Super Smash Bros. 4
Super Smash Bros. 4 (also referred to by shorthands such as Smash 4, SSB4, or more informally Sm4sh, and officially as Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U) is a term used to collectively refer to Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, two games in the Super Smash Bros. series created by Bandai Namco and Sora Ltd. However, in an interview with Kotaku, Masahiro Sakurai has stated he considers the 3DS version the fourth installment and the Wii U version the fifth installment. The games feature mostly identical gameplay, but with several differences in other areas. The 3DS version is the first game of the series to be released on a handheld.
The 3DS version launched in Japan on September 13th, 2014, in most other parts of the world on October 3rd, 2014. It was released in stores one day earlier in Germany on October 2nd, 2014 to avoid coinciding with German Unity Day, and was released one day later in Australia on October 4th, 2014 because of time zone differences. Hong Kong and Taiwan received a release of the game over ten months later, on July 24th, 2015, while South Korea got its release on September 10th, 2015, nearly a full year after the game's initial launch in Japan. The Wii U version was released in North America on November 21st, 2014, and was released on November 28th, 2014 in Europe, November 29th, 2014 in Australia, and on December 6th, 2014 in Japan.
Both versions have received positive reviews; critics applauded the fine-tuning of existing gameplay elements but criticized some issues with online play. Both versions sold quickly, with the 3DS version selling over 9.24 million copies worldwide as of March 2018, and the Wii U version selling over 5.34 million copies during the same period.
Both games feature identical character rosters. The roster contains a total of 58 characters, 34 of which return from Brawl, three of which return after being cut in the transition from Melee to Brawl (Dr. Mario, Mewtwo, and Roy), and 21 of which are new to the series. Of these 58, 39 are starter characters in both versions and eight are unlockable characters in both versions, while four characters are unlockable in the 3DS version but starters in the Wii U version. Additionally, seven characters appear as downloadable content. A further eight "characters" exist as alternate costumes for other preexisting characters, Alph as a palette swap of Olimar, and each of the seven Koopalings as palette swaps of Bowser Jr.
As for the new characters for already represented franchises, two newcomers come from the Mario universe being Bowser Jr. and Rosalina, Greninja for the Pokémon universe, Kid Icarus introduces Palutena and Dark Pit and finally Fire Emblem introduces Lucina, Robin and, as DLC, Corrin.
New characters slots are given to Punch-Out's very own Little Mac who first appeared as an Assist Trophy from Brawl, the Wii Fit Trainer from the Wii Fit series, the Villager's inclusion marks Animal Crossing's first playable character, Shulk who was introduced in Xenoblade Chronicles represents the Xenoblade series and finally Duck Hunt consisting of a dog and duck from their series of the same name.
The two games feature considerably different stage selections, which is one of the primary differences between the two games. The 3DS version features a total of 42 stages with seven unlockable stages and eight DLC stages, 30 of which are new and 12 of which are familiar. The Wii U version features a total of 55 stages with six unlockable stages and nine DLC stages, consisting of 34 new stages and 21 familiar ones. Only 13 stages are shared between the two versions.
In general, the 3DS version features more stages based on handheld console games, while the Wii U version features more stages based on home console games. However, several stages in both games ignore this distinction.
Bold denotes unlockable stages.
Wii U version
Bold denotes unlockable stages.
SSB4 was announced in passing at E3 2011. The game's development was not slated to begin until sometime after October 2011, after the completion of Sakurai's other project, Kid Icarus: Uprising. He had stated, in response to a fan asking him about whether a "child Link" would be in the game, that he had not at the time decided on which characters would appear. However, he had also said that he "can't say that it's entirely out of the realm of possibility that some Capcom character could appear in the next Smash Bros." Indeed, Capcom's Mega Man was ultimately confirmed as playable, and Ryu was made available as DLC. The paired versions of the game were officially revealed at E3 2013 in the form of a trailer on June 11, 2013, with a projected release in 2014.
Development of the game began in early 2012, but it went unmentioned during E3 2012, something which many fans were disappointed about despite the known extremely early state of the game; the "first step of the process" was taken shortly after in mid-June. Sakurai expressed disappointment that fans would be waiting for longer than expected for the game to be released due to the earliness of the initial announcement. Shortly afterward, it was revealed during a Nintendo Direct that Namco Bandai (as Bandai Namco was previously named) was the primary developer alongside Sora Ltd., and had already completed a working prototype.
On July 2nd, 2012, Sakurai posted a whiteboard drawing on Twitter which was drawn by the game's staff. It depicts Donkey Kong, Fox, a Heart Container, Kirby, Link, Luigi, Mario, Marth, Meta Knight, Mr. Game & Watch, a Mr. Saturn, Pikachu, a Pikmin, Pit, Sandbag, Wario, and Zero Suit Samus; some argue that the curved lines in the background form the shape of Master Hand. The sketch also has what appears to be large block letters hidden below the visible area. While the post came with no explicit confirmation of any of these characters or elements as reappearing, it did show that they were in some sense acknowledged by the staff; everything depicted would, in fact, appear in the final game. The image itself was later removed from the original Twitter post.
Shortly after the initial E3 2013 trailers, Sakurai said there would be a single-player story mode included in the new Smash Bros., but that it would be different from Brawl's Subspace Emissary in that there would be no cutscenes, since he did not want them to be uploaded to the Internet. However, he would later recant this and announce that he decided to cut any story mode altogether .
Sakurai had stated that there were no plans to implement downloadable content or touch screen controls of any variety. However, he also said that once the game was released DLC was something they would take into consideration.  Downloadable content was eventually implemented through several additional fighters, stages, and costumes for Mii Fighters.
Changes from Brawl
Smash 4’s main goal is to strike a balance between Melee’s faster, more technical gameplay and Brawl’s slower, more relaxed gameplay, in an attempt to appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers. This is most easily apparent in Smash 4’s game speed: most veterans from Brawl have faster dashing, falling, and air speeds, and additionally traction and gravity stats were also generally increased, though the game speed is still noticeably slower and floatier than Melee. The removal of random tripping introduced in Brawl makes extended dash-dancing a viable movement option, and pivoting, a movement technique previously possible in Melee and Smash 64, has been reintroduced; thus, characters in Smash 4 generally have more flexible mobility than in Brawl.
In a similar appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers, there are now two distinct type of With Anyone Wi-Fi modes; one called For Fun which is similar to the previous game's casual-styled Basic Brawl, and one called For Glory, a mode explicitly catered to competitive-styled play. Additionally, every stage now has an "Ω Form," where the stage's layout is altered into that of Final Destination. These forms cannot be played on in the For Fun mode, while they are the only forms available in the For Glory mode.
The differences in size across the cast are now more pronounced, with Bowser now standing much taller than Mario, compared to being only slightly taller in previous games. Larger characters like Donkey Kong are thus easier to hit but benefit from longer reach, while smaller characters like Kirby are harder to hit while hindered by shorter range. Nevertheless, the differences in range across the cast have been overall toned down, with melee-oriented characters like Diddy Kong having more elastic limbs, while sword-wielders have shorter range either through the improvements in range to the rest of the cast (e.g., Marth) or direct nerfs to their range (eg. Meta Knight).
Mid-match character transformations have been removed. Sheik and Zelda, and Zero Suit Samus and Samus, are all now completely separate characters, while Charizard returns as a standalone fighter in place of the Pokémon Trainer. These changes are due to hardware limitations on the 3DS and Sakurai’s own wish for both versions of the game to feature the same roster.
As a possible effort to balance gameplay, Smash 4 has removed a few exploitable techniques that were prevalent in previous entries. The mechanics of grabbing ledges have undergone an unprecedented overhaul, with edge-hogging having been removed entirely, as attempting to grab a ledge that someone else has already grabbed onto will now gently remove them from the ledge and "steal" it, a mechanic known as "ledge trumping". This changes the entire edge metagame, with players now having to attack opponents that they have ledge trumped instead of completely stopping their recovery by grabbing the edge, along with making edgeguarding more reliant on stage spikes and meteor smashes. On the other hand, ledge trumping itself can be used as an edgeguard, as it leaves the recovering opponent vulnerable.
An additional overhaul is the elimination of most planking strategies, as the length of intangibility given by grabbing the ledge is now affected by air time and current damage, and does not carry over if the character drops from the ledge. No intangibility at all will be granted if a character grabs the ledge twice without touching the ground or being hit (making them more open to edgeguarding). Finally, the difference between fast and slow edge options based on current damage has been removed. The general recoveries of the cast have also been improved, with many of them traveling farther and having better protection while benefiting from the faster air speeds and new ledge mechanics; these changes weren't entirely consistent across the cast, however, and recoveries are overall more polarized than in previous games. On the other hand, meteor canceling has been removed, making meteor smashes functionally equivalent to spikes and thus much deadlier edge-guarding moves; to compensate, several meteor smashes are now weaker, with a few requiring more specific hitboxes (such as Ike's down aerial).
In Smash 4, characters are granted 60 frames of invulnerability to all grabs after being released from a grab or thrown (not counting special moves). This change makes it impossible to perform chain-grabs, which was not only possible but rather common in previous games. Possibly in relation to this, stale-move negation has been weakened, making it harder for characters to abuse the mechanic which allows for moves to combo for longer; at the same time, characters do not have to worry about preserving their KO moves as much as they did in Brawl, though still more than in Melee. Characters can also not grab the ledge after going through hitstun for at least 55 frames.
Hitstun canceling, a controversial mechanic introduced in Brawl that allowed characters to escape combos with ease, has been toned down. Characters can now air dodge or use an aerial attack to cancel hitstun after 40 or 45 frames respectively, compared to Brawl’s 13/25 frames, with the window being pushed back when a character sustains 69 or more frames of hitstun, due to a limit being set on how fast a fighter's current launch speed can be when attempting to cancel hitstun. As a result, true combos at low- and mid-percents are much more prevalent. However, with the increased knockback growth on many throws, moderate falling speeds, gravity increasing vertical knockback, the continued lack of advanced techniques such as wavedashing and L-cancelling, and the retained ability to cancel hitstun, true combos in Smash 4 are generally shorter and less varied compared to the ones in Melee and Smash 64, especially at high percents. Additionally, many of the faster, more combo-oriented fighters, such as Sheik, Fox, Meta Knight, and Diddy Kong have had their damage outputs reduced, likely to compensate for their improved combo abilities or to balance them out with the slow, heavy characters. The changes to hitstun also prevent characters from immediately performing moves to slow their momentum, reducing their ability to survive powerful attacks.
Directional influence works differently. Holding a vertical direction now directly increases or decreases knockback in that direction, while also altering the launch angle as in previous games. As of update 1.0.4, holding a horizontal direction only adjusts the launch angle, as it did in Melee and Brawl. These changes make it harder to carry out horizontal combos, especially at higher percents since opponents will often be sent too far for follow-ups. In turn, this indirectly benefits characters who possess vertical-launching moves, notably Mario, Meta Knight, Zero Suit Samus, and Ryu, as it is now comparatively easier to combo and KO with attacks that deal vertical knockback. The effects of smash directional Influence have also been drastically weakened, which is most easily visible with multi-hit attacks, making it much harder to escape them than in earlier games.
Movement speed when carrying heavy items has been increased among the entire cast, but Donkey Kong remains as the only character who can jump and fall with them.
A new mechanic, unofficially known as “rage,” has been implemented. Characters receive a steady increase to the knockback (and therefore hitstun) of their attacks as their damage rises starting at 35%, with the effect capping out at 150%. Rage becomes more visible when a character reaches 100%, as they begin to flash red and emit steam.
Defensive options have been heavily modified. Shields now take 19% more damage from attacks, rather than 30% less. As of update 1.1.1, shield stun has been significantly increased, making out of shield options less reliable; thus, shields are much more fragile than in Brawl. Furthermore, when having their shields broken, fighters are now intangible until they hit the ground and enter their stunned animation. This slightly narrows the window in which a fighter can be attacked when their shield is broken, as well as making it impossible to use windboxes to push opponents offstage while falling to the ground to be stunned. However it also prevents players from saving teammates who are tumbling to their death due to being forced over the ledge when their shield broke. Finally, when a fighter's shield is hit when they are right on the ledge, they are no longer guaranteed to be pushed off the ledge and put into tumble, and instead the attack must be sufficiently strong enough to push the shielding player with enough force to trigger a ledge slip.
As well as the changes made to shields, various changes were made to dodges too. Attempting to land with an Air dodge now results in high landing lag (21 frames), but air dodges in general are faster, having decreased intangibility durations, but also lower ending lag (roughly 5 frames, down from 10 to 30 in Brawl), making air dodges safer for aerial combat but riskier when done close to the ground. Sidesteps and rolls have slightly less ending lag but offer fewer intangibility frames, which makes rolls overall safer for quick repositioning.
Star KOs and Screen KOs now do not always occur when a character is KO'd over the top blast line; also, the Screen KO animation has been lengthened to last a few frames longer than the Star KO animation. They no longer occur near the end of a timed match (unless characters are launched to the upper blast line when End of Day is active, the only known exception to this) or Sudden Death; being instead replaced by regular blast KOs. They also will not occur when a character is launched at a fast enough speed.
Fighters experiencing knockback can no longer knock into other victims (careening).
Aesthetic and sound changes
Main article: Cross-platform comparison of Super Smash Bros. 4
The Wii U and 3DS versions of the game were shown to have distinct art styles from one another in that the 3DS version uses flatter shading and optional black outlines to make characters easier to see at a distance, a graphical style reminiscent of other 3DS games such as Fire Emblem Awakening and Pokémon X & Y. These outlines are customizable as Sakurai stated players can change the size of the outlines or get rid of them completely. As stated before, many of the stages are version specific, with the 3DS version having more stages based on handheld console games, and the Wii U having more stages based on home console games. There is no cross-platform gameplay between the Wii U and 3DS versions due to the exclusive stages to each version; however, one can create customized fighters in the 3DS version using the character customization feature and send them to the Wii U version. In addition to this, by connecting the two games (or using a special downloadable application), the 3DS can be used as a controller on the Wii U version. However, this doesn't apply vice-versa, as none of the Wii U's peripherals can act as a controller on 3DS hardware.
In the 3DS version, there is up to the usual amount of fighters on one stage, with four. The Wii U version features up to eight players at once, though this is only available on a limited selection of the stages.
When it comes to music, each stage on the 3DS version has only two music tracks available, as was the case in Melee. On the other hand, the Wii U version sees the return of Brawl’s My Music option, with a large selection of tracks available for each stage.
The 3DS version received positive reviews, with a current rating of 85/100 on Metacritic and 86.1% on GameRankings. The game has been praised for its large and diverse character roster, its improvements to game mechanics, and its variety of multiplayer options. Some criticisms include a lack of single player modes and issues concerning the 3DS hardware, such as the size of characters on the smaller screen when zoomed out and latency issues during both local and online multiplayer. There were also reports of players damaging their 3DS Circle Pads while playing the game excessively, and to an extent, the circle pad can easily fall off. The 3DS version sold over a million copies in its first weekend on sale in Japan and had sold more than 3.22 million copies worldwide as of October 2014. The 3DS version was nominated for both "Best Fighting Game" and "Best Handheld/Mobile Game" at the 2014 Video Game Awards, but lost to the Wii U version and Blizzard Entertainment's Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, respectively.
The Wii U version received critical acclaim, with a Metacritic score of 92/100 and a GameRankings score of 92.39%, being among the highest rated games of 2014, is also awarded the Metacritic's Game of the Year and the second-highest rated game of the series after Brawl. The 2014 Video Game Awards even awarded the Wii U version with the "Best Fighting Game" award. The game was lauded for improving everything the 3DS version offered and significantly improving the online experience.
Super Smash Bros. 4 won "favorite video game" at the 2016 People's Choice Awards. As of February 2016, the Wii U version is the 5th best selling Wii U game, whereas the 3DS version is the 7th best selling Nintendo 3DS game.
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