Friday, October 24, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

I’d have to say that Nintendo’s Direct for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is easily one of their best efforts at addressing fans… directly. With one of their strongest franchises shepherding one of their biggest fanbases, Nintendo’s much more comfortable being quirky and creative, and rightfully so. What they’ve had to announce in yesterday’s Direct was overwhelming and exciting.

After some of the more obvious improvements in resolution and improved fidelity, Nintendo dropped the massive surprise of supporting up to 8 players at once in some of the game’s larger exclusive stages. Such a feat has merely been dreamed of before from the likes of kids on a school yard or drunken games of Smash, but Nintendo took the dive and made it a reality.

It’s a real bummer that it’s limited to local play, only reserving such chaos for those who can manage to fit 8 people in their living room (let alone gathering that many people together in the first place). I question the decision as perhaps a way to avoid online connection problems, as between Brawl and the recent 3DS game, Smash has never had a respectably successful network performance. Nonetheless, it feels like Destiny’s Vault of Glass, I just can’t manage to get that many people to agree in playing all at once.

New stages take center stage of the first portion of the Direct starting with “Danger Zones”. “Danger Zones” (or patches of lava) are sections of the stage that cause damage which you’ll find within the labyrinthine level design. More than the obvious damage infliction, Danger Zones will cause instant KOs if fighters touch them after reaching 100% damage. It’s a brilliant inclusion to solve the problem of fighters ricocheting (like many have in the underbelly of Hyrule Temple) while taking up to 400%+ damage without dying.

 I’m not sure how I feel about Jungle Hijinks though. It’s an interesting concept of taking one of the characteristics of Donkey Kong Country (where you barrel cannon into the background), and continue the fight there while players can carry on their battle up front. I can already predict issues of line-of-sight with the foreground battles getting away with what’s happening in the back. Though once again, to counter balance potential abuse of the complex design, players will be punished for constantly barreling back and forth which is signified by a temporary shroud of flames (doesn’t really look like flames) that will cause barrels to explode if they’re still active.

 Along with structural and balancing design, stages for Smash Wii U will get some aesthetical fan service as well. The Miiverse stage is inspired to the console’s social hub where players can sketch their own art and have them appear in the game. They didn’t go into great detail as to how exactly it’ll work, but it’s great fan services for the spontaneous phenomenon nonetheless. We’re also introduced to Palutena’s Guidance. In the Palutena’s Temple stage, players can hit down on the D-Pad to activate commentary and banter between Kid Icarus characters such as the Pit, the aforementioned Palutena, and more. I find this relatively annoying honestly, since the characters in Kid Icarus for the 3DS just couldn’t shut the fuck up.

Though Star Fox banter is totally acceptable.

Gaur Plain and a new Metroid level called Pyro Sphere feature event enemies that are exclusive to their stages. While we have Metal Face (I’m assuming he’s from Xenoblade; never played that game) who looks to be just a bastard, Ridley makes an appearance on Pyro Sphere and can actually join the fight like an elaborate assist trophy after receiving enough damage by a player. Ridley is susceptible to damage however (Metal Face is too by the way), making him more of an extra AI combatant rather than an annoying invincible nuisance. I’ve finally grown tired of things interrupting my Smash games, so I hope there’s an option to turn it off.


I’ll make this declaration out front, the SSB series has arguably the best soundtrack out of Nintendo’s franchises. Sure you have some classics from Zelda and Mario (particularly Galaxy), but the wide selection of music found in SSB can exist as a separate piece of merchandise on its own (as the announcer said, such a soundtrack could cost more than the game itself – available for Nintendo Club members). Smash for Wii U wears its music selection on its sleeve, allowing you to tinker with music options on the menus screen, matches themselves, and collect songs as well just like in the Brawl version. I’m surprised I don’t see more games using a song collecting feature (kudos to Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag).

Along with changes to Classic, All-Star, and the addition of Event mode, Smash Tour takes the concept of Smash Run, and dresses it like Mario Party. Admittedly, I’m still not entirely sure what Smash Tour is, but from what I understand of it, players will move their Miis across a board collecting power-ups, fighters, and other items. Once players meet, they engage in “battle” that can result in one player stealing fighters from the other. I quote “battle” because it doesn’t seem as if an actual fight ensues once players run into one another, and that players won’t throw down until the “final showdown”.  I was expecting more fights in-between, but I’m hoping Smash Run is as good a board game as core Smash is a fantastic multiplayer brawler.

I’ve already written about how I wish that Smash for Wii U would bring custom fighters to online matchmaking, unlike what was found in the 3DS version. That decision would determine my investment in Special Orders Mode. Special Orders – Master Orders & Crazy Orders – are the two modes that were teased on Miiverse a few weeks back which grant players prizes depending on how long the player lasts, creating a game-show-style test of endurance. I care less about the mode itself than I do about the insane amount of custom parts you can earn for your fighters. But all of this is moot if I can’t use them online in a game where I don’t know many players that have Wii Us who I can play with.

Since Melee, SSB has functioned as a Nintendo museum with its trophies by introducing many franchises to players, especially here in the west. I know I’m not the only one who found out about Earthbound and Fire Emblem collecting their trophies in Melee. Smash for Wii U is blowing up its trophy feature with different modes of display from galleries to trophy boxes and filling it with even more of the collectibles, turning it into a Nintendo (Capcom, Sega, and Bandi Namco as well) encyclopedia.

And while I’ve grown out of the compulsion of collecting trophies to catch up on my gaming history, Masterpieces looks to be one of the best history lessons in retro gaming. Though I’m 25, my gaming experience was very limited up until the Gamcube era. Masterpieces will give me a chance to get my hands on Punch-Out!, Balloon Fight, Megaman 2, Metroid, and hopefully much, much more.

We knew that the 3DS only had a fraction of the online features that we’d see in the Wii U version, and the Direct didn’t disappoint. Tournaments are back just as everyone predicted, but tourneys offer players a chance to organize their own conditions Mario Kart 8 style. I’m wondering if online rankings will incorporate a point system that scores a player’s performance, making easier to identify whose a badass and who’s still learning. And while voice chat is hamstringed by “potential connection interruptions”, Smash for Wii U does its damnest to establish a community with Miiverse like sketching tools for Smash photos and customs stages making a return from Brawl.

There is just too much content to talk about all at once discussing what will be included on release and in the future for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. The development collaboration on this project has turned it into something of a love letter to Smash and Nintendo fans, along with what looks to be the most robust multiplayer game to ever come out of Nintendo. Smash for Wii U appears to be more of a platform rather than a game itself with tons of custom and/or community options and inevitable additions yet to come. People have stated that they believe that the 3DS was the lead platform of SSB. Perhaps that may be true in sales, however the Wii U version seems to be the definitive version. Full stop. 

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