Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top Five Announcements from Today's Super Smash Bros. Direct

This evening, Super Smash Bros. director, Kirby creator, and Kid Icarus: Uprising director Masahiro Sakurai hosted a global Nintendo Direct regarding both upcoming additions to the Super Smash Bros. line, one for the Nintendo 3DS, releasing this Summer, and one for the Wii U, releasing this Winter. This 39 minute Direct was packed with information, truly showing up past efforts. We watched the Direct live, like many of you, and we've checked out the footage again to assess the coolest announcements made from the Direct. After we've listed our faves, let us know what moments and announcements that came from today's showing excite you most!

5) Release periods revealed

To kick things off, Sakurai mentioned something that was confirmed to be touched upon before the Direct even started, the release periods. Thankfully, both games are not releasing on the same day, or even the same season. No, the 3DS version will be releasing first, this Summer, with the Wii U game releasing in Winter 2014.

Almost immediately when this information was revealed, the typical Nintendo Chicken Littles ran around as if their heads had been chopped off, decrying how the Wii U was even more doomed than it already was. Comments such as Nintendo basically admitting and finding solace with the Wii U being a failure, how the 3DS version makes the Wii U version undesirable and pointless, and how Nintendo just shot themselves in the foot run rampant.

However, if one takes a logical approach, which is very difficult to do in this knee-jerk reaction obsessed industry of ours, they can find that this makes sense. For one, the 3DS version most likely has taken the least amount of time to develop. Now, this is just an assumption, but go with us here (even if we're mistaken, we have other reasons why it makes sense anyway). Why delay a game that is finished just to release after a Wii U version that isn't quite ready yet? Shouldn't we be pleased that we're getting one of the versions this summer?

Also, both games are considered Super Smash Bros. 4 and 5, their own entries. While they share the same roster of all-stars, the content in the games are completely different. We're talking about different trophies to collect, different music in the game, different graphical styles, and probably the most important, different stages! Even the one stage the two games share, Battlefield, has a different background for both the Wii U and 3DS games. Outside of characters, stages are the most interesting part of Smash, so us getting totally unique stages for each game is absolutely awesome to us.

We also believe the development team will be looking closely at how the 3DS installment is received by players, thus resulting in some gameplay changes and refinements for the Wii U version. It's win-win to us, yet so many gamers and so-called Nintendo fans can't help but always see the bad side in any Nintendo-related situation.

4) Nintendo 3DS-exclusive mode Smash Run

It was made clear last year that both Smash Bros. titles would not be receiving anything similar to Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Subspace Emissary story mode, which admittedly was pretty "meh" of a mode. It was confirmed in this evening's Direct that the Nintendo 3DS version would be receiving an exclusive mode, entitled Smash Run.

Smash Run is a battle game of sorts, playable with up to four players. It has some similarities to and was inspired by Kirby Air Ride's City Trial mode. Smash Run has you racing against the five minute clock to venture through various segments of a dungeon. You battle enemies like Goombas, Tiki Buzzes, Kihunters, Stalfos, Reapers, Bulborbs, and more, as you explore, trying to find all-important power-ups. Once the five minutes have come to an end, you move on to a battle between all players, being buffed with the power-ups you collected in the dungeon segment of the mode. These power-ups grant you better offensive, defensive, throwing, and jumping benefits in battle.

Now, some Gloomy Guses might find this as yet another disadvantage for the Wii U version. (We swear, some Nintendo fans are so negative when it comes to the company that they'd make a Goth look like an uplifting type of person in comparison.) However, we're of the mind that the Wii U is most likely going to get its own exclusive mode, too, so we don't see a problem here, either.

3) Better online focus

Both the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS Smash Bros. releases will come with online multiplayer. If you've encountered the disappointment that was Super Smash Bros. Brawl's online netcode, you are probably justified in having some trepidation towards getting hyped for playing these new Smash titles online. That said, the bare bones lineup of features that Brawl possessed greatly pale in comparison to what Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS contain online feature-wise.

There's two modes players can enter matches into against randoms, For Fun and For Glory. More on those later. What it amounts to, though, is an experience that gives each type of player exactly what they want, and now that Nintendo Network IDs are linked to profiles, you can most likely meet better competition more easily.

Finally, a welcome feature is both games having a code of conduct. These are to make the online experience much more pleasurable than what Brawl had. In these new Smash Bros. games, you can send reports to game administrators regarding players who repeatedly self-destruct in a match, quit from games because they're losing, cheat, or enter the match and don't play. Repeated reports, that have some form of credit to them, as baseless reports are also a no-no, will result in that reported player being banned from online play for a set amount of time. The greater the grievance, the greater the off online penalty.

2) New and returning characters

Sakurai certainly knows how to push some people's buttons, doesn't he. Making watchers of the Direct believe, if just for a few seconds, that Zero Suit Samus would not be returning to these two new versions of Smash due to characters no longer being able to change form, Sakurai pulled a "troll", as the forum-savvy folks say, on all of us. Turns out Zero Suit Samus is in the games, just as a separate character this time. The same goes for Sheik, who was once an alternate character of Zelda created with a downward special attack. Not only do these two have updated move sets, but they look absolutely incredible in both versions and welcome additions to the ever-expanding roster.

More characters were revealed as well, though not as many as our greedy selves wanted. Two returning favorites were unveiled for their Smash for Wii U and 3DS debuts, Yoshi and Pokemon's Charizard. Like Bowser, Yoshi stands more upright this time rather than his Jurassic Park raptor-like stance in past games. Charizard breaks free from the shackles of just being one of three creatures summoned by Brawl's Pokemon Trainer. He's also become more agile, and even has a Final Smash that brings his Mega Evolution from Pokemon X and Y into the Smash Bros. battlefield.

Lastly, in something that disappointed us by not being Mewtwo, Greninja was revealed as a newcomer. This fully evolved form of starter Pokemon Froakie is a water-based ninja who is very nimble and light on its feet, can toss throwing stars at foes from far away, and uses its lengthy tongue as a scarf. (...We can hardly use our tongues to eat with!) Anyway, while we weren't really familiar with Greninja, we think this Pokemon is an interesting addition to the Super Smash Bros. series all the same.

1) Made for relaxed and competitive play

Final Destination, no items, Fox only. If you're heard of Super Smash Bros. before and have visited a message board related to those games in some manner, you're probably familiar with that running joke. It's a gag that uses highly competitive players of Smash Bros. as the butt of the joke.

The Super Smash Bros. series is sort of notoriously known for not being very hospitable to tournament players, due to unbalanced characters as well as dynamic stages (i.e. stages with gimmicks in them like moving platforms and otherwise unpredictable features). This is a main reason why Super Smash Bros. Brawl is not fit for competitive play while Super Smash Bros. Melee is, albeit with a limited amount of characters and stages that can be used.

Sakurai and the rest of the development team considered this when creating For Fun and For Glory modes online. The first allows players into traditional-style Smash Bros. bouts with items, dynamic stages, and typical rules. Meanwhile, For Glory is merely the Final Destination stage with no items and strictly one-on-one confrontations. When this was announced by Sakurai, we legitimately started cracking up at the irony of it all.

Not only that but our favorite announcement of all was that most stages had Final Destination versions to them. This means stages that ordinarily have unpredictable elements would be devised in such a way that they are totally vanilla in flavor. What we mean is that the stages will be perfect for tournament play. This allows both sides of the Smash Bros. spectrum, those who like the silliness and party-like gameplay of traditional Smash, and those who enjoy high level, no-nonsense competitive play, and those in between the two, to fully get the most out of these new iterations of Super Smash Bros. While we don't care for the competitive scene, we love that this is now a distinct option for those countless players who do.

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