Thursday, January 22, 2015

[REVIEW] Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Platform: Wii U (e-Shop)
Genre: Fighting
Developer: Sora Ltd. / Bandai Namco
Publisher: Nintendo

So here we are: over fifteen years after its debut on the Nintendo 64, Super Smash Bros. went from interesting oddity to one of gaming's premier franchises. As expected, this Wii U version is a collection of superlatives: Smash never looked better, never featured so many characters, never offered so many gameplay modes, and (perhaps most importantly) was never quite as crazy as it is here.

If you’re new to the series, here’s all you need to know: Smash is about having every big Nintendo game star, as well as a few important mascots from third parties, battling it out in crazy free-for-all bouts. To sweeten the deal even more, you'll be able to grab famous items from past games (such as Mario's mushrooms, Kirby's star wand or Earthbound's Franklin badge) and use them to defeat your foes, as well as summon literally hundreds of other characters from in-game trophies and pok√©-balls to help you out. It's deliciously chaotic, but also features a lot of depth in its controls; so much so that a sizeable part of the fanbase is made of cutthroat tournament players, who will eschew the game's more quirky aspects (such as items and variable stage designs) in order to get a more streamlined one-on-one fighting experience.

Appreciate the beautiful sunset on the Bridge of Eldin? Nah, I'd rather beat the crap out of people.
I gotta be honest and admit that the hardcore tournament side of the franchise doesn't interest me much, so I won't be able to comment on that and still know what I'm talking about. What I do enjoy, however, is how crazy Smash can get when all you want to do is have some friends over and battle the day away. Every character has the same set of move commands, so the game is relatively easy to just pick up and play. The results of each command, however, will vary immensely from one fighter to the next, making it quite a joy to explore the 40-plus character roster.

Speaking of the roster, one of the best side aspects of Smash is how it gets every nostalgia muscle tingling. There's just something about seeing Mario and Sonic go at each other (something that would be unthinkable back in the time I started gaming). When, say, Mega Man and Donkey Kong join in, it just becomes the sort of thing that would blow the mind of young me. The game also features a host of trophies to collect, representing characters (from the usual superstars to long-forgotten sidekicks), items, and, uh, assorted inanimate objects, such as a can from Hogan's Alley. Better yet: every trophy comes with an accompanying paragraph of text explaining the origins of whatever's being represented. It's the kind of attention to detail that makes me pore over a title for more than its gameplay.

Enguarde, old buddy! Nice to see you in the trophy shop! Now please get into the next Donkey Kong Country game.

As you may know, Smash for Wii U has no shortage of modes to conquer and things to do. Aside from regular Smash battles and the trophy gallery, you have a music player with dozens of tunes from old games (even if some of them are re-arranged in unfortunate ways), a fun board-game mode, a very handy (if sometimes laggy) online mode, and more alternate ways to play than I could list here from memory. Of course, there's also amiibo integration, allowing you to summon whichever figurines you have with you to join the battle and level up accordingly. It's a cool little feature, even if it doesn't really amount to much.

Customization of characters and stages is also available, and it's one of the features that had me most excited prior to getting the game. The character creator works perfectly, allowing you to create fighters out of every Mii you have on your console, and customize each one with different moves and characteristics. The stage creator, on the other hand, was my biggest disappointment here. While it puts the gamepad to very good use, the options are very limited when it comes to actually crafting your stage, with just a few background options instead of a fully-customized editor. There are cool things you can do with it, but sadly there's no easy way to share your creations online, which further dampens its appeal.

Sorry, Tyrion Lannister, Walter White and George Costanza. It seems this simply was Beavis's day.

As you can see, yes, Smash for Wii U features a nearly intimidating number of features, and it gets the vast majority of them absolutely right. Be it playing against the computer, online opponents, three other friends on your couch, or, ahem, up to seven others in eight-player battles (trust me, it's one of the most hilarious experiences you can have with any video game, ever), the game oozes the kind of wide-eyed fun that is the very reason most of us play video games in the first place. It's poised to be one of the evergreen masterpieces of this generation, and it's an absolute must-buy.

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