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Cult-like worship is nothing new for Masahiro Sakurai, oddball creator and luminary genius responsible for Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. and Kirby, a living pink ball of bubblegum dreams. This quiet, mystical man commands a room of hundreds who’ve gathered to hear how his latest games, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS will redefine their lives. We took part in an exclusive Nintendo invitational where Sakurai revealed some exclusive details for what is surely Nintendo’s shining moment for 2014.
For those unfamiliar with Super Smash Bros. imagine every popular Nintendo character — Mario, Samus from Metroid, Pikachu, Kid Icarus — beating the hell out of each other. It’s a two to four-man brawler with incredibly simple controls, riotous gameplay and a party atmosphere with thousands of sly winks to its fans. It began on the N64, continued on the Gamecube (SSB Melee) and Wii (SSB Brawl), and now makes its way to the Wii U and 3DS.
Sakurai, dressed like a seventies spiritual leader, takes the stage at a Super Smash Bros. invitational amidst thunderous applause. With translator in tow, Sakurai reveals exactly what makes this years Super Smash Bros. so desirable.
First up, Pac-Man is coming to the game. It’s a Pac-Man with arms and legs, so fear of him having a singular attack (chew, swallow) can be abated. During one of the many demos Pac-Man, controlled by Sakurai himself, dominated the match, dropping fire hydrants and pulling out air-combos with ease. For a 34 year old character, Pac-Man traded blows with the best of them. The little man from Nintendo’s Game & Watch series (also from 1980) will also make an appearance, alongside 33 of Nintendo’s finest other characters.
Nintendo had two new surprise characters for its fans: Wii fighters and Palutena, a god from the decades-old Kid Icarus series. The Wii fighters are highly customisable, with Sakurai showing off a Mii of Nintendo America CEO Reggie Fils-Aime and actor Elijah Wood, best know for his role as a man who hallucinates and talks to giant Australian dogs.
“We want this to be the number one character game in the world.” says Sakurai’s translator. But will it be the number one fighter, is this a game players can take seriously? The answers a resounding yes, according to gamers who attended the the Super Smash Bros. tournament held right next door to E3 at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles. T
he look on the gamers’ faces alone as Sakurai entered the room cements Super Smash Bros. as their favourite fighter. Gameplay is slick and smooth, with super moves mapped to the directional buttons. Holding one of the four directional buttons activates a power-up (fireballs, fire hydrants, an army of Pikmin) but unlike previous Smash Bros., there are now three power levels for each attack. In Mario’s case, he gets a fireball, fast fireball and fire orb. Alongside throws, blocks, dodges, triple jumps and Final Smash’s (super moves), there’s plenty of tactical meat to dig into.
The tactics continue with wearable items which increase the statistics of each player. Shoes, gloves, hats and other weird Nintendo goodies boost player statistics and alongside a levelling up system, characters will become deadlier as the game evolves. In an interesting bit of player balancing, heavier characters like Donkey Kong can carry more items, while nimble fighters like Fox McCloud (Star Fox) can only carry the bare minimum of three.
This level of customisation extends to the Mii fighters, who start to resemble walking machines of death with enough equipped items. There’s also custom outfits for the Mii fighters who have been worked into the game to feel as natural as possible as Nintendo “took a lot of work to polish them into real fighters.” The Mii fighters, along with any other character can be ported from 3DS to Wii U and back again.
Each version shares the 33 fighters, but not the graphics, naturally. The Wii U version is polished with high-resolution textures, while the 3DS has cell-shaded graphics which still retain a delightful Nintendo charm. The 3DS has an ace up its sleeve though, in the form of Smash Run.
It was demoed by Sakurai who took a slow Donkey Kong and levelled him up through a five-minute stage. Collecting powerups from banished enemies released stat-boosting points and after the five-minute run, the powered up Donkey Kong fought three other players who were also levelling across the stage. It was a mad, fun dash and looks to be an insanely addictive slice of gaming.
What won’t carry over are the wonderfully adorable Amiibo NFC figurines, which can be paired with the Wii U controller to add a non-playable fighter to the game. Nintendo calls them Figure Players and while they can’t be controlled, they can be levelled up (to rank 50), equipped with items and have the ability to think. Yes, Amiibo’s watch how players fight and adjust attack styles according to the way we play.
Sakurai wants players to see the Amiibo’s as battle partners. The figurines look highly detailed and are insanely desirable for the Nintendo fan, Mario looks especially menacing frozen in a fireball slinging position. Sadly, it will be difficult to collect all the figures so players must “focus on the one you like.” Sakurai says he’ll collect them all, the lucky bastard.
The 3DS version releases 13 September 2014, while the Wii U version hits Q4 2014. The gap between releases is due to the development team “needing to balance and tighten the game before release.” Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS both look exceptional and the amount of fan-service alone is enough to secure its place as one of Nintendo’s best fighters. As Sakurai left the stage, the crowd thanked him with thunderous applause. He jets off to Japan to finish production on the only game that will let you burn Pikachu to death before flinging him into a pit of lava, and that alone is worth the price of entry.
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