Super Smash Bros. 4 review

Breaking away from Dragon Ball Z for a while, this week was a huge one for gamers.  I couldn't even tell you how many new games were coming out.  I'm sure this was to pre-empt Black Friday.  They are a lot of high-profile titles that fans have been anticipating for a while as-is, and retailers are going to have to contend with big crowds looking for deals next week.  Get those established fan crowds done now so you won't have to deal with overwhelming crowds later (not as much, anyway).  For me, that game is Super Smash Bros. 4.  Now, I was a big fan of Brawl for a while.  I liked that it removed a lot of the technical requirements present in Melee.  I'll concede that random tripping was dumb.  My Donkey Kong was actually pretty strong, just about competitive-level.  However, I am not interested enough that I want to try playing this thing competitively.  There's no way to remove high execution requirements in a game like this.  I'm fine just having solid fundamentals.  That said, this is still a great game to play together with a lot of friends.  The game does have a fair amount of flaws, but fortunately, most of them don't really have an impact on the core gameplay.
Where do I start?  Seriously, where do I start?  There's so much packed in to this game.  From the start, the fact that this game was designed to work with the 3DS did significantly hurt it.  The 3DS apparently can't process too many extra characters, so most transformations (Shiek/Zelda, Pokemon Trainer) and Ice Climbers were cut.  However, it shows a little something about Nintendo.  They've publicly said they are likely to be moving out of the console market and more into handheld technology.  Their marketing for the 3DS version was not simply an amazing stunt to get people even more hyped for the Wii U version.  Just as their Game Boy was marketed as a good thing for families to get their kids for long car trips (in that way, severely beating other devices with better performance at the cost of battery life), this game was marketed toward the increasingly social nature of our portable technology.  Nintendo's interesting idea of the Streetpass and pedometer (giving coins that can help in whatever game you play) encourages people to bring their 3DS with them wherever they go, even if they don't anticipate playing a game.  Nintendo is the undisputed leader of the handheld market, and Smash Bros. is probably Nintendo's most popular game series.  These elements all combine in a way that Nintendo can just assume any gamer will have their 3DS on them with Smash Bros, and so they put out an ad campaign of people settling arguments over a game of Smash, "settle it in Smash."  While that is obviously a terrible idea, it really says something about us as a gaming community.  Extra Credits made a pretty good argument on this front already, so I'll just direct you to them in "Consoles are the new Coin-Op."  Watch that and I think you'll be able to see what Nintendo is doing a bit more clearly.
One huge thing they did was allow up to 8 players in the game simultaneously.  Holy crap!  When I heard that, it was like someone bashed me in the face with a hammer.  If I hadn't already heard that Nintendo would be offering GameCube controller adapters for the Wii U, this would've confirmed it for me.  At most, the Wii U is designed to have 5 players (which, by the way, Nintendoland accomplished brilliantly).  Everyone already knows that players insist on GameCube controls for Smash, so this was inevitable.  Now, moving on from that, 8 players?  I mean seriously, you plan on fitting 8 players into the same room to play the same game?  That's only going to work for truly serious gamers who don't mind spending a lot of money on their hobby.  In the first place, you need a big TV so that the players can spread themselves out.  Aside from that, with a $20 price tag per 4-controller adapter (if you can find one in the store, that is), plus even the bare-minimum off-brand price of $15 per controller, and the game itself at the standard $60, you're looking at $220 to get that party started.  If you can accomplish that though, you're in for quite an interesting experience.  Obviously with that many players, the game becomes a tangled mess on most maps, so most of them are disabled.  It does make Hyrule Temple slightly more bearable, though.  They did design more maps for this, and those maps make Hyrule Temple look tiny by comparison!  They're not as huge as the maps of Castlevania HD, but they sure feel that way.  I will say though, having actually managed to gather that big a crowd myself, it was an amazingly good time.  It felt like a real party!  I should mention that if you do get GameCube controllers, be sure to check whether they connect via GameCube or Wii Remote ports.  That will be extremely important.
In putting this together though, I'm reminded of this 4-player thing Nintendo attempted back with its NES.  Nintendo has always been known for its gimmicks.  They usually pay off, because Nintendo has always designed games with the intent of using them well.  That's not to say they succeed all the time.  Donkey Kong Jungle Beat was fun, but really boiled down to just a kid's toy.  In the case of the NES, the technical limitations of that system just got in the way.  It just couldn't graphically handle very much on the screen at once.  Nintendo probably could've done something like Chu Chu Rocket with this technology back then, but they kind of failed to do so.  I checked up a list of games that supported Four Score in researching this article.  The only game I'd really like to play in 4-player on that list would be Smash TV, and I can just imagine the console's frustration if I attempted to get 4 players on that madness.  I could just have confirmation bias on this, though.  I never had 4 friends as a kid that could get together with me at the same time to try this even if I had such games.  It just ended up being a cable extender, and a very convenient way for me to plug in my controller without touching the ever-sensitive NES.  I bring this up mostly for nostalgia, but also because I find it interesting just how many options you have for gameplay on the Wii U.  You can use:
* Wii U Gamepad
* Wii Remote (like anyone seriously does this)
* Wii Remote + Nunchuck (I have some friends that prefer this)
* Classic/Pro Controller via Wii Remote
* New GameCube controllers with Wii Remote ports (edit buttons like a classic controller, not GC)
* Old GameCube controllers with GameCube ports
* 3DS link-up
That's a seriously huge amount of options!  I mean, seriously, props to Nintendo for going this far out of their way.  Granted, aside from the adapter allowing for old GC controllers, all of these were things that existed for their own reasons already and Nintendo is simply allowing them to be used.  I can just imagine the amount of time & programming that went into making this a reality.  They could've easily just said starting in Brawl that you have to use Wii Remote & Nunchuck.  Nintendo has long been good at designing their software & hardware together.  It's stuff like this which demonstrates why, no matter what happens, I feel like Nintendo is always going to be able to design entertaining things, even if it's going to end up more expensive because of the physical product.
The Amiibo figures are interesting, but I wasn't interested in buying any for myself.  They're obviously made to be like the whole Skylanders & Disney Infinity thing.  The difference is that they're not playable.  Now, if you just have to make figures related to gameplay, this is great.  I hate the Skylanders model of making the player buy physical things to play things in the game.  It's a very cool concept.  It's not cool enough for my money.  Instead, these figures will be able to level up, and supposedly the AI is able to adapt to the way you play.  I absolutely hate "level up" mechanics.  As for the adaptable AI, if that's a thing you can do, it should already be in the game.  I already keep my AIs at their maximum level and win rather consistently.  At some point, I might buy a Sheik (Sheik consistently being high-tier) just to see how it can adapt to me as a proof of concept.  I most certainly am not going to buy improved AI for the entire cast. 
I do like that just about all of the single-player modes can be done with 2 players.  The multi-man melee modes can be done with 4 players, but that seems to actually make it harder.  You lose those if any player is KO'd.  If I were as big a fan of Smash as I was back in Melee & Brawl, I probably would go through all of these.  I probably will still go through some of them, since I noticed one of them gave me a new stage.  I've just kept a lot of my emphasis on the core game against other humans.  I will say that Smash Tour just absolutely fails really hard!  I'd say it's them trying to capitalize a bit on the love people have for Fortune Street, but other than Game Grumps (which inspired me to get it, myself),  I honestly have no idea how much people in general like it.  I just know it's huge for me locally, and new copies even now still go for $50.  Maybe I'm missing something in the controls, but it looks like this game is for the hardcore casual crowd.  It basically comes down to people wanting to play Smash with some variants, but have all those variant choices made for them.  Balance is completely thrown out the window.  It technically works for those that choose to do it, but for me, it's an unplayable mess.  It definitely does not compare to the Smash Run the 3DS offers, which is truly amazing!  Smash Run is reminiscent of the adventure mode Brawl had, and you pick up all sorts of stat improvements through your run in the world they give you.  When time's up there, everyone has one final contest, which could be a race, multi-man melee, or legit 4-player slugfest from what I've encountered.  The world remains largely the same, so you could theoretically get your strategy there close to perfect (random encounters still shake things up).  The fact that you don't know what you're building up to beat means you can't anticipate the end goal and pick your character accordingly.  I really miss the mode where you have to go through your character's specific course to hit all the targets.  What we're left with instead is a dumb copy of Angry Birds.  I mean, if you want to combine Angry Birds with Smash Bros., I guess you've got your thing.  It just feels really shallow.

Alright, now for the biggest deal.  How about that core game?  Well, let's talk about the characters a bit first.  First, I'm sure I'm not the only one upset by how many Fire Emblem characters were added this time around.  Shulk technically isn't a Fire Emblem character, but he plays like one.  I also really hate the clone characters they introduced.  One of the great things of Brawl was that most of the characters were really unique.  That's still true here, but the 3 outright clones really make me uncomfortable.  I would've rather they be excluded from the game altogether.  At first, I really loved the idea of the Mii fighters.  Pick from 3 classes, each class has 3 options for the 4 special moves.  In theory, this allows for a lot of customization.  The problem is that the options aren't even really good, so I'm left to go back to the regular characters.  Still, look back up to the header image.  Those are all playable characters.  10 of them (mostly the Koopa Kids) are just skin swaps and 3 are clones.  That's still a lot of options.  Clones aside, these characters are all very unique from each other.  I can easily praise Nintendo for making a roster like this.  I just wish they cared more about character balance.  Now that Nintendo has finally gotten into the idea of patching, that character balance could actually show itself, so there's hope.  I can't say anything about their online play, though.  My internet is crap.  I could easily be the weak link there.
A lot of the characters have had significant changes.  Pit plays almost entirely different than he used to, for one.  The characters that transform obviously got a new move.  I really like Charizard's Flame Blitz.  It hurts you just for doing it, has significant startup, propels you extremely far to the point you might accidentally kill yourself if you miss, but is tremendously powerful when you can get it to hit.  Rosalina & Luma seem to have basically taken the place of Ice Climbers.  It's sad they had to go, but since Rosalina's partner can actually respawn, maybe she'll turn out to be better in the end.  They did seriously nerf Luma's recovery time with the last patch.  I won't go into great detail on any particular character.  I just wish they made Mega Man better.  I mean, even Yoshi can be good when used by someone who's practiced him well, so I'm sure Mega Man can end up being useful.  It's just that he doesn't have much in terms of realistic KO capability, and what options he does have feel very lackluster.
There is one very significant change in custom characters.  I have mixed feelings on this, because it involves you grinding through the game to get all the pieces you need.  Custom characters have 3 slots for equipment with random costs & benefits.  This much I absolutely hate.  However, what's interesting is they also can have all their special moves customized.  I love the idea of tinkering with the characters to have moves that are similar but different.  For example, Bowser can shot consistent fireballs instead of slow, degrading fire breath.  Unfortunately, with all the design that goes into it and the amount of time it takes to unlock these special moves at the same time as you're getting equipment, I'm sure even if anyone was willing to do custom characters, they'd always insist on running with the stat upgrades their equipment gives them, too.  That's a bridge too far for me.  Overall though, everything about the core game seems awesome.  It follows the same formula that's kept Smash Bros. great for so many years.  Between Nintendo's apparent willingness to offer balance patches and the ability to play with 8 players, this should be a good time.


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