For the last 15 years of my life, Super Smash Bros. has been apart of it. Beginning with the 1999 release of that first Smash game for the Nintendo 64, altered the course of many of my nights through my post-high school days. Many bleary-eyed late nights were spent battling it out with three friends or siblings. I will freely admit that there were wagers made on brawls we played, most often with the losers buying the winners 44oz sodas at the local gas station convenience store.
Somehow, it had become a way of life, more fun than you can imagine.
I imagine I'm not the only one who has memories of long, dark hours in the unfinished basement at a friend's house, burning my eyes out in front of a television, hoping to ground pound my opponents into submission.
Time has passed. The N64 is obsolete. The Gamecube version of the game offered improvements, but isn't compatible on the Wii U. The Wii version is fine, but it didn't reach the greatness of the first two, and we've been left anticipating the release of Super Smash Bros. Wii U.
I'll be the first to say that I'm not disappointed by this new iteration, provided to me for review by Nintendo. The game was instantly playable to a fault. As soon as my son, his friends, and I put it in the Wii U, we blinked and hours had passed. We unlocked character after character and laughed the whole time.
In my younger days, my go-to character was Kirby and I began my sojourn into this new game with him, but quickly gravitated to Little Mac. With Punch Out being my favorite classic NES game, I tried him on a lark and found that he was a lot of fun to play. He was frustrating to play at the start since his recovery from a few different moves is non-existent, but playing him just put a smile on my face. He's strong and punches quickly, the KO mechanic is fun, and he's a formidable character, balancing out the constant falling off of ledges you're going to do.
I was surprised by many of the characters that were added to the game. Never would I think Pac-Man, or Duck Hunt, or the Wii Fitness Trainer would make reasonable additions to a game like this, but they balanced them and made them work to a degree I would not have expected. More than anything, characters like the Wii Fitness Trainer remind us to not take the game too seriously. And it would do you well to learn how to play the Wii Fitness Trainer (who blasts bits of solar energy during Sun Salutations) for no better reason than to humiliate your friends.
Pac-Man is another character that's just fun to play. He'll throw a pellet forward and then gobble a line of smaller pellets in the wake of it, smashing other players in his wake. Since those pellet trails can change direction in mid-air, Pac-Man is one of the surprisingly versatile characters in the game.
My son spent quite a bit of time creating Mii Fighters and had more fun customizing his own random moves that he began to rely more and more on these than any of the standard (or unlocked) characters. Your mileage on this addition to the game will vary. For me, I had more luck playing the pre-packaged characters.
The one aspect I just didn't find myself using all that much at all was the Amiibo figure. Having access to a Mario figure, I played a bit with the character and found he didn't fit my play-style in any way, shape, or form. I can see the virtues and appeal of the Amiibos, but I would be sure to only get them for a character I know I'm going to play a lot with. I'd probably buy Kirby or Little Mac. The rest? Meh.
As for gameplay, this version adds a number of new levels and modes of play.
On top of the regular 4-player brawl, there's an 8 player version that is pretty much the ultimate party game. Rounding up 8 players and playing Super Smash Bros. all in one room is about as chaotic as it gets, but it's so fun it's worth the tiny figures on the screen. And as more players drop out, the play gets more competitive. This is pretty much the only way to blow a Saturday night with your friends these days.
The game also adds a tour of sorts that plays like a version of Mario Party and I found a lot to love here. Players navigate a game board, travelling around to collect powerups and other items that will help them in various battles. Players also collect fighters and this makes up their lineup in the final battle. It adds a new way of playing Smash Bros. and blends beautifully with my bizarre love of Mario Party.
In a world where video games are turning their back on providing social experiences for a bunch of people in one room in favor of advancing the anti-social nature of online play, this game is a nostalgic breath of fresh air.
It's got endless replay-ability and with 50+ characters to choose from, you're going to find new challenges with every new game. This is what Nintendo does best and I think the world of gaming is better for it.
"Super Smash Bros." comes out 11/21/14 and it's my advice that you shouldn't miss it. It'll bring you back the unfinished basements of your youth, whether you have kids to share that with, or if you and your friends have never grown up. It really is the game you've been itching for.
Bryan Young is the author of "A Children's Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination," the editor-in-chief of the nerd news and review site Big Shiny Robot!, and is the co-host of the Star Wars podcast, "Full of Sith."