Friday, December 12, 2014

MIXED BAG. SMASH BROS. FOR 3DS & WII-U REVIEW! (SSB4)

SUPER SMASH BROS. FOR WII-U & 3DS REVIEW

Developer: Nintendo, Sora Ltd, Bandai Namco Games
System: Wii-U, 3DS
Genre: Fighting? (Competitive Platformer?)



Hey, if for whatever reason you get here and you want an alternative to reading my article or just want a second opinion, I usually like to share my favorite video reviews and the Completionist's review of Smash is truly more overpowered than Metaknight in Brawl-- as in more like "broke the meta" knight.

But if you still wanna ready my review, scroll your eye balls on down to the rest of my article!

Let's-a-go!
 Let me put all the cards out on the table:

I love Nintendo. We all love Nintendo.

And by "we" I mean gamers. Nintendo pretty much saved the home console market with the release of the original Super Mario Bros. and the innovative NES console. Our childhoods were dominated by Nintendo. Heck, as I'm quick to tell anybody about the anecdote, one of my earliest memories is of playing Super Mario Land and Tetris on my Gameboy. The SNES and N64 were too beloved childhood home consoles. And don't even get me started on how many hours I spent just playing Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow.

So, naturally, when Nintendo's Masahiro Sakurai, creator of the adorable Kirby of Kirby's Dreamland, wanted to create a new franchise for the N64, he ultimately wound up took Nintendo's beloved characters and...

... had them beat the ever-loving crap out of each other.


Super Smash Bros. 64 was a weird idea and most of the big wigs at Nintendo were unimpressed/skeptical of the idea. And yet, despite a small budget and little advertising, the game went on to be a commercial success and Nintendo knows how to capitalize in success without sacrificing quality. Masahiro Sakurai takes that Nintendo quality too the extreme with his development of the franchise, never sacrificing quality or quantity, and every title in the franchise would manage to bring more content and characters to the franchise.

64's follow up, Melee, is arguably the fan favorite of the franchise and would set the standard for a competitive scene in the franchise. The Gamecube's hardware and controller, an impressively large roster, and new mechanical improvements made the game the go-to game for over a decade. Today, it is still the Smash Bros. game with the most intense competitive scene.

Personally, it was also my favorite installment in the franchise. I spent a lot of time playing through the game's adventure mode with my favorite Melee character, Pikachu. (B+DOWN SPECIAL!)

Brawl was the Wii installment of the franchise and, like many of Nintendo's Wii-era games, it was incredibly successful & popular but somewhat hampered by the Wii's hardware limitations and philosophy. The motion controls of the Wii were not designed for Smash. The gamecube controller was clearly designed with platformers and, specifically, Smash Bros in mind. Luckily, you could still use the gamecube controller with Brawl and, despite some mechanical differences making it a less popular choice amongst some critics, it brought an even bigger roster, the strategic Smash ball, the Subspace Emissary story mode and oh so much content.

Despite Melee still holding a higher place in my heart that Brawl, I still enjoyed the game enough to buy it again after my first copy was lost.

So, pretty much as soon as the Wii-U was released, hype for the next Smash Bros had already begun but Nintendo didn't start up the hype train until 2013 with the E3 2013 announcement that the game would be coming to Wii-U and 3DS. 2013, in my opinion, was a turning point for Nintendo's delivery of news about their new games and consoles with the Nintendo Direct's becoming the best way to get news and updates, especially with the Pokémon franchise.

In 2014, the hype really began with a big push from Nintendo as the released information in tantalizingly small amounts, at first. The teasing was so small that many gamers were unsure if there would even be a Smash release in the vague "Winter 2014" release window. But thanks to some clever marketing, with continual ratcheting up of the content revealed, Nintendo had us all on the edge of our seats.

They released the 3DS version in late September

They released the Wii-U version in late November.

And so, almost three weeks after the release, I think I can comfortably tell you how the newest Smash Bros. stacks up.

Hold onto your pants! A new challenger approaches with my review of Super Smash Bros for Wii-U! (We'll talk about the difference between the two versions after the Wii-U review).

STORY

In 64 and Melee they established that the Smash Bros. universe is based on toys being animated to life by an unseen person/s represented by the Master Hand. In Brawl, they introduced his left hand, Crazy Hand, and they also laid down a rather complex/vague story involving multiverse destruction in Subspace Emissary. And Subspace Emissary was a mixed bag-- on one hand, it was a fun co-op experience (me and my sister completed it) but on the other hand it didn't really answer any questions and bordered on tedium with some of the more confusing levels. It seemed that many people agreed with the latter and more negative opinion. The result?

This time we really don't have a story.

At the end of the Classic Mode, on higher difficulties, when you defeat Master and Crazy Hand, you fight the Master Core. Um, I dunno. That's it.

The fact that they didn't expand on the story is fine but the fact there is arguably less story than ever is a little disappointing. But, to be fair, the amount of content in Smash Bros 4 might just make up for the lack of a plot.

PRESENTATION

Let's get the negative out of the way:

The menu is garbage. In both versions of Super Smash Bros for Wii and 3DS (I'll be calling it SSB4 for now on), the menus are confusing. The only obvious things on the menu is the "Online" button which leads to the simple online set-up. The Smash Button is for your basic Smash multiplayer, but should probably just say "Multiplayer" or something like that. Smash Tour, the Game's Challenges, and connecting 3DS are easy but everything else is shoved into "Games and More". In fact, all of the single player stuff, extra game more modes, your vault, etc. are all shoved into that vague subheading and that is something of a failure. Some people have only found features by accident!

But that's a weird but small gripe. Let's talk about the game's visuals and sound.


Lemme be frank: Nintendo has never needed the best hardware to present timeless visuals but this time they've outdone themselves. Much like Mario Kart 8, they've managed to create a game that runs at 1080p and 60 fps on the Wii-U.

Other next gen game makers are struggling to find any near parity. Nintendo on the other hand has release several gorgeous games this year and SSB4 runs spectacularly with only a few little hiccups when things on the screen get crazy (or when playing on the game pad, of course).

And it's not just the graphics. The way they use it-- to fill the screen with impressive details in the background, tons of objects, fantastic lighting elements, and so much more-- and combine it with a soundtrack that may be the greatest video game sound track of all time. The new Smash Bros. has a soundtrack made-up of classic tracks from the history of all of the games included and also original tracks/remixes that can all be played for the audience's pleasure and/or customly played over any stage in the game.

Games like SSB4 are setting the standard for next gen presentation.

GAMEPLAY

 Smash Bros. is a fighting game.

It is also not. It is a multiplayer competitive platformer where you use items and moves, with priority/counters, to attempt to knock your opponents off the screen while also trying to stay on the screen yourself. In that way, it is difficult to really compare Smash Bros. to other fighting games. For that reason, it is only really appropriate, in this case, to compare it to its predecessors.

SSB4 is most like Brawl but improves on many mechanics, such as removing tripping, and has created a game that feels amazing to play. In my humble opinion, and it just that, this is my favorite Smash Bros. game to play. There. I threw down the gauntlet. Now, let's talk about the gameplay content!

The roster is arguably the strongest ever. They left out Wolf and Lucas, since they're both clones, they probably couldn't get Snake back (disappointing for many), traded Pokemon Trainer for Charizard (I miss Squirtle) and they excluded Ice Climbers due to to technical limitations on 3DS. But most of the new characters added to the roster were welcome to the gang. My favorite additions are Bowser Jr., Pacman, and Villager.


My least favorite additions? The plethora of clone characters (Lucina, Dark Pit and Doctor Mario have less personality than Wolf) and too many sword wielding anime characters (Lucina, Robin, Shulk). The sword wielders kind of overlap and seem to take up an inordinate amount of the cast. How inordinate? I kind of agree with Dedede...




BUT! On the other hand, the changes to the characters feel super great and closer to balanced than ever (then again, I'm a filthy casual, so who knows) and splitting up characters that transform (Charizard, Zelda/Shiek, Samus) seem like good ideas. I would've liked to see them redo Ganondorf's moves to be less clone-like and stuff like Mario's Sunshine down special are disappointing but I'd argue that, once again, this is the funnest smash to play.

My favorite characters are Kirby, King Dedede, and Bowser (Bowser is so OP).

As for the modes: there is Classic Mode, All-Star Mode, Homerun Contest, Trophy Smash, Target Blast, Multi-Man, Training, Events, and more. 3DS gets Smash Run (a fun and perfect mode for portable gaming) and the Wii-U version gets Smash Tour (complicated Mario Party like mode), Event Mode, Special Orders and a Moves Mode.

That doesn't even bring up the incredible addition of 8 Player Smash! You can play with up to 8 players in the Wii-U version, including computers and Amiibos (which are a special aside that I will discuss more in a future article, check out the bottom of this one for some details) ,and it is incredible. It becomes chaotic and you're limited to certain stages but I find the mayhem satisfying.

Personally, I find six player smash to be my favorite number. The option to have teams is also great because two teams of three or three of two is great.

And you have so many options on controllers: you can use the wii-mote, wii pro controllers, wii-u pro controllers, wii-u game pad, game cube controllers (with a special adapter) and 3DSes with copies of Smash Bros! The latter function allowed the guys at my smash release to play eight player smash as we waited for the official launch!

Though, ultimately, the Gamecube controller is the way to go.

Really with all of these modes, characters, and challenges/trophies to collected, there is hundreds of hours of gameplay to be found and that's fine because we'll be playing this installment of Smash Bros. for years to come.

PROS VS. CONS
- /+ There isn't really a story. Then again, there wasn't really much of a story before. Does Smash Bros need a story? (Yes & No. We don't need it but I would still love a good Smash Bros. anime. Can you even imagine?)
+ 60 fps, 1080p, and a ton of classic/new elements from games all create one of the most visually fascinating games of this generation. Eat your heart out, Nintendo haters.
-/+ Such a big roster means this Smash Bros has someone for everyone to play but the exclusion of some classic Smash characters and inclusion of clones, too many Fire Emblem characters, and some other duds is questionable. Still can't complain about too much awesome, right?
+ I love the game play and feel. It is my personal favorite Smash and is very satisfying.
+So much extra content that I can't give it a fair representation in this article without rambling on forever.

CONCLUSION?
5/5.
I love Smash Bros.

Hell, everybody loves Smash Bros.

So, it was kind of a forgone conclusion that I would love the new Smash Bros. And yet... that's not really the case. This game is 5/5. because it deserves a 5/5. In a year filled with over hyped disappointments, DLC shenanigans and worse, Nintendo has managed to come out looking stronger than ever to discerning gamers like myself. They release games after they're completed and their games are fun, well-made, and push the boundaries of creativity.

This latest Smash Bros installment is the crown achievement and example of this standard. It has been six years, not one or two years, since the last installment and you can tell that Masahiro Sakurai pours his heart and soul into creating these games. It is sad to think this might be his last installment due to health concerns but, if it is, he has certainly left us with a legacy that anyone could and should be proud of.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii and 3DS are game I expect us to play for another six years or longer or, at the very least, until the next Smash Bros release. Which, like Gandalf, is never too early or too late, but arrives exactly when it means to.

SMASH BROS FOR 3DS DIFFERENCES
5/5.
Smash Bros for 3DS is the best reason to own a 3DS at the moment. And that is saying something for a portable console that has access to the entire DS library, eShop, and a lot of amazing 3DS games like the latest Pokémon installments and exclusives like Bravely Default.

The major differences? The limitations of the console obviously limits the graphics and some gameplay-- meaning lower fps, no more than four player smash, less stages, less music, and a few less modes. It makes up for that with unique stages and Smash Run. Smash Run is a mode that is perfectly suited for the 3DS.

There isn't much more to be said. Personally, I've invested dozens of hours into the game and I play it on every lunch break. It is that addictive.
 SMASH BROS. WII-U BUNDLE REVIEW
PRICE: $100
RATING: 4/5.

This bundle is the perfect example of a simple but effective bundle. Yes, it is just the game ($60), gamecube controller (originally $25 but now is going for over $100), and gamecube controller adapter ($25) but, considering the latter has shot up in value due to limited numbers and high demand, I'm glad I got my bundle when I had chance.

Though, I took off a point since it doesn't really do anything else or add anything else to the value of the bundle. It is a good deal...but that's it.

And what about the Amiibos? The summarized function of this Nintendo figures (much like Skylanders and Disney Infinity in their design but different in function) is that in the game they allow you to create and play with a learning AI of the character in the game. That also can be used with other games.

 Do I plan to give those a proper review/s? Well... you'll just have to stay tuned for the exciting future of the Mixed Bag. Reviews. (Yes, I'm buying all of them and yes they are sitting on top of a Resident Evil 5 Xbox 360. And yes, Loot Crate has something to do with my Amiibo review).



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