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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.

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OnlySP 50 Favorite Games

OnlySP’s Favorite Games #34—Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us

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OnlySP Favorite Games 34 - The Wolf Among Us

Thanks to the staff of OnlySP, I am inviting you to come on a journey through our 50 favourite games. The game this week is another Telltale series (The Walking Dead is at #19) that continued to push the envelope for adventure games.

The Wolf Among Us gameplay screenshot 1

#24. TELLTALE’S THE WOLF AMONG US, by Sep Gohardani

In 2012, a video game adaptation of the popular comic book and television Show The Walking Dead catapulted Telltale Games from niche studio obscurity into the limelight. The company’s model of securing the rights to popular IPs and moulding them to its adventure game format resulted in other acclaimed titles like Guardians of the Galaxy and Batman that sought to twist the common formula and offer something different in those massive franchises.

In amidst the rising tide of their reputation, the company took a chance on something that was not quite as big or as popular, opting to give the Telltale treatment to Bill Willingham’s long-running comic book series Fables. What ensued was a wonderful twist on the tale that quite possibly makes The Wolf Among Us Telltale’s greatest achievement amidst a plethora of other very creative work.

The game is set in a world where fairytales are real, but not in the way one might expect. Instead of a magical far off land, the game is set in Manhattan (though maybe that is Manhattan for some), in a specially created enclave called Fabletown. This small settlement is where a plethora of characters from famous fairy tales and myths have been living after having fled the Homelands, which is now ruled by a mysterious, dark Adversary whose draconian regime became too difficult to bear.

The Wolf Among Us gameplay screenshot 2

Those who escaped have managed to assimilate in to America without much trouble due to cloaking magic, while any non-human ‘fables’ must use an enchantment known as a ‘glamour’ to maintain a human appearance and not arouse suspicion, or be taken off site to The Farm, a refuge that those who cannot change their appearance go to.

Bigby Wolf (formerly known as the Big Bad Wolf) is the Sheriff of Fabletown in the year 1986. He is charged with maintaining order, but Fabletown is not too eventful of a place. Soon, however, trouble is brewing and a simple trip out to help someone get home starts to unravel to reveal something dark and insidious in this last refuge of the great Fables.

This is a game that nails its tone. As soon the opening titles appear, Jared Emerson-Johnson’s brilliant score, and the moody, purple lettering of the title make clear that the game was going to be drenched in noirish atmosphere. The art style welcomes this theme: it is vivid and evocative, but never overstated, providing a rich setting for the characters and embodying both the darkness of their situation and their new gritty reality.

The Wolf Among Us gameplay screenshot 3

The player takes control of Bigby and is tasked with figuring out why things are getting increasingly out of hand when no one can afford them to, meaning lots of detective work. Bigby himself is fascinating. He is the gruff, sardonic, chain-smoking main character one might expect from a game like this, but he has nuance under that exterior. He is moulded by the decisions the player makes. The extent of the choices available mean that the way Bigby interacts with those around him dictates what the most important aspects of his personality will be, whether that is compassion, dedication, or a thirst for blood. Adam Harrington is brilliant in the role, and was well deserving of his BAFTA nomination, his main triumph being the subtlety in his line delivery and the way he makes each version of Bigby feel a bit different.

As everything unravels, Bigby slowly finds himself having more and more dots to put together as each environment contains clues and answers that are pivotal to figuring out how to stop those at the heart of the problem. This example demonstrates how immaculately written the game is that each of these moments feels gripping, from the very beginning of the first episodethrough to the end. The way the mystery is built up, with all the twists and turns along the way, makes for a thrill-ride worthy of any famous detective.

But not just the mechanics of the plot make the game Telltale’s greatest output. The characterisation of each and every one of the prominent characters is fantastic. Each citizen of Fabletown feels unique, with their own issues and opinions and sometimes even skeletons in the closet that Bigby has to deal with, and those character moments indelibly affect the way the game plays out and what sort of person Bigby wants to be. Notably characters like Snow White, who here is pragmatic and adamant that the rules in place keep the Fables safe, do end up having an impact on Bigby and his decision making, while others, like Colin the Pig, can help to show a different side to him, presenting him with many dilemmas along the way.

The Wolf Among Us gameplay screenshot 4

In this way, The Wolf Among Us becomes more than just a simple detective story. The game becomes a rich, intricate world full of complex interpersonal relationships that is barely managing to hold together and is straining even more while the mystery is solved and the threat is increased. These relationships become central to the game’s moral dilemmas, and in true Telltale style these are difficult decisions to make because the characters feel important, their perspectives understandable, their circumstances challenging. Bigby’s journey through these problems shapes him and those around him, ultimately deciding the future fate of Fabletown and potentially bringing him eerily close to the villain of the piece.

In a certain way, one can easily guess the kind of experience Telltale will provide for them in gameplay terms. The gameplay is fairly standard, and quick-time events make up a large part of the gameplay in moments of action or urgency, while exploration and discovery are encouraged in the detective work. The gameplay can at times be frustrating, but it is ultimately a mechanism to further the story and allow the player to shape Bigby in their image, according to how they would try to solve the problem.

Despite some frustration with the aforementioned quick time events, The Wolf Among Us is the adventure genre at its best. The perfect mix of characterisation, intense action, and world building works well in tandem with Telltale’s tried and tested gameplay and art style, the latter of which here is perfect. Emerson-Johnson’s score is always evocative and adds more texture to that innate feeling of immersion that the game provides. That the game will now no longer be getting a sequel due to the studio’s closure is a giant shame, but at least this example of video game storytelling at its best was made to show how it is done.

The Wolf Among Us gameplay screenshot 5

Do you have a favourite adventure game that did great work in story, but perhaps never had a fair shake? Maybe you could recommend the game for other players—why not join in the discussion below? Next week’s game also did great work with game narratives, though it is very much not an adventure game. In the meantime, you can follow OnlySP on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube, and join in with the OnlySP Discord.

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