Yesterday, Nintendo fans around the world were treated to a Nintendo Direct that detailed the hotly-anticipated fourth installment of the Smash Bros. series. Originally coming out on the Nintendo 64 as “Super Smash Bros.”, it pitted Nintendo All-Stars in a fight to see who could come out on top. Its sequel was the all-time classic “Super Smash Bros. Melee” on the GameCube, a fixture in my top-3 favorite games of all time. It is still played in tournaments all over the world and has recently undergone a renaissance. The third installment is “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” for the Wii, in which the director (Masahiro Sakurai) aimed to move away from the highly competitive and technical Melee to the slower Brawl (which included fun things like spontaneous tripping). For Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS (henceforth referred to as Smash4 together, and SmashU and Smash(3)DS separately), Sakurai has taken a middle ground between the technical, fast-paced Melee and the slow, floaty, ‘fun’ Brawl. I’ll tackle my thoughts on the direct in the order they appeared.
As of right now, SmashDS releases this summer and SmashU releases this winter.
I don’t think that anyone was expecting a split release, but it makes sense for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, it avoids cannibalism. Paying for both simultaneously is a larger financial strain than having 6 months post-SmashDS to save up (and anticipate) the Wii U version. With SmashU coming out around Christmas, Nintendo will be able to increase their console count due to holiday sales and release a Christmas bundle. SmashU gives the Wii U a hit when it will face stiff competition from more-mature PS4 and Xbox One titles. Similarly, a summer release for SmashDS gives Nintendo a summer windfall, which will make investors happy.
60 frames per second, including when in full 3D. Excellent. Making Pokémon and Assist Trophies run at 30 fps was a good compromise to ensure that the framerate remains smooth—that’s the number one goal. I find it odd that Sakurai didn’t mention any frame data on the Wii U version, but given that there are still many months to go, he may not have found the right balance on that. The U should have no problems running at 60fps for all on-screen elements and backgrounds (unless literally every item in the game is going off at the same time). If there was a problems with this, I hope they make the same compromise they did with the 3DS.
Differences Between Versions
Same fighters, new stages—I definitely think that’s the best way to handle this, especially since the stages are platform specific. In terms of sharing options, hopefully you’ll be able to share control schemes/customizations between the two. It’s odd that there hasn’t been much 3DS–Wii U exchange yet.
Let’s be clear—online play in Super Smash Bros. Brawl was absolute garbage. The new system that they’ve implemented is far better. No more Friend Code bullsh*t (still don’t understand how that arcane system works), as your Nintendo Network ID and associated Mii are now used (no more taunt parties!). Additionally, there are two play modes: “For Fun” and “For Glory”. “For Glory” This, to me, is an indication that Sakurai has been listening to fans in addressing Brawl’s shortcomings and better appealing to hardcore players (like myself). “For Fun” involves every stage but Final Destination, and all items are turned on for maximum mayhem. In “For Glory”, Final Destination is chosen and no items are used. This is excellent for players like myself who never play with items (I haven’t in years). To eliminate fatigue, Sakurai & Co. have created Final Destination forms of most of the other stages in the game, so that we can enjoy their art and music as well. (I hope that these forms are available for local multiplayer as well; it’s probably the only way I’d play). It is a brilliant idea that really shows that the team thought about the needs of hardcore players while still making things fun for the younger ones who play with all items and on all manner of crazy stages.
There are a couple of drawbacks to “For Glory”, namely the limitation of Final Destination and Timed vs. Stock nature of the matches. What about the other neutral stage, Battlefield? There should be versions of this stage as well, as Battlefield is better than Final Destination for characters like Marth, Zero Suit Samus, King DeDeDe, and more while Final Destination serves as an advantage for characters like Sonic and Samus. If there were varying stage forms with a battlefield-like setup, I would be very pleased.
In tournaments, rounds are set to 4 stocks with an 8 minute time limit on the match. But it seems as though there will be some sort of time limit on “For Glory” matches without it being a stock round, and this poses a problem. When a character gets a kill, the killer gets +1 and the killed receives –1 for their scores. But to win, the killer only needs to have a number greater than the killed, not necessarily kill the other player a set amount of times. Take the following example: Player 1 and 2 have high damage, there are 30 seconds remaining in the match, the score is tied at 0. Player 1 kills 2 with 10 seconds left, making the score +1/–1 respectively. Player 2 still has time to return to the stage and get a kill for the tie. But what happens when Player 1 Self-destructs (worth –1)? The score becomes 0/–1, and now Player 2 has virtually no chance of getting a kill and taking the lead with the limited time remaining. This is why tournaments don’t use time matches, as stock matches encourage survival. Should “For Glory” use time matches instead of stock matches, the phenomenon I gave in the example will lead to “self destruct finishes”. It’s not fair, and hopefully they realize this over in Japan.
A note of miscellany: online voice chat was not mentioned, and with it being Nintendo, I don’t expect it.
Bonus: The Wii LAN adapter apparently works with the Wii U and can help with a great connection. I sense that a lot of these will be purchased soon; I know I’ll be grabbing one. Unfortunately, since it’s over USB, the max theoretical is 10/100 gbps. Ouch, but that may still be better than the Wii U’s Wi-Fi a/g/n.
Global Smash Power
Rather than a simple ranking system #1–#of players, the Smash team has implemented ‘Global Smash Power’. This is a ranking that simply states “you are better than x number of people”, making a larger number more covetable. It’s certainly more easy to rank people this way, as you can create a formula based on events completed/wins to determine definitively what players are better than others without having to crown a #1. It’s a very Nintendo way of doing things.
Items, Pokéballs, and Master Pokéballs.
I don’t play with them, so they don’t mean too much to me. Glad to know the good ones are there though. I must say, I fist pumped when I saw Dark Samus as an assist trophy though.
Zero Suit Samus! Sweet, glad she’s back—even though Sakurai was playing games in the Direct, making it look like she wouldn’t be back for a second. Her jet boots seem to be inspired by the classic “Haloid” short by Monty Oum that came out way back in about 2007(!). The fact that Samus and Zero Suit exist as separate characters is fine with me, as one really couldn’t actively switch between the two characters in-game. (Yes, I know that it is possible to transform from Samus to Zero Suit in Brawl without a Smash Ball, but it was a one-off event.) I may actually want to play with Smash Balls with Samus now that I know I won’t be playing a completely different character after I use it.
Shiek and Zelda, split? It will certainly be a big change for Zelda/Shiek mains, but many Shiek players didn’t play the traditionally terrible Zelda anyway. They will benefit from having a new side and down special, however.
Charizard, I don’t really care about. Interesting that they took out Pokemon Trainer, but that works well for people that only liked ⅓ or ⅔ of the Pokémon Trainer. Alas, that also means that Squirtle and Ivysoar are most likely gone, but I’m sure most would have picked Charizard out of the three to carry the torch.
Yoshi: I really don’t care about him. At least he stands up correctly, as he’s been awkwardly hunched over in the past, just like Bowser. Hopefully they’ll smooth over Samus’ run animation too, but I wouldn’t hold my breath—I’d die before the game even made it to the eShop.
New Movesets: I’m glad that Sakurai went ahead and spelled out the move sets for the new characters (Mega Man, Villager, Wii Fit Trainer). That really takes a load off of the Internet trying to piece it together from videos. Not sure who I’ll like out of them yet.
New character Graninja: No idea who he is, but he looks interesting. I’ll give him a shot. He rounds out the quota for Pokemon, as the last Pokéslot should go to Jigglypuff.
Honestly, I really don’t have much to say about this, other than that it should be an awesome, fun diversion from the main game as well as a way to have more fun with other modes of the game.
Custom Movesets came out of nowhere, and I have no idea what to make of it. I’ll have to get some more information. It looks cool, especially since you can play with custom fighters online with your friends (only) in addition to local. I look forward to returning Samus’ missiles to their former glory if Sakurai hasn’t fixed them yet. I suspect that this mode limited to the Wii U, just as Smash Run is limited to the 3DS.
Overall Thoughts and Observations
The biggest thing that I’ve noticed is a reduction in the ‘randomness’ of certain attributes of the game (e.g. no more tripping, and King Dedede now throws Gordos exclusively rather than 8% of the time), and an acknowledgement that hardcore fans enjoy the game differently—but no less so. The “For Glory” mode is very much appreciated, and I look forward to playing online much more often (I’m sick of playing level 9 CPUs, and they don’t lend themselves to player development like playing against humans do). I really appreciate how the game now better appeals to hardcore and casual players, rather than just casual players. At the end of the day, it’ll be the hardcore players who will still be playing the game 10 years from now, just as we’re the ones with GameCubes and N64s still playing Melee and Smash64. By my estimate, Melee is the most popular form of Smash on campus, and I don’t expect that to change for another 3 or 4 years.
There are no GamePad-specific features for the game, so it’ll be all Pro Controller for me. It would reduce a big headache for me if they said “Alright, Pro Controller only” for the control scheme. Naturally and deservedly so, that would raise an uproar, but dealing with Classic Controller Pros, Wiimotes, Wiimote + Nunchuks, Pro Controllers, and GamePads is a massive headache. It’s also easier to explain to newbies when everyone has the same controller.
All in all, I’m very excited for the game (if you couldn’t tell by the massive blog post). I think it will be what Brawl should have been, and that it won’t cause the great divide in the Smash community that Brawl did and instead serve as a unifying game. I know I’ll be picking up both copies on release day, and that most free moments will be filled by playing the new Smash. Here’s to the future.