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OnlySP 50 Favorite Games

OnlySP’s Favorite Games #33—Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

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OnlySP Favorite Games 33 - Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Thanks to the staff of OnlySP, I am inviting you to come on a journey through our 50 favourite games. Some of these are forgotten gems, some you will guess straight away. Others cover more than one game in a series, or compare two similar games.

This week’s game was dangerously liminal in terms of how it fit under ‘single player games’, but Mike convinced us that Super Smash Bros. deserves a place on our list.

#33. SUPER SMASH BROS. FOR WII U, by Michael Cripe

When Super Smash Bros. Brawl released on the Nintendo Wii, its overseer, director Masahiro Sakurai, cracked open a door. Up until and including Brawl’s release, Smash represented Nintendo’s legendary history but never found the courage to explore the potential it had been sitting on for a decade. However, when the franchise’s Wii U entry came to be, Smash Bros. would clearly no longer sit idly by as nothing more than a unit-moving fighting game. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS (Smash 4) is a game crafted for gaming enthusiasts, casual fans, and hardcore players alike and not one available entry in a franchise better represents video gaming as a whole.

The Smash Brothers development cycle evokes feelings of anxiety. The years in-between each entry in the franchise manage to vary heavily, ranging anywhere from three to seven years of development time. Will there be a reveal next year or is the anticipation for nothing? Though guessing when Nintendo will drop its next atom bomb is next to impossible, nothing can stop endless theories and discussion posts. Hype trains store fuel for years just to expend excitement on a few months of reveal trailers and blog updates, but the journey is always worth the outcome. Then, out of the blue, Nintendo always manages to shock.

Nearly five years had passed since Brawl’s release when Smash 4 would finally get its first reveal trailer. Additions to the cast such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake proved that Smash Bros. could stand true as a monument to the history of video games. Would Nintendo follow through on fan expectations to finally see a Smash entry that implemented a wider assortment of iconic characters? Well, the gaming giant seemed to have a clear answer.

The blue bomber himself would be fighting alongside Mario, Link, and who knows who else. Mega Man walked, blasted, and sounded like Mega Man. Classic music from the games was fully remastered to match the sleek, yet simplistic, design for the character to add to the present fan service. Sakurai was dedicated to creating a character chalk-full of references, thus proving what fans knew Smash could become. Every new character would receive the same polish that Mega Man did, no matter who the newcomer was. Forevermore, Smash would push boundaries on who could be the next challenger. If Sakurai cracked opened a door with Brawl, then Smash 4 kicked in that door.

By the time all DLC was released, the fourth Smash Bros. game was home to 58 playable characters. Though Snake never made the final cut, seven of the DLC fighters were third-party entries such as Pac-Man, Cloud Strife, and even the illustrious Bayonetta. Final Fantasy representation was a pipe dream before it was implemented here, and most fans believed Bayonetta was too promiscuous to join the roster. Deep cuts like the chuckling dog from the NES’s Duck Hunt can fight against the Wii Fit Trainer while dodging hadouken’s from Street Fighter’s Ryu. The game featured dream-scenario-level matchups available to experiment with and no other game offered such an impressive roster. Smash 4 also introduced the Smash Ballot about halfway through its DLC cycle, allowing fans to vote for whichever video game character they felt deserved to join in on the game. Now, players had the opportunity to join in on the development of current and future games. Suddenly, Smash became about the players just as much as it was about the game.

What could be possible with the roster of 58? Sakurai and his team decided to opt out of a traditional adventure mode for this game seeing as too much development time was spent on the previous adventure mode in Brawl. Though a lack of adventure mode would be sorely missed, players could not complain with all of the new offerings. Classic mode returned in Smash 4 but brought with it more refinement than ever. With the exception of Break the Targets, most special modes like Homerun Contest and Multi-Man mode return as well and are more than welcome classics. Master and Crazy Orders, two of the mode offerings, both bring a new risk reward system to the table to mix up what could occasionally be a bit tedious in past entries. Tons of items, music, and hundreds of trophies aided in a package that felt like the ultimate gaming museum or love letter. The Event Mode made a reappearance as well and brought more challenge than ever before. Even those unfamiliar with the franchises addressed in Smash 4 can find new enjoyment in even the most obscure character references.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Some of the new modes, however, were not as well received. As stated earlier, Break the Targets became somewhat of a shell of its former self and was practically an Angry Birds clone. Instead of a cutscenes for a story, development time was shifted over to Smash Run and Smash Tour for the 3DS and Wii U, respectively. Run presented interesting ideas that mostly panned out, but Tour has gone down as one of the most despised additions in Smash history. The Party Mode was somewhat of a riff on Mario Party with the chaos cranked up to 10 and never really came together to be something great. Even when playing with others, Smash Tour was nothing more than an unbalanced side-attraction. Even so, these missteps were seen by the community as bonus content that never reached potential, not things that detracted from the overall experience.

Alone or with friends, Smash 4 makes even the most inept players feel like they can be pro-playing gods. Everything was simplified since Brawl and any fat added on through the years was totally trimmed off. The Smash Bros. franchise is inherently simplistic as it follows a similar control scheme to the Kirby games, but Smash 4 takes simplicity even further by adding in the new custom moves. Now, players can decide which play-style best suits them from hundreds of different abilities and options. Picking a specific character to stick to has so much customizability thanks to this new move implementation. Despite making things more open for a less familiar audience, Smash 4 is still competitively viable. The dreaded tripping mechanic had been gutted from Brawl and the game is generally more fast paced, too. Omega stages remove any of those pesky stage hazards so that matches can remain perfectly balanced. The wealth of options is more than apparent, and for a game with so much content, these routes for customization make all the difference. Though the skill-ceiling never quite reaches the heights of Super Smash Bros. Melee, the game still manages to provide peace in the competitive community. Below is only some footage of the potential one character has to lock opposing fighters in a combo lock.

(Thanks, Beefy Smash Doods)

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS may only be remembered as a stepping stone to this week’s upcoming monster that is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. With what Sakurai and his team seems to have planned, Ultimate will be tough to beat for future entries. That said, nothing keeps Smash 4 from being the massive refinement it managed to be. Third-party characters are plentiful and teaming with the fan service they deserve, and the game will always stand true as a showcase for video games as a result. Mountains were moved to bring together such an all-star cast and the overwhelming amount of content has the game rivaling even the most densely packed rivals. Smash 4 has been and always will be for every kind of gamer, and we will be lucky to ever see such a finely crafted sequel again in the future.

Thanks again for joining us for one of our favourite games, single player style. Next week will be different yet again, in a genre that so far has been under-represented on our list…

Single-player games coverage. Every day.

OnlySP 50 Favorite Games

OnlySP’s Favorite Games #10—Knights of the Old Republic II

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Knights of the Old Republic II

Thanks to the staff of OnlySP, I am inviting you to come on a journey through our 50 favourite games. This week we look at a licensed video game that goes above and beyond its franchise roots—a beautifully flawed yet remarkable Star Wars story for the ages …

#10. KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II: THE SITH LORDS, by Ben Newman

In a universe so expansive and multi-layered, why have mainstream Star Wars stories dealt with morality in such binary terms? That question was bouncing around Chris Avellone’s head just before the opportunity to write Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (KOTOR 2) dropped in his lap. 

The question is so simple, but not many writers handed the opportunity to work on the beloved franchise decide to commit to blurring the lines of the series’ strict morality. What Obsidian Entertainment did, though, was write a Star Wars game that didn’t just blur the lines, it erased them altogether. 

The opening of KOTOR 2 is not great. Whenever I re-play the game, I feel a distinct sense of regret over the thought that the majority of people who picked up the game likely dropped it after what is, quite possibly, the worst opening level of all time relative to the quality found in the rest of the game. However, while gameplay-wise the mining asteroid opening of KOTOR 2 is severely lacking, it does an excellent job at providing the game’s unforgettable sense of atmosphere.

KOTOR 2 is dark; its atmosphere nestles in the creases of your brain as you realise that reliable concepts such as “light side” and “dark side” are vapid. No other character embodies KOTOR 2’s utter rejection of its source material’s pretences than Kreia, the first voice heard in the game, post-tutorial. 

kotor 2

Kreia is the soul of KOTOR 2. While the cast of party members boast enough depth to make BioWare green with envy, her philosophy is what directly underpins KOTOR 2’s success. She is nothing short of Shakespearean, oft-misunderstood with viewpoints that only sink in long after she has uttered them. 

Discussing Kreia herself is an essay, but to cut her philosophy short, she equates Jedi and Sith as equally pointless and full of moral downfalls. Both are equally reliant on the Force, which in Kreia’s views, makes them weak. In essence, she’s an extension of the Nietzschean idea that “in individuals insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” Without veering into spoilers, Kreia’s experience of both the light side and dark side of the Force allows players to experience the follies of both binaries. 

While Kreia is the standout example, each party member and villain that accompanies the story has similar depth. Each is moulded by the player’s decisions in a way that feels realistic, each with ever-unfolding depths, personalities, and biases. While BioWare prefers characters to wear their personalities on their sleeves, Obsidian opts for slower, more calculated character development. The major difference between both studios can be seen in how each one approaches its central villains. Below are two quotes, one from the BioWare developed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic‘s Darth Malak, then a quote from KOTOR 2‘s Darth Sion: 

“We have been inexorably pushed to this final confrontation. I see now that this can only be settled when one of us destroys the other. Once again we will fight each other in single combat and the winner will decide the fate of the galaxy!” – Darth Malak

“I will bring his corpse to her, cast it at her feet. It will be as if killing her children. I will kill all she protects, all she shields, until her hands are drenched in blood.” – Darth Sion

Now, Malak’s dialogue is not bad, but it does not have the same biting depth as Sion’s. While the above is an extreme example, it is a symptom of how Obsidian simply has a deft touch that BioWare all too often lacks in its own writing.

In terms of KOTOR 2‘s party members, Atton sticks out as another strong example of good characterisation. On the surface, he’s a Han Solo-like character full of genuinely funny quips and a mellow attitude. Soon, though, you realise Atton has a much more detailed past that players would realise, as well as a future that can go many ways depending on player choice. 

KOTOR 2

No creator behind a Star Wars game, or perhaps even film, has treated the interwoven species, outlooks, and histories of the licence with as much respect. Their personalities and influence are reflected in their playstyles, with each character having a direct effect on the game’s turn-based gameplay. 

KOTOR 2, like its predecessor, is essentially a Dungeons & Dragons game, but the gameplay disguises that fact well. While turn-based combat is usually equated to slow, methodical gameplay, KOTOR 2 leaves space for both slower and faster styles. Players can pause the game and queue up commands and abilities for their party, or simply set up appropriate combat behaviours for their AI partners to fulfil themselves. On tougher difficulties, though, players need to play it like a Baldur’s Gate game and be methodical, as some of the end-game bosses and one-versus-one segments in the game are tough as nails. 

Where KOTOR 2 shines, though, is in the quality of writing and the world-building. The setting of KOTOR 2 paints a world where the Jedi Order is no more, with a rogue Sith force dominating known space. Exploring recognisable planets through the lens of a post-Jedi world is an intelligent method for Obsidian to approach the tropes of the franchise from a different angle. 

Knights of the Old Republic 2

Walking through an overgrown, abandoned Dantooine and the labyrinthine streets of Nar Shaddaa are tangible examples that the universe would still exist without the Jedi, and is trucking on despite being weighed down by the Sith. All of KOTOR 2 consistently reinforces its central rejection of the principles of Star Wars, and it’s for that brave decision that it stands as the best Star Wars game ever made. 

I have been careful to avoid too many spoilers while writing this piece, so apologies for its brevity. Going into this kind of story in any significant way is still too many spoilers. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, RPG games or good writing, then you cannot go wrong with KOTOR 2. In a way, the game ruined Star Wars for me simply because nobody has done the universe the same justice since.

Thanks for joining us for a look at one of the original Xbox’s best games. Next week, things get an epic shake-up, for both the game in question and our favourite games list as a whole! To keep up, be sure to follow OnlySP on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube, and join in with the OnlySP Discord.

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