Smash Bros. on a console. Where most would agree it works the best. But after the 3DS version serving as a big slice of this generation's Smash Bros. pie, would the WiiU version be able to fight its way out of the shadow of its handheld sibling?
The answer leans more towards yes, and as such I'm not going to cut the review right this instant. Instead, I'm going to draw out some sort of comparison between the two - the biggest of which being how you like to play. On a big screen, Smash is in its element, and with that HD image quality, stages look better than ever. But for those that like to play on the go, the handheld version will be the obvious choice. Another big difference between the two is that new major mode added.
On the handheld it was Smash Run - a five minute rampage against enemies from all types of Nintendo system games, collecting the stat boosts earned from defeating them, then a final fight at the end in an over-the-top sort of battle. With the WiiU, that mode becomes Smash Tour, a board game type mode where four players move around one of three board sizes collecting stats, trophies, and fighters. The stats act like they do in Smash Run, improving your abilities in one of six areas [speed/jump/attack/special/arms/shield] depending on what size and symbol you collect on the board.
Trophies are assists that can help on the board, in battle, or as a special assist. Fighters are what you use whenever a battle takes place by two Mii's meeting each other on a space. These battles are like the special battles you'd get at the end of Smash Run, except it is one stock only. And that stock is the fighter used in battle. At the start of the mode, each player will be given two fighters to begin with. The fighter collected first will be the first into battle. After all rounds have been finished, one final battle takes place using all collected fighters. Thankfully before this, a semi-final complete screen gives bonus fighters and stat boosts for certain specifics - such as no fighters left, most launched, and highest stat gets boosted further.
At the end of the final battle, all the matches that have been played including the final battle get counted for the end results. Don't think keeping fighters will be easy, though. If any two Mii's meet, all four players are called into battle, with no chance of skipping out. You do have the ability to call on a CPU to play in your place for the battle, but sometimes the CPU will make a move that ends terribly bad for you that could have easily been avoided. And if you don't win, you lose the fighter that was brought into battle. I feel the mode itself can be fun, but does little else other than act as a bridge between battles.
All other modes from the 3DS return, but get upgrades. Classic and Stadium modes can be played co-op. Normal Smash gets eight-player Smash, which is hugely chaotic when its a free for all, so its better to use only in team matches. Normal Smash also gets the Special Smash mode return, giving the added customisability of matches, and includes Stamina Smash and Coin Smash. Events mode also returns, coming with branching paths and hidden objectives, as well as a special co-op version with a whole set of new challenges. Classic removes the paths and allows you to choose who you face, with rivals added that get stronger the more you leave them, but give a greater reward. All-Star Mode reverses the date order, going from newest to oldest instead of the handheld way of pitting you against the older foes first.
Also new to Smash 4 WiiU is Special Orders. Master Orders has you pay to challenge a ticket and in turn get a reward if successful. Higher the difficulty, higher the price, but also greater the reward. Crazy Orders tasks you with challenging as many tickets as you can within ten minutes, with only a small health regen between each battle and only one stock, before taking on Crazy Hand himself. The more matches you win, the greater the reward at the end, but lose one battle and all of what you've worked so hard to collect is gone. These modes give a greater challenge than most others, as there is a larger sense of risk-reward.
All of this and I haven't mentioned that little thing known as amiibo. Levelling them up to fifty takes a matter of hours, but they are always learning. They are also useful. Since an amiibo learns from you, it is a much tougher sparring partner than a level nine CPU. Put an amiibo on your team, and you can almost always guarantee a win for your team. Collect more than one, and fully trained amiibo are a spectacle to watch in a full fight. And remember that useful part I mentioned? They collect things, and pass them to you.
All of the customisation options from the handheld version have been lifted over, giving the same moves and Mii outfits from the smaller sibling. You can also transfer characters and Mii Fighters from the 3DS to the WiiU and vice versa, but unfortunately cannot be customised on the console they have been transferred to. Amiibo can also feed on the customisation boosts to upgrade their attack, defence, and speed [but also with a decrease in another stat] as well as gain any special abilities from the custom part they eat.
For the last on the list of this review, there are the new stages. The WiiU version improves on stages, giving access to much better choices in my opinion. There are also more songs per stage, with the ability to customise the rarity of each song. A stage designer allows the player to make stages of their own using the Gamepad, and save them. Making a stage is easy, even if the stage hazards are lacking. Photo Studio allows the use of trophies to make scenes, though there is a limit to only four trophies per scene. It is a good thing to play around with, but does need an SD Card to be in the slot of the console to use.
And I'm only touching upon it here since not a lot needs to be said, but the online mode is very varied. Sometimes it works great. And then one match later there can be lag. And then the next match it can be fine again. It is very random as well, it seems. But playing against other people is still fun.
Recommending Smash Bros. 4 WiiU is easier than the handheld version, but that is simply more to do with the extras added. While online is still sketchy at times, amiibo support more than makes up for that. Add that to Mewtwo soon to be added as a playable character, as well as a new stage, plus tournament mode, and that recommendation only gets easier [Mewtwo is also coming to the 3DS version, and as of February 13th, so will amiibo support].