Super Smash Bros. was always meant for the big screen. It’s a multiplayer game after all, at its best when you’ve got three of your friends (actually, now up to seven of your friends) crowded around the same screen, playing as a variety of characters. The 3DS version felt out of place as a multiplayer game on an inherently single player console, with any joy from playing with friends diminished by the fact that you’re staring at separate screens, and are perhaps not even in the same room as each other.
But on Wii U, Smash Bros. is close to perfection for the series. The shift to eight-players (albeit only in Smash mode) is a genuine leap forward for the series, opening plenty of new avenues and meaning that it’s very unlikely for anyone to be left out. There’s tons of content, with plenty of supplementary single player modes alongside some expansive and genuinely fun multiplayer options, making this the most complete instalment in the series to date.
It’s the same jump that we’ve seen on Wii U before with Mario Kart 8, which pretty much refined all of the series’ mechanics and packaged it in such a beautifully complete bundle. Even though it’s coming just months after the 3DS release, it feels as though its been a good year or two, given the improvements on show.
Staying the same, however, is the character roster; you’ll still have the same bunch of game heroes and villains from the 3DS version, and they come with identical customisable moves. It does feel better playing without the awkward controls of Nintendo’s handheld, which might make the gameplay feel even more refined for some, and fact that the game is running in 1080p and at a solid sixty frames per second, with extremely refined graphics, helps more dedicated fans time their moves to be pixel perfect.
It really is a superb pool of familiar faces, perhaps only held back by the limitations of the 3DS in implementing some of the characters, but there’s nothing to complain about unless you’ve spent years mastering Ice Climbers’ dual-character combat. You’ll be able to customise characters, changing their moves as well as their speed/defence/attack stats. This goes hand-in-hand with Amiibo, where you’re able to customise your own fighter, save it to the figurines, and essentially level them up as they learn how you play and how to counter your friends.
In terms of single player content, Classic mode is back, but has undergone a revamp and is now a much more tactical affair. You’ll move your character’s piece across a board to your selected battle, giving you more choice, while your rival will also be highlighted and fighting their own battles. You can choose to defeat your rival straight away, or instead let them grow stronger and defeat them in a later battle, in turn receiving more prizes. It’s great stuff, culminating in a huge final battle, and feels like less of an afterthought than the 3DS version. While there are no Subspace Emissary style cutscenes, there are amusing (and short) character videos which you’ll unlock on completion.
In fact, there’s tons to unlock in every part of the game, with almost everything you do either upping your collected gold, your customisable equipment, trophy collection, or even your selection of music. It can be a bit confusing at times as to how to collect a specific thing, but thankfully the Challenges – basically in-game achievements for doing specific things – will guide you along the way. There are over a hundred and fifty of these, too.
Also on the single player side of things is All-Star Mode – where you fight your way back in time through the character roster – and Events, which are uniquely modified battles, often with an amusing and fitting backstory, such as Mario being busy so it being “Luigi’s time to shine”, or a simple Pokémon battle. There’s also Master Orders and Crazy Orders, which are similar to the events but not set in stone, where you bet money on how well you do – the latter requiring you to complete successive orders before banking your prizes.
Oddly, there’s much more here for solo players than there was in the 3DS version, which you’d have thought would be less multiplayer focused. Of course, at the heart of the game is the Smash mode, in which you can now use a 3DS as a controller, and now supports up to eight players to essentially double the fun, turning brawls into even larger, mayhem-filled battles. This is where you’ll spend most of your time with friends in multiplayer, but there are also co-operative options in Classic mode, All-Star, and plenty of other sections, as well as online.
But there’s a new, meaty mode which transforms Smash multiplayer and comes in the form of one of the most enjoyable virtual board games I’ve played. This is the Smash Tour, a mode for four players which takes some things from Mario Party and transforms them to create an extremely enjoyable, fast-paced game of numbers. This is similar to Smash Run on the 3DS, in that you constantly upgrade your stats – jumping, speed, attack, and more – as you play, collecting stat boosts as you pass over tiles on the game board.
It’s different from traditional board games though, as you all roll at once, and from there you have to run around the board as fast as you can towards your desired tile. Meet with another player or stand on a certain tile and a battle will ensue, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be using your favourite character because, as well as stat boosts, you’ll be collecting customised characters as you go. This means that one Charizard may be entirely different from another, thanks to the movesets being randomised from the large pool available.
You’ll use all of your collected characters, along with your stat upgrades, in the final timed battle, where the winner is decided by who gains the most KOs. This means that while one player might have ten characters, but another has just a few but with better stats, allowing them to gain those KOs more easily. It’s a really deep, well considered mode which is a hell of a blast when you’re playing with like-minded friends.
As touched on before, the higher resolution visuals really make the fighting much more enjoyable than previous instalments. Even though it might be hard to tell where you are in the eight-player mode, when you do find your character, you’ll be able to unleash moves that hit solidly with the game’s impressive collision detection. You feel empowered, and like every hit is making its mark. With tons of customisation options and over fifty fighters, it’s quite an achievement that they all work in tandem.
The stages are also bigger at times – to accommodate for eight players – and more glorious than ever before, with plenty of remixes thrown into the hefty pool. There are huge adventure levels such as STAR FOX; ingenuity in stages like the Wii Fit Studio, which features a mirror in the background a la Mario 64; some more out-there designs such as the 2D sidescrolling PAC-Land; and really impressive shows of stage design with a wonderful Super Mario Galaxy inspired arena. All of these, of course, have their own Omega mode, bringing them more in line with Final Destination, for the hardcore players.
Those Omega stages are the ones which you’ll find in the For Glory section of online play, where there are no items and play is ranked. There’s also For Fun, which is great, although the omittance of eight-player online matches is disappointing. It’s the same with lack of voice chat in actual play – you can talk away in lobbies – and these are in attempt to keep the online lag free. Thankfully, it all seems to be rather smooth; although there are a few frame drops here and there, most of my online experience has been flawless.
While there are other modes in online, such as Spectate – for watching and gambling on games – and Conquest, where selected fighters go up against each other in a timed competition, there are unfortunately no online tournaments at launch. The same goes for local tournaments, though Nintendo will be patching in this functionality at a later date, so it’s not as though they’ve ignored it completely, just that they’ll take a bit more time to include it.
A stage builder rounds off the gameplay content, allowing you to make your own – extremely simple – maps. This hasn’t advanced too much from the Wii version, but the ability to use the Wii U GamePad for crafting and effectively drawing stages makes from some more unique designs. It’s just a shame that the GamePad’s implementation isn’t quite as slick elsewhere, as you can’t navigate the rather crowded and seemingly touch-friendly menu using it.
After the 3DS version – which was still great, but simply didn’t present enough content – I had my reservations about Super Smash Bros. For Wii U, but in this package there’s truly something for every type of Smash fan: whether it’s those who like to go it alone, those who wish more than three friends could join them, or the player who likes battling it out globally, there’s a wealth of content wrapped up in some fantastic visuals, with spot-on gameplay representing the series at the best it’s ever been.