It’s really hard to believe that Super Smash Bros for the Nintendo 3DS is only the fourth in the series, coming from a franchise that I feel has been around forever. Before my daughter was born, we were at a local kids’ swap meet, and a parent was selling her child’s old Gamecube games. She had a complete black band copy of Super Smash Bros Melee (possibly the best beloved of the series so far,) and that was quite the find in amongst all the baby clothing and sleep sacks we went looking for. Fast forward a few months and the long wait for this generation’s Smash Bros titles is over, starting with the Nintendo 3DS. Let’s get to it!
Let me just start by saying that the entire scope of this game is HUGE. Do you remember those days when you’d buy the handheld version of a game and you’d be missing characters and stages? Not so much anymore. Right off the bat, you get 37 playable characters and 27 playable stages, and that doesn’t even begin to discuss unlocking new fields and characters. You get your standard bread and butter characters like Mario and Luigi, but the companion characters are all over the place here. Animal Crossing, Wii Fit, Kid Icarus, Fire Emblem, Metroid, Pikmin and even Pac-Man are just some of the games involved. Metal Gear Solid fans may be disappointed to know that Solid Snake is gone, but by the time you’ve seen the size of this roster, you won’t miss him.
We start with classic Smash where you will probably get it all started. This is your typical Smash Bros mode where you take on your friends or AI characters in a classic Smash. Right away, you’ll probably see that each character is better for particular levels with particular strategies. Some characters (like the Animal Crossing villager) are just godawful. Part of the strategy of the Smash Bros series is just understanding which characters excel at specific levels. For example, you could be in a world of hurt in sky stages without a character that excels at jumping or flying if you’re pressed offscreen.
The combat engine in this game, much like other Smash Bros games takes a couple minutes to learn, but a long time to master. If you’re just starting out, I’d advise you to start with characters like Charizard, who have a high damage reward, but high risk effect as well. Charizard will help you get used to how some of the special attacks work, yet how reckless it can be if you try to oversimplify the game by using it too often.
Items will periodically appear on the playing field for you to grab and use. These all encompass the many different eras of Nintendo gaming represented, as well as some of the guest stars from other crossover games (like Mega Man and Pac Man) and their respective companies. That leads up to the Final Smash, a finishing move-esque item that has become a fixture in the series. A glowing smash ball appears on the playing field, and if you’re the lucky one that destroys it, you unleash havoc on your opponents. Each character has their own final smash, and they’re all pretty well done. I have to admit that as a big Captain Falcon fan, his was one of my favourites for sure.
Once you’ve played through a set number of Smash battles (or completed a secondary objective,) you’ll be prompted to another fight, whether you win or lose. This fight is a yet unseen character, and beating them will not only unlock them, but their stage as well. You should end up with around 50 characters by the end of it, including Ganondorf and Ness (from Mother 2/Earthbound.) There are some other really cool hidden characters you wouldn’t expect to see, but I don’t want to play spoiler on them.
The Smash Run is an intriguing mode. In it, you run a huge series of mazes punching and beating down all sorts of enemies from Nintendo games (I’m pretty sure that at one point, I was getting chased down a by a Giant Goomba and Gastly simultaneously.) You have 5 minutes to collect all sorts of powerups, and then you fight all of the others that were in the maze with you in a 4 player showdown. This mode is really all about craftiness and speed. You have to dash quite a bit, and learn what your character’s greatest strengths are to attack as much as possible. I wouldn’t recommend getting into Smash Run until you know what you’re doing, because your opponents sure will!
There’s a menu called “Challenges” but it isn’t a challenge mode. Rather, as you do certain things in the game, you will unlock objectives in the challenge menu. The menu is completely hidden at the begining. Once you complete one of these challenges, however, it appears on the menu, and the challenges around it in each 90 degree direction can be read. Some of these are pretty easy (such as play x stage twice in Smash mode) to downright ridiculous (hit a sandbag nearly 1000 ft. in Home Run Derby.) If you complete a certain number, a hammer will appear for you to automatically complete one of the incomplete objectives. Save it for the mini-game stuff.
The “Games and More” tab contains some interesting games. The “Classic” Mode is your basic single player tree mode where you can choose different paths to go down, and face some of the other characters. In some cases, it’ll just be straight 1 on 1 battles, and some will be team. You’ll also face variations of the characters, like giant or metal types. Each battle gets progressively harder, and if you want to ramp the difficulty up straight off the bat, you can pay gold to raise the stakes.
The All-Star Mode is probably my favourite in this game, and one I’ve been anticipating since this game was announced. In this mode, you take on fighters of different eras a few at a time in a gauntlet-style event. This I love, and probably spent the most time playing it. I’ll probably be spending more time playing the WiiU equivalent when that comes out. For some reason, the idea of this mode just clicked with me.
That takes us to the Stadium mini-games, which are cute additions but boy are some of them HARD. The Home Run Derby entices you to beat the snot out of a defenseless sandbag (to charge its damage rating,) pick up a baseball bat and hit it as far as you can. You have 10 seconds to do all this. I think my record is 16 feet. There’s also a minigame where you beat on a bomb and then launch it at a series of targets. That one I fared a bit better on but couldn’t break 100K. These party game-style addons are neat, but they pale in comparison to everything else the game has to offer.
So let’s talk about how this game plays now. This isn’t one of those “If you’ve played one, you’ve played ‘em all” type of titles for me. I’ve got a few of the older Smash Bros games at home, and I don’t feel like this is the same. I mean, the basic gist of the series is there, along with similar KO methods and things, but in a way, the game’s been re-imagined, with so much more added.
You’ll definitely dig the soundtrack and sound effects all over again. Some of the details put into the little things made me chuckle, and definitely made the experience that much more enjoyable. For example, when Mega Man dies, you hear the classic Mega Man death noise from the old games. Playing in Samus’ stage will prompt the old Metroid music. The inclusion of Namco properties was neat, especially the Galaga ship coming to beam you in and fly you away (sadly, the ship doesn’t return with you later to let you beat it to have 2 of your own fighters going simultaneously like the original Galaga.) Hopefully there is more Namco crossovers on the way. The Prince from Katamari could probably wreck shop pretty well.
I do have a legitimate beef with the default controls just because they didn’t make a whole lot of sense. When you’ve gotten used to a specific system Nintendo follows, your head legitimately maps out how controls should work. Case in point – Attack buttons are mapped to B and A, where jump buttons usually have been, and the Y button jumps, when it’s been an attack button. I’m not saying Nintendo’s in the wrong here – Just that I fell off a lot more cliffs and attacked a lot more air spaces because I got my buttons mixed up. That’s the biggest, and really only issue I have with the game. Online gamers will probably have some trouble with online battles, as latency has been an issue early on. Nintendo has already started to patch things a bit though, so it may not be as much of an issue as time goes on. Hopefully it’s a non-issue when the WiiU version comes out.
I can’t get over telling you just how big this game is for the system its on, and you’re going to be able to connect it with the WiiU version when it comes out later this year too, though I’m curious about what capacity since cross-platform play has been rumoured not to be possible due to exclusive content in both games. Still, from top to bottom, Super Smash Bros 3DS is a monument to how far handheld games have come, and it’s definitely one I think series fans old and new will enjoy. There are plenty of gameplay modes to appeal to everybody, and there’s something to keep everybody busy. If this is just the 3DS version, I can’t wait to see what the WiiU version will have in store.
Gameplay: 4.5 / 5
Graphics: 4.5 / 5
Sound: 5 / 5
Controls: 3.5 / 5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5 / 5
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 (90%)
Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS is available now at Best Buy and online at BestBuy.ca