Hands-on, Gloves Off: Super Smash Bros for Wii U Impressions

This week at Nintendo’s post-E3 media event in Toronto I was given the opportunity to try many of Nintendo’s new games first-hand. The main attraction of the event was Super Smash Bros for Wii U. This is the latest installment in the accessible fighting game franchise that is, for many fans, the number one reason to own a Nintendo console.

The Super Smash Bros demo drew a crowd of gamers old and new, those who were experienced with the series and those who had never played before. The first thing I noticed as a Super Smash Bros. veteran was the speed and clarity of the visuals. The action feels like it moves very fast, though it isn’t really any faster than the previous games in the series. Instead, the game’s 60fps framerate makes every motion smoother, so that you see more of the movement in the same amount of time.

This smoothness extends to the character designs, which leave behind the baroque details of past installments and favour solid colours with subtle textures. The stitching on Mario’s overalls may not stand out anymore, but this reduction in detail makes it much easier to identify characters and keep track of what is happening onscreen!

Super Smash Bros for Wii U

Together, the increase in definition, framerate, and readability made Super Smash Bros. for Wii U feel faster, cleaner, and more to-the-point than Brawl.

Nintendo has optimized this game for fans and competitive players and it shows through. It was my great pleasure to play the demo using a GameCube controller; thirteen years later and still the best way to play. Nintendo will be selling Smash Bros.-branded controllers and adaptors to accompany the game, so that whether you’re a long-time fan or you’re new on the scene you’ll be able to play with style and comfort.
Controls firmly in hand, rivals lined up beside me, I was ready for battle! Making the most of my time, I chose to play as some of the characters newly added to the roster, to see what they had to offer. What I discovered was that each carried an important lesson about life in the arena!

I started with Mega Man, the blue boy robot. Armed with a huge arsenal of upgrades and accessories, Mega Man is a potential terror in the ring. Many of his attacks have a long range, launching projectiles far beyond the reach of his fists. His ability to project his power seemed very appealing at first, but it has a few downsides. The cool down on his weapons can leave you defenseless when an enemy comes in to strike, his movements can be mechanical and clunky, and some of his best moves aren’t very effective at close range. With Mega Man you need to pay attention to how far you can reach and how quickly your rivals can close that distance: timing is everything!

Little Mac, star of the boxing game Punch-Out, is a ferocious brawler. He is sturdy and quick, able to throw a flurry of punches and to throw himself at his opponent. He’s just a little lightweight, but Mac can swing above his class; the more you hit other players, the more his “K.O.” meter charges, and when it maxes out Mac can throw a killer uppercut! Little Mac was a solid character. I could really feel the weight of him in the way he danced around the floor, leapt (weakly) through the air, and how the force of his punches would carry him forward. Knowing your weight and how to throw it around is an essential skill in any fight!

Super Smash Bros. has always emphasized accessibility with its uncomplicated game logic and its simple control scheme. Experienced players also know that there are some newbie-friendly characters like Kirby. In Smash Bros. for Wii U there is at least one fabulous new addition; Greninja, the frog Pokemon. Greninja can leap to incredible heights, allowing it to escape from a fracas or to pounce onto its prey. Players can hang back from the action, charging and hurling watery shurikens, or they can engage in the melee with their deceptively strong martial arts. Greninja’s moves emphasize sneakiness, and that it’s best to strike when the moment is right!

One character that is sure to become a fan favourite is the Villager, who comes to us from a town called Animal Crossing. The Villager comes with a bag full of eclectic tricks and goodies. Whether they’re burying you with a shovel, cracking a bowling ball over your knees, or launching lawn ornaments as rockets, the Villager will keep you on your toes. I found it difficult to learn how to use these tricks, which included a wave of the hand that could catch incoming missiles. There are so many ways to attack as the Villager and such a wide range of movement that it must take some practice before I’m up to par. In that sense I was reminded of the classic characters Ness and Mr. Game+Watch, who weave and tumble through every fight. One thing is for sure: it’s always good to keep a few tricks up your sleeve!

The last character I got to play with was the Wii Fit Trainer. This ghostly-white figure in yoga pants is a man and a woman, and projects an air of mystery. Wii Fit Trainer uses yogic power-poses and aerobic exercise to dish out damage. Through mastery of their energy-bodies, they have learned to charge up balls of light and launch them from their solar plexus. They are a disciplined and altogether strange non-character in a world of wild cartoons. I wasn’t able to move through the air as fluidly as I like, or to attack as quickly as I wanted. I found it easier to keep my feet planted and the fight grounded. From the ground, Wii Fit can throw devastating attacks with their fingers and toes, lashing out at rivals like a serpent. Their stances and exercises deliver a very palpable force along the path of the movement and into the bodies of opponents. It feels as though you could smash a boulder with a fingertip! With Wii Fit Trainer I felt that it was important to maintain awareness of the whole arena: where other players are, where the items are, what the scenery is doing. When you see where everything is coming from then you can make the most of your position!

As a long-time fan of the series I was most impressed by how tight and focused Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is. The solid characters, each of whom have their own kinetic flow, make the action feel intense and impactful. The clean, smooth visuals added to this effect, allowing players to be more attentive and deliberate than they were in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.


On top of those improvements there is also a character customizer, which was not shown in the demo. Without getting my hands on it I cannot say how it works out, but from screenshots it appears that you can swap out a character’s attacks, modify their stats and strengths, and even create new fighters using your Mii. We will have to wait and see what kind of depth this adds to the final game!

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August 8, 2014 - 12:00 pm