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Super Smash Bros. 4 Wii U and 3DS Postmortem - The worst one?

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Super Smash Bros. 4 Wii U and 3DS Postmortem - The worst one?

#1

Post by Carmilla » 1 month ago

I've been thinking lately about Super Smash Bros. 4 lately and I'm convinced that, while still fine I suppose, it's the lowest point in the franchise. This only comes with retrospect and Ultimate to compare it to, but hear me out.

For the roster, there were a lot of newcomers, but arguably the most hype (launch date) inclusions were Mega Man and Pac-Man, third party representatives with incredible game history behind them. A common complain is that there were too many anime swordsmen, i.e. Fire Emblem representatives. This isn't entirely wrong. It can't be ignored that Fire Emblem is a massive franchise (in Japan more than not), but I think that in trying to play catch-up to its popularity, they saturated the game way too thick with it, including the egregious decision to make two of the DLC characters Fire Emblem representatives. It's not so bad in Smash 4, where the consolidation of fighters into echoes and their returning status (as opposed to the spotlight of being a newcomer) made it less conspicuous. It also can't be ignored that the cuts of Snake, Ice Climbers, and Pokemon Trainer were extremely disappointing, especially due to the realization that the cuts were made to keep the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game equitable. It's why Ultimate's tagline of everyone being here was such a celebratory one, and each newcomer for Ultimate (except maybe Incineroar, who—while cool—was expected as the most recent Pokemon representative du jour, and Chrom who is classified as an echo) was a fulfillment, King K. Rool and Ridley especially being long-suffering requests.

And as for everything else...what was there? It's such a blur. While the Subspace Emissary of Super Smash Bros. Brawl wasn't perfect in execution, it remains to this day the most ambitious thing the franchise has ever done and the realized dream of what Super Smash Bros. is all about. Sandwiched between that and the World of Light, Smash 4 feels like it brought nothing to the table. Nothing about its offerings are particularly memorable, except maybe the evolution of Master Hand into the Master Core and its three forms, but other than that, there's what, Smash Tour? Custom moves were cool, but barely able to be utilized and ultimately proved to be more trouble than they were worth, especially given how hard they were to unlock.

I dunno. When I think about Brawl, usually maligned for its shortcomings, I still think of a game with an incredible amount of still-unique content. Between its uneven roster, forgettable offerings, and notoriously shaky history of competitive balance, Smash 4 feels in every way like a trial run for Ultimate, a follow-up that very clearly learned from every mistake of its predecessor.

Do you agree? Think about it this way: if every game in the franchise offers you a reason to go back and play it—Super Smash Bros. 64's ludicrous combo exhibitions and foundational mechanics, Melee's uniquely fast-paced and tech-intensive gameplay and Adventure mode, Brawl's Subspace Emissary and memorable status as the franchise's first real foray into kingmaking and fanservice-as-a-feature—what does Ultimate offer? 
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#2

Post by Ryanruff13 » 1 month ago

I only got to play SSB4 once at a SSB tournament that people at my university was hosting in a room, plus I had the 3DS demo. As good as SSB4 seems, you hit the nail on the head from what I've seen in YouTube videos.

The roster additions, while undeniably good and important to flesh out representation of Nintendo history, seemed not as hype-filled as the other games (aside from some awesome third-party characters, even Pac-Man which I have a soft spot for due to his long history), the graphics were a little more drab despite the fact that the point was to make them stand out against Brawl's, the gameplay was at least a little faster than Brawl's but still not as good as Ultimate's, and from what I've gathered it just doesn't offer that much to the table feature-wise.

4 was still necessary, but Ultimate perfected the Smash formula.
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#3

Post by Sarah » 1 month ago

Brawl was the master of hype, for all its flaws as an actual game. It was the first time experiencing a new Smash for many of us (myself included), at an age where we're inclined to get more easily excited for things in general. And what a buildup it was - the somewhat grittier graphics (which admittedly did not age well, but has its charm in an odd way), the choral music, the full-fledged story mode with cutscenes, the stage builder, the gradual drip of updates through the Dojo... every step to its release was oozing with excitement. And of course, the characters. Brawl felt like it finished up the essential additions: Diddy, Wario, Meta Knight, Dedede, along with some very memorable, less obvious inclusions like R.O.B. and Pokemon Trainer. And of course, the greatest curveball in Smash history with Snake, who admittedly was not a character I was familiar with beforehand, so his reveal had little personal impact on me. But the "Nintendo characters only" rule was shattered, and it was done so with a character so vastly different from the lighthearted, family-friendly Nintendo image - and the fact it paved the way for Sonic did excite me. 3rd party reveals carry a lot less weight nowadays, unless one has personal attachment to the character being shown, but in the day, it was groundbreaking.

Though no longer an easily excited teenager in the lead-up period to Ultimate, it still got me pumped. Like Brawl, it was very much designed with hype in mind, revealing that every past character would be included in an excellently crafted trailer, on top of the vast majority of old stages. Though the pool for newcomers became much smaller, with only 6 non-Echo newcomers in the base game, they made it count: Ridley and Rool were finally in, Simon was one of the few 3rd parties left to have substantial history with Nintendo, and Inkling and Isabelle (the latter of whom I concede isn't really a hype character for most, but certainly was for me) were Nintendo's breakout stars of the past 5 years. Incineroar admittedly is just the obligatory "we gotta have a new Pokemon", but still. And Echoes were a low-development way to throw in a few extra fan favorites, and the DLC train adding the likes of Banjo continues to cement Ultimate as the zenith of Smash in terms of playable characters. With nowhere to go from here but down, likely with a soft reboot, this'll be the last time Smash is truly hype.

So where does that put 4? Its big hook was probably that it was playable on both the 3DS and Wii U, and due to the 3DS version, it was the first portable Smash. In hindsight, having to develop a 3DS version for 4 really held it back. That they were able to cram in so many chars into a 3DS game is legit impressive, but it took away valuable development time that could've gone into full focus on the Wii U version, not to mention how it led to the Ice Climbers being cut. Ultimate's portable too, but because it's one game and on a more powerful system, there was no longer the worry about a lesser version restricting it.

The newcomers are what defines a Smash game most, and with 4, most of them fell into a category of interesting, fun additions, but not really must haves. Mega Man and Pac-Man were, of course, gaming icons, and Villager meant all of Nintendo's super big franchises now had playable representation, but overall the newcomers didn't quite carry the impact of Brawl or Ultimate (the 4 DLC was also the point for me where 3rd party reveals started to become more diluted in impact, though I can concede they'd still be big deals for many). 4 did start the trend of every newcomer getting a trailer, which has been rightfully kept for Ultimate and has far more personality than seeing a "challenger approaching!" banner on the Dojo and scrolling to see the newcomer's name and art right below it. But overall, 4 had more of a "hey, here's another Smash" feel than Brawl or Ultimate did. And with all of its newcomers playable once more in Ultimate, there's no real reason to revisit.

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#4

Post by Nelson340 » 1 month ago

Sarah wrote:
1 month ago
but it took away valuable development time that could've gone into full focus on the Wii U version, not to mention how it led to the Ice Climbers being cut.

Another thing to note: Sakurai meant for Smash 4 to feel like not exactly Brawl, but not exactly Melee either. Thanks to the 3DS's screen size, the game's speed had to lean more towards Brawl to make it more readable.

They failed to keep the gameplay experience 1:1 with the 3DS and Wii U games anyway. The 3DS only allows one Poke Ball at a time unlike the Wii U, and Olimar's Pikmin have worse AI on the 3DS.

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#5

Post by Carmilla » 1 month ago

Sarah wrote:
1 month ago
Ultimate's portable too, but because it's one game and on a more powerful system, there was no longer the worry about a lesser version restricting it.

Lmao, you're right—Smash 4 was so held back by needing to fit on a portable system, and then Ultimate blows it out of the water on a console even more powerful than the Wii U but that is also portable. That's hilariously brutal to Smash 4's legacy.
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#6

Post by WALLMAN » 1 month ago

I was about to compare Sm4sh to Mario Kart: Super Circuit, a game that had nothing going on for it outside of being the series's first handheld installment, but then I remembered that Sm4sh introduced two things to the series that were expanded upon in Ultimate: Fighter customization and competitive online.

Aside from the obvious addition of Mii fighters, Sm4sh was the first game to let players customize existing fighters' special attacks and attributes. The custom specials were garbo, being hard to find and seemingly either useless or game-breaking with no middle ground, and they didn't bother adding specials for DLC fighters. But, the equipment was used to alter fighters' stats for use in Classic, Smash Run, and online matches with friends, when it was previously only available for SSE. This customization was used as the core mechanic of spirit battles and World of Light, where you were constantly adjusting your loadout to adapt to the changing fight conditions.

Brawl was the first Smash with online functionality, but since the series was still a party game in their eyes, quickplay was limited to 2-minute, 4-player matches with items on. In Sm4sh, splitting online into For Fun and For Glory was their way of saying "Alright, fine, have your competitive matches", and players could finally have 1v1 stock fights on the new Omega form stages. Ultimate's online, despite being 😠PAID😠, improved on this by adding a wider selection of preferred rules, including stamina battles, the new Battlefield form, and toggling certain items, instead of the all-or-nothing nature of Sm4sh online.
Also, just a minor thing I noticed: Even without alts, Smash 4 had the most waifus female newcomers in the series.

Is Sm4sh the worst Smash? ...Probably. I've never revisited an old Smash game, and I'm the least inclined to play Sm4sh again now that I have Ultimate. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that "worst" doesn't always have to mean "bad", especially not in a series like Smash.
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#7

Post by Whelt » 1 month ago

Smash 4 had a lot of newcomers, but a few of them were the odd, quirky choices that nobody really asked for but are "just neat." Then many others were simply expected, inevitable, rather than mindblowing reveals to be celebrated. Rosalina and Bowser Jr.? Yeah, that makes sense. Robin and Lucina? Of course, FE Awakening was huge. Little Mac? Good for him, he got upgraded. Duck Hunt? A cute NES throwback. Palutena, yeah, KIU was a great game. Miis? Ok. They all have their place in Smash, but they were all seemingly inevitable.

Maybe this is just me, but I did not feel excited for any Smash 4 newcomer, despite there being a whopping 21 of them. It felt like the death of many long standing fan requests, while instead hammering in that Smash newcomers are to be safe and expected, rather than crazy and impossible. Maybe if I were a FFVII fan I'd feel differently about Cloud, but that's it.

Ridley was never happening, they tried to throw us a bone as a stage boss but that's not gonna cut it. Didn't even get Dark Samus as a consolation prize, just an assist. K. Rool is dead in the water, no one cares anymore. Banjo belongs to a competitor and is literally impossible. Konami sucks now, so we're never getting Snake back or any of their other characters.

You can see how Ultimate flipped that sentiment on its head. If Ultimate was more like Smash 4, our grand newcomers may have been Spring Man, Rex, Byleth, Bandana Waddle Dee, and the like. Incineroar and Inkling would have still been along for the ride.

And that's only a dissection of newcomers. There were other things about Smash 4 that felt underwhelming and half-baked. Single player content was... little to speak of, and what was there wasn't very good at all. THEY CUT all music tracks to 2 minutes. That SUCKS, and I'm still not over it. Ultimate has made some great reparations in music, but some of those 2 minute cuts were carried over instead of all of them being restored. Lanky Kong's verse in the DK rap is fucking dead. Unforgivable.

Custom moves. Boy, this could be another post on its own, but this is by far the most unique claim to fame Smash 4 can have for itself. Custom moves were such a cool idea with such terrible execution. They were dead right out the gate by being a nightmare to unlock. If the only way to reliably get them all is to use a turbo controller so Ganondorf can spam a single player mode, your unlock system is garbage. The second strike was tying customs to equipment. NOBODY wants to use equipment, but we wanted to use customs - Nope, there's no reliable way to make sure you can only use one and not the other. And then by the time DLC came around, they just... gave up. DLC doesn't have customs. Mewtwo actually does have some in the code, discovered by hackers, but they're unfinished. A good idea ruined by these factors and then abandoned well within the game's lifespan. It's entirely unsurprising that these were scrapped for Ultimate, especially given the logistical nightmare of so many more characters to think about.

Finally... the core of Smash itself, the fighting. Smash 4 doesn't feel very good to play. Most characters are pretty slow and sluggish, similar to Brawl, but unlike Brawl, you can't even edge hog anymore, and recovery creep is so intense and defensive options are so good that everyone will survive to absurd percentage. Free, unlimited rolls and air dodges made things stupid. Perfect shielding was just too good. Ultimate still has insane recovery on most characters, but at the very least, the game flow is sped up, and defensive options have been weakened so that you can be aggressive and not just lose for it. Ultimate is fun, genuinely, and I don't hate it yet like I started to eventually with 4.

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#8

Post by Mia » 1 month ago

I feel like the only reason people enjoyed Smash 4 at the time was because it wasn't Brawl and people were pretending that it was better than it actually was. Ironically in retrospect, people seem to prefer Brawl over Smash 4 now. While there were a ton of new stuff added, there's a lot of stuff that feels worse such as art style, music and extra game modes (Though Smash Run was really fun when you actually fight people). And people always stereotype Brawl as "The slow Smash Bros.", but to be honest, Smash 4 feels a lot more sluggish where heavy characters are basically useless. Smash Ultimate goes with a new play style that's more in between Melee and Brawl, where it's fast paced but also accessible to people who have never played a Smash game before. I don't think they should have made a new playstyle for Smash 4, but they should have done something more like Smash Flash 2 where it keeps Brawl's mechanics but makes the game faster overall. And in my opinion, the character choices were a little "whatever". Characters like Villager, Rosalina and Pac-Man were kinda expected to be in the game, Wii Fit Trainer was unexpected but kinda underwhelming in terms of moveset, Little Mac was a pretty exciting character until they revealed that he sucks, and all of the characters that were leaked pretty much ruined the surprise of them being in the game. The DLC characters were a little better though, I was glad to see Mewtwo return, Cloud and Bayonetta were great surprise characters but ended up being hated by the community upon release, Roy and Lucas were underwhelming, Corrin was fun, but people didn't want anymore Fire Emblem characters, and people wanted Lucina and Dark Pit removed until Echo Fighters became a thing in Ultimate. The characters I was most hyped for overall was Mega Man, Shulk and Ryu, most of the new characters in my opinion were either predictable choices and/or not fun to play as. So overall, Smash 4 is definitely the low point in the series, at least in my opinion. But at least we got this out of it.
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#9

Post by Carmilla » 1 month ago

Mia wrote:
1 month ago
(Though Smash Run was really fun when you actually fight people).

Agreed, actually. Smash Run was a really fun mode, though of course characters with low mobility (Ganondorf, Little Mac, etc.) were basically unable to play it. It was basically "City Trial but Smash," with the only thing missing being that you couldn't interact with the other players in real time. Lots of missed potential there and it's a shame that it was trapped on the 3DS. Whatever that board game thing Wii U got was just nowhere near as intuitive or entertaining.
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#10

Post by WALLMAN » 1 month ago

I forgot all about the 2-minute song limit, and being camped by Villagers online. Yeah, Sm4sh can rot.

Bowser Jr. had good mobility, but was awful in Smash Run. His dash attack, F-smash, U-smash, and D-air were all multi-hit attacks, which really slowed down the process of killing enemies and raising stats. Aside from that, I had a lot of fun with Smash Run and would love to see it come back in some form.
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