Smashing Once Again

I’ve now spent a lot of time with the WiiU version of the new Smash Bros. At its heart it is the same game, but there are some significant differences between the two versions. Both are worthwhile, but the 3DS game is a fun distraction, the WiiU one is Smash Bros the way it is supposed to be played. It looks great, plays great and introduces some great new additions to the series.

The 3DS game’s exclusive Smash Run mode was a fun time waster; it wasn’t the best thing ever, but it grew on me the more I played it and was a decent way to change things up. That is replaced on the WiiU with Smash Tour. Smash Tour is a terrible single player mode; it is absolutely no fun without other players. As a multiplayer game it plays like something between regular Smash Bros and a very limited Mario Party. It makes it much less entertaining than Smash Run. If you have a group around to play Smash, then you likely want to play Smash, the other modes are for when you have to play alone. Smash Tour fails utterly as a single player experience.

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Really, the single player side of Smash Bros WiiU is severely limited. All-Star mode is still All-Star mode. The same goes for Home Run challenge and the Multi-man Smash modes. Those are all familiar and fun. Event mode is also back, and the varied challenges found there are excellent, though somewhat brief. I completed all of them after just a few hours. Nintendo did add coop play to almost all of the single player modes, making them worthwhile when there are exactly two players. The new target mode is now some Angry Birds knock off that I don’t quite get. I don’t enjoy it at all and would rather have the old individualized courses from Melee back. They also screwed up Classic. I’m not sure how to describe it, instead of the simple choices and series of matches from even the 3DS version; it is now just an asinine mess. I kind of hate it. Maybe the real fun is to be had with Master/Crazy Orders, which I’ve barely touched. Still, even more than on the 3DS game I miss the Subspace Emissary. As goofy and unnecessary as that was, I still really loved it. It is now the only reason to keep Brawl around.

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As disappointing as that stuff may be, it is all just a distraction from what really matters: the fighting. It is pitch perfect, looks, sound , controls, everything. There are only really slight tweaks from the previous games, but Smash Bros has played about perfectly since its inception. It has always been deceptively simple. This game’s (I really wish they had come up with a subtitle like Brawl or Melee) supersized roster seems, at least through a few dozen hours of play, to much better balanced that the earlier games. I ranked the fighters based on the 3DS game and even though it is the same roster for this one, if I did that list off the WiiU game it would be significantly different. I loved Jigglypuff the first time around, now I can’t use her at all. But Dark Pit, a character I quickly dismissed before, has fast become a favorite. The classic Smash fighting is h=just as broad and chaotic and addictive as ever.

The big revelation is 8-player Smash. Smash Bros has always been chaotic, but doubling the number of fighters just makes things insane. To account for this, Nintendo added a handful of supersized stages. It is amazing how much a fight can change just based on the stage chosen. 8-player in a small arena like Yoshi’s Island is just pure madness, with little to no way to control the battle; there are just too many variables. It is great. But a map like Palutena’s Temple is completely different. That map has more than enough space for eight fighters to find space and terrain suited to every character. It is about choosing your battles and battle ground. It takes a lot longer and is a completely different game, but it is still a lot of fun. No matter the map, the craziness of 8-player Smash is awesome.

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Like the rest of the series, Smash Bros WiiU is crammed to the gills with content. To go along with hundreds of trophies, there is also equipment and alternate specials. The equipment is not big deal, they are much like Brawl’s stickers and just as useless. That is not really true, there are a lot of things you can do with them, but it is fiddle and uninteresting. The alternate specials are a different matter. Each character has three versions of each of their special attacks, most only a slight variation on the normal take on it. I haven’t come close to unlocking all of them, but they can really change how a character works. For example, some attacks add a wind effect that pushes enemies away but doesn’t actually hit them. It is not effective for racking up the damage, but it great for pushing players off the edges. All of the alternate options let’s players customize characters within reason. It doesn’t completely remake them, but it can do enough to completely reshape how to go about using that character effectively. It is great.

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I don’t know that Smash Bros is my game of the year, but it is the game from this year that I am sure to continue playing for the longest. I am a little burnt out now, after putting 40+ hours on the 3DS and nearing that again on the WiiU, but I would guess that I’ll keep returning to Smash for years to come. That is how it has been for every other game in the series. Melee was the first Gamecube game I purchased and the last one I played. It is a similar situation with Brawl and it will be the same with this one. I love Smash Bros and this one is the best one yet.

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