Remember 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' with Gene Wilder? Go back and watch it again and really pay attention to the scene where the ticket winners are standing at the gate. There's a massive celebration to commemorate the event, with bands and cheering crowds and more. It's not every year let alone every day that Wonka opens up his factory to the public, but here he comes in his big hat and purple coat to whisk five lucky children into his building of wonders.
Anyone who spent time waiting in line on Thursday, Nov. 21 can relate to that scene pretty well. After all, it's not every year let alone every day that Nintendo opens the door to its digital museum called Super Smash Bros., and while there was a preview night back in October called Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, the grand opening was the real main event. Now the museum has opened its doors once again, celebrating 35 years of video game history on one single disc, and the game truly is a world of pure imagination.
I call the 3DS version a "preview night" because a lot of what I wrote about in my review of that game stands here. Amazingly the core mechanics of the 3DS version are exactly the same as they are here on the Wii U. Playing as Little Mac and Bowser (the two I've chosen to main for now) is exactly the same except for the actual controller I'm holding. I can use the same strategies and performs the same combos in either version with zero difference, which is simply amazing. Never before did I think that'd be possible in any format, but Sakurai and his team have done it.
There are a few more similarities between the two versions, but most of them deal with the different choices in modes. Outside of 3DS version's Smash Run (and Wii U's Smash Tour which I'll talk about later), the two games share the same lineup of modes. There's Classic, All-Star, the Stadium games like Home-Run Contest and Target Smash, Trophy Rush, and more. However, the Wii U version offers different ways to play each one, like allowing for two players at once during a Home-Run Contest and Trophy Rush, or adding three different Target Smash arenas to try out. All-Star Mode ran me through the gamut of fighters in reverse chronological order instead of going oldest-to-newest like the 3DS, which doesn't really change much other than getting to take on Shulk and Greninja first instead of last. Each mode is just as enjoyable and fun as it was on the 3DS, making the already impressive parallels even more so.
The most revamped mode from 3DS to Wii U is definitely Classic Mode, which throws away the path format of the 3DS in favor of a chess-style board with different groups of fighters. I still get to choose which battle I want to take on, but instead of basing my decision on symbols I can actually see who I'll be fighting before I do battle. There are a few other challenges thrown in for good measure, like the introduction of a Rival who grows stronger with each non-chosen round, and sometimes a random character will replace one in the group and come in more powerful than the others. It may sound complicated but it's truly the same old Classic mode we've been playing for years, just with a lot more choices made by the player instead of the game. I rather like being able to choose my own destiny, because sometimes I'd rather avoid Dedede's hammer in favor of Game and Watch, and that's perfectly okay.
Classic Mode is where the 3DS similarities end and the Wii U version begins to follow its own path, starting with the technical enhancements. This game is jaw-droppingly beautiful at times, with vibrant stages that can truly stop a passerby in his or her tracks. One battle on the Mario Galaxy stage had me fighting with my mouth agape, not believing that a frantic action game like Super Smash Bros. could look so good at the height of that action. Perhaps I became used to the 3DS visuals and that's why I was so rocked, but man does this game look pretty. All of the insane action happens without a hint of technical struggle, as multiple characters and Pokemon can be fighting on-screen at once and the Wii U has no problem showing it all off. For a console that's supposed to be less powerful than the other two, there's really amazing work being done here.
The Wii U version also has its share of exclusive modes, starting with the return of Events. These themed battles add a comedic spin to the formula, making me focus less on just defeating opponents and more on completing certain tasks in the midst of battle. One such challenge has me controlling Jigglypuff against Ness, Toon Link, and Wario and asks me to use Sing on all three opponents to put them to sleep and help the mother on the Gamer stage out. Another asks me to basically play Pac-Man but munch on tiny Olimars instead of blue ghosts. While some of them can be difficult, each of the Events is a great way to change things up.
Smash Tour is another Wii U exclusive mode, with this one borrowing more from Mario Party than Smash Bros. This digital board game places Miis on the board and power-ups all over the place (including fighters) and tasks me with collecting as many as I can in the turns allowed before a Stock Battle to the finish where the number of characters I collect is the number of lives I get. Like Smash Run, it's not the most interesting mode in the entire world, but unlike Smash Run, it's the perfect mode for those who either have never played Smash or fell out of the series for a while to get back into the swing of things. Traveling across the board bumping into other players and initiating quick Smash battles incites a lot of excitement in a room of four people, and the final battle is always a spectacle. After playing it with Smash newcomers and seeing how it made them want to explore other modes, I guess the name Smash Tour" makes a lot of sense.
One of my favorite features of Super Smash Bros. Brawl returns in Smash Wii U, and My Music gives me just as many chills now as it did back then. Well, I suppose it gives me more chills since Smash Wii U starts with more music than all of Brawl. A lot of music is reused from either previous Smash games or the source itself, but every single song is an aural walk down memory lane. There are retro medleys to behold, remixes of some of the best classic themes ever (with the Quick Man remix being a personal favorite), and the original pieces taken straight from other games fit so well here they may as well have come from this game in the first place. Again, I go back to the Mario Galaxy stage, but set it so that the song 'Super Mario Galaxy' is playing during a battle and it's like the round peg fits in the square hole. It shouldn't work but it totally does, and that's the genius of Sakurai and his team at work.
Perhaps the most interesting new feature in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U going in was the inclusion of Eight-Player Smash. As if the insanity level wasn't high enough already, now this game is going to double the amount of players at any given time. By every logical conclusion, Eight-Player Smash should be too much Smash to handle at one time, but again this mode is the round peg in the square hole. Doubling the amount of characters fighting at once makes things even more fun, with attacks coming from every which way and a maxed out level of unpredictability. Of course the stage selection is limited when using Eight-Player Smash, because not all of the arenas can contain such madness, but that's a small price to pay for the insane amounts of fun to be had. The only downside is getting seven other players in one room, but anyone who can make it happen better do it. Oh, and don't worry about controllers, because Smash gives you seven different ways to control the action, even allowing a 3DS. This game truly thinks of everything.
What of amiibo, the new toys-to-life initiative from Nintendo starting with Super Smash Bros.? While the statues don't do much in the game outside of giving me a new AI opponent to challenge, they do serve as an excellent training tool for possible competition down the line. The Figure Players, or FP as they're called in the game, adapt to my mannerisms, learning my style of play and countering it pretty well. That forces me to adjust how I'm playing to counter the FP, which makes my overall game better. They're not essential to the experience, but amiibo do add a fun new variable to the formula.
All of these awesome modes are available without even touching the online arena, which was a major point of interest as the launch drew near. I knew that the mode format would be exactly the same as the 3DS, and knowing this allowed me to focus on the all-important connectivity factor. With other big titles experiencing some online growing pains, I (and the rest of the gaming world) wondered how well the little Wii U that could would handle online Smash demands. I am happy to report that after a few rounds of online play, mostly in the For Glory section, that Smash Wii U performed quite admirably. There were a few matches with a bit of slowdown, and only one where I was completely frozen for a few seconds, but the majority of my online play was done in full speed and full animation. My only problem with it is that some people playing Smash online are just too damn strong and I can't beat them, but hopefully I can rectify that soon.
As a seasoned veteran of the series from the very beginning, believe me when I tell you that Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the pinnacle of Smash. Everything about it is pure fun, from the variety of modes to the incredible soundtrack to just sitting down with some friends and beating each other to smithereens. There wasn't a single minute while I was playing this game that I wasn't smiling, oohing, or aahing at something, whether it be a new detail in a stage, or a big time move pulled off by another player. The Smash Bros. museum is open once again, and anyone who's ever loved Smash Bros., Nintendo, or video games in general, should immediately subscribe to the lifetime pass.
This review was completed using a retail copy of Super Smash Bros. provided by the publisher for Wii U.