By Tyler Hersko
It is 4 a.m. My eyes are bloodshot and my fingers are cramped. I’ll quit … after just one more game.
Just. One. More. Game.
“Super Smash Bros” is the kind of video game that keeps you playing until the sun comes up. It’s the kind of game that appeals to casual and hardcore gamers alike. It’s also the kind of game that will keep players coming back to it for many months to come.
There’s little doubt that “Super Smash Bros for Wii U,” the latest installment in the series, is a major part of the reason why Nintendo’s Wii U global console sales have more than doubled in the last year.
None of this should surprise longtime fans of the immensely popular fighting game franchise.
For the uninitiated, “Super Smash Bros” is a fighting game where players take the reins of famous video game characters such as Mario or Link and try to knock other characters out of the arena. It seems like a simple concept, until you consider the dozens of varied playable characters, smorgasbord of items ranging from deadly baseball bats to Poké Balls and an expansive selection of playable stages.
Thanks to its simple controls and lovable cast of characters, “Super Smash Bros” is the quintessential party game. It’s also an incredibly deep tournament fighter that rewards skill and is often played in fighting game tournaments around the world.
Does “Super Smash Bros for Wii U” live up to the hype? The answer is a resounding “yes.” It may not be perfect, but “Super Smash Bros for Wii U” is an undeniable system-seller and is sure to keep players hooked for months, if not years, to come.
It all starts with the roster of playable characters. There are 51 characters to choose from and they’re all a blast to play. Most all of Nintendo’s biggest stars are present and faithful to their source material: “Pokémon” mascot Pikachu uses a variety of electrical attacks while “Metroid” heroine Samus Aran fights with her signature arsenal of high-tech missiles, lasers and bombs.
If you’ve ever played a video game, odds are that there’s something for you to love here. As always, the game handles like a charm. “Super Smash Bros for Wii U” can be played with everything from the stock Wii U controllers to traditional Gamecube controllers (that is, if you can find an adapter for the controller, there’s currently a nationwide shortage).
Do yourself a favor and have plenty of controllers handy, because “Super Smash Bros for Wii U” supports local multiplayer with up to eight players. As expected, eight-player smashes are complete insanity and full of frantic fun, but more hardcore players will be especially happy to hear that one-on-one bouts can be played on basic “Omega” versions of each stage.
Either way, it’s hard not to gawk at the game’s visuals. Graphics don’t make the game, but there’s no denying that “Super Smash Bros for Wii U” is dazzling. Everything from the high-definition stages to the playable characters and enormous 400-plus song library are beautifully rendered and recorded and are wholly faithful to their respective source materials.
Traditional features such as Classic and All-Star modes are joined by new gameplay modes such as Master and Crazy Orders allow players to use in game currency to take on special challenges and earn rewards. There’s enough unlockable content, ranging from trophies to songs and even custom character moves and stat modifiers to keep even the most dedicated players busy for months.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. While Event Matches return, their challenges seem fairly uninspired, have occasionally vague goals and get repetitive quickly. More egregious is the lack of a fully-fledged single player mode such as the Subspace Emissary mode in “Super Smash Bros Brawl.”
Although Subspace Emissary wasn’t without its fair share of faults, it told an entertaining and oftentimes hilarious story of Nintendo characters working together to defeat a common enemy. It was jam-packed with gorgeous cutscenes that kept you playing and was one of “Brawl’s” standout features.
In a column for Japanese gaming magazine Weekly Famitsu, “Super Smash Bros” series director Masahiro Sakurai justified the exclusion a story-driven experience such as Subspace Emissary due to people uploading the mode’s cutscenes to the Internet.
To be frank, it’s an asinine and wholly inexcusable reason, exacerbated by the fact that the ability to create custom stages, another feature than originated in “Brawl,” is somehow even more barebones than before.
Of course, it’s the multiplayer that will keep players coming back for years to come, and it’s the multiplayer that solidifies “Super Smash Bros for Wii U” as one of the best video games in recent memory.
A key reason for this is the online play. Online matches in “Super Smash Bros for Wii U” are relatively free from latency, although without a wired Ethernet adaptor your mileage may vary. The lack of character-specific stat tracking is a shame, as is the mystifying inability to queue with a friend against random players for two-on-two fights or use voice chat.
But when all is said and done, multiplayer is a blast and its replay value is practically endless. Mastering “Super Smash Bros for Wii U’s” expansive roster of characters, learning the nuances of the plethora of available stages and discovering combos and practicing advanced techniques are all thoroughly rewarding experiences that will keep you hooked long after you’ve unlocked all of the game’s content.
Whether you’re a hardcore fighting game fan or are just looking for something fun to play with friends, “Super Smash Bros for Wii U” has enough content, replay value and sheer opportunities for enjoyment to practically justify the purchase of a Wii U console, let alone the game itself. This isn’t one to miss out on.
Tyler Hersko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TylerHersko.