One of the biggest new features in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the Smash Tour mode, which is basically a Smash Bros. take on a party game. Like the Mario Party games, you roll die to move across a map full of hidden surprises. I’m not sure there could possibly be a more dangerous combination than Mario Party and Super Smash Bros., but don’t worry, I’m here to test it to make sure it’s safe for human beings.
When you first begin Smash Tour, you have a choice from different sizes of maps. The small map emphasizes player interaction by making it more likely that people will bump into each other, while the bigger maps allow for some breathing room and strategic use of warp pipes to navigate a more traditionally sized Mario Party-esque map. Naturally, the middle-sized map gives a nice, neutral taste of both.
Your goal in Smash Tour is to assemble a small army of Smash Bros. characters and power them up as much as possible to prepare for a final battle when the turns run out. You can accomplish this by simply traversing the map, as both characters and various power ups are randomly scattered across the various paths. Similar to Smash Run, what power ups end up where is completely random, meaning it’s less about strategizing about what stats you need to build up and more about simply picking up as much stuff as possible.
The “smash” part of Smash Tour comes whenever you happen to occupy the same space as an enemy player. Bumping into someone starts a battle with everyone, with the winner getting to steal a fighter from the last person they KO’d. These battles have special rule sets that usually focus on items, like Explosive Smash which constantly drops bombs on you or Shooter Smash which gives everyone gun items. They’re very simple variations, but I appreciate the effort because depending on the map size you could be bumping into people a lot.
Outside of battles, the biggest decisions come from what items you use. There are basically two types: ones you can use on the game board and ones you can use during battles. The game board ones are fairly straightforward, giving you advantages like avoiding a battle or doubling the amount of spaces you move. My favorite items are the battle ones, simply because they give you the best opportunity to be a jerk to your friends. Many battle items will simply give you performance boosts like starting with a certain item, but the most amusing ones let you target individual players and give them horrible disadvantages like starting the match with 100% damage or shrinking down their size.
When things start to wind down, a boss will appear. Running into one of these guys drags everyone into a fight with one of the stage bosses like Ridley or the Yellow Devil. Victory comes from either landing the final blow on the boss or being the last man standing, whichever comes first. These fights are often the biggest scramble, since it all really comes down to the very last hit, which without a health bar for the boss seems like it could come at any time. Whoever does manage to land the last attack gets rewarded handsomely with some stat boosts.
The final battle in Smash Tour is both a highlight and a dramatic departure from the rest of the game. Here, everyone battles it out using their collected characters as stocks, which could actually be an interesting mode by itself. While whoever has the most characters and best stats is technically at an advantage, skill ends up being the biggest factor here. Unlike the mini bouts featured throughout the rest of the mode, these fights are about as standard as you can get. It’s surprising, considering its sister mode on 3DS, Smash Run, opted to use a variety of different modes and challenges for its finale, which would seem to fit the party game atmosphere of Smash Tour much better.
If I had to describe Smash Tour in one phrase, it’d be “insidious but shockingly fair.” Like any good party game, there’s plenty of ways to make your friends mad, but the board game seems to conflict with the fighting game. The flaw I think, is that despite the game’s best efforts to equalize everyone with stats, items, and power-ups, the results will likely still come down to an individual player’s skill and experience.
In any other mode I wouldn’t consider that a problem, but for Smash Tour the skill-based fighting undermines all of the party game insanity. Part of the excitement for most board games is that you can’t really be “good” at them in a traditional sense, because so many key elements are based on luck. This makes it so that almost anyone has the potential to win and have fun, and unfortunately I don’t think that transfers over very well to Smash Tour despite its best efforts. For what it is, I do think there’s some fun to be had in Smash Tour, but you’re only going to get the full effect if everyone you’re playing with is around the same skill level.
Food for Thought:
1. For some reason, you can actually find and play as characters you haven’t unlocked yet while going through a game of Smash Tour. Granted the roster has been known since the release of the 3DS game, but it seems like an odd move regardless.
2. As the game progresses, there are also random events that occur like a Koffing covering the game board in smog. They don’t affect the game substantially, but it’s fun to see the creative uses for enemies that also appeared in Smash Run.
3. Speaking of events, if you thought you were safe from the Flying Men featured in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, think again. They’re back with a vengeance in Smash Tour, teaming up with whoever manages to land on their space first. This time, however, you won’t even get a chance to fight back; if you try to engage whoever teamed up with the Flying Man, you’re automatically defeated and sent flying. The power of the Flying Men is truly a horrifying sight to behold.
4. I have never rolled a 1 during the start of a turn so many times in my entire life.