There’s only two questions that matter when it comes to Super Smash Bros.: “Do you love Nintendo?” and “Do you enjoy hitting things ’til they go flying off into the stratosphere?” As long as the answer to both those questions is “yes,” and really, there’s very few people who’ve held a controller in the last 20 years for whom this isn’t the case, then Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is nothing short of a gargantuan, gluttonous goldmine of hyperactive fun. Even for Nintendo, a company whose bones are made on bringing every player of every skill level to the table, the sheer amount of ways to play, of activities, of bonuses, of “Hey, I remember that guy/girl/level” moments is staggering. To play Super Smash Bros. is to allow your inner kid free reign over a candy store the size of Caesar’s Palace, with just as much danger of having a dangerous, bloated, diabetic crash after a few hours.
Despite a serious, impressive graphical overhaul, shoving detail and background activity into every single corner of the game, the core of Super Smash Bros. remains the same: You hammer away at opponents with a vast cavalcade of Nintendo All-Stars (with a few licensed special guests like Sonic, Mega Man, and Pac-Man tagging along), attempting to push them off the screen, either by hitting them hard enough to blast them to the right or left, or dropping them down into a pit. The more damage you cause, the more effective hits become, where one good solid flick might be enough to send an opponent rocketing into oblivion. A lot of the tinkering to the formula has been made to appease the hardcore crowd that made an extremely casual game into a pro-gamer tournament-play staple, but the biggest one most normal players will notice is the inclusion of Final Smashes, flashy super moves activated after picking up a specific random icon on the battlefield. It’s a little insane that the franchise is just now getting something every fighting game has had for the last 20 years (even Sony’s Smash Bros. copycat title had one), but regardless, it’s here now.
It’d be easy to take Super Smash Bros. to task for having changed so little since its debut three console generations ago, and yet Super Smash Bros. for Wii U builds an incredibly decadent package on that same-old foundation. A typical hour in the game might start with another straight runthrough of the campaign, roaming around a chess board, choosing your opponents. When that gets boring, you can try out one of the Event stages instead, where the game throws specific, character-based challenges at players, like having to hit a steady stream of falling enemies out of the stage before they hit the ground, or facing all the fastest characters in the game at once. When that gets boring, you can hit up one of the older Super Smash Bros. traditions, like the Home Run contest which now allows for multiple players to participate. Or you can jump online. Or create your own Mii fighter. Or set up a three-player free-for-all. Or start a fight with some insane limitations set up by Master Hand. Or start a Smash Tour, which is, essentially, Mario Party with hitting.
It’s very much possible to play the game for a few hours a day for two weeks straight, and have a new way to play every single day of those two weeks, and every player is welcome to every inch of it. Single players can jump online and find folks to play with. Novices can learn the finer points of the pros without even realizing it just by doing the challenges. Pros can let themselves be tried and tested like never before if they decide to bump up the difficulty or accept the right limitation on their next match. There’s a nigh sinful amount of content in the game, to say nothing of the presentation, which rewards the player with trophies and new rearranged renditions of old Nintendo tunes set to massage every nostalgic bone in a player’s body for doing even the most simple tasks.
There’s perhaps a point to be made about the ADD nature of it all, a game that’s ultimately little more than empty calories, repurposing and regurgitating nostalgia with expert ease, and there has never been a better time in gaming history, and especially never a better time in the lifecycle of the Wii U for a game that does exactly that. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the great equalizer of games—a rare title that strives for and succeeds at having something to offer everyone, even if just to run through one single mode for a few minutes. But let’s face it: Nobody can have just one.