Su­per Smash Bros For Wii U

Wii U

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Nin­tendo De­vel­oper Sora Ltd/Bandai Namco For­mat Wii U Re­lease Out now

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.

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