Super Smash Bros. (for Nintendo Wii U)
Nintendo seems to be the last bastion of fun, local multiplayer video games. There are a few hidden gems on other systems, but if you want to gather around your HDTV with friends, the Nintendo Wii U is the way to go. That was the case with Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, and New Super Mario Bros. U, and it's the case with Super Smash Bros ($59.99).
I've already looked at Smash on the Nintendo 3DS, and the brawler's first attempt on a handheld system proved to be a success. Now Super Smash Bros. is back on a home console as a Wii U game. It's basically the same game, a fighter in which you pick one of a few dozen Nintendo characters and smash away until you win. On the Wii U, though, it offers 1080p graphics, many more background songs, and very welcome 8-Man and Special Smash modes. It also lets you use GameCube controllers, meaning it's the closest thing to Super Smash Bros. Melee available for a long time, even if it's not actually Melee. It's another Smash game and another must-buy title for the Wii U. If you already have a Nintendo 3DS and the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros, you can use it as a controller in the Wii U version of the game. You can also copy your custom characters between the different games.
Gameplay The goal of any Smash match is to do enough damage to your opponents to you can knock them out of the screen. There are normal and special attacks for each character, plus extra-hard Smash attacks performed by moving the analog stick in time with pressing the attack button. There are also plenty of items like bombs, blasters, and Pokemon that can hurt enemies, and super-powerful Final Smash attacks and multi-part items that can destroy entire groups of opponents. Most competitive players eschew items for a more balanced experience, but even then there is lots of variety to keep the action fast and frantic.
Super Smash Bros. plays well, and, while the Wii U GamePad feels clunky, you can also play with a Wiimote and nunchuk, Wii U Pro Controller, Nintendo 3DS, and even a Nintendo GameCube controller. These options are handy, because the bulk of the Wii U's main touch screen controller makes it poorly suited for fighting games.
The GameCube is two generations old by now, but it's still held up as the standard for playing Super Smash Bros, just as Super Smash Bros. Melee, the GameCube version of the game, is considered the pinnacle of the series. An optional GameCube Controller Adapter will run you $20. If you don't have any original GameCube controllers (or, if one could be so lucky, a Wavebird), Nintendo offers brand new GameCube controllers just for Super Smash Bros. for $30.
Without a GameCube controller, the gameplay can feel slightly awkward. It works perfectly well, as it did on the 3DS, and the second analog stick helps with smash attacks, but there really is something about the GameCube's big friendly A button and differently sized C-stick that made it the ideal Smash controller.
Controls aside, Super Smash Bros. feels punchy and quick, if not always incredibly precise. Some characters can feel slightly slippery, such as Little Mac and his finicky dashing punch. This generally helps balance out characters; heavier hitters have their own quirks like sluggish or overly sensitive movement to prevent them from seeming overpowered. This isn't a fighting game like Street Fighter or Killer Instinct; although timing is incredibly important, it's less an issue of performing and breaking combos and more an issue of poking at holes and jockeying for a better position.
The Fighters The roster is identical to the 3DS version's lineup. There are plenty of classic characters like Mario, Link, and Samus, plus newcomers like Mega Man, the Duck Hunt dog and bird, the Animal Crossing villager, and the Wii Fit trainer. Some characters are barely more than palette swaps (Pit and Dark Pit, Mario and Luigi and Dr. Mario, Marth and Lucina). Even discounting the copies, however, there are plenty of characters to choose from.
You can also use your custom Miis to create fighters with one of three basic classes: Brawler, Fencer, and Blaster. Both custom Mii characters and the main roster can be customized with different move sets, costumes or palette swaps, and equipment that adjusts their stats. This is also just like the 3DS version, and I go into deeper detail on the customization in that review. It's a fun way to make your own characters, but serious, competitive players will generally dislike it, and the use of custom characters can be turned on and off with one setting.
Lots of Arenas Super Smash Bros. offers several dozen different arenas, each with their own Omega version that turns them into Final Destination-style one-platform stages. The levels seem more balanced than in the 3DS version, with fewer constantly scrolling and arbitrarily hazardous levels like Dream Land and more with a focus on relatively symmetrical platform tiers and dynamically changing but well-balanced layouts.
You can also create your own stages with a custom level editor that makes good use of the Wii U GamePad's touch screen to draw platforms and place hazards. The level editor is a fun extra, but it offers few style choices and can't offer the sort of exciting effects you can find in arenas like Norfair, with its lava waves, or WarioWare Gamer, with its constantly spying mother. The game's built-in levels are simply too detailed and interesting for the level-editor's creations to be able to compare.