I grew up playing Super Smash Bros Melee, and in some ways that game has remained with me up until now. I never played it to the competitive extremes that others may have, but I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the title. It was one of the first console games I had ever played; and those years of playing it with some of the few friends that I had growing up were some of the happiest times of my childhood. I've stated in the past that video games have shaped who I was growing up; and the Smash Bros series is definitely no exception there... since I had not only one, but two titles in the franchise to keep me occupied across my childhood. Everyone seems to have fond memories of Melee, and somewhat less pleasant memories of Brawl... and to my excuse, I must acknowledge that I have much of the same thoughts. Although I did enjoy Brawl at the time, it never really came anywhere close to the fun that I had while playing Melee. Brawl changed the gameplay so radically, so unequivocally - but not in the sorts of ways that I had expected. Tripping and overall floatiness were just some of the various issues that I had with the game, but the other less noticeable changes annoyed me as well. Again, I must stress that I never played the games competitively; but the differences were still highlighted by my then casual play.
Simply put, where Melee seemed a natural progression from the first title; Brawl instead felt like an unnatural digression. If I where to place Sm4sh (as I'm going to be calling it) somewhere on this scale; then it would have to be a progression from Brawl; subject to all of the assumptions that could be made by going with that categorization. Thankfully, although I still prefer Melee; Sm4sh is a much better game than Brawl was.
First off; it's easy to note that the new titles aesthetic is much cleaner than any of the titles preceding it. If both Melee and Brawl had one issue; its muddy graphics definitely might have been it. It's a simple change to note, but definitely one that contributes to the gameplay, due to the always easy to note characters. Overall level design makes it impossible to lose your character in a fight; and even then, within team battles the auras surrounding characters take this upgrade a step further, and further help signify who is exactly playing who! Similarly, the games trophy designs all seem to mesh together much more consistently than in prior titles; I noticed the same sort of glossy shine across the entire game, and it really does a good job tying the games various characters into one universe. The entire game is filled with color without becoming over-saturated, and definitely sets the game apart from all of the previous games.
Audio is as plentiful as in Brawl; with literally hundreds of songs to collect for use on stages and in sound test! As a bit of a videogame music junkie, this bit of the game is particularly welcome - and every franchise has at the least several songs at show here. There's not much else to say about this, other than it is a great collection of videogame history, and the sheer quantity of quality tunes in this game is insane! Likewise, there are hundreds of trophies to collect; all high-quality 3D models, and all complete with their own distinct descriptions! These trophies continue the tradition of digging deep into each franchises history; and once again there isn't much more to say about the feature than praise to the amount of love and detail that went into creating each trophy.
The gameplay here is definitely in between Melee and Brawl; though leaning more towards the latter than the former. The game is still very defensive in practice; but a lot seems to have been done to make offense become more viable, though the game still doesn't operate at the speed that Melee does. On the ground, the game feels really good - and even in the air everything has been sped up, and given more weight. The ease and speed of dodging in every circumstance can be a bit dissapointing - but overall the game raises the skill ceiling, in stark contrast to the ceiling being lowered in Brawl. Nothing game-changing like the Smash ball has been added this time around - but each character feels much more unique and balanced over my plentiful hours of gameplay. On that note; online play works leagues better than it did in Brawl. Although I still had a few matches where everything felt like it was running in slow motion - the vast majority of the matches I have played online have been flawless! The separation between the For Fun and For Glory modes is very easy to understand; and the fact that playing in either mode can contribute to any ongoing conquests is a nice touch as well. One qualm I have with the online as it stands, though, is the fact that when playing in a private lobby - you can't set the room to be For Glory. You can turn off items, and everyone in the room can vote for Final Destination style stage - but you can't just set the room to act like a For Glory lobby.
The new modes added to the game give Sm4sh a great deal of variety - and I was very pleased to here that nearly every mode could be played in co-op. I'd been waiting for years for the ability to play classic mode with friends; and the ability to do so this time around is greatly appreciated. The various minigames are for the most part the same as the 3DS counterparts; though Smash Tour replaces the 3DS exclusive Smash Run. Unfortunately, Smash Tour is relatively boring until the actual fight starts - and the powered up showdowns share many of the same problems with Smash Runs equivalent's - they're just too short. Master and Crazy orders are a good mix-up between Classic and Event mode; and Crazy orders in particular feels especially rewarding. The event modes this time around builds upon the ones from Brawl - and both the solo and co-op events have various branching paths, making the experience that much deeper.
Speaking of co-op; the new amiibo feature is definitely very solid. The learning AI can become very impressive at its higher levels; and the fact that they can be taught various quirks is very entertaining! Although I didn't use mine that much; the time I did spend was more than enough for me to get a feel for the devices. Their use in Sm4sh at the very least seems focused; and although I am slightly annoyed by the unnecessary damage buffs that the figures receive while leveling up; the experience while fighting one is still very enjoyable! I just don't see the need to use one besides having amiibos fight other amiibos; if I wanted to fight a tough opponent, theres the already stellar online mode.
Finally; I'd like to applaud the dev teams decision to include as many control options as possible. Everyone already knows about the illustrious GameCube controller adapter; but the fact that the title supports almost every other peripheral used by both the Wii and Wii U sans Wii Fit board is utterly fantastic; the amount of work put into making the game enjoyable for everyone is absolutely outstanding.
When it all comes down to it, Sm4sh is a well put together game. It knows what it wants to be - and what it sets out to accomplish, it does so in spades! The gameplay is solid, smooth, and enjoyable - and the entire product has been polished to an absolute shine! Don't let the name fool you; as this game has a personality all of its own!
Super Smash Bros for Wii U is available now both as a physical copy, and as a download on the eShop.
This game was purchased by the reviewer.
When it all comes down to it, Super Smash Bros for Wii U is a well put together game. It knows what it wants to be - and what it sets out to accomplish, it does so in spades! The gameplay is solid, smooth, and enjoyable - and the entire product has been polished to an absolute shine! Don't let the name fool you; as this game has a personality all of its own!