Smash Bros: A Cross Platform Comparison
Before the recent release of Smash Bros for the Wii U, and with the 3DS release in close tow, many were understandably wondering exactly what the home console capacities would bring to the title. With a delightful stereoscopic 3D setup and a 2x anti-aliasing filter, the 3DS release was efficiently utilizing every pixel of its native 400×240 resolution. The bar had been set high.
The gameplay was as polished as you would expect from something lovingly crafted for a first party release. Captain Falcon looks as camp as ever in glorious 3D, and an ensemble cast with a few surprising additions and some animated retro impedimenta aka your favorite robot buddy trounce, bounce, meander, dash and saunter their way across landscapes nostalgic and contemporary. Move-sets tweaked across the board, (playing Sheik was a steep learning curve, her move set was cut and sewn rather indelicately, Link gets a funky new dash attack and Bowser – slightly less useless than previous incarnations – a notable beneficiary of the reform) mechanics optimized from generation to generation, the 3DS version was and still is a sentinel of handheld hopes and a projection of their capabilities. With 3ds exclusive stages and larger maps tastefully shoe-horned in from the console title, players were more than satisfied with the experience offered by fast-paced four player brawls. Players found to their delight that they could brawl fluidly on handheld, with mechanics many considered untranslatable from the console. Much of the success in transition has been attributed to a new outlining system – giving characters much needed clarity when competing with the boundaries of a 4.88in screen. Colors are exaggerated, textures are scaled up considerably, all minor additions that propel the 3DS version past pre-release skepticism about the pitfalls of the handheld hardware.
In the wake of handheld success, how was the Wii U going to weigh in?
In short, we weren’t disappointed. Apart from the much lauded evolution to 8 player multiplayer, a design feat sure to be emulated by other comparable titles, the graphical update was resplendent in its new, more spacious home. Digital Foundry here makes a thorough analysis of the visual disparity between handheld and console, discussing how Nintendo overcame the technical crucible of a smooth dual-platform release and a 1080p update. The frame rate holds up at a silky 60fps even under the strain of 8 player mayhem – a testament to the assiduous Nintendo parenting we’ve come to expect with first-party releases. Even Hyrule Temple, that catalyst of many a “stop running away, I can’t see where I put that landmine!” has been beaten extensively with the magic HD wand such that even a single banana peel, in all its deadly propensity, is rendered crystalline, right to the extremities of camera pan. Some of the stages, Final Destination and Battlefield being nominal examples, go almost completely unmolested onto the home console, with minor lighting and fine-tuned background physics endowing the Wii U version with meticulous detail that would go largely unnoticeable on the 3DS. While the comparison at face value can’t be made between two incompatible console foundations, the seamless playability of both titles is testament to Nintendo’s perfectionist attitude when it comes to dusting off their proudest museum pieces for updates and refurbishment.
Despite the recent announcement of total Amiibo stock exhaustion across some characters and rumors out today that the gamecube adapters are in similar states of endangerment/extinction, I can see the release of Smash Bros for the Wii U on November 21st going a long way to ameliorating consumer concerns. Players will surely be too caught up in the visual masterpiece to worry about figurines, enamored by the elegant apotheosis of what undoubtedly had its beginnings as half a joke in the Nintendo office, ‘Let’s get that plumber to beat that androgynous elf-type chap over the head with a baseball bat’.