If there’s one Wii U game this holiday season that’s designed for everybody, it’s Super Smash Bros. In part, that’s because nearly everybody—as far as Nintendo’s wide and diverse character roster is concerned—is included in this mega mash-up fighting game, whether as a playable character, a trophy, a background cameo, or other reference. Pick a notable franchise and it’s probably represented in some fashion, and that gives the game extremely broad appeal.
And while other recent Wii U games like Bayonetta 2 and Hyrule Warriors target an older, more hardcore gaming audience, Super Smash Bros. has incredible allure for all ages. As a longtime Nintendo fan, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the latest loving tribute to the company’s enduring gaming legacy.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the fourth console entry in the fighting game series, which has appeared on every Nintendo home platform since the Nintendo 64 (the recent Nintendo 3DS version is similar to this Wii U game). At its core level, the approach hasn’t changed significantly: the game pulls together dozens of familiar characters from all manner of game series, including Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon, and pits them against each other in light, cartoonish multiplayer battles in colorful arenas.
There’s no real story to it—no flashy tournament or disruptive force that’s made all of these (mostly whimsical) characters start throwing punches and fireballs at each other. It’s just fantasy fun, put together with a truckload of content to discover.
Smash Bros. has traditionally been a four-player fighting game, with various characters battling it out on multi-tiered stages. The Wii U version maintains that general approach (and you can have fewer than four players, certainly), but also adds the ability to engage in eight-player battles in certain larger environments. In any case, the goal is to weaken your opponents by repeatedly damaging them with your attacks, and then knock them out by hitting them so hard they fly out of view. That becomes much easier to do when they’re already seriously weakened.
Compared to traditional fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, Super Smash Bros. is dramatically simpler, and it’s focused on being approachable by players of all ages and gaming backgrounds. You have one primary-attack button, and moving the analog stick while hitting it triggers different kinds of basic moves. Likewise, you have one special-moves button, with directional inputs altering the kind of attack that results. You can also shield yourself and dodge away from attacks, as well as hold and throw opponents.
Special items will float or drop into view for you to pick up. These prove very important, not only because they can be used to better damage your foes, but also because breaking the “Final Smash” item allows you to perform a spectacular super move. Each super move is unique to the character, and the screen-filling attack is usually good for securing at least one knockout, if not multiple at once. Since the winner of each match is based on knockouts both accrued and sustained, the appearance of the “Final Smash” item is always a big draw.
So Many Options
While the core gameplay hasn’t changed much since past entries, it remains easily understandable and solidly entertaining fun. But where Super Smash Bros. for Wii U really grabs players is not necessarily in the interactions themselves, but in everything layered in around them. And there’s so much, it’s almost unbelievable.
Start with the character roster, which includes almost 50 familiar characters from a wide range of Nintendo franchises, all of which are beautifully brought to life in vibrant fashion. Nearly a third are new to this Smash Bros. entry, and newcomers Mega Man and Pac-Man join Sonic the Hedgehog in expanding the roster beyond the normal Nintendo boundaries. Plus, you can create and customize a special Mii Fighter based on your own likeness. You’ll find almost as many distinctive locations to fight in, as well, all of which are similarly based on Nintendo games.
The selection of play modes is equally impressive, as well. Fighting games don’t often prioritize single-player content, but here you’ll find a short campaign mode with a boss fight at the end, in addition to various objective-based mission modes, like Events and Special Orders. Fighting through all of the characters—in the reverse order they were introduced to the gaming world—in All-Star mode is also a highlight. On the multiplayer side of things is the local Smash Tour, which uses a board game-like approach to spread out a longer stretch of matches, plus you can hop online for exciting four-player matches against worldwide players.
For the offline eight-player fights, you’ll need plenty of controllers—but thankfully, the game supports a wide range of gamepads you may have handy already. Beyond the Wii U GamePad, it also takes the Wii U Pro Controller, standard Wii Remotes, and even GameCube controllers, but only if you buy the new adapter. And for anyone who owns the recent Nintendo 3DS version of Super Smash Bros., you can plug that game into your handheld and use the system as a controller in the Wii U game.
Amazingly, there’s more stashed away in the menus. You can create your own stages to battle on, as well as play time-limited demos of classic Nintendo games. And Super Smash Bros. for Wii U supports the new Amiibo figurines, which have built-in chips that store character data. In this case, you’ll tap your figurine to the GamePad to generate a version that you can customize in the game. However, since you can only play alongside that fighter—never actually as the fighter—it’s not the most thrilling addition.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is rated E10+ by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief, and Mild Suggestive Themes. The combat in the game is presented in a very colorful, over-the-top manner, and never depicts blood or realistic injury. It’s definitely silly in tone, and you might catch a fart cloud used by a character as an attack. The suggestive themes come with some of the collectable trophies, which in some instances show a woman bearing a small amount of cleavage or wearing a short skirt.
Even more so than its predecessors, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a wonderful tribute to Nintendo in the form of a game—one that’s easy to learn and understand, but also has so much excellent content to explore and soak in. While the fighting itself can turn repetitive, the incredible variety and wealth of amusing references to beloved characters and games makes it difficult to put down.