Earlier this week, Nintendo invited me to its New York office to go hands-on with the final build of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. I’d had the opportunity to play the console version of the new Smash Bros. twice before, but this was the first time I was able to see all of the new modes and features, including 8-Player Smash, Smash Tour and the Amiibo NFC figures.
We started with the most exciting addition to the Wii U title: 8-Player Smash. For the first time in series history, more than four players can join at one time. After just one round, I was sold. If you don’t have many (or any) friends around, four player battles can begin to feel a little stale after a while. With a few extra players in the mix, the chaos grow exponentially.
The supersized stages are as much of a draw to the mode as the additional players. Hyrule Temple always felt a little bit too large in Super Smash Bros. Melee, which was part of its charm, but it works perfectly with 8 players. Seeing four separate battles take place across the level really brings it to life.
The Great Cave Offensive, another huge map designed specifically for the new mode, is almost entirely walled off, adding “danger zones” throughout the stage which automatically kill any character above 100% damage that comes into contact with them. Not being able to knock other fighters off the stage forces players to rethink their strategies and makes throws much deadlier.
I also played through a few turns of the board game mode, Smash Tour. Smash Tour on the Wii U will replace Smash Run on the 3DS. It features similar elements, but an entirely different method of progression.
Each turn, players spin a die and move in a direction of their choosing around the board. The board is filled with fighters and power-ups to collect, and if any of the players run into each other, a battle begins. This is where the fighters come into play, as you’ll be forced to use one in the battle. The winner collects a fighter from one of the losing players and the next turn begins. It’s nowhere near Mario Party levels of complexity, but it adds an extra layer that casual fans will enjoy.
Before I actually had a chance to see the Amiibo figures in action, I was highly skeptical. I’ve played Skylanders and Disney Infinity, I know how alluring this business model can be to a publisher, but I wasn’t sure if Nintendo was handling it as well as the others. Then I got to play with the figures.
These are legitimately high-quality figurines. They have a nice weight to them and they aren’t going to fall apart any time soon. But what do they do? Why would you pony up $12.99 for a plastic Mario?
This was the most pleasant surprise of the day for me — with an Amiibo figure, your multiplayer games against computer players finally have stakes. The three of us each picked an Amiibo to be our partner in an 6-player Team Smash. Bringing them into the game is a painless process: just hold them against the Wii U GamePad for a second or two and they will appear on the character select screen, complete with their custom stats and levels.
The six of us (three players and three Amiibo) played a two-minute match (which I totally won), but unlike regular computer players, the Amiibo had learned certain skills from participating in battles in the past. Two were at level 46 and the other was at level 50, the highest an Amiibo can reach. Kirby even leveled up during our game. This added RPG element will give players something to build on long after the game has launched.
The last feature I tried out was the Stage Builder, but I didn’t get nearly enough time with it to make any real judgments one way or the other. It was one of the best diversions in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, so with the added ability to draw a stage with the GamePad, it will be even easier to slap something ridiculous together.
I came away slightly overwhelmed, but in a good way. The density of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is impressive, and anyone who has been anxiously awaiting a killer app for the console in 2014 shouldn’t be disappointed. We’ll have a full review on BGR in the coming weeks closer to launch.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U will be available on November 21st.