Monday, December 15, 2014

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Review)

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Review

This review was originally published on ZeldaChronicles (formerly known as ZeldaEurope) and got translated for this blog in 2021 by the same author. Nintendo had provided a download code.

When Link is fighting against Mario, Samus or Captain Falcon, we're most likely talking about Super Smash Bros. – the fourth installment of Nintendo's iconic fighting game series now found its way onto the Wii U and with that it's time to take a look how it compares to the Nintendo 3DS version, with a focus on what's in it for Zelda fans.

It's best to check out out the Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS review at first, if you haven't done so already, because some aspects, like the selection of fighters and items, are identical between both versions. This review will focus more on what makes the Wii U version different.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl in HD

It's June 27th, 2008 – a special day for every Nintendo fan in Europe, where they finally got the most extensive Nintendo game to date, printed onto a dual-layer disc (much to the sorrow of some Wii disc drives). Super Smash Bros. Brawl created a milestone and was without equal at the time. While its gameplay might have been too slow and bumpy for fans of Super Smash Bros. Melee, the game offered many new fighters, stages, modes and extras, a gigantic soundtrack, as well as a couple of new features, like the Final Smash, Assist Trophies, a story mode and even a Stage Builder. Super Smash Bros. Brawl was also a gigantic love letter to the depths of the Nintendo universes, leaving some big shoes to fill for its successors.

Smash Bros. for Wii U main menu

And to fill them a lot from Super Smash Bros. Brawl got recycled in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. This already starts with the main menu, which – the Wii Fit inspired background aside – uses the same design and handling as its predecessor. This also means that you can only navigate it using the analog stick or D-pad, but not the pointer of the Wii Remote or the touchscreen of the Wii U GamePad, despite the large menu entries. Otherwise, about a third of the stages returns from the previous game, as well as the majority of the fighters (the exceptions being Snake, Lucas, Wolf, Squirtle, Ivysaur and the Ice Climbers) and most of the soundtrack from Brawl.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you've loved Super Smash Bros. Brawl and spent many hours with the game, this might feel like a rehash, while at the same time it's missing some of the strengths of the predecessor. It just doesn't have the same level of innovation that each Super Smash Bros. game had before. The graphics are now in HD, there are 14 new characters and the gameplay is as solid as ever, but it's lacking the ambition of the other projects. The "wow factor".

The main focus was on delivering a first Smash Bros. for a Nintendo handheld with Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, as well as a Smash Bros. for Nintendo's first HD console with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. That was the main ambition behind this project, making two new Smash titles at once, but it feels like this came at the cost of something grander. This doesn't mean it's a bad game, however...

The Core

While the rest of the review will deal with all the new features around the Wii U version, let's start by saying that the core of the game is quite excellent. In 1080p at fluid 60FPS runs an established fighting game that can excite pro, hardcore and casual gamers alike.

After Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS just didn't feel right on the small screen, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is right at home on the big screen, where Smash simply is played best. And this is a solid new entry into the series, which doesn't really do anything wrong on the gameplay side, except for being somewhat finicky with the inputs.

For example it's quite hard to register a "tap" of the button, where the window of frames is simply too short and the game then thinks your holding the button, instead of pressing it shortly. This can make a big difference for the jumps, where there is a short and full variant depending on the input.

But otherwise there was a lot of fine tuning compared to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where the game is somewhat faster now and the random tripping mechanic is gone. A lot of work also went into balancing the characters. Only time will tell if that's enough for fans of Super Smash Bros. Melee, which has been vastly preferred for competitive play so far. But in any case you'll get a good and extensive Smash experience with 52 fighters (including the three Mii Fighters) and 46 stages. And that's something.

Eightfold Smash

Probably the biggest innovation from the previous game is the "8-Player Smash", a version of the classic "Smash" mode, where you can play with up to eight players, as the name implies. However, you won't get any of the "Special Smash" customizations and you can only play on 15 of the 46 stages (some more by using the Omega-versions). 

You can also play just with five, six or seven players, but in any case it's remarkable how the game supports all possible types of controllers for this. Next to the Wii U GamePad, you can put Wii Remotes, Wii Remotes with Nunchcuks, Pro Controllers, Classic Controllers and GameCube Controllers (via a separately available adapter) into the hands of your friends. You can even use a Nintendo 3DS, though this probably should not be your first choice.

In addition you can alter the controls for all these devices, if you don't like the default ones. Like in Brawl this gets done via names, where you have to select them again, if you change between game modes. Unlike the Nintendo 3DS version, your choice of name and costumes doesn't get saved permanently, which gets quite annoying after a while.

Eight Player Smash on Hyrule Temple

Once everything is set up, the eight-player-chaos may begin. If you have more than three friends over for a visit, then this mode might be the ideal choice for playing together, but you will notice quickly that the four player limit in Super Smash Bros. was there for a reason. With eight players it creates an uncomfortable chaos, where it's easy to lose track of what's happening and where your fighter resides in the action.

There are some extraordinarily large stages specially made for that mode, like the "Great Cave Offensive" from Kirby's Fun Pak / Kirby Super Star or Palutena's Temple from Kid Icarus: Uprising. You may want to get a huge TV for those, because the image can zoom out so much that it's hard to see what's going on. This usually happens when there are players at opposing ends of the stage.

With that Super Smash Bros. for Wii U even shares a point of criticism with the 3DS version, where the small screen of the Nintendo 3DS simply isn't large enough for some of the larger stages. You have the same problem here, especially if you want to play via the Wii U GamePad. Once your fighter is only a few pixels in size, the playability says good bye.

The whole eight-player mode feels like an experiment, which didn't really work out so well. It would have been interesting, if there were more support for the transition, like five or six players, but this wasn't really optimized. There are only three more stages available, while there should have been a much greater selection for just five players.

Game Modes

Other than the 8-Player Smash, the selection of game modes seems more like a downgrade when compared to Super Smash Bros. Brawl. There is no story or adventure mode, which had its pinnacle with the Subspace Emissary. So, if you want to battle with your favorite characters through hordes of monsters and see them interact in epic cutscenes, then you will get disappointed. There is also no Boss Battles mode in the same vein.

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS at least offered the possibility to go through a labyrinth full of monsters with its "Smash Run" mode, but this is exclusive to the handheld version. Instead there is the new "Smash Tour" mode, right at the start of the main menu, where this prominent placement might not be deserved...

Smash Tour board with four Mii players

Smash Tour is like a mix of Wii Party and Smash. You use Mii characters to move over a board, which offers fighters, items and the (slightly useless) stat boosts, which return here from Smash Run. You play between 15 and 25 turns, where for each turn you throw a dice to determine the number of steps you can take. Your goal is to collect as many fighters as possible until the end of all turns for the final battle. The more fighters you have, the longer you can stay in the game in order to win.

If you hit another Mii on the board, it starts a random battle, which includes all the players and where you can either win or lose fighters. Via the collected items, which look like trophies, you can gain advantages, both on the board and on the battlefield.

This isn't the most exciting mode, really. A lot of it is up to random number generation and things can get quite unbalanced, which isn't much fun. The mode is certainly a fun diversion every once in a while, which you can play with friends as a type of party game, but it doesn't offer any long lasting value. Fighting against the CPU also isn't any fun at all, where this mode shouldn't be of interest for solo players.

For single-player content there is about the same selection as on Nintendo 3DS: Classic Mode, All-Star Mode and the Stadium, which comes with Target Blast, Multi-Man Smash and Home-Run Contest. The Events from Super Smash Bros. Brawl return as well and completely new are the "Special Orders".

Classic Mode pedestal with trophy groups

Classic Mode is somewhat different from the 3DS version. You also have a choice before each round, but this choice is made on a board with groups of fighters in the form of trophies, which represent your opponents. You pick one of them and after a while new groups get added...

The main issue with this Classic Mode is the huge focus on battles with 6 to 8 fighters. If you find those confusing and like to play on the Wii U GamePad, then Classic Mode keeps putting spokes in your wheel with those. It's also not so simple to estimate which groups might lead into these larger battles. You can go for a small group with only three fighters, but it turns out to be a team battle (where you can pick your teammates).

If you lose, it will lower the difficulty on a continue. Initially you will pick the intensity by investing Gold, which you can earn in all other modes. The more you invest, the higher the difficulty will be and the more rewards you will be able to earn. If you want to master a certain intensity, you'll to do it without ever losing a battle, because it will otherwise lower the difficulty.

For the first time you can now also play Classic Mode with another player in co-op, which is also possible in many of the other modes, like All-Star. Speaking of, All-Star Mode now is played in the chronologically opposite order from the 3DS version, meaning that you start fighting against the youngest video game characters all the way up to the classics, like Mario and Pac-Man.

Target Blast now offers three different stages, but that's still not a real replacement for the Target Smash mode from the past. In the least there is also the new Trophy Rush mode from Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, where you to fight through boxes dropping down on you, in order to earn the desired collectibles. This works exactly the same as on the Nintendo 3DS, but isn't all that extensive either.

What returns from Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl are the Event matches, which now aren't linear any longer, but spread in all directions as some sort of map, where there are different maps for playing solo and in co-op. Here you have to master battles with special conditions or tasks. An interesting example for Zelda fans should be one event based on Four Swords Adventures, where four differently colored Toon Links fight each other, just like in the "Shadow Battles".

The one new thing, other than Smash Tour, are the Special Orders, where you go for ticket battles, which can be battles with special rules, Stadium modes and more. In the "Master Orders" you pay Gold for every ticket, where orders with higher difficulty cost more. Here you can earn rewards, like equipment, Mii outfits or alternate Special moves for your fighters. You can keep drawing tickets, as long as you enough of the ingame currency left.

This is different for the "Crazy Orders", where you have to invest either 5000G or a Crazy Order pass to participate. You don't have to pay extra for the tickets afterwards, but you're limited to ten minutes of play time and you also keep your damage from the previous battle. If you have battled enough, you can face Crazy Hand in one final battle. Only if you win this, you will get to keep all rewards. If you lose, you lose everything. It's somewhat similar to Classic Mode, but where you can decide at which points you go into the finale to collect as many as rewards as possible at beforehand.


While the selection of fighters is identical, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U have a different selection of stages. Those are available much faster than on the Nintendo 3DS or in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, however, where only eight of the fighters and six of the stages need to be unlocked here. And this can be achieved relatively quickly. Fans of the Zelda series don't have to do anything here, where all of its fighters and stages are ready from the get-go – even Ganondorf, who still had to be unlocked on the Nintendo 3DS.

There is a total of 46 stages in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, with a third being classic stages, mainly from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. For many franchises you get one new stage accompanied by an old one, where some of the old ones might feel redundant. An example would be "Smashville" and the new "Town and City" from Animal Crossing, where both of these feel very similar.  But two are better than one.

Link doing a spin attack with the Statue of the Goddess in the background

For Zelda there's one new stage with "Skyloft" based on Skyward Sword, where it works similarly to "Delfino Plaza", which means that a floating platform will take you to different places all over the sky island. You will fight on the Goddess Statue or on top of the waterfall for example, while the entirety of Skyloft can be seen in the background during the flights.

Next to the addition of Skyloft, the Zelda series even gets two returning stages: "Hyrule Temple" and the "Bridge of Eldin". Hyrule Temple was an excellent choice for the 8-Player-Smash, where there it's certainly one of the better stages for that mode. And the Bridge of Eldin probably has returned, because the design of the Zelda fighters is still based on Twilight Princess, where it's nice to have a fitting stage.

Nothing much has changed about these classics and it would have been more interesting to get the "Pirate Ship" back. A new version could have used the visuals from The Wind Waker HD, making a good fit for the Wii U, while Toon Link would have gotten something more from his games, where currently he feels like the odd one out, next to his realistic Zelda colleagues. (Update: this stage got later added as paid DLC, but without the visual upgrades of The Wind Waker HD. Hyrule Castle returns as DLC as well.)

One of the more interesting additions is the "Pyrosphere" from Metroid: Other M, which offers Ridley as a stage boss. If you attack him, you can bring Ridley over to your side and you can also try to defeat him to score a point. The boss action is a lot more dynamic here than it was on the Nintendo 3DS with the Yellow Devil or the Dark Emperor. Also, this really makes Other M look quite good, where it almost makes you want to play the game again despite its flaws. Almost.

Omega version of Hyrule Temple with the original stage visible in the background

Many of the (new) stages offer some special mechanics or gimmicks, but compared to Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS things are a little bit more down-to-earth. You also get the flat Omega variants of all stages, if you like to play more competitively. Again, it's a shame that there are no "Alpha" variants with platforms as well to offer some more variety, but it's still a great option to have, especially if you like a stage for its setting, but dislike its mechanics.

Stage Builder

If all those stages aren't enough for you, you can make your own in the "Stage Builder". This feature was missing on the Nintendo 3DS and it's nice to have this back, where you can have a lot of fun with this. It even makes use of the touchscreen of the Wii U GamePad, unlike the entire rest of the game and its menus. This is also the major difference compared to the Stage Builder from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where now you can freely draw your own shapes with this, which offers many new possibilities.

A Master Sword stage made via the Stage Builder

It does have its limitations, however, where the handling of the Stage Builder can be quite inconvenient. You are unable to move around your drawn shapes and you also cannot alter them via the eraser tool, where your only option is to delete them entirely and draw them again. But you might not be able to re-create the same shape exactly like you had it before... Luckily, there is also a grid, which lets you design things in squares and other geometric shapes, which makes things much easier and cleaner.

It lacks the large variety of placeable stage parts, however, where this time you only get springs, cannons, moving platforms and magma, all in two different sizes. The cannons shoot you around, like in the Donkey Kong Country games, which can be used for some fun setups, but overall Brawl just had a lot more to offer. There you had conveyor belts, ice blocks, drop blocks, ladders and even rotating platforms, as well as a variety of decorations. So, despite the possibility to draw freely, it feels more limited of what you can do.

There also wasn't much done when it comes to the backgrounds. There is now a sky world, a volcano, a space station, an ocean and some sort of city made out of blocks. All of those look very pretty and come with fitting textures, but you still don't have the possibility to use the backgrounds from normal stages, where you could build your own stage set in Skyloft or the Mushroom Kingdom. That's just not possible and you're limited to the five presets.

Collect and Connect

There is the option to connect the game to Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS for sharing Mii Fighters and customized fighters. However, these fighters can only be edited in the game where you've first made them, so you can't modify them any further after downloading them from the Nintendo 3DS and vice versa.

The Mii Fighters are a great addition to the series, where it's nice to have them to make your own fighter creations. But if you want the same Mii Fighter on both consoles, while keeping the Special Moves and equipment customizable, then this copy functionality isn't helpful. You either have to recreate the same Mii Fighter on the other system or use the original system to edit the fighter, where both of these options are somewhat inconvenient.

This limitation is probably in place to prevent you from sharing collectible items as well, but that's not a good excuse. While the trophies are different between the versions, the Mii outfits, equipment and custom moves are all the same. But you get most of these randomly anyway, where there is no good reason to not have them shared as well and synchronize your collections between the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS. Instead you have to get everything a second time now...

Zelda tapping Toon Link on his giant head

And it's not like collecting all these items is a lot of fun. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl you had the stickers, which got presented in a giant sticker album and offered some value next to the many trophies, with further references to all sorts of characters and things from many video games. But in Super Smash Bros. 4 it's really just a bunch of icons. Since many of the equipment items also come with a disadvantage, it's easy to ignore them entirely, but there are some helpful abilities, like starting the match with certain items.

At least the custom Special moves have some value and can be interesting, e.g. Link's large, but slow "Giant Bombs". Others might not be as useful, where for example Link's "Power Bow" does more damage, but the arrow drops down right at his feet, unless he fully charges the bow.

Most of the time you will play with the default Specials anyway, because you have to specifically allow and select the customized fighters, where the whole concept might get lost in the shuffle. The default attacks are the most balanced ones and there are only very few characters who offer real alternatives, instead of just variations of the existing Special attacks, like Palutena does. But there is a lot of potential here and it can be fun to experiment with the customized fighters.

Of course the popular trophies return another time, 716 in total, which you now can put into showcases or into a landscape to take pictures of them. For the Zelda series you'll only get trophies from the five big 3D Zelda games: Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. Again, it would have been nice to have the stickers, instead of the simple equipment icons, where those also had references to all sorts of other Zelda titles, not just the major ones.

You can also earn trophies, Special moves, music and even new stages as rewards for the Challenges. There are 140 in this game, all arranged in one big menu, which is much better than the pages on the Nintendo 3DS. There you had to complete a page first in order to continue with other Challenges, where things are much more fun on the Wii U. It does require you to do things in Smash Tour, however, where it's probably the best to just plug in multiple controllers and cheat around the randomization.

The Zelda Factor

As a Zelda fan, one of the main reasons to play Super Smash Bros. always has been the contents from the Zelda series. Before there was Hyrule Warriors, Smash was the only way of playing characters other than Link – like Zelda, Sheik or Ganondorf. And it always has been interesting what stages, music, trophies and items make it into the games to represent The Legend of Zelda.

Ghirahim's Assist Trophy making a stupid face

But Super Smash Bros. 4 isn't exactly exciting on that front. There is no new fighter from the Zelda universe and the veterans have barely changed, except for separating Zelda from Sheik. You still have the visuals from Twilight Princess for most of the characters, where Link and Zelda look somewhat grim here in Smash.

After Hyrule Warriors did an amazing job of portraying all these characters and more, the representation in Smash feels somewhat lackluster. They could have gone with the Skyward Sword looks for Link and Zelda, and maybe even replace Sheik and Ganondorf with Impa and Demise from that game to offer something new. Ganondorf is even still a glorified Captain Falcon clone, where not a lot has changed.

The only department where the Zelda series got a lot of attention are items. The Beetle, Gust Bellows, Bombchus, Cucco and Fairy Bottle all add to the arsenal, while fan favorite characters got turned into Assist Tropies with Skull Kid, Midna and Ghirahim. So, there is a lot more on the battlefield from the Zelda universe, if you play with items turned on. The Beetle and Gust Bellows are even devilishly strong, which let you score some cheap K.O.s.

There is also a lot of music, stemming from A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. There is even one piece from Link's Awakening and one from Four Swords Adventures, though both of these simply return from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Curiously, there is even music from A Link Between Worlds in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, while the Nintendo 3DS version didn't have anything from the latest Zelda, despite sharing the same system.

So, if you're only interested in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U because of Zelda, then you might consider getting Hyrule Warriors instead, where The Legend of Zelda has now its dedicated all-star title, which even lets you play as Midna and Ghirahim. But of course Zelda alone isn't the whole focus and the only reason to get this.


Smash is still best played with friends and here you can't go wrong with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. It's all polished, plays (for the most part) fantastically and has a good amount of content in the form of fighters and stages. It will not satisfy everyone, however. Many things got recycled from Super Smash Bros. Brawl to fill this title with content, while its also missing some of the strengths of the Wii predecessor, like the story mode or certain aspects for the Stage Builder. Zelda fans also shouldn't expect any major novelties here, where there's only one new stage and a couple of new items.

The Good:

  • Polished Smash gameplay in 60FPS and 1080p
  • Supports every possible controller
  • Big selection of fighters and stages
  • Mii Fighters

The Neutral:

  • Stage Builder lets you freely draw, but lacks most of the stage parts
  • Useful Omega stages, but no Alpha variants
  • 8-Player-Smash is nice to have, but can be too confusing

The Bad:

  • Not much new from Zelda
  • Lots of recycled content from Brawl
  • No Adventure mode
  • Smash Tour
  • Limited connectivity to the 3DS version
  • No stickers

No comments: