Release Date: November 21, 2014Platform: Wii UDeveloper: Sora Ltd, Bandai Namco GamesPublisher: NintendoGenre: Fighting
It’s been six years since the last Super Smash Bros. graced a home console. It’s been even longer since the last truly great Smash console title, if you listen to pro players who claim that the GameCube’s Melee is still the definitive title in franchise history. Even Nintendo almost admits as much, by making Super Smash Bros. for Wii U compatible with a GameCube style controller.
But the good news for both returning veterans and new players alike is that Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is arguably the new best game in the series, regardless of which type of controller you’re smashing.
Fans of the series had high hopes for the Wii U release after the 3DS version brought in stellar reviews, and it turns out that the extra two months were worth the wait. The ability to use real controllers, whether it be GameCube, Wii U Pro, or Gamepad, without having to squint at a small screen, really does make a huge difference. I played every character available in the starting roster at least a couple of times for this review and every single one feels great. Even the online version is better, with notably less input lag than the handheld version.
But where Smash Bros. for Wii U really shines is in an area that is exclusive to the console version. The ability to play with up to 8 players in local multiplayer is just, with apologies to Donkey Kong and Gwen Stefani, B-A-N-A-N-A-S. For this review, I called in favors to (my only) friends, and got an insane night of gaming going at my apartment. There were GameCube controllers, Wii Remotes, Pro Controllers, and a Gamepad to boot. Oh, and beer. We had lots of beer.
The bigger 8-player stages accommodate the chaos quite well, and there is very little slowdown to the naked eye. It can be hard to keep up with all of the action at times, but there’s nothing more satisfying on Earth than seeing a cluster of four or more players all duking it out at the far end of a Smash stage, and then rushing over to blast them all into the stratosphere at once. Just be prepared for the bowl of pretzels to then get blasted in your direction in real life.
But even if you don’t have any friends (I’m sorry), there’s still a lot to love here. We’ve already seen some of our favorite Nintendo characters in HD thanks to the likes of Super Mario 3D World and Hyrule Warriors, but I’d have to put Super Smash Bros. for Wii U on par or better in the graphics department compared to any of those. Everything just shines with that polish that we’ve come to expect, and perhaps sometimes take for granted, with Nintendo first party titles. After two months of going cross-eyed from the tiny 3DS screen, the smooth 60 frames per second on an HDTV is a welcome sight. All of the familiar audio from all of your favorite franchises is here without a hitch as well.
Online works surprisingly well. This may be the only online-centric title I’ve played in 2014 that experienced next to zero major hiccups on launch night. With as much crap as Nintendo has gotten over the years for lagging behind its peers when it comes to online gaming, it’s kind of funny that online Smash has outclassed the competition. Just take a look at the problems Microsoft is having with The Master Chief Collection, for starters. Maybe I was just lucky, but except for the very occasional lag spike, I couldn’t tell much difference between playing online vs. off.
You’ll most likely spend most of your time duking it out with your friends or playing online in the standard multiplayer modes, but there’s other fun to be had as well. The best activity for solo players is likely Event Mode. You’ll be given unique challenges to complete that often require other objectives besides just blasting your opponent off the screen. Completing certain objectives will unlock more to pursue, adding quite a bit of replayability. There’s no huge, connected story like Brawl’s Subspace Emissary, which is a bit of a disappointment, but the smaller narratives still have that classic Nintendo charm.
Smash Tour is another Wii U exclusive mode, or as I call it, Mario Party Lite. I found this mode to be a bit confusing, with players running around on a board, bumping into each other and then fighting it out. Like an actual Mario Party game, this one is probably played best with real life friends. I got bored of it on my own fairly quickly, which is a shame, because playing this mode is required if you want all of the unlocks.
I didn’t have a chance to test out Amiibo with the title, but from what I’ve heard I’m not missing much. I still don’t see the point of letting a figurine do your fighting for you, when you can just pick up the controller yourself. But then again, I’ve never cared much for any of the other physical-toy-inside-your-game collections either so your mileage may vary.
I am giving this title five stars, and I’d like to take a moment to explain the perfect score. Please understand that not every mode in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a home run. But Smash at its heart has always been about the multiplayer experience. That’s why the lack of a big story in Event Mode or the occasional boredom I felt in Smash Tour doesn’t sway me. If you are willing to look at the game as a multiplayer title with a few extra modes tossed in just for fun, this is the best Wii U game currently available and a candidate for Game of the Year for the industry as a whole.