Ever since the first Super Smash Bros. released for N64 over fifteen years ago, and through the subsequent instalments of Melee and Brawl, four has always been the magic number. You had four players, on relatively small to medium stages, battling it out, and if you had more than four people wanting to play, they’d have to sit out until someone gave up a controller.
And that was fine. There were no qualms with the fact that the game was limited to four players, and I hadn’t really entertained the notion of having any more players in a match until Nintendo announced it a couple of weeks ago. There were those moments where the larger stages – such as Temple and New Pork City – felt a bit too big for four players, but my friends and I usually just tried to avoid those ones.
But having up eight players in the game – only in a separate Smash mode, mind – feels like a genuine leap forward for the series. There’s no worrying about leaving anyone out, no need to plan who will switch controllers, and tons of fun to be found in the eight player mayhem.
It’s not perfect – four player Smash (or even 1v1) is still probably the best way to go most of the time, but it makes the series feel fresh, even compared to the 3DS version which released just weeks ago. The support for practically any Nintendo controller released this century – including the 3DS, if you have the game on there – means that you shouldn’t have a problem getting everyone a means of controlling their characters.
When playing, it can be absolute mayhem. You’ve got people splitting off into individual 1v1 battles, far away from a 2v2 battle across the other side of the map, but then there are the moments when you all meet at the same section and a larger battle ensues. At points, it can be a tad confusing and less eagle-eyed players will lose their characters, but when there are eight players chasing after the Smash Ball – and then one player using that Final Smash to rack up KOs – it can feel quite incredible.
It doesn’t even have to be eight players – even just having the room for five or six players at once is superb, and you can always make up the numbers with the – rather impressive – CPU characters if you’re wanting to go for the full eight players. These bigger matches also come into play in the Event and Classic modes in single player, without much introduction, so it feels like quite a natural inclusion.
You can only play a handful of stages in this mode, although there’s a decent selection of Omega (Final Destination style) levels to choose from too. Battlefield is playable, but might be a bit too small, so the new Big Battlefield does what it says on the tin – adding extra platforms and elongating the stage. The Mario Galaxy level is a sight to behold too; a curved section of a planet, filling the screen with plenty of room for eight players.
The Great Cave Offensive is the largest stage available in this mode, effectively mimicking the Smash Run map from the 3DS version, with lots of different themed sections in the multi-tiered levels. Since it’s harder to get knocked out when in a confined space, there are sections of magma on the walls, which will instantly KO you if you have a high damage percentage.
Having played several hours of eight player Smash with friends over the weekend, I can comfortably say that it’s a welcome addition to the game, making it much more inclusive, and creating a lot more opportunities for mayhem. It’s silly, but at times the battles (particularly in the Great Cave) can feel like you’re taking part in an MMO, with eight players strewn across different parts of the same map, locking eyes with one or two other players while other battles are waged across the world.
Our review of Smash Bros. will be live on Friday as we’re waiting for the online modes to be available before we deliver our full verdict.