Absolutely smashed...

It’s that time again. A time where legendary icons square off against one another to prove their dominance. The immovable objects clashing against the unstoppable forces of Nintendo’s vast and storied history. Where portly Italian plumbers trade blows with bounty hunters, anthropomorphic mercenaries, pointy eared warriors and the like. It can only be Super Smash Bros., and here we finally have the series’ first portable instalment: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS. Now that it’s here, how does it stack up to the likes of Melee and Brawl? Is that secret ingredient that makes Smash Bros. so compelling still here, or have Nintendo left it by the wayside in favour of a more casual experience? Well, yes and no, but ultimately, Smash fans have nothing to fear from the latest in the series as it brings some of the most satisfying combat in its long history.

Melee To Go

Super Smash Bros. on 3DS has the largest roster in the series to date, featuring nearly 50 fighters from Nintendo’s legendary line of franchises, as well as a few guest appearances from other noteworthy developers. Before release, I had strong doubts about the roster, given the abundance of Fire Emblem and Pokemon characters this time around, as well as a few deliberate clone characters that deviate very little from their more seasoned counterparts. However, my concerns were erased as I reacquainted myself with Smash veterans as well as the newcomers, who for the most part play exceedingly well. While it’s tempting to stay true to your guns and pick someone you’ve loved for the series’ entirety, you’ll likely also fall in love with one of the newcomers.

There are a lot of new fighters this time around, and most are wildly different from one another. Without spoiling any reveals in case you’re not informed, the new characters fill out very mixed playstyles; some are easy to get to grips with, while others have very unorthodox fighting styles and require numerous hours of practice to properly get to grips with.

Super Smash Bros. Luigi

Luigi knew all that “death staring” would get him into trouble.

Of course, with a new entry in the fighting series come the obligatory buffs and nerfs you’d expect. Meta Knight is no longer the singular best character in the game, and characters in the “lower tiers” of previous games, like Zero Suit Samus, King Dedede and Luigi have received significant boosts in power to make them a more viable option. And seriously, sending someone flying from the arena with Luigi’s staple side-B attack never gets old.

This Is How We Brawl

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Smash Bros. series, the aim of each match is not to deplete your opponent’s life bar as is the case in most fighting games, but rather to build up their damage percentage by attacking them. The higher their percentage, the more susceptible they are to be launched from the arena, at which point they explode in a glorious pillar of light, blast off into the distance Team Rocket style, or splat against the TV screen. Depending on the type of match, evicting your opponents from the arena will earn you points or subtract from their stock of lives.

The aim of each match is not to deplete your opponent’s life bar, but rather to build up their damage percentage by attacking them.

It’s not quite as simple as that, though, as each fighter has a moveset unique to them (bar the clone characters of course) and have varying power, defense and speed. For instance, Fox McCloud is extremely fast, though his individual attacks aren’t overly powerful. By stark contrast, Bowser is slower and bulkier, but hits far harder than most of the roster (he’s also immensely fun to play in this version). Each character has standard attacks and special attacks by default assigned to A and B respectively. But it’s not a case of blindly mashing between attacks and hoping for the best; you’ll use some moves as a form of recovery if you get yourself launched from the stage, and some specials are counters that when used at the right time negates your opponent’s attack and returns the damage to them. Think of your special attacks as a tool belt, as properly utilising them is paramount at becoming a better Smash player, as I and many others have learned the hard way.

Simply Smashing

The basics are in place, as you’d expect, but it would obviously be for naught if the actual fighting wasn’t satisfying. But what am I saying? This is, of course, Super Smash Bros. Not only is the combat immensely satisfying, it’s the tightest combat the series has seen since Melee. As enjoyable as Brawl was, I always felt there was something off about the fighting; it felt floatier and not as impactful. That’s thankfully been rectified in Smash, each character handles like you’d expect them to, and the controls are simply sublime, not to mention completely customisable to your liking. It’s not quite as precise as with a Gamecube or Pro Controller, but the 3DS’ controls get the job done. One thing I would say, if you own the smaller 3DS model is to probably play in short bursts (if you can help it), as even on the XL I was feeling hand cramps after a few hours of play.

Super Smash Bros. 3DS Toon Link

Link was happy to defend Luigi’s honour.

A new option available this time is the ability to customise the game’s characters, as well as your own Mii Fighter. For offline matches (as well as the more casual online modes) you are able to customise your favourite fighters to your liking by setting them up to three items that alter their attack, defence and speed stats. The caveat is that all items both add and subtract from the default values. Want more defence? You’re going to lose some speed. Want more speed? Attack is gonna take a hit. Some of these items also have special traits, such as faster recovery times, and food items being able to replenish more of your life. It’s a very interesting system open for experimentation, and is shockingly addictive to toy with, though hardcore Smash players likely won’t get much use out of it.

Mode Mayhem

Smash’s single player offerings, unlike previous games in the series, are sadly lacking in content here. Returning are the Classic and All-Star modes, which have seen slight changes. You’ll also find the Stadium, home to the Home-Run Contest, as well as Multi-Man Smash (and all of its classic sub-modes within) and a new game known as Target Blast. Classic mode is not quite as you remember it, and is strangely shorter than ever. Over six stages, you choose your path on the overworld map, with difficulty coded by colour; blue being the easiest, then green, and red as the hardest option. Higher difficulty stages naturally offer better rewards for completing them. At the end, series staple Master Hand returns as well as his insane cohort, Crazy Hand. There’s also a secret final boss that can be accessed when playing on a certain “intensity.” These intensities are not dissimilar to what we saw in Sakurai’s previous 3DS title: Kid Icarus: UprisingEssentially, at the start of Classic Mode, you can bet more coins to increase the difficulty, ranging from 1.0 all the way up to 9.0; the higher the intensity, the greater and rarer your rewards.

It’s also worth noting just how tough the AI can be in this new Smash. The AI seems to have received a complete overhaul, and is able to predict your attacks, block, dodge and counter accordingly with your playstyle, much like another human player would. It’s very refreshing and surprisingly feels genuine. You might argue that an AI being able to predict your attacks could be considered cheap, but it’s managed in a way that overcoming tough opponents is satisfying, and the added rewards help in this regard, too.

Super Smash Bros 3DS battle

The calm before the brawl.

So Classic mode is pretty awesome, and one of the best ways to earn rewards such as coins, trophies, and additional moves for your characters. On the flipside, All-Star mode sadly feels like a bit of an afterthought this time around. It’s unlocked right from the get-go, and only has three set difficulty levels. As you unlock more characters, the mode will gradually lengthen, but once you unlock them all, it plays out in the same way every time and is incredibly easy, even on the hardest difficulty. Being simple fights between 6-8 other combatants who drop in as you defeat others, the mode lacks the variety found in Classic mode, and if it weren’t for the bonus trophies that are only unlockable in All-Star, it wouldn’t be worth playing at all.

Exclusive to the 3DS version of Smash is a mode called Smash Run. Playable both solo and in local multiplayer (no online for this mode sadly), players are tasked with exploring a huge maze, defeating enemies related to the game’s fighters, to collect stat boosts. These boosts can increase things like your jumping ability, speed, attack power and so on. Scattered throughout the maze are various challenges that can be completed for huge rewards. Additional moves, abilities and the occasional trophy can also be picked up in this mode, so exploring is definitely worth it. Treasure and enemy placement is of course different each time you play, but the maze remains the same. Smash Run lasts five minutes and culminates in a final battle between the four entrants. These final battles are quite varied; they can range from a simple fight or a bout of Multi-Man Smash, to something a bit more interesting, like a race through various obstacle courses. It’s a great mode that’s best played with friends, though after a while it’s not quite as compelling as a straight up Smash battle between your buddies.

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And that pretty much rounds out the game’s single player offerings. There’s sadly no Adventure mode this time around which is a huge shame. I remember the days of playing Melee’s awesome Adventure mode, and playing through Brawl’s Subspace Emissary with a friend. There’s none of that here in the 3DS version, which is disappointing. Thankfully, the game’s multiplayer offerings step up to the plate to make up for it.

A Duel Among Friends (and Enemies)

Smash on 3DS, as you’d expect, features all the multiplayer goodness you’re used to. You’re able to jump right into a match with friends locally, and play with them online. Online matches are divided into two modes. First is “For Fun,” which is essentially the game’s more casual mode. Items are enabled, as well as stage hazards. As your records are not saved in this mode, it can be used to simply pass the time, get to know the stages and items better, and just have a good time. For the more serious Smash player is the “For Glory” option. In this mode, all items are disabled, and only the Final Destination versions of the stages are allowed. It’s Smash at its purest; just you and your opponent, as well as your skill levels. This mode can be played in a 4 player free-for-all, 2 vs 2 team battles, or the more serious 1 vs 1 mode, where I’m sure hardcore Smash fans will spend a good chunk of their time. If you’re a Smash veteran, or are serious about getting better at the game, For Glory mode is the way to go.

In some areas, it’s the best Smash Bros. game yet.

That pretty much wraps up all that 3DS Smash has to offer. In some areas, it’s the best Smash Bros. game yet, but in other areas, it’s found lacking. In many ways it does feel like it’s going to be the Wii U version’s little brother, though that remains to be seen. In the meantime, the amount of content on offer here simply cannot be faulted, and it’s another solid entry in Nintendo’s legendary fighting franchise.

 Thanks for Playing!