Published Nov 21, 2014Fan service gets a bad rap. So does Nintendo, at least lately. But two arguable wrongs make an undeniable right with the House of Mario's latest iteration of their beloved Super Smash Bros. 2D fighter franchise.
Fighting games are, of course, the original competitive multiplayer. Pioneering titles like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat turned old-timey arcades into arenas as kids placed their quarters on the cabinet to impatiently wait their turn to rip someone's pixelated spinal column out.
Super Smash Bros., being a Nintendo game, took the genre in a more kid-friendly direction when it premiered 15 years ago on the N64. It offered fans a chance to play a bloodless bloodsport that was just as fun, if not more so, because it included over a dozen of their favourite Nintendo characters.
A couple of years later, the franchise returned to the ring bigger and better, eventually claiming the title of best-selling GameCube game ever. Perhaps that sounds like damning with faint praise, but the GameCube was an underrated console and so is the Wii U, and it could certainly benefit from a similar Smash Bros. boost.
The Wii U version comes quickly on the heels of Nintendo's first-ever handheld Smash Bros. for 3DS, an unqualified success that sold over three million copies worldwide in its first few weeks in the wild. Though there were concerns that the screen would be too small to hold four fighters, thanks to the handheld's 3D and optional cell shading, that wasn't a real issue.
That said, as great as it is to bring Smash Bros. on the road, it's hard to beat the game blown up on a big high-def screen, especially now that the Wii U version has a brand new Eight-Player Smash mode. Though it would seem hopelessly chaotic, and kind of is, there's beauty in the chaos as fighters, be they player or computer-controlled, face off across the same stage.
Like the 3DS version, the Wii U plays faster and more furious than the last-gen edition while bringing in the franchise's signature mix of famous and obscure characters to do battle across famous and obscure stages while listening to classic and remixed scores.
Among the 15 new fighters in this generation are the Wii Fit trainer, Punch-Out's Little Mac and the Duck Hunt duo as well as characters from Fire Emblem and Xenoblade alongside non-Nintendo icons like Mega Man and Pac Man. The roster includes about 50 fighters, all told (including your own Mii), each with their own move sets and stages ranging from Yoshi's Island to Kirby's Dreamland to Pokémon Stadium.
Online multiplayer works great and you can play "For Fun" or "For Glory" modes depending on how competitive you are. But eight-player is local only, so luckily you can use your gamepad, wiimote and nunchuk, pro controller or even your 3DS and old GameCube controllers (adapter not included) to up the number of people who can play in your room (second couch not included).
The Wii U version has most of the 3DS content, plus a few other modes like the board game-based Smash Tour, the short story-based Event (replacing Brawl's lengthier and much-missed "Subspace Emissary" story mode), and the challenge-based Master Orders and Crazy Orders. These all add variety, but can't compete with the main game. There's also a limited stage creator that could have used a more robust toolset.
The other main addition is Amiibo, Nintendo's entry into the Skylanders/Disney Infinity toy-game playground. The figurine is well-made and unlocks a non-player character who you can train to fight for or against you, but it feels like a bonus at best, and nonessential to the game's success.
The new Super Smash Bros. does not reinvent the brawl, but it doesn't need to considering the whole mash-up meta-series operates as a love letter to Nintendo history. It's also a reminder that perhaps the company keeps returning to the same creative well so often because each new franchise release usually, somehow, manages to transcend the last. (Sora Ltd/Nintendo)