophy items doled out at random can add 100 per cent damage to a player or make you metal from the off, they’re hilariously unbalanced.
Classic, meanwhile, marks an encore for Smash 3DS’s excellent difficulty slider, letting you bet gold to up the challenge and the rewards. The difference is it puts you
Smash Wii U doubles down on both sides of its nature, pushing the boundaries further into the serious and silly
in a freeform arena of matchup choices rather than on a variable path, but the addition of scraps with more than four fighters is questionable. One unlucky hit can mean getting batted from CPU to CPU, which is nothing like as amusing as it is among friends, though you do soon learn to hang back and mop up, especially when a perfect 9.0-difficulty run is on the line. Crazy and Master Hand challenges, plus the return of Event matches and All-Star mode, make up the difference for the lone player. The foremost are particularly good. Here, some damage persists between each match – beat a metal opponent, a giant or a round of free-for-all – but your wins are totted up. You can end the run in a showdown with Crazy Hand at any point, but the rewards will swell with each victory. Conversely, lose and you can kiss goodbye to almost the lot. Its one-more-try nature can gobble up hours. And if the package is a little heavily dependant on its staple activity in places, lacking an equivalent of Subspace Emissary to break up the rhythm, Events allow Sora’s imagination to run wild, changing the rules of engagement in delectable morsels. You’ll hop from an HP-based duel between Lucina and Marth to a Wrecking Crew building demolition to a Luigi-onBowser showdown where Mario threatens to come and steal the show if you can’t finish in time. Such sublime inversions of series norms are what Smash does best.
Online has been far spottier historically, and while Smash Wii U’s netcode is a vast improvement, it’s not flawless. Much is dependant on connection quality, but a bad line can hamper framerates for all involved, the game slowing down like you’re viewing it through a lazily spun zoetrope. Happily, such cases are rare, and the odds are even better with a smaller player count. Hours of flawless one-on-one matches on a rural connection would seem to deny either side the opportunity to blame many losses on lag.
What does Amiibo add to all this? That depends on what you put into them. Most modes preclude use of the figures, so they’re nonessential at best, but the capacity to learn a few tricks, plus to feed them customisation items, does create fighters decidedly different to a level-nine NPC.
Nintendo promised to refocus on its stalwart fans recently, and while the launch game for a plastic toy range seems like an odd place to begin, Sakurai and co have managed to do exactly that. This series has always been a peerless act of fan service anyway, but Smash Wii U welds tight, technical play to endearing chaos more seamlessly than any game in the series before it. It’s another highlight of Wii U’s slow recovery year, and while a smattering of minor blemishes mean it shines a bit less brightly than 2014’s other headline acts, it’s no less essential for it.