• Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
  • Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
  • Pac-Man is a new addition to the cast
  • Amiibo will work with other games too
  • It'll be here in time for Christmas

Apologies to the die-hards out there still clinging to the candy-coloured nostalgia of their youth, but the Wii U has been a borderline disaster for Nintendo. Yes, there are a handful of truly great games, but third-party developers bailed out early and the hardware feels underpowered and still overpriced.

As with many of the company's past platforms, it's now fallen on Nintendo to provide most of the meaningful games going forward, and none is bigger in the months ahead than Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Like earlier entries, the latest of the cartoonish brawling series brings together all manner of fighters from Nintendo's own franchises, along with guests from other iconic classics.

A similar version just launched for Nintendo 3DS, but it'll be the Wii U game that satisfies the most fans, delivering epic four-player big-screen brawls. And it'll also be the first proving ground for the Amiibo smart figurine platform, not to mention the biggest Wii U game of the holiday season by far. Ready to throw down? Here's what you need to know.

READ MORE: Nintendo Wii U review

It's (mostly) more of the same

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Maybe that's not the most exciting place to start, but it's true: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is ultimate comfort food for Nintendo fans, and we expect they'll eat it right up. That's not a bad thing at all; after the company's earlier attempts to create innovative second-screen experiences, they're just focusing now on making great games, full stop.

As ever, you'll battle it out on large, multi-tiered stages with up to four characters at a time (online or in the same room), using special attacks and items to try and defeat your foes or push them off the of the platforms. Super Smash Bros. trades in simple actions and inputs, and finds fun in chaos and competition rather than complexity.

And don't worry, you don't need to use the hulking Wii U GamePad if you don't want to: Nintendo will release an adaptor to make GameCube controllers – long the preferred input device of series fans – compatible with the console, plus Wii Remotes and their Classic Controller attachments all work as well.

But there are big new features

In addition to announcing the holiday release not long before it’s due out in stores, Nintendo has also just recently dumped some rather significant info about the game.

For example, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U will introduce eight-player skirmishes for the first time, doubling the typical player tally. It’ll only be for local matches, and they’ll only work on certain stages enlarged for the purpose, but that ought to prove some rather chaotic action. Hope you have a huge television (and a ton of controllers)!

The Wii U version also implements a new Smash Tour mode, which uses a board game-like screen to let you and up to three other players play a lengthier game together. You’ll snag various power-ups as you move across the board, and then you can take those into battle.

Additionally, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U features an array of time-limited demos of classic games like Super Mario BrosMetroidKid Icarus, and Super Mario Kart. With links to the eShop to purchase full versions of each, it looks to be half Nintendo history museum, half interactive sales pitch. Catch a glimpse at various Wii U features in the lengthy walkthrough video above.

The cast is enormous

Pac-Man is a new addition to the cast

Nintendo mainstays like Mario, Link, Pikachu, Samus Aran, and Donkey Kong are all back to headline the 50-plus strong selection of fighters, plus you'll find familiar characters from all manner of game franchises, large and small—including returning guest star Sonic the Hedgehog.

The new additions are enticing, however, with the Wii Fit Trainer and Punch-Out's Little Mac headlining the list, along with characters from Fire Emblem, Kid Icarus, and Xenoblade Chronicles joining up. But it's the added guest characters that will probably draw the most attention, as both Capcom's Mega Man and Namco's Pac-Man are playable for the first time.

And if you can't settle on an existing combatant for whatever reason, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U also introduces a trio of Mii Fighters: Brawler, Gunner, and Swordfighter. Each can be customized in both appearance and move set, allowing you to develop a character that matches your preferred play style.

Amiibo? Amiibo

Amiibo will work with other games too

Nintendo has seen the success enjoyed by the Skylanders and Disney Infinity series, and wants a piece of the action—but its own line of NFC chip-enabled figurines won't be limited to a single game. The Amiibo toys will work with several upcoming titles, including Mario Party 10 and Yoshi's Wooly World, and Mario Kart 8 will also be patched to add support.

However, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U will be the first to interact with the detailed figurines, and you'll be able to tap an Amiibo toy on the Wii U GamePad to pull your version of the character into the game. The figure will track your in-game stats and let you customize your move set, allowing you to easily bring the custom version of Kirby or Peach or whoever else to a mate's flat.

Amiibo figures are set to launch in late November, just days before Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. The initial line includes Mario, Yoshi, Link, Samus Aran, Fox, Kirby, Pikachu, Donkey Kong, Marth, Peach, Villager, and Wii Fit Trainer. A second line with Zelda, Captain Falcon, Luigi, Diddy Kong, Pit, and Little Mac will follow before Christmas.

Portable punches

As mentioned earlier, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS was just released, and it's very similar in terms of core gameplay and roster, albeit with a cel-shaded look that better fits the smaller screen. A multiplayer fighter of this type isn't the most obvious match for a portable system, but reviews have been largely strong.

The handheld release includes a few bonus modes, including the single-player Smash Run quest and a StreetPass option, plus you can use your Nintendo 3DS as a controller for the Wii U game if you have both versions. Additionally, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS will accommodate the extra control inputs added to the New Nintendo 3DS hardware out next year.

Die-hards will probably want both versions anyway, but Nintendo is providing real incentive beyond having the experience at home and on the go. A bonus fighter, Mewtwo from Pokemon, will be available as downloadable content to owners of both versions in early 2015, plus anyone who registers both versions with Club Nintendo will receive a two-disc soundtrack CD set.

Wreak Christmas chaos

It'll be here in time for Christmas

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U seemed like it would miss 2014 entirely, but Nintendo just recently announced that it will launch on 5 December. And it's a good thing, too, since the rest of the Wii U autumn lineup is either a bit second-tier (Hyrule Warriors) or very adult-centric in focus (Bayonetta 2). Smash Bros, on the other hand, has a much broader appeal in line with the Wii U itself.

It's hard to believe that one game will turn around the fortune's of the company's current console, but for those who already bought one – or are teetering on the edge of making it a holiday acquisition – the late-year release of Super Smash Bros. should be a fairly momentous occasion.

READ MORE: The six Nintendo Wii U games you need to play