Reviewing a fighting game has always been difficult for me. I didn’t grow up with them, so I have no foundation of skills like I do with almost every other genre. I tend to get excited about them, play a whole bunch of training and single player, immediately get destroyed online and then give up on them. This has happened with Tekken, Street Fighter, Smash Bros, Marvel vs Capcom, Guilty Gear and more I’m sure I’m forgetting. The only way I’ll stick with a game is if I have people to play against that are around my skill level and actually want to play it. Thankfully, Smash Bros. is much more approachable than most other fighting games and those who wouldn’t normally play them are usually willing to give them a try.
There tend to be two different types of fighting game players, and you’ve already figured out which one I am. I’m not going to be talking about frame data, or power tiers, or gamecube controllers, or wave dashing or tripping or anything else that the Smash community goes bonkers over. I’m glad those people exist and that they’re having fun with the game in a way I never will. They’re playing a game that I’ll never see and never experience, even though I’m playing the exact same code. But don’t you worry, there is all kinds of stuff for the normies like you and me.
Super Smash Bros. Wii U or simply Sm4sh as some have taken to calling it, is the fourth in a series of Nintendo fighting games where they toss in everybody they can think of from their own back catalog of characters and some more from other companies and let them duke it out. When the first one came out on the Nintendo 64, it was an incredible idea. Nintendo letting Bowser punch Princess Peach in the face? It was almost unthinkable at the time. It’s normal now, but at the time it was nothing short of insane. There are some high profile additions this time around like Pac-man and my personal favourite Megaman. The roster is massive, and I won’t spoil any surprises by mentioning how many there are or who is ‘unlockable’. If you’ve played the previous games and had a favourite it’s highly likely they’re in here, but there are a few notable omissions such as Solid Snake.
The game itself plays, well, like Smash Bros. It’s beautiful in HD, the frame-rate never drops and the roster animates perfectly. I can’t comment on how individual characters have changed or how the balance is, as none of the dozens of games I played with many different people had any hard-core Smash players. Which is exactly how I like it. We all had a great deal of fun, and no one character seemed overtly much stronger than others. Some were much harder to play on some stages, as Little Mac I routinely dashed off the edge of a stage accidentally. Which is bad, as that’s how you die. Unlike traditional fighting games, you don’t have a health bar. You have a percentage of damage, and the higher percentage the farther you’ll fly if you get hit by a ‘smash’ attack. Hence, Smash Bros. The smash attacks are satisfying to pull off and incredibly simple compared to other power attacks in a more traditional fighting game. You can either push the move stick fast and hard in the direction you want to attack, or just use the right analog stick to pull them off. That’s it, just move a stick in the right direction. That means even the most inexperienced player can have some fun making their Kirby smash Sonic off the screen. I played with 4 year olds and 40 year olds, and didn’t have bad time.
There are several additions to this version of the game, the most important seems to be the ability to play with 8 players on the screen at once. This might seem utterly insane, and in practice it really is. Trying out that mode initially on a 150″ projector screen made it seem like a very difficult mode to have any idea what you were doing in. Moving then to a 58″ TV made it even more insane. and trying it out on a 32″ screen was laughable. I’m happy the mode is in there, but if you’re a serious player I doubt you’ll see much of it. It does help even the playing field even more, as it doesn’t really matter if you know what you’re doing as much if you can’t see very well. It sounds like it would be frustrating but if you’re just there to have fun it does a great job of that.
There are a huge number of options for game modes you want to play, configuration options, maps and even character skins. If you’re having an 8-player Jigglypuff match feel confident that each Jigglypuff will be wearing a different hat or bow. Also, you probably shouldn’t play an 8-player Jigglypuff match.
The single player options are also vast, with practice, training and various modes that let you travel through the history of video games with punching, and one that lets you move around your character on a type of game board to take on groups of characters in any order you’d like. The smash run mode is conspicuous in its absence, but as I found that mode one of the weakest parts of the 3DS Smash Bros, I wasn’t bothered by it.
The amiibo integration is a joy, as you are able to train your amiibo and fight alongside them or against them. They level up as they play, and will learn based on what they face. You can also ‘feed’ them upgrades you win in single player, which actually makes your amiibo more powerful than a player character can be. They’re a fantastic way to learn a character and see new things they can do that you might not have thought of, but beware. Once they hit max level you’ll have to be one heck of a serious player to have a chance against them. I did not.
I could go on, but you should have a pretty good idea by now if this game is for you or not. Was it embarrassing being thoroughly trounced by a twelve year old girl who played the last one daily? A little. But it was also a heck of a lot of fun. And really, that’s what you’re buying with Sm4sh.