Hands-On Preview: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS – Let Them Fight

on July 25, 2014 11:00 AM

With each installment collecting the best of Nintendo’s franchises, history, and characters together, the Super Smash Bros. series has also written a little bit of history on its own. Coming only once in a console generation for each of Nintendo’s home systems, this time around Super Smash Bros. is rewriting history a little bit, not only with the series’ first ever portable entry, but with enough new content and features to make the Wii U and 3DS installments the most promising ones yet.

DualShockers had the chance to check out both Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS while attending a special preview event in New York City, and after going through the ropes and punching it out through a few rounds, we took a look at what to expect from both new installments of Nintendo’s mascot fighting series.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Like previous installments, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U focuses on Nintendo characters of past and present beating each other and trying to knock opponents off the various game-inspired stages for the highest score at the end of the round (or being the last man standing). That much has remained the same since we last saw the series in 2008 with Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but under the hood many of the available characters (both old and new) have seen many revisions and changes, and definitely seems to be a title aiming at pleasing hardcore fans but looking to rope in plenty of new ones.

The demo shown featured about 15-20 playable characters, with a varied mix of veteran fighters (Mario, Link, Bowser), and a nice selection of the new faces to the series (Mega Man, The Villager, Rosalina & Luma). In an overall gameplay sense, the latest editions of the series feel somewhere in between the previous two titles in terms of speed: the fast-paced competitive nature of Super Smash Bros. Melee finds a nice balance in between the slower, more floaty combat that was present in Brawl.

From the few rounds played during the course of the presentation, not much gameplay-wise or mechanically has changed, other than a few small game-wise tweaks like the (glorious) removal of tripping, and some other notable additions like revising edge-grabbing.

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Instead of introducing major game-changing plays like Brawl did, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U instead seems to have a much larger focus on character balance and changing the dynamics of individual characters; though we weren’t able to play as (or access) the roster so far, the characters we did get the chance to play did have some notable changes. In particular in one round as Pit, I was able to notice some pretty significant changes from his last iteration, with the previously quick-and-nimble (but insufficient at racking up KOs) Pit from Brawl replaced by a Pit that has slightly more landing lag and slower moves, but boosted up in power and Smash abilities.

While many of the veteran characters seen so far are sure to get their share of tweaks and refinements from previous installments of the series, the newcomers that were available in the demo also had plenty of their own tricks up their sleeves and unique strategies that (many) have not been seen in previous games. Little Mac’s sole focus on ground game makes him a risky, all-or-nothing character that will surely play to more specialist fighters. His punches and jabs make him exceedingly deadly on the ground, but taking him airborne results in a lackluster moveset and even worse recovery, probably having one of the worst aerial recoveries in the game.

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Likewise, Mega Man’s jack of all trades nature gives him a toolset for nearly any situation, with his signature Mega Buster letting him hit enemies at a distance, followed by his more up-close and personal weapons like his Flame Sword. Greninja (my personal favorite of the currently available newcomers) is a welcome addition to the Pokemon roster of characters, as his slippery speed and agility make him one of the trickiest characters to land a hit on.

After taking us through the ring and landing in a few rounds, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U shows that the fighting series is already set to be the biggest installment yet on the home consoles. Even just from the game’s HD visuals bringing the various Nintendo worlds to life in a way we haven’t seen in the previous installments, the Wii U edition of the game already boasts a sizable roster (with still more to come!), and the gameplay (so far) feels as smooth, competitive, fierce, and most of all, as addicting as previous installments from the build we were able to play.

Though the game is still set in the nebulous “Holiday 2014” release timeframe, it’s at least good to see that Nintendo hasn’t wasted any time in crafting another excellent installment of its gaming love letter series.

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Super Smash Bros. for 3DS

Before we get the Wii U edition this holiday, however, there is the matter of the series’ first ever portable entry hitting in just over two months: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS. Not to be undone by its home console bigger brother, Nintendo also had the 3DS edition of the game on-hand to demo, and though the games will share the same exact roster and feature connectivity between the two titles, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is also packing more than enough content (and exclusive features) to make it not just a second banana to the Wii U edition of the game.

The characters available in the 3DS demo of the game were the same roster available in the Wii U build, although as Nintendo has promised, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS did feature a unique set of maps, with the 3DS version focusing instead on maps based on 3DS titles of both past and present, such as Pokemon X & YFire Emblem: Awakening, and Super Mario 3D Land. In addition, the game’s graphical style deviates slightly from the HD visuals of the Wii U version, with the game instead opting for a less-intensive (but still charming and detailed) cel-shaded style, giving the characters easier visibility.

Mechanically, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS plays (nearly) identically to the Wii U version, a godsend already for those looking to swap between both versions of the title on the go and at home. Though physically they resemble each other and play well compared to each other, the limitations of the 3DS compared to the Wii U do present a few unique (but slight) issues that won’t be experienced on the home console.

Even while playing on demo 3DS XL units, having the camera pan out to the full extent of the battle does make characters sometimes hard to see, a problem that would only be worse on the regular 3DS or 2DS, as well as poses a challenge to making sense out of the madness sometimes. Likewise, coming from the familiar comfort of the GameCube controller or the (less-ideal-but-still-perfectly-suitable) GamePad to the somewhat awkward to hold 3DS was definitely a bit of an adjustment, with the button layout of the 3DS not quite settling as smoothly as that of the GameCube controller.

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Those issues aside, it still manages to exceed at bringing the home console chaos of the Wii U edition of the game and shrink it down to an incredibly accurate scale, while losing very little of the fun in the process.

In addition to testing out the game’s local multiplayer options, we did also get the chance to try out the exclusive “Smash Run” mode only available on the 3DS edition of the game. Set in short five-minute bursts, Smash Run pushes players through pre-made levels filled with enemies, and challenges them to time-attack based missions where players try to rack up the highest score that they can within the time limit, all while collecting various power-ups and score boosters to further add to the challenge.

Though some of the game’s visual presentation and the limitations of the 3DS may make for a slightly awkward introduction compared to the familiarity and smoothness of the Wii U version, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS still succeeds excellently at bringing Nintendo’s mascots to a handheld fighting game together, something which I personally have been waiting for for a very, very long time. It may not have the same polish or pedigree as its big brother, but this version has proven likewise that it can still put in a good fight all the same.

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS releases on October 3rd, followed by the release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U this holiday season.

 /  Features Editor
Ryan is the Features Editor at DualShockers, with over five years' experience in the world of video games culture and writing. He holds a BA in English & Cinema from Binghamton University, and lives in New York City.
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