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Monday, 29 December 2014

Smashing


Super Smash Bros. is one of Nintendo's most acclaimed franchises, with the previous installment on the Wii, Brawl, selling over 12 million copies, the Gamecube edition Melee selling over 7 million, and the very first release back on the N64 selling over 5 million. The most recent instalments for 3DS and Wii U mark the first time a Smash Bros. game has gone multi platform upon release; and no surprise, their sales are slowly rivalling those of their predecessors. The Wii U installment is my game of choice, and I have yet to try out the 3DS version, so in this lengthy blog post I'll cover some of my initial opinions on the Wii U's latest first party title...


For starter's, there's a vast amount of content all packed into this game, far too much for me to cover in this piece, and it's all accessible in a slick menu system that's easy to navigate through and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. From the moment the game begins, things are already promising...

Nintendo have certainly improved the AI over the past iterations. The computer opponents are much less stupid, and more challenging to practice with. Level 9 opponents can often be far too good, for a lack of a better term, thanks to their ability to effortlessly dodge, block, and counter most frontal attacks, even when preoccupied with other opponents in a free for all. It'll be a huge challenge for newcomers and for people used to the inferior AI of the previous games, but with much practice you can conquer them with clever tactics and exploitation of mistakes. With that said, the level 9 computer is still far too calculative and automatic, demonstrating reflexes that are simply beyond human, and so it's much nicer to be fighting slightly lower difficulty levels - or, just real people.


Nintendo knew how ideal the Gamecube controller is for Smash Bros., so an adaptor was created to let gamers bring that control scheme to the Wii U - and as most people know, the adaptor bit the dust almost as soon as it was released and most retailers have not yet been able to replenish their stock. As a result, I have not been able to use a GC controller, and was forced to adjust to the GamePad. Great a controller as it is, it just didn't seem right for Smash Bros at first glance - but, after settling into the new control scheme (which may take a while for GC fans), it becomes just as comfortable as the other methods, and thus it's not the end of the world for those who can't get their hands on the adaptor at the moment.


Some characters have received some nice little improvements; for instance, Luigi's Final Smash now hoovers up opponents and sends them soaring off the stage, and, most notably, Bowser has been completely revamped - he's now heavier, but can run faster, boasts better agility, yet retains his trademark power. A plethora of newcomers also join the fight, including Little Mac, Greninja and Charizard (in the absence of the Pok√©mon Trainer from Brawl), Duck Hunt Duo, and Villager from Animal Crossing, the latter two of which are ridiculously overpowered. The visuals for these characters are much more attractive than that in Brawl which, like Melee, went for a realistic approach. In contrast, SSB4 adopts a more vibrant and cartoony colour scheme that's more reliable to the games these characters appear in, and one that is far more appealing to look at - especially in HD.

All sorts of masterpieces can be created in the new Stage Builder.
The Stage Builder is vastly different than that in Brawl. Instead of building levels with preset blocks and other features, players are free to draw their own platforms via the GamePad touch screen. You're literally able to create any shapes you wish; even human genitals, a rude word, or any other immature things most older gamers will want to draw. It's addictive to say the least, and whilst the edge detection needs improving, it allows for far more creative freedom. The central flaw is a severe lack of objects to position on the stage, which only consists of springs, cannons, lava fields, and moving platforms. This range is extremely small and disappointing, but hopefully patches or updates may expand it in the future.


The game is not without challenge - whilst the level 9 CPUs may sometimes be unfair, the majority of the games challenge doesn't feel so cheap. You'll be screaming in frustration when tasked with KO'ing numerous opponents in Cruel Smash, or trying to defeat the final boss Master Core on the highest difficult in Classic Mode, but it'll only drive you to be a better player - and make for incredible satisfaction when you've accomplished your goals. With over 700 trophies to collect, a huge increase from Brawl's 544, you'll be preoccupied for god knows how long in trying to gather all the extras and conquer all the challenges and events. Single player is far more enjoyable as a result, with a well structured Classic Mode, tricky yet addictive events, and tons of other activities to enjoy along the way. Nintendo haven't tried to craft an unnecessarily complex adventure mode like they did with the Subspace Emissary, or an extremely repetitive one like they did in Melee. Single player is kept simple, yet is still more fun than it has ever been before.


Multiplayer is as enjoyable as it was in the previous titles, but now we have a new inclusion - eight player battles. It makes for mixed results; while fun and crazily chaotic, the wide camera angle the game is forced to adopt during such fights make it incredibly hard to see who's who, and the constant fighting makes it equally hard to keep track of yourself. It's certainly fun, but on higher difficulties or with more experienced players, it can be a little nauseating. Online play has more to offer than it did in Brawl, with modes that let you fight solo, in teams, and even in one on one matches with no items involved. In spite of this, it's still very disappointing to see the return of hideous lag; sometimes games can be smooth, but many times they're sluggish, with noticeable button delays and dramatic dips in framerate. This is less of an issue in one on one games, but still not acceptable at this point. It most certainly needs fixing in future updates, for online play is something Smash fans will always want to enjoy, and to have it feel a little too unstable is not a good thing whatsoever. It's also a massive shame that the tournament mode - one of my very favourites - seems to be entirely absent in offline multiplayer. Why, Nintendo?

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is too large a game to completely cover in one blog post, but it's time to wrap things up - bottom line, this game is the definitive reason why you should own a Wii U. It's packed with engrossing content, and is a much more colourful and simple, yet still complex, effort than it's predecessors. Nintendo have created the perfect iteration of the franchise by incorporating the best elements of the past titles whilst also learning from their mistakes - and the end result is not only the finest of the series, but easily the Wii U's best game to date.

Thanks for reading!