Super Smash Bros. (Hands-On) (Wii U) Preview

By Jorge Ba-oh 28.06.2014 1

Review for Super Smash Bros. (Hands-On) on Wii U

Who would have thought that a classic fighting prototype from 1999, that didn't even feature Nintendo characters, with would grow into one of the most sought after and popular fighting franchises to date? It's almost a necessity, like water and green veg, for each successive Nintendo console - the GameCube had Super Smash Bros. Melee, the Wii had spruced up fisticuffs in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and now it's time for the company's first HD console to get a slice of the action. Fans are on edge though - can the new games, developed alongside Bandai Namco, take the series one step further?


 

There was and still is heated debate when it comes to moulding the perfect blend of speed, weight and strength with certain groups leaning towards Melee and others opting for the pacing in Brawl instead. The first thing upon firing up the post-E3 demo version of the game was to try and get a feel for just how the game handles, compared to its predecessors. The control schemes and aims are the same: up to four characters are thrown into side-on arenas, trading blows to rack up a damage percentage to a point where they can be blasted off the stage with a deadly final blow. It worked fifteen years ago, and it certainly works today - a simple concept with plenty of depth.

As a general feeling, after around two hours of two and four player matches, the Wii U version of Super Smash Bros. falls somewhere between Melee and Brawl in terms of character speed and what fans term as "floaty-ness". It's not lightning fast, nor sluggish or lag-ridden - simply smooth, flowing and allowing the fights to remain frantic, but in focus. Those who have played the fan-made Project M will feel at home with the upcoming Wii U release; gone are the trips, stumbles and slow-downs from Brawl, keeping players fully in control. The game, from the brief sample, can perhaps be described as Melee that's grown up, yet retaining its youthful charm and allure.

Screenshot for Super Smash Bros. (Hands-On) on Wii U

The demo offered four stock item battles, each played out within a few minutes a-piece, ensuring that they don't trail off into monster half-hour marathons, keeping the intensity as the clock ticks down to zero. The other modifier options (standard tweaks expected in any Super Smash Bros. release) weren't accessible during the session, but players can at least expect to be able to change up the item variation, time and physical characteristics for custom local fights (and hopefully online, though Nintendo weren't able to clarify additional details).

The control schemes will include support for the GamePad and Wii U Pro Controllers, but the sole option on offer at the event was in place to highlight the inclusion of GameCube controller support for the game, through an official USB-based adapter, or by unofficial replicas. Everything is mapped out just as one would expect - regular punches/kicks on the prominent green "A" button, specials on "B", c-stick support, jumps on X/Y and shielding/throws on the shoulder triggers. It's more than suitable fan-service and a sharp move by Nintendo, who could have easily opted for just the native Wii U controller options instead.

Screenshot for Super Smash Bros. (Hands-On) on Wii U

There were a wide range of characters to get our paws on in the demo roster - from veterans like Mario, Pikachu, Donkey Kong and Bowser, to newer faces like Rosalina, Mega Man, Villager and Greninja. The vast majority are a delight to work with, in particular the new crop. Greninja is one versatile critter, armed with liquid smooth moves, well-grounded close-range attacks, speed and doesn't slide around like Sonic. Mega Man is an all-round machine, armed with everything and the kitchen sink, with surprisingly good hand-to-hand combos, whilst Rosalina is a more range-driven version of Peach, in some ways. One particular highlight was stepping into the shoes of a peculiar little Villager, who feels a fair bit like Mario and, perhaps, Princess Peach combined - armed with a cheeky ability to lure players into a temporary hole in the ground.

Returning characters have also gotten spruced up and ready for the new party; they certainly scrub up well. Mario maintains his juggling tactics, yet does seem a fair bit slower. Link is enriched with more Melee-levels of speed, together with a leap jump attack that's reminiscent of Toon Link. However Link's down-stab attack is tragically slow - so much so that one could bake a cake in the time it takes for the Hylian superstar to pound the ground. Pikachu, Zelda, Fox, Marth and Kirby have similar Brawl movesets but come with a lot more resistance to being knocked off the edge - tougher, but without any extra weight. Pitt, Captain Olimar and Sonic do seem to be in need of a bit more TLC, compared to the others, however. The stars of the show must be Bowser, Donkey Kong and Zero Suit Samus, each pumped with extra strength and competitive capability, especially the age-old Bowser, who is now fighting fit.

Screenshot for Super Smash Bros. (Hands-On) on Wii U

Visually, the current build of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is certainly a mixed bag. The sheer volume of detail and scale does impress. From the nearly boundless "Battlefield" to the breath-taking scenes in the always-moving Pilotwings-inspired level, there are miniscule morsels scattered about to truly invite characters into these different worlds. Even within the eight levels shown in the demo selection, things seemed less static, more animated, almost breathing away in the background. The lighting and shadow work has also improved with the upgrade in hardware, with delicious, scorching sunshine in the outer arenas, like the Fire Emblem-inspired "Coliseum" to the dizzying, florescent interior in Little Mac's "Boxing Ring". The colour tone and vibrancy does stand out in this release; things pop, and look realistic enough without having to splutter carpet textures everywhere, like Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

However, it's not the art direction or designs that are lacking from what's been shown so far, it's more the output quality - textures are still murky, some seem to be dangerously low resolution and aliasing or "jaggies" seem to be fairly prominent throughout the game so far. From the outset, and after some time with the game, it doesn't quite, yet, have the same spectacle and true "upgrade" that Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World did. It does invite the question though: does the game need it when everything else slots in to place so well?

Screenshot for Super Smash Bros. (Hands-On) on Wii U

Final Thoughts

Overall, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U impresses with an already solid selection of characters, improvements in pacing and balancing. With only a small slice of the entire experience played in the post-E3 build, there is certainly a lot of potential and promise going forward. If Nintendo continue to dig deep with the game, it'll definitely be one to add to the must-have selection of Wii U games this year.

Developer

Bandai Namco

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Fighting

Players

8

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (9 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

Comments

Great write up, sounds like it becoming even greater than Brawl. Shame that its last-gen graphics, Brawl did not look preety on big HDTV's even with the component cable. 

Have to hope that Nintendo will put the finishing touches on the game closer to release.

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