Super Smash Bros. (Wii U) Preview


My little brother and I fought a lot when we were younger. I told the rest of the Evolve media writers in our hotel room here at E3 2014 that we used to come to blows over snacks and the TV remote, the pettiest things in the world now that I think about them with the wisdom of hindsight and about 10 years of maturity. I always wondered why we bothered to argue over things like that especially as we started to genuinely bond and grow together after things like Stick Stickly finished his run in the afternoon. A lot of that came thanks to video games.

In truth I never owned Super Smash Bros. 64 until I stole a copy from a friend many years later, but that was because my sibling and I were the actual smash brothers, wrestling and harassing each other to no end. Thankfully, a virtual platform will ensure that Wii U owners can keep things nice and neat in the living room, even if Super Smash Bros. is anything but quiet, calm, and gentle. As it stands, the latest iteration of Nintendo’s fighting franchise will provide everything you need to settle sibling rivalries as old as time.

I love the quality Smash Bros. has of opening the fighting genre to newcomers and younger gamers by boiling the object of “eliminating the opponent” to how hard you can hit a button. For those of us that can’t translate the absurd karate combos we dream of as youngsters into frame-by-frame mechanical inputs in games like Ultra Street Fighter IV, Sora Limited’s “smash” mechanic is the ultimate equalizer. All you have to do is push the analog stick in the right direction and hit the A button with emphasis and you might achieve the explosive ring-out needed to put a point on the board.

That doesn't change on either Wii U or 3DS. I tested the game with Ryan Bates and Anthony Severino with another writer and took two of five rounds. I played with Link first and used his sword smash attacks to ring-out a few opponents, but my winning strategy largely rested on not getting knocked out especially since the point spread would have been much closer if I had died even once. The characters all look very sharp and you never really lose track of where you fighter has gone in the chaos, but Smash players know that you can’t rest on rote attacks. Switching my combos up with special attacks allowed me to keep other fighters at bay, especially with Link’s standard circular sword slash.

In the next match, I took Pikachu up against Samus but his diminutive size made me an easy knock-out target. You can still redirect Pikachu’s up and B jump dash to land on a specific platform or avoid attacks. Next I tried Fox and landed in third place. I used to main Fox for his speed and the devastating jump kick attack he had, but things feel quite a bit more balanced and Rosalina kicked some serious butt in that match with her Luma chaining attacks at a distance. I played as Samus next and came away the victor before switching gears to play on Nintendo 3DS.

The very first handheld version of Smash plays almost exactly like the console version. I tried Toon Link in Smash Run and the controls and mechanics felt exactly as they did on console which is a testament to Nintendo’s smart changes between the two versions. Nintendo made the right decision in rendering Smash Bros characters at 60 frames per second and the effect becomes apparent when you switch between the two versions, but fighting game fans have frequently relied on that kind of character animation fidelity. Even if the stages and random enemies in Smash Run don’t move as fluidly, the controls benefit from the ability you have to react in a split second.

Smash Run is that perfect handheld-specific mode for players who will take Smash Bros on the go where they don’t have an opponent or an Internet connection ready for competitive action. You can wail on enemies in a set area for as long as you like or try to explore the map and pick up as many unique items as possible to collect more trophies and power ups. When you finally finish a Smash Run, you’ll often get matched up against the computer opponents all with their own enhanced abilities, power, and speed.

While Toon Link eliminated quite a few enemies in the final showdown, I enjoyed my time with Mega Man on the handheld version even more (probably because his move set was so foreign as a first time brawler in the series). Mega Man moves so much like his single-player games that taking him into Smash Run felt like jumping through an inter-dimensional portal co-developed by Robotnik and Dr. Wily, replete with ReDead from the Zelda series. Watching Mega Man blast away running to the right felt just like a classic NES game, but Smash Run’s map doesn’t sit so statically and features quite a few interesting locales to explore in addition to hidden doors and treasure chests.

Heading to E3 2014 earlier this week, I expected to get the most entertainment out of Super Smash Bros. if only for the brand’s lengthy Nintendo Direct appearances and the knowledge that playing it would confirm or deny the fears I had about how closely this new iteration followed predecessors. Still, a few elements like the Mii fighters pictured above weren't available for play. Many characters won't be available until the final retail build lands on store shelves as well. Luckily, it feels just like Smash Bros. That’s all I could have asked for.

Super Smash Bros. will land on Nintendo 3DS on October 3rd and on Wii U soon after. Both games come complete with online modes and single-player modes, though we still don’t know what solitary players will do on Wii U other than battle against computer opponents or online. Every fighter will be present and playable in both versions of the game, though some stages will not make the transfer to 3DS due to system limitations. That said, the 3DS version will offer Smash Run exclusively.

Click here for more details from Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. E3 2014 Developer Roundtable.