Super Smash Bros For Wii U Review: Nearly Endless Content, Pure Fun, And More Characters Than Ever Before Add Up To The Series' Best Entry Yet

By Matthew Buzzi , Updated Nov 21, 2014 04:31 PM EST

The release of Super Smash Bros on Wii U has been anxiously awaited, even through the launch of the excellent 3DS version of the game. The two titles share similarities, and the handheld edition is certainly full-featured, but there's simply no replacing the traditional Super Smash Bros console experience.

The Wii U version takes that experience to new heights: this is the most comprehensive, well-balanced, and downright fun entry in the series yet. Fan service is present at every turn, and Nintendo has gone the extra mile in packing content and extras into the game.

The fast-paced and entertaining core gameplay is what makes Super Smash Bros successful, to the point where many fans might very well be satisfied if the title only offered regular smash battles against friends and the computer. The Wii U iteration of the game strikes a balance between the gameplay of Melee and Brawl--it's not as quick and tight as Melee, but still not quite as floaty or quirky as Brawl.

The result is a great mixture of what the series has always done well: Super Smash Bros for Wii U can be picked up and played casually, or transform into a true competitive experience for the more hardcore community. It's a testament to the talent of Nintendo's designers that the same game can offer an intense one on one faceoff or a hectic, fluky multiplayer match with just a few settings tweaks. As good as the 3DS version is, the system's circle pad is not the same as a full control stick, and the Wii U version handles much better.

This greatly benefits certain characters who need fine control, such as fast fighters and the high-maintenence Shulk (who now also has a text display of which Monado Art is selected above his damage percentage). The new characters are by and large very good additions, from the surprisingly resilient Rosalina/Luma combo to the lightning-quick Mac and Greninja. The game is also absolutely gorgeous, particularly some of the new stages. The Super Mario Galaxy level looks even better than the original game despite the frantic battles happening within it, and a number of other stages are almost distractingly attractive.

Even though the standard matches could arguably offer enough entertainment to justify a full game on their own, Nintendo has instead spoiled us for choice: there's a bounty of game modes and plenty of customization available. The game feels at first like a nearly endless sandbox, permeated with fun and a simple sort of joy no matter where you look. Jumping in to a smash match with friends will still be the most common and appealing option, but there's also plenty to do if you're playing on your own and always something to unlock. Classic (slightly altered from the 3DS version in style, but the idea is the same) and All-Star modes offer plenty of replayability, while the Home-Run Contest is as addicting as ever. Event mode asks you to complete very specific scenarios with certain fighters, often with a time or score target.

There's a strong impulse to run through the all of these modes again on a variety of difficulties, and they give you more of a reason than anything else in the game to try different characters. You'll likely sink hours into the Super Smash Bros' mini-games before you know it, yet at the same time it wouldn't be surprising if many fans stuck only to experimenting with the nearly 50 playable characters in regular smash battles.

It's worth noting that the highlight feature Smash Tour is a bit strange, and may not appeal to everyone. Players are thrown onto a board littered with powerups and fighters to collect, and will ultimately compete in one major battle after a pre-determined number of turns are completed. Everyone spins for a number of spaces to move at the start of each turn, and battles occur when players land on the same space. Knocking out opponents adds the characters you defeat to your list-you will use them in the final battle in conjunction with the powerups you collected along the way.

It gets very frantic and can be fun if you don't take it seriously: things tend to happen very quickly and much of what occurs on the board is out of your control. Extensive playing may yield some real strategies, but Smash Tour seems best enjoyed as a party mode you aren't particularly invested in winning. It's superior to the 3DS version's random Smash Run, but neither seem better than Brawl's Subspace Emissary. Still, it's just one mode among many and enjoyable enough for what it is, but you can completely steer clear and still have plenty else to do.

Eight player battles are a different story: they are simply incredibly fun, even more so if you can add in a few friends. Controllers can come in the shape of Wii Remotes, Gamecube pads, and 3DS systems if you're in need, so there should be enough to go around if you manage to round up a handful of people. What I expected to be a footnote to the game is one of its best features--you'll undoubtedly have a blast playing against seven others.

Online matches generally work well, but everyone's experience is likely to vary. The connection is different each game, but the online play as a whole is better than any in the series before. Most games will run pretty lag free, but limited latency will crop up in some matches and cause you some frustration. Combined with the fact that every player's network is different, it's difficult to promise for sure what to expect. Generally speaking, though, almost every match for me was playable and lag was not a serious issue. You can compete in ranked and unranked matches on teams or in free for all, and one on ones in the ranked For Glory mode only.

The impressive character customization found on 3DS is present, a new addition to the series that adds an unexpected and unprecedented amount of control over character abilities. You can change base statistics such as speed and damage with equipment, and alter attack moves to create a custom fighter. Almost every game mode is tied into this system, allowing you to use your custom builds and providing powerups for your collection along the way. It's an interesting twist on a game that has always had locked and pre-defined characters, and it only serves to add more replay value and depth. This is further extended through Nintendo's Amiibo figures, which can be leveled up and customized when synced with the console, but we were unable to test these features in time for this review.

The dual-version release of this Super Smash Bros game is a fairly unique scenario, and it does impact the way each title is viewed. The presence of the 3DS version over the past few months can take some of novelty off of the Wii U edition, despite it being a very good game on its own. If you've been playing the handheld game since its October launch, a lot of the Wii U edition's content won't feel new, particularly the roster. Unlocking and experimenting with new characters is one of the most rewarding parts of the series, and it's not as easy to get excited about something you've been playing a version of. That's no fault of the Wii U version itself, though, and make no mistake: everything is more polished visually and controls better compared to the 3DS title--this is the definitive edition of the game. Having a Super Smash Bros game you can take on the road is a first for the series, and the two titles, in a way, scratch different itches.

The 3DS version offers shorter bursts of gameplay, and For Glory online matches can be fairly competitive, while the Wii U version is the best way to play with friends and gives the hardcore fans better control. That's not to diminish the 3DS version, but each have their own place and it's not surprising the Wii U game has more features, better visuals, and superior controls. It's the evolution of Super Smash Bros that fans have been waiting for since the release of Brawl, and is simply one of the year's most fun gaming experiences.

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