It’s hard to believe it’s been over six years since we last saw a new release in the Super Smash Bros. series. Nintendo’s iconic crossover fighting franchise is instantly recognisable for its ensemble cast and unique form of fighting gameplay which has gained a cult following on the competitive scene over the past 15 years. Typically a console series best played with a GameCube controller, Nintendo – along with series developers Sora Ltd. and Bandai Namco (who have stepped in to offer extra assistance in this case) – are taking the series to pastures new. Super Smash Bros. is finally making the jump to a handheld platform – the 3DS.
• Developer: Sora Ltd. & Bandai Namco Games
• Publisher: Nintendo
• Reviewed on: Nintendo 3DS
• Release Date: Available Now
Upon the initial announcement of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS at E3 2013 there was a lot of scepticism, cynicism and a myriad of questions. How could a traditionally console based fighting game make the transition to the 3DS? Wouldn’t the screen be too small? Could the 3DS handle the monumental task of rendering the chaos of Super Smash Bros. whilst retaining a decent framerate? Would it be easy to adjust to a different control scheme on the 3DS?
After spending time playing the demo, queuing to play the game over and over at EGX and finally sinking nearly 20 hours into the retail release this past week I’m happy to report that Super Smash Bros. for 3DS isn’t just a great game, it might be the best in the series so far.
The control scheme is great and has made a good transition from the traditional GameCube layout many veterans of the series know and love. It was by far the biggest concern many people had, but the buttons are laid out sensibly with the thumb stick used for basic movement – and jumping if you like, with a flick upwards on the stick-, attacks mapped to the A and B buttons, blocking is on the right shoulder button and grabbing is on the left shoulder button. It might take time to adjust, but once you get used to it, you won’t even realise you’re not using a GameCube controller. My only worry with the controls is that the thumb stick might not be designed for a movement intensive game like Super Smash Bros. There have already been reports of thumb sticks coming off of 3DS’s after prolonged play sessions which could prove to be a problem.
Upon booting up the game for the first time you’re greeted with a myriad of options. You can head straight into a battle from the get go with 37 characters to choose from – the largest starting roster in a Super Smash Bros. game to date – including veterans such as Mario, Link, Kirby, Pikachu and Samus or a variety of newcomers to the fight such as the Villager from Animal Crossing, Shulk from Xenoblade Chronicles, Robin from Fire Emblem: Awakening or Greninja from Pokémon X/Y. It’s great to have variety from the get go and there are also 9 secret characters to unlock – 5 veterans and 4 newcomers. Third party characters such as Namco’s Pac-Man, Capcom’s Mega Man and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog are unlockable from the get go too, letting you finally settle those age old questions of who would win in no holds barred, hand to hand combat.
There are also 34 different stages to battle it out on. There are the classic Battlefield and Final Destination competitive stages from the past games in the series sporting a brand new look and then there are the stages based upon the different game series represented – and since this is the 3DS version, a lot of the stages are based on handheld games. You can battle it out on Rainbow Road from Mario Kart 7, Prism Tower from Pokémon X/Y, 3D Land from Super Mario 3D Land or a stage based on Tomodachi Life populated by your Mii’s . A minor gripe I have is that a third of the stages have been brought back from previous games. Admittedly most of them are decent stages such as Corneria from Star Fox and Jungle Japes from Donkey Kong, but I don’t really think we needed to see a return of the god awful Mushroomy Kingdom.
Thankfully, a new feature allows even the most god awful stages to be salvaged. Clicking “X” on the stage select screen allows you to turn any stage into an “omega” or Final Destination version of itself. These stages are completely flat with no hazards and are where competitive players will find themselves most at home. It also allows you to listen to some of the awesome music which accompanies the gameplay which you wouldn’t get to experience if you simply played on the regular Final Destination stage.
Super Smash Bros. has always been known for its massive and epic soundtrack, featuring remixes from top composers in the games industry of popular themes from the various series represented. Some of the standout pieces in the game are the Trainer Battle (Pokémon X/Y) remix, the Mega Man 2 Medley as well as a complete do over of the “Menu” theme from Super Smash Bros. Melee which is – as an understatement – epic. A nifty little feature that has been added in is the ability to favourite chosen pieces of music from the game and also listen to them when your 3DS is in sleep mode – like an MP3 player.
From a gameplay standpoint the game handles and plays like Super Smash Bros. Brawl but is slightly faster paced. The awful tripping mechanic from Brawl has been removed as has the art of “edge hogging” – holding onto the side of a stage so another fighter can’t recover – which might upset some on the competitive scene. A new feature which is minor but makes a difference is the fluidity of characters dropping from ledges. Characters now go into a forward roll opening up opportunities for sneak attacks and spiking moves to finish an opponent. The basic premise of the game remains the same as it has done for 15 years. You deal enough damage to opposing characters – represented by a percentage on the touch screen – before using a “smash attack” to send them flying off the stage. The higher the percentage of damage, the easier it is to smash an opponent.
For the first time in the series history you can also customise characters with unique move sets which are earned through playing the game. You can also customise a Mii character to your liking with clothes and move sets, so yourself – or anyone you can create – can join the battle. Custom characters cannot be used in the competitive side of online play however.
Whilst the game doesn’t feature a story mode in the same way as Super Smash Bros. Brawl did there are more than enough modes on offer to keep you occupied. Most people’s first port of call will be “Classic mode” where you choose a character to battle through a series of stages against differing characters. Classic mode features branching pathways that your character can take, each one with a varying amount of gold you can obtain as well as an unknown opposing character to fight. For example, the first branch you reach after starting will have three paths which could have the emblem for the Mario series, the Pokémon series and the Fire Emblem series. You have a limited time to pick a path before you’re forced down one. As a further example, if you pick the path labelled with the Pokémon emblem, then you could be faced by Pikachu in a normal battle, or you could be teamed up with a random character to take on Pikachu and Charizard at the same time – or maybe something else, it’s completely randomised each time you play.
Classic mode gets considerably harder when you ramp up the difficulty. When you reach the end, you’ll be given the choice to fight series veteran boss Master Hand or – if you’re feeling bold – can choose to take on Master Hand and his significantly more dangerous counterpart Crazy Hand at the same time. It’s entirely up to you, but if you choose to go big instead of going home you’ll be handsomely rewarded with trophies, gold and power-ups/clothing items for your Mii characters. Play classic mode on a high enough difficulty and you’ll be forced into a fight with Master/Crazy Hand regardless if you want it or not where they’ll transform into the Master Core, one of the most challenging bosses in the series so far, and who you’ll need to be on top form to defeat.
If classic mode isn’t your cup of tea, there is also all-star mode. This is where you’ll fight characters based on their year of introduction, starting with Pac-Man in 1981 and ending with Greninja in 2013. It’s a fun mode where you’ve got one life and limited recovery items in a safe area in between fights. All-star mode might be something you want to hold off on until you’ve unlocked all 9 secret characters however, in order to get the full – and challenging – experience.
A brand new mode which is exclusive to the Super Smash Bros. for 3DS which can be a lot of fun is Smash Run. Smash Run places you and three other characters into an open world for five minutes in order to defeat NPC’s based on enemies from various series – Shy Guys, Re-deads, various Pokémon etc. – in order to acquire stat boosts. These can boost your attack, your jumping, your speed and other attributes. Occasionally there will be random events highlighted – such as a mini boss like the Reaper from Kid Icarus – which will drop a lot of boosts if you can overcome them. There are also chests to collect through the level and you can even choose which music plays when you’re playing which is a nice touch. At the end of the five minutes, everyone battles it out with their stat boosted character to see who will be crowned the victor. It’s fun, unique and is a great laugh when playing with others.
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS also has a robust online section where you can take part in two modes. These modes are dubbed “For Fun” and “For Glory”. For Fun mode lets you battle it out with friends or random players on every stage – except Final Destination – with all items on and where your wins and losses are not recorded. For Glory mode is the exact opposite, you’ll only be able to play on Final Destination stages, items are not on and your wins and losses are recorded. For Glory is a great place for the more competitive players to thrive but dipping into the For Fun mode once in a while is great to unwind.
You can also spectate other player’s matches and bet your gold on which player will win – a returning feature from Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Gold can be used for more than betting in the spectator mode though, you can use it to buy new trophies or ramp up the difficulty to the extreme in Classic mode. Trophies are a series hallmark in Super Smash Bros. which give you more information about the various game series and the characters, locations and items within them. Getting new trophies always warrants a visit to your gallery every now and again to read up on what you’ve been rewarded with and enlighten yourself on game series you might not be familiar with.
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is a technological marvel that has pushed the system to its limits. The game looks gorgeous and runs at a solid 60FPS nearly all of the time – I noticed a few drops during specific character’s final smash moves – whilst items such as assist trophies and Poké Balls – which summon NPC help – run at a consistent 30FPS which is a good compromise. The 3DS screen does feel quite small sometimes and it’s very easy to lose track of where your character is when things get overly hectic. It’s probably the only shortcoming of an overall brilliantly put together game.
Overall, I can’t recommend Super Smash Bros. for 3DS enough. It takes everything that is great about the series and condenses it down into a smaller – but still undeniably content filled package – that is well worth your time and attention. If you’ve never played a game in the franchise, there’s never been a better time to jump in when you can take the game with you on the go. With Super Smash Bros. for Wii U releasing in just a couple of months I can’t wait to see how Nintendo will be able to top the offering they’ve just given us.