Bros. on the Go – Super Smash Bros. 3DS Review

Mario, Kirby and Samus gangin' up on Donkey Kong.

Mario, Kirby and Samus gangin’ up on Donkey Kong.

SUPER. SMAAAAAAASH…BROTHERRRRRS.

To hear those words shouted with excitement over a proud fanfare was music to the ears of gaming’s fighter fans in 1999. A little time and a lot of love turned Super Smash Bros. from a grounded party game to a portable worldwide experience. Today, we catch a glimpse into the back pockets of almost three million gamers with Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 3DS, or simply Smash 3DS.

Overview: What is Super Smash Bros.?

**You grizzled Melee-veterans can skip this part.**

Super Smash Bros. departs from other fighting games in numerous ways; instead of depleting an opponent’s health bar, players have to knock their friends off of the stage using a variety of popular video game characters and their subsequent game-based moves. The more you beat up a fighter, the more their percentage goes up, and the higher the percentage means the farther your opponent will fly. No more staring contests with your enemies, either: players can run and jump around the stage freely, collecting helpful items and other various weapons to aid in the battle. It’s simple and extremely awesome.

Link brandishes his blade toward Samus, who is charging her laser for a counter-attack.

Link brandishes his blade toward Samus, who is charging her laser for a counter-attack.

Smash 3DS sold over 2.8 million copies in its first week of release, obliterating the competition in America and Japan, thanks to the brilliant leadership of Masahiro Sakurai. Sakurai is the head developer of Super Smash Bros. and loves it like a son, dropping all of his other projects just to work on it. He is responsible for Smash 3DS’ popularity due to its polished predecessors, Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, performing beyond Nintendo’s expectations. The budget and development team for Smash grow every edition, and so does the reputation.

The Improvements: What makes Smash 3DS so different?

After fifteen years of having Super Smash Bros. designated to only one console, the time has arrived to shift the focus to handhelds.

You can thank the advancement of mobile technology for that. The Nintendo 3DS game cartridge can hold a maximum of 8GB – even though Nintendo regulates most games to around 2GB. Luckily, Smash 3DS is an exception: the game and all of its data clock in at around 3.5GB of raw Smash power. That’s a lot of data for a five-centimeter plastic square, and exponentially bigger than any other portable game on the market. Because of this, all of the past Smash games’ graphics, frame rate and colorful visuals are flawlessly retained, an achievement compared to older handheld ports.

Along with the privilege of a mobile Smash, a major improvement arises in online capabilities. Super Smash Bros. Brawl tried its best to make Wi-Fi Smash battles a reality, but the dated technology used to do so (and the extreme lag that ensued) turned off a lot of Smash fans and even docked the game some ratings. But everything’s fine now – Smash 3DS takes advantage of the built-in Wi-Fi receiver to greatly improve loading times and eliminate lag. Now you can play online Smash with anyone who owns their own copy, anywhere in the world, with no problems.

The Pros: What are the best parts of Smash 3DS?

The first and foremost point for any potential buyers of a Super Smash Bros. game is the roster. There are fifty-one unique fighters in Smash 3DS, fourteen of which are new to the series (these include *SPOILERS* Bowser Jr., Dark Pit, the Duck Hunt Dog, Greninja, Lucina, Little Mac, Palutena, Robin, Rosalina & Luma, Shulk, Villager and the Wii Fit Trainer), three of which don’t even belong to Nintendo (Pac-Man, Mega Man and Sonic), and three of which don’t belong to any game at all (the Mii Fighters). In a pseudo-middle ground between Melee and Brawl, all characters run a little faster and hit a little harder to keep long-time Smash fans on their toes. I am perfectly happy with the roster this time around and welcome all of the new fighters as valuable additions to the Smash family, although I wish there would be less realistic-RPG characters like Marth and Ike since their play style (slow and defensive) counter-acts the feeling of the other characters.

The only thing I’d say trumps the character selection is the array of game modes. Instead of just having a multiplayer mode, players can partake in a variety of exciting single player adventures like All-Star Mode (fight every character in order based on the year they were created) and Break the Targets (…break the targets). I find Break the Targets considerably harder than All-Star Mode simply because one involves fighting and the other involves stumbling around a map looking for targets to shoot at. There are three new and improved modes as well: Target Blast (beat up a bomb and send it flying into an Angry Birds-like structure before it blows up on you), Classic Mode (spend more money for higher difficulties and choose your path to victory), and Smash Run.

Smash Run is the most time-consuming of the three new game modes because it requires a lot of thinking. Players have five minutes to wander about a massive floating island and beat up the perpetually-attacking enemies to acquire stat-boosts like Speed and Attack Power. Every enemy has their own strengths and weaknesses, and random events like Wind Gusts and Special Doors happen all the time. At the end, when you have all your new stats, you either battle, race or out-jump your rivals in a final confrontation. This is my favorite game mode because of the unpredictability and skill it requires to win properly.

The Cons: What are the worst parts of Smash 3DS?

Another popular selling point for a Super Smash Bros. game is the stages, or levels the fighters play on. In my opinion, Smash 3DS’ stages are a bit lacking; there are a lot of stages that move too quickly to focus on the fight or stages possessing a solid black background that hinder my eyesight. What’s even more discouraging is, the stages from past Smash games slowly encompass the new stages and aren’t separated from each other, confusing new players. It’s a rough trade-off for a new mechanic called ‘Omega-type stages’, which replaces any obstacle or platform from a regular stage with one singular platform – similar to a consecutive Super Smash Bros. stage, Final Destination – to allow for more serious battles. I’ll go out on a limb and say those Omega stages take up more space than originally intended, which is why there are less new stages in this version, much to my chagrin.

The broken analog sticks on the 3DS system as a result of explosive Smash playing.

The broken analog sticks on the 3DS system as a result of explosive Smash playing.

Even more confusing than the stages are the controls. Rather than using the directional keys to move around, players use the miniature control-pad on the top left of the 3DS’ face to move and direct attacks. As shown above, this leads skilled players to furiously move the control-pad around to the point of it breaking entirely. Sure, you can get used to it after a while, but the 3DS’ controls just aren’t cut out for a game like Smash 3DS, and it shows.

THE FINAL RESULTS: No matter how old Smash Bros. gets in the future, I and millions of other fans will never get tired of it. I love Smash Bros. because it doesn’t feel like a giant advertisement for all of the games the fighters come from. You can really sense the love and care Sakurai poured into the style, the music and the controls. It isn’t a video game anyone can shrug off, that’s for sure.

9.2 out of 10 –––––––– “WOW, INCREDIBLE!”