Like so many others I was wary of Super Smash Bros 3DS when it was announced, could Nintendo’s famed mascot brawler not only make the transition to handheld, but could it do it well? Happily then I’m ecstatic to say that the heart of Smash Bros assuredly beats within this first portable version of the series. If nothing else Smash Bros 3DS feels deserving of the name, everything I’d expect from the series is here and wrapped up in a nice package. Smash Bros 3DS isn’t without problems, but the awe-inspiring achievement of delivering a Smash Bros game of such a high standard far out-weighs the games relatively few misgivings.
From the moment Smash 3DS starts up series veterans will feel they’ve come home. Although the main menus are a little confusing initially thanks to a strange layout it didn’t take me too long to get familiarized. Once I’d picked a game mode though and the character select screen popped up everything fell back into place – exactly I remember it. A grid of playable brawlers stretches across the 3DS’s top screen adorned with the faces tens of fighters including not only returning Nintendo favorites like Link, Mario, Pikachu and Samus, but plenty of newcomers too. Fire Emblem Awakening’s Robin, Punch Out’s Little Mac and Pokemon’s Geninja are just a few examples of those making their Smash Bros debut. The roster is even home to third party stars like Megaman and Pacman. No matter their origin though each character and everything they bring with them are handled with immaculate care – not one person, animal or monster feels short changed.
Unlike some of the earlier Smash Bros games each member of the 49 character strong roster feels truly unique. Even once similar fighters like Mario and Luigi feel like different beasts in this 3DS installment. The diverse fighter set means there’s a favorite waiting for everyone, but the brilliance of Smash is that every character handles in fundamentally the same way. Once you’ve learned how to play one hero the skill is easily transferable to all the others. Working out each fighters individual intricacies and discovering your favorites provide some of Smash’s best moments.
The same goes for all of Smash’s stages, each pays homage to the series it’s plucked from with absolute reverence and none of the impressive selection feel phoned in. From Mario Bros and Pac-man to Nintendogs and Fire Emblem Smash 3DS effortless provides stages inspired by the full scope of Nintendo’s handheld heritage. Many of the stages feature dynamic dangers, infamous Mega Man villain the yellow devil makes for a dangerous moving obstacle in the Willey’s castle for example. Best part is if your adverse to the stage hazards you can turn them off allowing you to turn any stage into a straight forward smash lacking any obstacles. In effect I could transform any stage into a sort of palette swapped Final Destination – a welcome edition for hardcore Smash players.
Everyone of Smash Bros’ 49 playable brawlers and 24 stages not only feel great but look absolutely fantastic. Smash Bros is a remarkable achievement for 3DS running at a contrast 60 frames per second, I never once saw the action even begin to move from that rate. The fact Smash 3DS looks so amazing whilst retaining the buttery smooth rate though is what makes the achievement so remarkable. Naturally this 3DS doesn’t look quite as good as the up coming Wii U version but even so every fighter still has their own charming animations and even has wears their own detailed facial expressions that can be adored through the in-game camera which can be utilized at any time during a battle. It’s easy to lose so much time just trying to set up photo’s with friends, and who could blame you? Smash 3DS just looks amazing.
That’s not to say that Smash 3DS is flawless. They are a couple of niggling points of contention that become issues fairly regular in battle. First of all the 3DS, both XL and regular, do not have the best control scheme for fighters. As such it took me a few hours to really get in to the swing of battle, my biggest gripe was the fact the D-Pad is reserved for taunts and not movement. This isn’t too much of an issue on a home console controller but 3DS’s sliding disc analog didn’t quite fill the gap for me and they were a few occasions found myself accidentally pulling off the wrong moves thanks to an unintended analog position. Most frequently I’d pull of a horizontal move instead of vertical one, as a result I would fall to my death. It’s an irritating flaw for a game whose many inputs are dependent on directional commands.
The second issue is a problem that rears it’s head during Smash’s iconic hectic 4 man battles. The screen size of the 3DS routinely cannot keep a proper handle on all four fighters at once, and the moment they begin to separate to different areas the stage the zooming out camera sees the combatants become impossibly small. Once this happens it’s really difficult to keep a track of the action, the only remedy really is to close the gap – a tactic you may not always wish to pursue. Thankfully this is much a less an issue in smaller matches and Smash 3DS can easily hit the same highs as it’s console counterparts in any 2 or 3 man match. It’s just a shame Smash 3DS can’t quite relay the essence of the series 4 player battles.
Even if the 4 player battles aren’t quite where they should be the myriad of other modes on offer help to make up for it. There’s no traditional singleplayer campaign this time around, but there is a classic mode that resembles more traditional fighting games. Players are left to battle through a series of battles but are allowed to select from group which ones they want to do, allowing you to effectively customize your arcade ladder. The choice is welcome and makes classic mode just a little more that the traditional static ladder. On top that there is of course the normal fully customisable battle mode, there’s stadium events like the ever popular home run mode and a new target mode. Finally there’s the 3DS exclusive Smash run mode which see’s players gather power-ups in a dungeon like labyrinth to power up before a show-down. It’s a nice distraction but ultimately the regular modes are far more to the point and evenly balanced. Of course they’re the expected online modes too which work just fine, though like any Smash game local games are preferable.
No matter how you play though you’ll be earning coins. This in game currency has limited application but is primarily used to unlock in game trophies. Collection trophies is a must for any Nintendo super fan, if you can think of something the developer has made over it’s entire videogaming history there’s probably a trophy of it in here somewhere. Unlocking the digital commendations also unlocks entries in the trophy collection, which is effectively a museum of everything Nintendo. I could spent hours in here reading up Nintendo history – I’m a bit of a geek. Thankfully Smash 3DS even has a full audio library which lets you listen to the games absolutely stellar remixes of some gaming’s most iconic tunes, I cannot praise Smash 3DS’s music too much, it’s a true monument to some of gaming’s best loved music.
Within this small portable iteration of Smash beats a heart as powerful as any of the series entries that have come before it. Smash 3DS captures the essence of Smash and smooshs it all down so you can take it on the go. For the most part it succeeds in meeting the quality of it’s console counterparts, with he notable exception of 4 player battles not quite living up to their example. Regardless Smash 3DS is an exceptional brawler and absolutely worth of the Super Smash Bros name. With it’s ton of characters, mountains of stages, hundreds of collectible trophies and utterly addictive nature it’s hard to not see myself playing this for a long time to come. Fans and newcomers a like have a lot to love in the portable Smash that could.