It’s weird to think that I have followed the Super Smash Bros. series for 15 years.

What started as a novelty fighter featuring our favorite Nintendo mascots became something a little deeper: Smash Bros. has become an interactive museum for Nintendo history, and a love letter to video gaming in general.

Initially, Super Smash Bros. focused on its most popular characters such as Mario, Link, and Pikachu, but as time progressed, started adding in more obscure characters like R.O.B., Ice Climbers, and Mr. Game & Watch. More time passed, and third-party characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake from Metal Gear were added, along with music CDs, trophies, stickers, and everything else that could possibly be crammed into the game.

Super Smash Bros. For Wii U continues this trend, and perhaps has created its most creative roster to date.

Now added to the character roster are the dog/duck duo from Duck Hunt, newcomers like Shulk from Xenoblade, Little Mac from Punch-Out!!, oddities like the Wii Fit Trainer, and gaming legends such as Mega Man and Pac-Man. Games like Wrecking Crew and Pac-Land get nods as stages, and while not included as playable characters, more third-party franchises such as Rayman and Bit.Trip get nods as trophies. Even old 1970’s-era titles like Color TV-Game 15 and Sheriff get their moment in the sun.

Gameplay is typical Smash, now adding up to 8 players at once. Gameplay is as comfortable as ever, giving multiple controller options, even including using a 3DS or a Gamecube controller. There are all new items, new rules, new modes, shapshots, and even new ways to play. Stages are great, ranging from the golden era or arcade and console gaming, quirky imaginative backgrounds, and even the sterile, whitewashed feeling titles like Wii Fit (but surprisingly a decent fighting stage). And yet, I loved the dizzying heights of Wuhu Island (great camera work), and even though Ridley isn’t a playable character, they do some neat things with him on the Pyrosphere. Music and sound effects aare wonderful and sound better than ever before.

The Amiibo figurines are added to this list of options. What I would have killed for as a kid, Nintendo has released a series of collectible figures depicting your favorite fighter characters. These Amiibos actually learn from your fighting and can level up based on how you interact with them, so they can become formidable fighting challenges, or a partnered force to be reckoned with. You can feed them abilities, train them, and truly make them a customizable experience based off how you play. Best of all, they can even serve as DLC for other titles as well, such as Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors.

Smash is a remarkable game, but it is not a perfect game. Some of these may be taken as fan gripes, but I found them unfortunate changes to this new installment.

* While the majority of Brawl‘s fighters return, the Ice Climbers didn’t make the cut. The developer has stated this was due to technical limitations in the 3DS version, but it is an unfortunate omission of a unique character that is often neglected from the NES era.

* The game suffers the dreaded “clone” aspect that was a small issue in the previous title. While people bemoaned characters like Wolf and Lucas from the last title, they were at least unique characters unlike Lucina, Dr. Mario, and Dark Pit. This is even further compounded by the fact that the alternate costume line-up is so diverse (Bowser Jr. offers the other seven Koopa kids, Olimar offers other Pikmin pilots, Wii Fit Trainer offers both male and female variety, Little Mac offers his arcade wireframe mode). If these were costume swaps like the aforementioned, that would be one thing. But they don’t offer the same unique qualities over other losses like Snake to really justify their inclusion as separate characters.

* A little too much emphasis on Fire Emblem. Mario and Pokemon already get so much character real estate from their line-up, do we really need four characters from this series? What about Golden Sun?

* Lack of Adventure Mode. I liked the Subspace Emissary: Sure the story was a little nonsensical, but the CG cutscenes were great fun. Due to the videos being posted on YouTube, they decided to nix those altogether. *sigh* The 3DS got Smash Run, a cave exploration game that, while not as much of a “quest” as the offerings from Melee and Brawl, were fun enough romps culminating in a big contest of skill or challenge. I do, however, miss the many boss fights.

* Instead of Smash Run, the Wii U version gets Smash Tour, a party board game style offering. While I am sure some will defend this mode, the few times I played through it felt irritating, boring, and frustrating. I was happy to earn a unique stage out of checking out all three boards, but I felt like I put my patience in slogging through this random mess. The computer AI felt overpowered in some instances, the rules aren’t as clear as they should be, there is zero control over who will play as in encounters, and there were far too many times that I felt I got dropped into some warzone without being able to acclimate and find where I was before getting KO’ed. Some will call this “spontaneous”. I call it a clustermess.

Honestly though, the complaints are minimal in this title. There is simply so much to do and find in this title that it will take weeks and months to find it all, much less master. While Smash Tour was a disappointment, and I felt some character roster choices were questionable, Pac-Man and Mega Man are fantastic inclusions, Miis offer more diversity than expected, and even the Wii Fit Trainer and Duck Hunt are so weird that they are likable. But mine are more “fanboy” gripes, and I’d rather have those than some issues with broken gameplay mechanics or glitches.

Mewtwo is being included as later DLC, and even though Nintendo is remarkably coy about their plans “at this time”, I wouldn’t mind if Simon Belmont from Castlevania or Shovel Knight got added to the roster down the line. But that’s part of the fun: Nintendo sets the bar so high with each following installment that you start to believe that anything is possible.

And that’s what Super Smash Bros. is: Fun. And from its tried and true gameplay to its total reverence to the very industry it resides in, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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