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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (359)

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Sundered 3/5
Iconoclasts 3/5
Divinity: Original Sin 2 4.5/5
Heroes of the Monkey Ta... 4/5
Lands of Lore III 2.5/5
Lands of Lore II: Guard... 1/5
Lands of Lore: Throne o... 2/5
Rage 2 4/5
EnHanced 3.5/5
Blossom Tales: The Slee... 3.5/5
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 2.5/5
Far Cry 5 4/5
Jotun 2/5
Armada 4/5
RiME 2.5/5
Song of the Deep 4.5/5
Shadowrun: Hong Kong 4/5
Destiny 2 4/5
Shadowrun: Dragonfall 4/5
Shadowrun Returns 3/5
Kirby Star Allies 3.5/5
Dark Quest 2 3.5/5
Never Alone 3/5
Octopath Traveler 3/5
Guacamelee! 2 4/5

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Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS   Wii U 

Smash, Rinse, Repeat    3.5/5 stars

The ineptly-named “Super Smash Bros. for WiiU” (“Smash Bros. U”) has finally come to the WiiU after two long, dry years of waiting. The original “Super Smash Bros.” on the N64 is one of the few actually decent games for that catastrophe of a console, and the Gamecube iteration, “Super Smash Bros. Melee” essentially perfected the franchise’s formula on the second try. The third attempt, “Super Smash Bros. Brawl,” was met with mixed emotions from fans due to a lack of anything that really made the game stand out… aside from the addition of characters randomly tripping over their own feet. Can Nintendo still take the ‘Smash Bros.’ franchise anywhere it hasn’t already been? Can “Smash Bros. U” provide fuel for the sputtering WiiU?

Presentation
When it comes down to the nuts and bolts, really the only aspect of the ‘Smash Bros.’ series that can be improved over what Nintendo already did with “Melee” is the graphics. All previous ‘Smash Bros.’ games have been standard definition affairs that look blurry on modern HDTVs. “Smash Bros. U” is, thankfully, a fully HD game that brings all of the glorious diversity of Nintendo’s cast of first-party characters to vibrant life. However, very little about the game is different or better than what we saw in “Melee.” There are very few new characters and stages to boot, which makes “Smash Bros. U” feel like “Super Smash Bros. Melee Remaster.” Even more unfortunate, most of the new stages are extremely large, which forces the camera to zoom waaaay out in order to capture all of the players on-screen at once, which, in turn, makes it nearly impossible to see what’s going on.

The audio in “Smash Bros. U” is flawless, with a pleasant mix of retro tunes and remixes, as well as characters speaking in their authentic voices. Of course, this has been the case with the series since “Melee,” so it’s expected that Nintendo wouldn’t suddenly screw it up.

Sadly, Nintendo has started adopting some of the worst tendencies of modern Western games development. “Smash Bros. U” has a day-one patch that needs to be downloaded and installed upon first playing the game, and there is planned DLC upcoming, including certain characters, like the Pokemon MewTwo, who were cut from the basic roster.

Story
“Smash Bros. U,” like the other games in the ‘Smash Bros.’ series, is primarily a party fighting game. Players team up to beat on each other or gangs of AIs. However, previous ‘Smash Bros.’ games had at least some engaging single-player content. “Melee” had ‘Adventure Mode’ while “Brawl” had ‘The Subspace Emissary’ campaign. “Smash Bros. U” doesn’t have either, and is a much less compelling experience for this lack.

Instead of a campaign or story mode, “Smash Bros. U” rehashes the ‘All-Star Mode’ of previous games and bastardizes the ‘Classic Mode’ into a rather weird and meaningless series of random fights. Master Hand and Crazy Hand return as the ultimate villains, but with no real explanation of what they are or why they are in the game at all. The entire experience just feels empty and repetitive, especially because fiddling around with the game’s less interesting modes is still required to unlock the plethora of hidden goodies within the game that affect gameplay.

Gameplay
Anyone who has played a ‘Smash Bros.’ game in the past 20 years knows the drill here. One to four characters (or up to EIGHT in one of the new modes) drawn from Nintendo’s stable of first-party mascots (plus a few third-party guest fighters) duke it out in 2D fighting-genre-styled battles. Characters have a damage percentage instead of a life bar, and fly further when hit as their percentage increases. Instead of winning when an opponent’s life bar or percentage reaches a certain threshold, a player must knock their opponents completely off of the stage (from any of the four sides).

Each character has a stable of normal attacks and special attacks, with normal attacks tied to one button plus directional inputs and special attacks tied to another button plus directional inputs. Jumping is assigned to yet another two buttons plus the up directional input. Characters can also shield, dodge, and perform throws by using the shoulder buttons. None of this has changed since “Melee” (though the extra-glitchy Air Dodge maneuver, which led to incessant Wave-Dashing in tournament play, has been fixed).

What has changed, however, is the fact that the WiiU doesn’t have any Gamecube controller ports on it by default. Since the ‘Smash Bros.’ community has been playing with GC controllers since they were first available, switching to the WiiU GamePad feels very uncomfortable. Even worse, Nintendo’s default control scheme puts normal attacks on the A button and special attacks on the B button… just like on the Gamecube controller… except that the A, B, X, and Y buttons are oriented completely differently on the GamePad with its standard diamond button layout when compared to the unorthodox GC controller layout. I find the default button layout to be unusable. Sure, it is possible to reconfigure the controller layout to one’s heart’s desire, however “Smash Bros. U” doesn’t bother to remember this preference between matches, which forces players with custom button layouts to remember an extra annoying step every time they switch modes or events. I really need to just buy one of Nintendo’s official Gamecube controller adapters so I can go back to using my Wavebird in “Smash Bros. U,” but they are both expensive and rare.

As I mentioned in the story section, Nintendo axed anything within “Smash Bros. U” that might resemble engaging single-player content. In the place of a story or campaign mode, “Smash Bros. U” features Order Tickets which unlock a short random challenge using a random character with a range of difficulty levels. Event Matches are back, with both solo and co-op variations, as are the Stadium Events, with Sandbag making a triumphant return along with Multi-Man Melee and the segregation and modification of the Target Challenges that appeared in previous games’ Classic Modes into their own Stadium Event (which is a lot more fun than it used to be, though super-repetitive).

Outside of the co-op Event Matches, multi-player content isn’t particularly engaging either. Players can still setup whatever VS. matches they desire, but “Smash Bros. U” also includes a really dumb board-game-inspired mode that pits four players against each other (with AIs filling in if there aren’t enough human players) on a “Trivial Pursuit” like board. In this mode, players roll dice for movement and can trigger battles by running into each other while moving around in search of trophies, fighters to use during the mode, and stat boosts that only last the duration of the game (up to 20 turns).

Stat boost do appear in other aspects of “Smash Bros. U,” as the game features the ability to customize fighters – both Miis and the stock characters – using equipment that drops as (usually random) rewards in the other gameplay modes. This equipment always boosts one stat while penalizing another, but sometimes offers tertiary effects, like starting every match with a Homerun Bat in-hand or attracting Final Smash Balls more powerfully than other characters.

The main thing that makes “Smash Bros. U” stand out from its predecessors is the fact that the game is built to serve as a showcase for Nintendo’s new Amiibo technology. Amiibos are small figurines which contain a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip and a small amount of flash memory, allowing them to act as limited memory cards and interact with compatible games via the NFC reader on the GamePad. I had zero interest in Amiibos when Nintendo first announced them, but fellow MeltedJoystick writer Chris bought me a Pikachu Amiibo for Christmas, since I have mained the fat yellow rat since “Super Smash Bros.” on the N64. Amiibos… don’t really do anything terribly interesting in “Smash Bros. U.” In order to train an Amiibo and improve its stats, a player must take it into the generic multi-player mode and pit it against enemies. I fought alongside my Pikachu (whom I named Bitechu) in two-on-two Team Battles VS. AI opponents and found that he leveled up fairly quickly, at a rate of about two levels per match up to level 25 and one level per match up to the level cap of 50. Bitechu started out as a really awful fighter, but blossomed into a… merely competent one, I guess. I have trouble fighting against him, but when we team up, I still do most of the work, get most of the K.O.s, and deal a lot more damage. Unfortunately, Amiibos aren’t allowed in most other modes, which makes them more of novelty than a true core feature of the game.

The stat-modifying items that can be equipped to custom characters can also be outright fed to Amiibos, allowing Amiibos to theoretically have outrageously high stats. However, the fact that these items all drop randomly means that anyone who really wants to min/max their Amiibo is in for some good old fashioned grinding. Wait, did I say, ‘good?’ I meant, ‘intolerable.’

Finally, each of the stock characters can acquire modifications to their slate of special attacks which make them play slightly differently… unfortunately these drop randomly too, and I never managed to collect very many. I would have loved to experiment with different movesets among the already diverse roster – and I did really enjoy similar mechanics in “SoulCalibur 2” and “SoulCalibur 3” – but actually getting the modified moves to drop is an exercise in tedium and even when these modded moves are available, the fact that it’s impossible to swap moves between different characters makes the entire thing feel extremely limited. When I first saw modded moves dropping, I thought I could equip any of them to custom Mii fighters to create the ultimate match for my playstyle… but was left sorely disappointed.

Overall
“Super Smash Bros. for WiiU” is simply a High-Definition remaster of “Super Smash Bros. Melee” with a few modifications, much of the engaging single-player content stripped-out, and the gimmick of Amiibos added. Maybe I played too much “Melee” back in the Gamecube era, but starting from scratch to unlock everything in “Smash Bros. U” doesn’t scratch any itches. Instead, this latest entry in Nintendo’s party fighting franchise simply leaves me feeling burnt-out and disengaged. Maybe if I could let my Amiibo play through all of the tedious stuff for me…

Presentation: 4.5/5
Story: 0.5/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Overall (not an average): 3.5/5

 

 


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