Hey, Gameologerinos, welcome back to our weekend gaming plans thread. Since Nintendo decided to wait until launch day to turn on the online multiplayer for Super Smash Bros. For Wii U, my full review is coming next week. In the meantime, I gathered Anthony John Agnello and Derrick Sanskrit for a three-way chat about the new game and our past Smash Bros. exploits. If you’re looking for a quick take on the new Smash, it’s safe to say we all love it. It’s a bigger, better version of Smash Bros. For 3DS, which I previously reviewed, and it looks gorgeous. More to come next week!
Matt Gerardi: So shall we talk some Smash, fellas?
Anthony John Agnello: Smash Bros. For Wii U is finger-licking good. This may be a controversial opinion, but I actually think this might be my favorite one in the series. Working backwards, Brawl never felt right for me. Playing through its adventure mode, “Subspace Emissary,” I just kept thinking, “Why aren’t I having any fun?” And it really was all about tactility. Pressing the buttons and then seeing what happened on the screen felt squishy and bad. Like I was already doing something wrong right at the start.
Then there’s Melee, which I adore and controls like a dream. I never liked playing it alone. It’s purely a multiplayer game. Even the target mini-games. All of it had to be shared.
Derrick Sanskrit: Melee is the gold standard. Every Smash game ever will be compared to Melee. It’s ridiculous how emblematic that game is. I did like the target challenges, though, because they absolutely played to the strengths of each character. You had to learn the nuance of Jigglypuff’s puff punch or of Pichu’s teleport. Succeeding in Target Smash meant learning every character, which made you a better multiplayer fighter. It was the best tutorial I could imagine.
MG: I was never one for the target challenges or any of that stuff. I spent plenty of time with Melee’s single player, but as I’ve discussed to an embarrassing degree on the site in the last few months, Melee was the game that ruled my social life for a few years.
DS: Melee was literally how I made friends in college. I didn’t have a dorm assignment yet by orientation, so I missed all the meet-and-greet stuff. One of the first friends I made, though, had a GameCube and Melee, which was brand new at the time, and everybody in our hall converged on that. I learned to win at Melee specifically to have people to sit with at lunch.
AJA: Derrick, I had a very similar experience. Smash Bros. linked everyone on the floor of my dorm. And For Wii U/For 3DS has that power in its guts.
DS: Did your friends challenge each other to learn specific characters too? The best guy in our hall was brutal with Ganondorf, and everyone thought it would be funny to beat him with Jigglypuff. So I trained until I could hold my own against him with the puffster. And then I started over with Ice Climbers, just to taunt him that way guys do.
AJA: At first, but our real pleasure was target challenge in a group and then round after round after round of instant death fights—one hit, four players for hours. It was pure.
DS: Oh yeah, that was pure mayhem and lots of laughs. We would also do 99-life fights with four computer-controlled characters on level nine and just sit back and watch while we ordered pizza and made very small cash bets on the fight. Four level-nine Ice Climbers with 99 stock. I think it took six hours. We went to class and came back, it was still going. And this was art school, so every class was three hours, at least.
AJA: I’m most impressed by how Wii U’s stages really suit a larger scale confrontation, you know?
DS: The stages are huuuuuuuuge!
MG: Well, some of them are—the ones that were designed for eight-player fights.
DS: True. There’s that one Fire Emblem stage that is ridiculously cramped with eight fighters standing on top of each other. But then there’s “The Great Cave Offensive” where I’m not even sure I can see everybody. The characters are so spread out and there’s so much else to pay attention to.
AJA: See I love the eight-player fights in tiny places like the Donkey Kong 64 stage. It’s precisely the kind of arena that I almost wish I could go back and play with college-age me.
MG: I do find it odd that the game automatically limits which stages you can pick when playing with eight players. Some of the ones it keeps around feel crowded with only four.
DS: Maybe the other stages have too much background animation and stuff? Like when NES games would chug with more than a certain number of sprites on-screen?
AJA: Yeah, it seems like that might be it because you can’t go to stages like Super Mario Sunshine or Pilotwings with eight players.
MG: Right, the “traveling stages” where you ride on platforms that fly from venue to venue.
DS: Oh man, Pilotwings with eight players is exactly the kind of crazy I want. Now that you mention it, I’m almost angry it’s not real.
MG: This is going to sound weird, but the thing that impresses me most about eight-player Smash is how simple it is to set up.
AJA: I know! Pick up a controller and it just works. I can’t say that about any other game on any other console in history.
DS: And it uses pretty much every controller you can imagine. Except the balance board.
MG: You could have a Wii U Gamepad, three GameCube controllers, a couple of 3DSes in there. Whatever. It’s great.
DS: Anthony mentioned earlier that he prefers using the Gamepad because he got used to the button layout thanks to the 3DS game, and I think there’s a lot of merit to that. I was playing with a Wii Classic Controller styled like a GameCube pad, and I kept forgetting the X and Y buttons existed at all. I just got used to the ABXY of the 3DS over the past few months.
MG: And I’m the complete opposite of you guys. I kind of hate playing on the Gamepad. For someone like me, that GameCube controller adapter is a damn godsend.
AJA: I think it’s cool how adaptable the whole package is to personal taste. Street Fighter IV is a cool game, but it never managed to do what Capcom wanted in bringing more people into the fighting-game fold. It sort of proved that Street Fighter 2 was evolutionarily perfect and everything else was nuance on top of that. That’s totally fine, but Smash Bros. For Wii U can be tweaked and bent to suit whoever’s playing in cool ways.
DS: Definitely. It’s extremely friendly in that sense. The game wants you to play, it doesn’t care what setup you have. Take whatever controllers you’ve got and join in. There are bound to be people who prefer to fight with the Wii Remote and nunchuck, people who prefer the GameCube controller, maybe even people who prefer using the 3DS as a controller. All are welcome.
MG: And like Anthony was saying, the personalization goes way beyond the controller situation—although, that’s the most obvious. This is a game that’s clearly built to allow everyone to play the way the want to play.
AJA: Want to focus on moves? Turn off items. Want to test your endurance? Set it to infinite time, infinite lives. But it never sacrifices its specificity. Chasing the big crowd so often means washing out the flavor, but Smash Bros. For Wii U is weird as fuck. A father-daughter swordsman duo can have the crap kicked out of them by a duck riding a dog and a small man throwing enormous pills. An angry baby dragon can make his flying chariot lick a robot.
DS: I don’t understand a thing about that last sentence. And I love it.
MG: Don’t worry about it.
AJA: Every second of Smash Bros. should end with that statement. “Wait, why am I getting hit by giant numbers?!” “Don’t worry about it.”
MG: So let’s talk about what separates this from the 3DS version. For me, the biggest difference and major improvement is the stages. In Smash Bros., I tend to use the random stage selector a lot, which leads to some problems if you don’t like a lot of the stages. The game does eventually give you an option to turn off certain stages, so they don’t show up randomly. I turned off at least half of them on the 3DS. There are a ton that just annoyed the heck out of me.
DS: Yeah, I kind of hate fighting on the New Super Mario Bros. 2 stage. The gold coins are a distraction that don’t really aid the fight that much.
MG: Exactly. I hate the stages that scroll left to right.
AJA: Oh, really? I love the Kirby one.
MG: The one that looks like an old monochromatic Game Boy screen? Aesthetically, it’s fantastic. But I think this comes back to the differences in how we play Smash Bros. I play it more as a fighting game, so having to contend with the level itself instead of your opponents bothers me. The crazy dynamic stages in the Wii U version don’t bother me as much, though. They hit a really nice sweet spot because they’re constructed like roving arenas.
DS: But that’s what the Omega stages are for, which is probably my favorite feature of this game (these games) over the previous installments. They let you play a version of every level in a “Final Destination” form—just a single long platform without hazards, perfect for uninterrupted bouts.
MG: Yeah, the Omega stages are a great idea, but I’m not the kind of person who says, “Final Destination or nothing!” That’s boring! But at the same time, I want stages where I can actually, you know, fight.
DS: No more “Poké Floats”?
MG: Oh god. “Poké Floats” can burn in hell. We mentioned the Pilotwings stage earlier. That’s a perfect example. It’s basically “Final Destination,” right? Just a flat plane. (Pun very much intended.) But it’s dynamic and fun to watch. The “Wuhu Island” stage, based on Wii Sports Resort, is similar. But I will say, I hate that new Star Fox stage. “Orbital Gate Assault,” I think it’s called? It looks rad, but my god. I can’t ever tell what’s happening.
There’s just so much in this game, though. So many modes of play, items, characters, cameos. So before you guys go, I want to hear one or two things from you: favorite character and favorite mode or mini-game.
AJA: Oof. That’s tough. I love Duck Hunt dog conceptually but not that much to play. I feel like I’m actually good with Shulk in a fight, but he’s pretty boring.
DS: I really love Pac-Man, a lot more than I thought I would. His attacks have excellent range, and he’s just charming. He’s my go-to at the moment, so I’ll say he’s my favorite.
AJA: I’ll go with Little Mac as favorite character. He just feels so different than any other character in previous Smash games.
DS: As far as modes go, I know I’m going to spend a lot of time digging into “Master Orders,” just because I always love being encouraged to do ridiculous and outlandish things in these games. The Events were my favorite part of Melee, and this is more of that.
MG: You know the Events are back, right, Derrick? They’re fantastic this time around.
AJA: I was just going to mention Events as my favorite mode. One of the first ones makes Pac-Man devour a power pellet and then eat six Olimars in a row. Amazing.
MG: And playing the Events co-op with a second player has been my favorite mode. As for my favorite character, since you guys talked about the new fighters, I’ll say the Animal Crossing Villager. It’s just got so many weird moves. Taking people out by chopping down a tree you’ve grown and having it land on them feels so so good. But my absolute favorite character to play right now is Ganondorf. The guy’s a beast, and those kicks are brutal.