(It is important to note that in preparation to review this game I have been playing on a regular 3DS. Experiences playing the game on a 2DS or 3DS XL may differ slightly, but these variables are addressed within the review).
For the past year or so Nintendo has been all Smash, all the time, but is Super Smash Bros for the 3DS the final smash we’ve been waiting for, or just a light tease until the Wii U version is released?
Systems: 3DS exclusive
Multiplayer: 1 – 4 players
(local & online)
If I had to outline the one major concern I had for Smash 3DS, it would be control. If there’s one thing that a fighting game needs in order to succeed it’s a good control scheme and fluid movement. Many people felt alienated by the ‘floatiness’ of the Wii installment of the series, Super Smash Bros Brawl, after the fast-paced gameplay of Super Smash Bros Melee that so many people spent almost seven years loving. Understandably I was sceptical as to what end of the spectrum Smash 3DS would lean, upon playing the game I was pleasantly surprised. Subjectively, the game’s pace reminds me more of Melee than it does of Brawl, however some of the heavier characters like Bowser and King Dedede do retain that floaty aspect. That’s what Smash 3DS gets right the whole ‘floaty vs fast’ conflict, fast characters like Fox, Greninja and Sonic feel fast and slow characters feel slower. This is a stark contrast to Brawl, where everyone felt slow. This adds greatly to the depth of the fighting and allows players, with different strategies and preferences, to play to their strengths.
A sub-section of my concern for control was the lack of a C-Stick or any Circle Pad Pro support. When the game was first announced I imagined using the CPP right analogue stick as a C-stick, allowing me to up-smash to my heart’s content like the glory days of Melee. Instead, to perform ‘smash’ attacks you simply press A and one of four directions on the 3DS analogue stick; up, down, left and right. This method is actually quite responsive, although it took me a few fights to get used to at first, you may find yourself smashing in the wrong direction or not smashing at all.
My second major concern for this game was whether it would be hard to see everything that’s going on in a four-player match on a regular 3DS-sized screen. As soon as I saw footage of the game I knew I wanted to turn off the obnoxious-looking black outline around the characters which, thankfully, you are able to. Despite the regular 3DS’s small screen size I was always able to keep track of my character during a fight and, frankly, the game looks gorgeous and polished. I can only imagine that the game looks even more impressive on a 3DS XL. Also very important for a fast-paced fighting game is the fact that the game consistently runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second, a number I didn’t notice dip throughout my three weeks of playing. It is also reported that having the 3D slider on full does not affect the game’s framerate.
Moving on to characters. There’s a lot of them. When you boot up the game for the first time you’ll have access to 37 characters including Smash Bros staples; Link, Captain Falcon, Samus (now with Zero Suit Samus as a separate character) and new arrivals such as Animal Crossing’s Villager, Mega Man and Xenoblade’s Shulk. This gives both new players and returning fans alike a huge character pool to instantly dive in to and figure out which styles they like and which characters don’t work for them. Spanning almost every major Nintendo franchise, and more, 49 characters make up the entire character roster of Super Smash Bros 3DS.
It was also recently announced that Mewtwo, a character who was absent in Super Smash Bros Brawl, will be returning as DLC in early 2015, bringing the total character number up to 50.
Elements of character customisation have been implement into the game to allow you to further tailor your favourite characters to your preferred style of play. Using the new Customise Character feature you are able to shuffle around a character’s moveset, as well as attaching unlockable power-up items that will increase (and decrease) certain aspects of the character such as speed and defence. Don’t worry about everyone else’s characters being unbeatable though, as customised characters are an option you can turn off in the game rules, just like items. You are also able to create unique fighters from Mii characters on your 3DS by choosing one of three character specialisations; Brawler, Gunner and Sword Fighter.
Smash 3DS has decided to do-away with the story-driven ‘Subspace Emissary’ mode from Brawl, instead focussing on what many people love about Smash Bros, being able to easily to play a few games with friends. Smash 3DS has both online and local capabilities, the former with a surprisingly low amount of lag. Online matchmaking features both a casual ‘For Fun’ unranked mode and a more ‘competitive’ ‘For Glory’ ranked mode, where items will always be switched off and many matches will use the Final Destination version of each stage. The userface for matchmaking & joining/hosting a match is simple and easy to use (and a pleasure to look at, much like all the menus in the game). Likewise, the game’s rules menus are intuitive and make it easy to figure out the minor details, such as turning off that one item that you, and all your friends, deeply despise.
While we’re on the subject of items, almost every single item in the game seems reasonably balanced expect fot one UFO… thing (which upon further research appears to be a Galagan bug). This thing will ruin your day. Using this item will make it fly around the screen for a bit before it hovers in one place above the stage, projecting down a UFO-like tractor beam. If any of your opponents walk into that tractor beam, they’re done. One hit KO. I feel it’s slightly overpowered and usually turn this item off, but you might be brave enough to live in fear of being carried off to Acapulco Bay by a Galagan bug. Aside from that minor, personal, issue I feel that many of the items are what you would expect from Smash Bros; a variety of swords, guns, pokeballs and various other gaming paraphernalia you can use to whittle down your opponents or heal yourself!
For those of you who prefer to play alone, fret not. Although there’s no definitive ‘story’ mode this time around, Classic Mode (a fight-by-fight staple of the fighting game genre) makes it’s return, All-Star mode which has you take on each character in the order of their video game debut and not forgetting various ‘stadium’ modes such as Home-Run Contest, Multi-Man Smash modes and Target Blast. There’s also the flagship solo mode for Smash 3DS, Smash Run. This mode has you run around a Subspace Emissary-esque overworld for five minutes, defeating as many enemies as you can in order to collect powers that enhance your character’s strength, speed, jump height and many more variables. After the five minutes are up you are placed into an arena with your three competitors and fight it out with your empowered characters. Personally I did not enjoy this mode, I found five minutes way to long to be trudging around the overworld mindlessly killing enemies.
It should be a testament to this game that I will not be able to cover everything in this review. Vastly different characters, more than a handful of both new, unique and familiar stages (complete with their own ‘competitive Final Destination mode), hundreds of trophies, challenges, new items and so much more.
I cannot stress enough that this game is not short in content. There was an air of scepticism around this game’s release, the idea that Smash 3DS was just a filler game, a quick cash-in before the ‘definitive’ Wii U version is released this Winter. However, make no mistake, if this were the only Smash Bros game to be released in the next few years, not too many people would play this game and think. “well… where’s the rest of the game?”. It’s all here and it’s so much fun.