SSB4-3DS* was rad and all, but let me tell you about a little game called SSB4-WiiU**. This game makes me feel like a kid again because in so many ways, whether intentional or not, it feels like a really solid return to the old days of Smash. A return to the things that made the series so awesome in the first place in SSB-N64***. For me, that’s rad. More so than any other game in the series, SSB4-WiiU takes me on a huge nostalgia trip, back to those days of coming home from school to play Smash with my older brother. More importantly it continues the refinement process of SSBM, mixing in the best elements of other games in the series and gives me a game I’ve wanted for years.
SSB4-WiiU resonates with me a lot on a personal level and, aside from a few gripes with the design, it’s pretty hard to fault it technically. One might even say… Impossible. Maybe. SSB4-WiiU is pretty similar to its handheld counterpart in terms of design and gameplay, so I’ll mostly be focusing this review on what it did differently. Strap yourself in, there’s gonna be a lot of initialisms in this one.
“I said strap in.”
While it might have been neat to see the likes of the Subspace Emissary, SSB4-WiiU doesn’t have the same kind of story modes that featured in SSBM**** and Brawl*****. Instead, there’s small amounts of inconsequential story telling through single events which happen throughout the game, in similar ways to its N64 predecessor. The most notable of these are the return of the ending movies for each character, which are a little silly, but are still a nice throwback to ‘the old days’. The movies which were released in the lead-up to the release of both SSB4-Wii U and SSB4-3DS are included on the disc too, which provides a kind of loose narrative context for those that really need it. The lack of major story elements, however, means an apparently renewed focus on mechanics and gameplay, which SSB4-WiiU delivers. It delivers hard.
I should really say that SSB4 delivers in general since differences between the two versions of the game are largely aesthetic. If you’d like a run-down on how the combat works and if it’s any good (spoiler alert, it is), then you can read my review of the 3DS version here. There are a number of design differences, though these are also based on what levels, modes and “extras” are available – nothing which affects actual gameplay. It’s clear that a lot of care has gone into the extras in this game, with many classics making a return alongside new modes. I have a few issues with some of the modes, the target blast mode for one, but these are more problems of personal preference as opposed to actual problems with the game.
Because when a game can drive you to homicide, but still make you think you’re having fun, there’s bigger issues at hand – you know?
The most notable of these modes is Smash Tour, the Wii U versions alternative to Smash Run, which serves as a fairly faithful homage to Mario Party with a Smash Bros. twist. You have a spinner to determine moves, pick up various items to help yourself out (or, much more frequently, screw other players over) and move around the board to power up your stats. Every now and again the game will pause to have the players duke it out in a special smash using the stats and buffs they’ve accrued, awarding the winner and penalising the losers. It even has the same ability as Mario Party, in that it acts as a retrograde amnesiac. It will make players forget the hurtful things they say and do to one another while playing and inexplicably make them want to play again.
Psychological manipulations aside, Smash Tour is still a lot of silly, stupid fun and, most importantly, it doesn’t try to over-complicate things. As a side-game, it’s fairly simple and really just finds a unique way (in comparison to the rest of the game) to re-use the games main mechanic. That’s the kind of smart design that Nintendo needs more of in its first and second party titles. It’s also indicative of the rest of the mini-game offerings in Smash Bros., most of them carrying the same level of quality and entertainment value. All except Target Smash, which I can’t emphasise how much I hate. I likened it to Angry Birds in my 3DS review, but I’ll make it clear about how much better we could have had it. SSB-N64 has individual levels for each of the characters, each one designed to test the players ability to effectively use the character it was made for. Instead, we got this:
Words aren’t sufficient for how I feel about this… thing.
These are just a couple of the extra modes, however. Challenges, Events, Multi-man Smash, Master and Crazy Orders, to name a few others – I could go on forever about the extra content in the game, there’s too many to even briefly list them all. It should also be mentioned that the main game level design has also significantly improved. Some of the old classics have received a touch up to how they behave, like Metroid’s Norfair stage while others are exactly the same with a graphical update, like Zelda’s Hyrule Temple. So, if you’re into stages that change and do crazy junk, then you’re absolutely still being catered for and even I will admit that some of the new additions are pretty great. Starfox’s Orbital Gate Assault stage has become a personal favorite. The “stage bosses” seen in the 3DS version have carried over and they still stand as a fun addition. Omega levels are back too and a couple of variants of Battlefield have returned for the no-items-battlefield-only crowd to enjoy.
Online play is still an area that lets the game down, though it’s not as large a problem as many feared it would be. The online play shortly after release was still very laggy, which is to be expected to a degree for a game this popular. I was never disconnected from a game, however, and have still yet to have it happen which is a massive improvement over SSB4-3DS’ online play. The 1v1 play is near flawless and has dropped the short input delays that I experienced while playing in the 1v1 matches in the 3DS version. Unfortunately, the group smashes are still having lag issues and it’s easy to see why they weren’t keen to have the 8-player smashes online. Things are definitely improving and at a much better pace than they did with SSB4-3DS; however, given the problems they had with the 3DS version, I would have hoped that I wouldn’t have to even mention these problems. Nintendo still has a ways to go, it seems, with handling online play.
It’s now more like a really fast slide show instead of living statue performance art.
SSB4-Wii U also excels on a presentation level, with Nintendo’s trademark style looking better than ever. They’ve done an amazing job of pulling all of these distinctive characters together with a common look and, at least as far as I’m concerned, have maintained their individual personalities and identities. Even Pac-Man, I guess, embracing the bizarre, hideous, bipedal freak version by using him as a violent monstrosity (as I always suspected he was.) The amount of music available and the ability to customise how it plays in-game is also really neat. SSBM is still an old favorite and I love the main theme for it more than any of the other renditions; having it greet me whenever I boot up the game is such a great nostalgia blast.
Before I finish up let’s talk Amiibo’s, because those things are basically crack-infused toys that defy any sense of the phrase “age barrier.” In Smash they act as a personalised, virtual avatar that’s tied to each individual figure. It’s essentially Pokemon in Smash Bros. form, since you can feed them, train them and send them out to battle strangers so they can level up and become stronger. I really root for my Amiibo when he’s fighting (I chose Fox, naturally) and feel a sense of comradery with this toy. One that is generally only reserved for RPG characters that have seen hundreds of hours of play. Sure this is a case of a second party Nintendo game re-using already heavily used Nintendo game mechanics, coupled with rampant consumerism at it’s finest, but damned if it doesn’t work. They’re now probably my favorite part of the game and the idea that their benefits will still continue to extend beyond Smash is just kind of amazing.
I’m also playing with toys again, just like when I was a kid… What’s your angle here, Nintendo?
By now it should be clear that I’m a pretty big fan of the game and hopefully I’ve sufficiently justified the praise I’ve been showering it with. I might be a raving fanboy, but this is still a review. The additional content in the game is varied and incredibly polished. Amiibo’s, while likely to bankrupt me, are actually a worthwhile addition to the game instead of just a blatant cash-in on the success of Skylanders and Infinity. The exceptional combat and core gameplay from the 3DS has carried over into the main console game without diminishing, looking and sounding amazing as it does so.
At the end of the day it’s a Smash Bros. game, which is (almost) impossible to screw up, and it’s an improvement on the 3DS version by an enormous amount. At the end of my SSB4-3DS review, I said that the 3DS version was now my favourite in the series. This is still true to a degree, but it’s probably better to say that SSB4 in general has become my favorite. The two are the same game but in different forms, both with their own merits. I probably couldn’t ask for a better Smash experience than this (though I’m absolutely going to – stay tuned for more on that.) It’s hit a lot of nostalgia g-spots for me, and it could still excel as its own game even without those references. These days I come home from work instead of school, and I chill out on the couch and play Smash with my fiancee instead of my older brother. However, fifteen years on from that first title and I’m still Smashing with the same smile from all those years ago.
*SSB4-3DS: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
**SSB4-WiiU: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo Wii U
***SSB-N64: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64
****SSBM: Super Smash Bros. Melee for Nintendo GameCube)
*****Brawl: Literally Satan. (for the dumb-namesake of the currently dumb-named console, whose name is dumb. God dammit Brawl, I hate you so much.)
YOUR REIGN OF TYRANNY IS OVER!
Disclaimer: This review was based on the Wii U version of the game, and was purchased at retail by the writer for the purpose of review.