Once in a while a game comes along that has the power to move mountains – or at least move some consoles. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is that for Nintendo, as a next-gen console instalment of a game that’s near and dear to the hearts of its core customers. And Super Smash Bros. for Wii U more than delivers: The game nails everything that was good about the series to begin with, and brings in new features that make it even more addictive than ever.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U doesn’t stray far from previous games in the series when it comes to the basics – in fact, the Nintendo GameCube gamepad is still the best way to play. It may be the best, but it’s far from the only way to control your fighter in SSB: This game supports more input methods than you can shake a Wii U Remote (which is also supported) at, including the Wii U’s gamepad with its built-in display, and Nintendo’s 3DS portable devices. The 3DS can act as a controller when you have a Super Smash Bros. for 3DS cartridge to go along with it.
The gameplay experience, and your range of control options, will differ depending on what you’re using for input, but what Super Smash Bros. manages to do so well is make it feel like all are welcome, regardless of skill and proficiency with control devices. I’ve never been a particularly strong SSB player myself, for instance, despite being a longtime fan of the series, but I felt no more out of my depth here than I ever have. And my girlfriend, who has never really enjoyed the games, actually found this one more accessible than previous iterations, despite larger maps and expanded roster and game modes.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is just how easy it is to get into the game and start smashing. The first, huge option you’re presented with will launch you right into a match, with either human or custom computer opponents, and while you can tweak all the match settings to suit your preferences, you really don’t need to if all you’re looking for is a simple, fun match. I spent literally the first four hours of my time with Super Smash Bros. just playing a series of random battles using the stock rules with my friends and girlfriend, and I likely could’ve been happy to continue doing only that for a lot longer.
The ability to customize fighters with your own move sets and equipment, which adjusts their strengths and weaknesses to fit your gameplay style, is another hugely enjoyable feature in SSB Wii U. Creating your custom Mii fighter from scratch lets you start with a blank slate, but I prefer tweaking some of the existing characters. Building an ultra-heavy Charizard for intense attack bonuses really amplifies my particular skills, or at least makes up for the ones I lack.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U has a number of game modes, including the ability to progress through a standard ladder to ultimately face Master Hand, gaining bonuses throughout. Some of the new game modes are the most fun, however, and bring in exclusive gameplay options for owners of the console edition.
These include Smash Tour, which offers up a boardgame for up to four players to enjoy. Play involves making your way around the board, collecting powerups and team members, setting traps and applying special items. Battles are triggered every few turns, and you can then use all the resources you’ve amassed to try to trounce your opponents. It’s sort of like a pared down version of Mario Party, but with mini games that are full-on battles instead of simple diversions. The board game aspect feels like it could stand to be a bit more fleshed out, but this should provide a nice alternative for group gatherings once basic fights have lost some of their initial lustre.
Another new game mode is Event mode, which up to two players can tackle together. This features specific challenges that are thematically constructed, and let you fight your way through sets of enemies grouped together because of some shared context. For example, the first one pits you against classic gaming icons, in a series of battles that unlock from an initial event. This mode is fun and informative, giving newer players a bit more background on the awesome assembled roster Nintendo has put together here.
Finally, there’s “Special Orders,” which sounds like a higher-priced list of menu options from a takeout place but is actually a sort of playlist of challenges created by Master Hand and Crazy Hand in the game world that will unlock prizes and goodies through successful completion. A lot of what the additional game modes amount to in Super Smash Bros. Wii U is remixing the basic formula, but here, as elsewhere, that approach works.
Other game modes will be mostly familiar to fans of the series, or owners of the 3DS edition, and all provide hours of potential enjoyment. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a bit like a puzzle box, in that it appears deceptively simple at first, but has layers upon layers of content to unpack, making for huge potential replay value. The Wii U in your living room won’t sit idle for long once you pick this up.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a rarity in that it can provide local multiplayer not just for up to four players, but in fact for up to eight, provided you have the right controller arrangement and are using one of the larger maps provided in the new game. Eight player on SSB Wii U is a game changer, probably more so than even online play, which goes live when the game launches later this week.
And SSB is also a game that can be enjoyed not just by skilled players and novices equally, but that can be enjoyed by both at the same time. It’s hard not to stress the importance of that: One ringer in a group of eight players could easily ruin the experience in any number of other multiplayer titles, including the varied first-person shooters that now dominate the category. In SSB Wii U, somehow, a skill imbalance is not as devastating or injurious to player morale.
SSB Wii U may be the best multiplayer game available on next-gen consoles currently, but it’s definitely the best one you can get for your Nintendo hardware at the moment.
A host of extras, including additional levels and unlockable characters, await players in SSB Wii U. There are 50 in total at launch, including the new Mii fighters you can create yourself, and there are likely more coming in the future. Thankfully, unlocking these characters isn’t dependent on you being amazing at the game: determination is rewarded, too, as each has both a challenge unlock and a simple matches threshold unlock option (but you’ll still have to beat the fighter in single combat).
More new characters will likely arrive via downloadable content, and via Nintendo’s new Amiibo program, which is also a big extra with this title. The NFC toys let you own and upgrade characters in-game, with RPG-like stat progression tied to your specific figurine. We weren’t able to test it directly prior to publishing this release, but it’s a big selling point for anyone interested in the toys-to-life phenomenon, and we’ll report back when we’ve had more time to analyze this aspect of the game. SSB Wii U doesn’t suffer for lack of Amiibo, however, if you’d rather skip the collectibles.
The close connection between the 3DS and Wii U versions of the game is also a nice extra. You can transfer custom characters back and forth between the consoles, which lets you establish a roster that could be completely different from the fighters of people you battle. As mentioned above, players can also use their 3DS as controllers for the Wii U version if they own the game, which is great for multiplayer when friends drop by with their own consoles. It would’ve been nice to see Nintendo provide some kind of tool by which a 3DS could act as a controller without the requirement of a separate 3DS game cartridge, as it did for Mario Kart DS.
Nintendo could really use a hit going into the holiday season, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a hit. It’s a game to buy consoles for, and it’s something that should make existing Wii U owners feel good about their purchase. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and the fundamental experience of actually battling it out in the arena feels remarkably similar to how it did on the original game for the Nintendo 64, but the formula works, and the new features, extras, and expanded multiplayer option make this a must-have.