With the final batch of DLC released, and all that’s left in the future being rudimentary balance patches, I think it’s finally appropriate to release a review of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U as the full experience is now here.
If you’ve never played a Super Smash Bros. game before, the concept is pretty simple. It’s just like when you got all of your various franchise toys together – your Transformers, Dragon Ball Z action figures, maybe a couple LEGO dudes, and your older sister’s hand-me-down Barbies – and had them all fight together. But since you’re a kid who has no time for articulation, the fights pretty much consisted of them slamming against each other and the loser was the one who got thrown against a wall. This is that, but the toys now have articulation, and the toys are all Nintendo characters (and select third-parties).
It’s a fighting game, but the goal is not to decrease your opponent’s health, but increase their damage percentage. The more damage they accrue, the farther stronger attacks will launch them. Once they’ve been launched off-screen in any manner seen fit, they’re KO’d and the last person to hit them gets a point. The two primary game modes are Time and Stock. In Time, the match ends after a certain number of minutes and the goal is to have the most points. In Stock, each player has a limited number of “stocks” that get removed one by one as they are KO’d, and the goal there is to be the last one standing.
(The Wii U version includes an additional game mode, Coin, where fighters, when hit, spill coins, and when KO’d, lose a certain number, and the goal is to have the most coins by the end of the round.)
The controls are incredibly simple – watching the game’s “How to Play” video gives you a brief rundown of the most basic skills you need. Running, jumping, the different kinds of ground-based attacks, and some evasive manoeuvres. There’s a certain level of depth for those who are willing to get invested however. The How to Play video does not, for example, mention teching, the different aerial moves, meteor smashes, ledge options, prone options, landing lag… fortunately there’s a very in-depth wiki run by fans that catalogues just about every technique you’ll ever need to know. While some mechanics return that I’d rather have not, the game overall feels much tighter than Brawl did.
The main meat of the game is the multiplayer, but I’ll start with the single-player experience and try to keep it brief. Single player has two main game modes called Classic and All-Star, which are slightly different between versions. 3DS Classic is more traditional – it’s a series of fights, with a couple weird ones thrown in like, say, fighting a metal opponent, ending with a boss fight against Master Hand, or, if the difficulty is high enough, he fights alongside his counterpart, Crazy Hand.
Wii U Classic, however, is quite different. You’re instead presented with a few groups of opponents – choose one to enter a free-for-all match between the whole group. The groups can get up to eight fighters strong – a large draw of Wii U is the Eight-Player Smash mode – and occasionally a stronger fighter will interfere. This mode also ends with a boss fight against the Hands, but overall, the 3DS version is more fun. In the larger brawls with items flying around, it can be a little difficult to get your bearings, and sometimes just one unlucky Bob-Omb can ruin a good run. The 3DS version doesn’t have this problem and feels overall more fair.
Both versions have a betting mechanic where you wager in-game Gold in order to get better prizes from fights, the caveat being the difficulty increases in kind. (You can also spend Gold to decrease the difficulty – though your rewards are similarly paltry.)
All-Star in both versions is the same, but the order of opponents is reversed – 3DS has you fight them in the order of their debut, from oldest to newest. Wii U has you fight them newest to oldest. This creates an interesting problem – the groups get larger as you continue in the 3DS version, while they get smaller in Wii U. This makes the 3DS version, oddly enough, more difficult towards the end if you’ve been spending your limited healing items, as you fight larger and larger groups of enemies. The Wii U version, however, starts with a bang and ends with a whimper. Even on Hard, however, both versions increase your character’s strength dramatically and decrease your opponents’ just as much, so your damage amount needs to get quite high before they actually pose a threat – it’s their counterattacks (which are inflated due to your ridiculous overpowering) and stage hazards (which are not weakened) that pose a greater threat.
Other single-player modes include the Stadium, where you can challenge yourself to fight hordes of Mii Fighters, play what is essentially Angry Birds but in Smash, and the ever-present Home-Run Contest. There’s also a new Trophy gathering mode called Trophy Rush which is much more fun than previous games’ Trophy games. You break boxes that fall from the top of the screen to build up a meter that starts a frenzy, where you get a metric ton of prize boxes including Gold, Trophies, and even Custom Parts.
Single-player in both versions does feel a little lacking, however, due to there being no Adventure Mode like in the previous two entries, Melee and Brawl, though admittedly, Brawl’s Subspace Emissary was so boring, it’s not a huge loss. The Wii U has an additional single-player draw in the Special Orders mode, though, which comes in two flavours, Master Orders and Crazy Orders.
Master Orders provides the player with a number of “tickets” that cost Gold to play. The tickets are a number of challenges such as getting a certain distance in the Home-Run Contest, or fighting a number of enemies with a series of conditions. The more difficult ones are more expensive, but the rewards are also much greater, serving as a “risk vs. reward” system.
Crazy Orders has a similar format, choosing tickets for challenges and prizes. All of the tickets are combat-based, however – you will have to fight enemies on various terms. Also, the mode itself requires an entry fee of either 5000 Gold or a free pass you can earn in other game modes. All the tickets within are free, but the catch is, you don’t get any of the prizes you’ve won until you fight Crazy Hand, which you can do at any time after the first challenge. You have ten minutes, shared across all of the challenges (save the final battle, which has its own time limit), to play as many tickets as you can – but you only recover a small amount of damage between fights, and the fights get harder the deeper you go – but the rewards also get larger, and it’s very tempting to keep going.
The final battle with Crazy Hand also gets more difficult the more tickets you play, and the more damage you have going into it, the more health you get, as it’s a stamina-based battle. If you get KO’d even once, however – be it in a challenge or the final match – you lose a good majority of your prizes. Crazy Orders is very addicting and it’s a blast seeing just how far you can get… only to be deflated by a mistimed attack leading to your death. It can be frustrating, but it’s a great deal of fun and the best way to rack up prizes.
Both versions also include a fairly robust character customization system. Every character that was in the vanilla version of the game has two additional variations on each of their Special Moves (the DLC characters, however, do not). They actually provide slightly different playstyles depending on which moves you choose, and are a lot of fun to experiment with.
Additionally, every character benefits from badges that change their stats, Speed, Power, and Defence. Some badges include additional boons like starting with items, in exchange for weaker effects, while others actually penalize you with lower jumps, but provide massive stat boosts to compensate. It’s pretty neat playing around with different badge loadouts and seeing what you can make. Formerly slow characters like Ganondorf can become ridiculously fast combo masters, while a fast Pikachu instead becomes an indomitable stone wall.
In addition to customizing the in-game cast, you can take your favourite Miis and turn them into in-game fighters. Ever wanted to fight alongside Mario and Link to take down Bowser and Ganondorf? Well, now you can by turning yourself (and your friends, and all those other weird Miis you download off the internet) into a Mii Brawler, Mii Swordfighter, or Mii Gunner. They all have a host of different Special Moves (mostly inspired by the in-game cast) and depending on their build, different stats, which you can also boost with badges. There’s also a ridiculous amount of costumes and hats to customize their look with, especially with DLC adding so many more.
So, I’ve gone on long enough about the single-player experience (and I said I’d keep it short, too! Whoops!), so let’s talk multiplayer.
It’s fun. There’s really no other way to say it, getting into a Smash match with friends is just plain old fun. The number of options is ridiculous, there’s a pretty good selection of stages across both versions (though the 3DS seems to have the better selection overall), many of the new stages are fantastic, the returning old stages are some classic favorites, all of the DLC stages are excellent, and the sheer number of musical tracks available for them in the Wii U version is staggering. Every stage also has an Omega variant that changes the layout to resemble Final Destination – a flat stage with no platforms and no stage interactions. This is actually pretty cool, though I wish a similar system were available for Battlefield-layout stages, as it’s also a good stage for competitive play.
Let’s talk the people you’ll fight with on these stages though – the roster is absolutely gigantic. With all the DLC fighters, it’s 58 characters strong. You’ve got your standard choices like Mario, Link, Samus, Captain Falcon, and the like. The new characters, though, are truly interesting. Wii Fit Trainer, Shulk from Xenoblade Chronicles, Bayonetta and more all bring new things to the table, and most of the new characters added to the game have really unique playstyles that are reminiscent of their original games. Two of the new characters, however, feel like a waste of time – Lucina, and Dark Pit.
Lucina and Dark Pit are both clone characters, of Marth and Pit respectively. Lucina plays like Marth but without the sword-tipping mechanic – her blade is equally strong across the whole length of it. This makes her easier to play but much less rewarding as a result – successful spacing as Marth is still superior play. Dark Pit, though, plays exactly like Pit, differing only in his Specials. All of his normal attacks otherwise behave exactly the same, making the two feel pretty much interchangeable. This is in contrast to Dr. Mario, which has a completely different down Special and his attacks also behave differently, and Roy, whose blade has a different sweetspot and some new animations. It’s only two characters out of a cast of over fifty, however – in general, everybody feels pretty good, and the balancing, while still not perfect, feels tighter than it’s ever been.
Items obviously return, though I’ll admit, this time around they’re much less fun to mess around with. There are far too many that seem to unbalance the game – Boss Galaga and the Beetle, for example, carry their opponents off-screen for a KO (and fairly quickly at that), while others like the Gust Bellows and Daybreak seem to be a “press A to win” situation. My group tends to have items turned off, with the exception of the Smash Ball (and even then, when we do one-on-one fights, we turn that one off too). The Smash Ball, when broken, grants the player who broke it their Final Smash, an overwhelmingly powerful attack that can turn the tide of battle in their favour. Some are more useful than others, some are situation, some are just all-around fantastic, but they’re all pretty fun in group fights.
Speaking of group fights – I mentioned Eight-Player Smash earlier. Available only in the Wii U version, up to eight players can all hop into a battle at the same time – and it’s as insane as it sounds. The stage list is understandably limited and several stages have unique interactions turned off to compensate. The sheer chaos of Eight-Player Smash usually runs pretty smoothly – however, on visually busy stages (like Umbra Clock Tower), the framerate can chug if a lot happens at once. It’s a shame, especially since it’s usually locked at sixty across both versions at all times.
Other things the Wii U has that the 3DS does not is an item frequency modifier, Coin Battles, and Special Smash which lets you add bunny ears and other fluff to every fighter or change fights to health-based ones. This might make it seem like the 3DS version comes up a bit short in local multiplayer – however, when it comes to the alternate multiplayer offering, the 3DS version wins hands down.
Both versions of the game have their own unique multiplayer mode – the Wii U version has Smash Tour, while the 3DS version has Smash Run.
Smash Tour is dreadful. On paper, the idea seems excellent. Four players, represented by Miis, jump into a board game where they roll dice, walk around, and pick up fighters to be added to a team they’re building, and powerups to increase their stats. Random events can also occur like boss fights or bizarre Smash battles, and items can be used to gain a small boon or advantage. This all leads up to a final battle where every fighter each player collected forms a team – each fighter represents a stock. When KO’d, they rotate to the next fighter in line.
This sounds fun, and the final battle is genuinely great, but the actual board game part is a slog. Every player moves at once, it’s actually pretty hard to strategize, and one item in particular, Tingle, scrambles all the fighters across all the players – meaning trying to actually build a team of your favourites is a crap-shoot at best. If the final battle were on its own as a gamemode (which incidentally, a particular mod for Brawl has had since before Smash Tour’s announcement), it’d be great, but unfortunately, to get to it, you have to sit through Smash Tour. It’s impossible to play with computer-controlled players since they don’t abide by house rules, and actual people will simply find it far too boring to be worth sitting through in lieu of more Smash battles.
The 3DS version, however, has Smash Run, which is infinitely better. It takes inspiration from Kirby Air Ride’s City Trial mode. Each player is placed in a maze on their own (there is unfortunately no interaction between players aside from switches that summon bombs in opponents’ games). The maze is filled with treasure chests, powerups, and enemies. Defeating enemies makes them drop even more treasure and powerups. The goal is to power up your fighter over five minutes while dealing with various foes from various games and random events, in order to win a randomly-selected final showdown.
Smash Run is genuinely fun, in sharp contrast to Smash Tour. Not only is it rewarding – the treasure can be Custom Parts and Trophies for your collection, for example – but it actually keeps its momentum as a single-player experience too. You can use your customized characters in this mode as well – including equipping them with Smash Run Powers that provide additional boosts or attacks in order to get more out of your five minutes in the maze. The final challenges are also pretty varied, from races to the finish to fighting hordes of enemies to simple, straight-out brawls. The fun comes from seeing how your opponents powerups affected their stats – it’s certainly bizarre seeing a character like Bowser jump leaps and bounds over Mario.
Both games also have an online component. Playing with strangers comes in two flavours – For Fun and For Glory. For Fun has randomly selected stages and items, and are just simple free-for-all fights. For Glory, however, pits you in one-on-one battles on Final Destination-style stages only, with no items, and two stocks – the goal here is to defeat your opponent, and that’s that. Obviously, the Wii U has the better online experience since you can use an ethernet adapter, but, it’s still not a completely clean system. Lag can get pretty bad at times. Playing with Friends is easier, and lets you use custom fighters and Mii Fighters, but overall, Smash is still more satisfying locally. You can also share replays of your fights, screenshots you’ve taken, and even Mii Fighters you made online, which is an excellent feature.
Controls are pretty solid in both versions – though the 3DS isn’t the most ideal, and customization is pretty limited, even with the New 3DS’ extra buttons. What’s nice though, is that you can use the 3DS as a controller in the Wii U version as long as you have either a copy of the game on the 3DS in question or a special app that simply activates it as a controller. Also usable as a controller in the Wii U version is just about everything under the sun – the Wii U GamePad, Pro Controller, Wii Remote with its various attachments, and even the GameCube Controller with the special adapter. Controls are also much more customizable in the Wii U version – make no mistake, you will be able to play this game however you want.
Graphically, both games look pretty amazing. Obviously the Wii U version looks better, what with being in HD, but something about the 3DS version just feels more charming. I really like the outlines and flatter shading it uses, making all the characters feel more stylized, looking like they leaped out of the pages of a graphic novel, compared to the Wii U version which opts for more realistic lighting and shading. Even so, the Wii U version’s very vibrant compared to the dull colours of Brawl, and both games, as mentioned earlier, run at a constant 60 FPS when it matters, unless you’re really trying to break it. Zooming in on particle effects and such does slow things down, but you can really only do that with Trophies and the pause screen anyway. Certain elements in the 3DS version, though, run at 30, like Pokemon and Assist Trophies. It looks weird, but it’s to keep the rest of the gameplay smooth, so it’s alright in the end.
Overall, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U is an excellent pair of games. They’re both worth having – the 3DS version for the slightly stronger single-player experience and the excellent Smash Run, along with the simple novelty of Smash Bros. anywhere you want, and the Wii U version for the group party mentality, Crazy Orders, and the more robust online play (which also includes stuff like tournaments). While getting them both along with all the DLC is pretty expensive, this game’s provided over a year of laughs and conversations with my group of friends, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Plus you can have Mario fighting Sonic fighting Mega Man fighting Pac-Man.
I mean that’s worth sixty dollars right there.