Super Smash Brothers (3DS) Review
For over a decade, fans have been clamoring for a means to take one of their favorite fighting games on the road, and Nintendo has delivered in a very big way.
Back in ‘99, I received the latest Nintendo Power in the mail, and was overjoyed to see that they felt the need to plop all of their flagship characters into a fighting game while keeping the experience both family friendly and incredibly fun to play. I walked into my local FuncoLand shortly after launch, traded in a few old N64 games, and requested a copy of “Super Buster Brothers.” They laughed, corrected me, and fulfilled my desire promptly. There was something strange in the air… They didn’t seem to understand why I absolutely had to have the game, or the potential it had. Something tells me they felt a little silly later on, once they had a chance to see what it was and what it represented.
Now, in 2014, we finally get a chance to see how the game plays on the small screen. A few minor concessions have been made to accommodate the hardware. Zelda and Sheik have been split into separate characters. During gameplay, lower-resolution character models are used, but are swapped for much nicer looking counterparts for screenshots while paused. With the frantic pace of the game, you won’t notice these changes. All the glory and fun that is Smash is fully represented in the 3DS release.
Smash Brothers for 3DS offers the best the series has to boast, with an insane amount of collectibles, challenges to overcome, and ways to distill the game’s basic formula into bite-sized chunks.This way, no matter what amount of time you have to invest, you’ll have a great time doing so. I love being able to open my DS for a few minutes, get in a round or two, and feel my time helped unlock trophies, moves, or Mii customization items I didn’t have before.
This time around, Nintendo has managed to factor in a few familiar faces to old-school gamers in their roster, and they do them them a great justice in the process. MegaMan has many of the classic moves from his original games, and he feels right at home in the SSB arena. Pac-Man, one of the most infamous characters in the video game world, shines bright with his signature style, and pays homage to other Namco staples including Dig-Dug, Galaga, and Space Invaders, to name a small few.
Nintendo has clearly struck a very strong balance across the incredibly impressive roster of 49 characters (51 if you would like to add all of the Mii Fighter variations to that list). Fans of the genre should know that this is not an easy task to accomplish. Rest assured, no matter who you desire to play as, you will have a wonderful time mastering that particular character’s ins and outs. True to Smash Brothers tradition, you’ll see characters who are light on their feet and others who are slow but devastating powerhouses.
Included with the game are several modes, all of which are digestible from quick 10-minute sessions to day-long binges without sacrificing your feeling of progress. “Smash Mode” is the most basic of these, pitting up to four players in customizable bouts for a single fight. “Smash Run” drops you into a maze filled with enemies from various games, treasure chests, and icons you can pick up to boost your character’s stats. This culminates in various challenges, from a classic four-player Smash bout, to a footrace to a finish-line filled with obstacles. The classic “Home-Run contest” returns, a longtime fan favorite, in which you’re given 10 seconds to deal as much damage as you can to poor Sandbag, before smash-attacking him with the Home-Run Bat to see how far he is launched. Target smash has a new variation in this version of the game, which feels more like a stage from Angry Birds than anything else. You launch a bomb into an arena filled with wooden blocks and targets, hoping to destroy as many as possible with only two attempts. Other past SSB staples are available, such as All-Star Mode (pitting you against the entire roster with a single life) and Multi-Man Melee, which includes several spins on the concept, ranging from “Defeat 10 as quick as possible” to “Endless Mode,” which forces you to lay everything you have on the table. Without a doubt, Smash Brothers on 3DS will put your skills to the test.
As of the time of writing, online-centric players will find they will be facing off against Little Mac (the boxing-neophyte player character from Punch-Out!!) or King Dedede (of Kirby series fame) more often than not. Little Mac has a unique mechanic where after taking a certain amount of damage, a meter fills and allows him to unleash a devastating uppercut, almost certain to KO if it connects. King Dedede, on the other hand, has several extremely powerful smash attacks that many players seem to favor. While there may be a slight skew for these two in terms of preference, Nintendo has their first opportunity in the series to fine-tune things with downloadable updates if necessary. The online offerings, of course, allow you to single out your friends and challenge them to more personal duels, or to face off against total strangers over the internet. The online portion of the game is very well designed and, in general, doesn’t offer even a hint of latency despite players being thousands of miles apart. Nintendo also has a system in place to use specific characters which contribute to a global score across various criteria. Players who contribute to this will earn special rewards for doing so, such as exclusive character customizations.
Another welcomed first for the series: players can unlock and utilize several variations on their favorite character’s movesets. For instance, Mario’s Fireball special attack can be modified to be fast and bouncy or slow, deliberate, and extremely powerful. Unlocking these skills for each character takes time due to the random distribution of these awards. However, fans who put in the time have the option to essentially create their own version of their favorite fighter. With this system in place, online and tournament play will no doubt become far more intense that it has ever been. These variations also show signs of an effort to balance the game, a further credit to Nintendo for allowing this while keeping things generally fair for all who play in any given match.
The 3DS version of the game has many arenas based on Nintendo’s handheld blockbusters, such as The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks and the living room from Nintendogs. One of my favorite additions, which will surely appeal to die-hard fans of the series, is that every arena offers an alternate mode that closely resembles the very basic and skill-testing Final Destination. While themed with the chosen stage’s flora and fauna, this alternate stage mode pits fighters on one large singular platform, with no other distractions. Pac-Man’s home stage allows players to collect dots simply by running into them, rewarding players at intervals of 100 with a super pellet. A few Smash Brothers favorites return as well, such as Corneria from Star Fox and Brinstar from Metroid.
As a devoted fan since the game’s inception, I can safely say that the 3DS version, and presumptively the Wii U release, will finally dethrone Melee as the king of smash games. With portability, a wide selection of characters and stages to chose from, and some of the best refinement ever seen in a fighting game, Super Smash Brothers is a must-play. Whether you are a Nintendo fan, a fighting game aficionado, or if you’re just looking for a game that allows you to pick it up, play for five minutes, and feel as though you’ve spent your time wisely, you’ll enjoy Super Smash Brothers.
I do wish Nintendo had included their classic “Target Test” mode, or something along the lines of the broader single-player experience offered up by Super Smash Brothers Brawl, which loosely tied the characters stories together. However, with the other new offerings provided, and the variety in this version of the game, I’m finding it hard to truly miss these features. They may find their way in some form to the Wii U release, but in terms of a portable Smash Brothers experience, they have managed to hit on all the right notes and give something for everyone to work towards.
Who would win in a fight between Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, MegaMan, and Pac-Man? For the first time in your life, you can find out the answer to this question with this wonderful addition to the 3DS library.