A lot is riding on the success of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Although Mario Kart 8 has done extremely well for Nintendo (it’s already the Wii U’s third best selling game), it has not created a push that would really spur the kind of mad rush for consoles that Nintendo was hoping for. But it’s a start, and the rest of 2014 will fill in some gaps in the Wii U’s lineup nicely. With the current 2015 calendar poised to bring in more heavy hitters, the Wii U’s software futures do look bright. But its hardware may truly hinge on this one game.
I remember the original Super Smash Bros. fondly, playing with friends on a couch back when that was the only way to play. With Melee, still the tournament favorite so many years later, it was much the same: I sat on a couch with one to three friends and we beat each other up for hours and hours. Same with Brawl. Although I was aware of the online mode, I never even tried it out. But when I had friends over, out came the Wii and Smash Bros.
One of Nintendo’s greatest assets is its storied history. Every gamer over 25 (and many who are younger) has childhood memories of some Nintendo console. Smash Bros. speaks to them, because it’s not really a fighting game; it’s a vehicle for nostalgia. And never has this been truer than with the newest iteration of Smash Bros. A single game that features Mario, Sonic, and Pac-Man? Oh. My. God.
Say no more, because I’m sold. And so too should be anyone who has ever picked up a video game controller. This is a fighting game for people who love games of all sorts. It’s why Punch Out!!!’s Little Mac is up against Mega Man, and they’re both up against Charizard and the Wii Fit Trainer. Nearly anybody can look at the character list and see a familiar face. And those unfamiliar faces? Those are new characters and franchises to explore. It’s nostalgic marketing crossover brilliance at its finest, and there’s a pretty awesome game attached to it too.
Mechanically, Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U fits somewhere in between the previous two entries in the franchise. But honestly, I couldn’t tell you anything more than that. I don’t know the difference between Melee and Brawl; I only know that it’s so problematic that tournament players refuse to give Brawl the time of day. Then again, items aren’t allowed in tournament play, nor are the levels that periodically decide to kill off players. I think items and murderous levels are awesome. So why should I care what tournament players like?
Much like Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros. levels the playing field. A much better player can be knocked back by a newcomer’s well placed Bob-omb, and I like that. I’m not all that good at video games. The only way I get to enjoy Smash Bros. with players who understand the intricacies of its various systems is with a laser sword handicap.
My demo was short, only two matches long. I played against the representative of Nintendo’s Treehouse who gave the demo, and we were using GameCube controllers (I may not care about high-level play, but I’ll be damned if that isn’t the best possible controller to play the game with). I picked Marth, because despite my complete lack of Fire Emblem knowledge, I’ve always really enjoyed the way it’s characters play. (Note to self: play a Fire Emblem game.) And I had a great time, with the only little oddity I noticed being a slight delay after the player hits the ground. There’s a split second where you can’t attack, and it’s something I only noticed because I saw a video a few days prior where a tournament player had complained about just that.
But it didn’t affect the fun. By the end of the first match, I had totally forgotten about that little quirk and was just basking in the joy of playing a new Smash Bros. game. I won, but that victory wasn’t particularly sweet. My journalism senses tingled, and I asked the representative if she had let me win. Turns out, she had. She said they weren’t allowed to beat us. I told her that was ridiculous and that she had to actually play for real on the rematch.
Long story short: I lost. Apparently I died twice to her once. I only remembered dying the first, but I’ll chalk the confusion up to being so invested in the game that I literally blacked out mid-match and only came to when time was called. I may have lost, but I loved it anyway. I will probably never meet that Treehouse representative again, but if I do? Rematch.
But let’s be clear about something: That rematch will take place in front of a TV, not on a pair of 3DSs. I also got a chance to try out Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, but it isn’t the game that I want to play. Based on my time with it, it will be a worthwhile purchase for anyone interested. It’s fundamentally sound, and the “Smash Run” single player mode definitely seems like it has potential.
But I spent every minute of that demo wondering why I wasn’t playing on a TV instead. No, I can’t play Super Smash Bros. for Wii U on the subway or in a Starbucks, but so what? That’s not what Super Smash Bros. is. It isn’t some solitary experience, or even one where the people battling are facing each other. It takes place in a crowded room, controllers in hand, with everyone staring at the same big screen and laughing and shouting in equal measure.
(I’m not saying that you’re playing Smash Bros. wrong if you don’t play it that way, but I also kind of am saying that.)
In those situations, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is going to shine. Based on those two matches (and the numerous videos and reveals that preceded them), I have no doubt that it will deliver an absolutely stellar experience. I’m looking forward to a lot of games coming out in the next year, Nintendo or otherwise, but in five years I will have tossed aside every single one of them. Every one, that is, except Smash Bros.