'Super Smash Bros' is out on Wii U on 28 November in the UK. Its handheld counterpart is out now.
- 8-player brawling multiplayer
- Support for Gamecube controllers (via peripheral), 3DS input and more
- Tons of game modes, including 'Smash Tour' board game
- 50 characters at launch
- Integration with Amiibo figures
I have played Smash Bros a lot over the last two months. I played and reviewed the 3DS version, and over the last few days have been getting stuck into the even-better, even-more gorgeous Wii U edition too.
And I'm still not sure I know exactly what's going on.
It starts out fine: I usually chose 'SMASH' as my game mode (there are many, including various career-style progression modes, multiplayer and challenge 'events'), select my character from the dozens available (Mario, maybe, or Link, I keep it classic). Then the random stage loads, I prepare to fight and…
Then something happens. There is button bashing. There is jumping. There are changing backgrounds, mid-game events, hyped-up attacks and bright lights. And after two minutes it's all over, and I wake up.
That's almost all I've got.
The fact is Smash Bros just isn't that approachable. Not in the same way as Mario Kart, at least, where the limited controls mask its genuine depth and weight, and also allow its charm to breath and beguile new players into its glow. Smash Bros is infinitely more rewarding at the higher levels, I'm sure, but it is also far more complex and brutal. You have to play with six digits in constant motion - more than most guitar riffs - and know your fighter extremely well to make any headway against decent AI or human players.
But that sense of mild frustration and angst is not all I feel after playing Super Smash Bros. I feel something else too.
If you break through its unintelligible outward appearance, and take the time to learn how attacks, special-attacks, Smash attacks and weapon attacks work, how shields function and when they are useful (and not), why some characters jump better than others and why the hell anyone would want to play as Kirby, what you'll find here is an absolutely ridiculously entertaining game.
Yes, it's gorgeous. Yes, it's exhaustive and rich, charming and joyful as all of Nintendo's best moments are. But Super Smash Bros works mostly because of something more immaterial and complex: tuning. This game is honed to an exceptional degree. It knows precisely how to manage speed, strategy, comic violence and wit. Attacks feel solid, and hefty, but you always feel vulnerable too and under pressure to get-it-right.
But it is also a game that will take time to appreciate. For us, as reviewers, this is partly because several key features - online play and Amiibo integration - were not available pre-review. But it is also just the way of things with Smash Bros. As this stunning article points out, this is a series into which fans go deep. Really deep. The balancing of characters is imperfect, but intoxicating for that exact reason.
The action is hard to grasp, impossible to ever master, but enormously entertaining all the same.
It is also, frankly, the game that makes the Wii U definitively unmissable. Nintendo's console might not be a sales titan, but it's already a classic. Super Smash Bros joins Mario Kart 8, Super Mario World 3D, Pikmin 3 and several other first-party games as stone-cold modern, HD classics that will not - and could not - appear on any other machine.
If you love games, you need a Wii U. And you probably need Super Smash Bros too. It's not the easiest of games to love, and it will frustrate you. But if you allow it under your skin, it will drive you to distraction.
Just don't assume you'll be able to explain what playing it actually feels like. I've been trying for months and… I've got almost nothing. Just joy. Just joy.