Smashing on your handheld.
It would have come as no surprise to many Nintendo fans that the hugely popular Smash Bros. series would be coming to Wii U. The excellent arena fighting with special homage to all things Nintendo perfectly fits for the newest Nintendo console. However, plans to bring the fighting game to Nintendo’s handheld were questioned by many – could it really work?
Well, while we wait for the release of Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U, Nintendo only went and released the game on 3DS, giving players not only some insight into what to expect when the game comes to the home console, but also a damn good brawling experience in the palms of their hands.
The basics are simple, but may be a little confusing if the player has never experienced a Smash Bros. game before. Unlike most fighting games where you put the beat down on your opponent until they lie unconscious on the floor, or worse, Nintendo take a more family friendly approach to the fighting. In a 2D platformed arena, the player will gradually do damage to their opponent, or more often opponents, until they are weak enough to knock off the screen, essentially knocking them out. It’s a nice way of doing things (who wants to see Donkey Kong in a bloody pulp on the floor) and works really well, if leaving new players wondering what on earth is going on.
Super Smash Bros. really does so many things well, not least of which is how the game caters to the Nintendo fans. Play begins with some 37 iconic characters, and some not so iconic, from throughout Nintendo history. Each of these characters plays differently, bringing character or reference game specific moves and actions. But the selection doesn’t stop there, with another 12 playable characters to be unlocked through play. The characters are not limited to the Nintendo stable either, with some nice appearances from other popular series as well. Offering something to fit in with Nintendo’s promotion of the all-powerful Mii, players are able to create their own Mii fighter from a selection of broad templates and the option to further customize.
The fan-service doesn’t stop there though. The stages are also themed to specific games, with 34 available to unlock through the game. Even game changing power-ups, including both simple items and assisting fighters, can all be traced back to other games and will raise a smile from fans. Of all the stages and characters, a sizable number of them are new to the series, which will keep Smash Bros. fans happy.
The play modes available are varied, both on and offline. The fact that Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is missing a dedicated single player adventure mode is a shame, perhaps limiting the appeal of solo play. Bringing something new to the party, however, is Smash Run. Here, the player will get to run around a maze, fighting enemies and collecting items to improve their chances for the end battle which takes place after five minutes. It is a nice addition, but the novelty does wear off quickly.
The modes don’t end there though, with All-Star mode giving players the chance to fight their way through the entire roster, Classic mode with a series of fights with a difficulty based on how much gold the player forks over, and mini-games to offer variety. These modes can be played against AI opponents or with real players through WiFi.
Taking the game online will mean more regular matches, either for fun or for glory. For fun is as standard as you could expect, whilst for glory is a more stripped back version of a match that will come down purely to the skill of the player. The option to spectate matches and even gamble gold on their outcome is a nice addition and a great way to learn about the different fighters.
Despite the lack of an adventure mode, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is jam-packed with brawling content that is approachable by both long-time fans and newcomers alike. But this all means nothing unless the game plays well. And it is here that Nintendo’s latest arena fighter stumbles somewhat.
The most obvious stumbling block is simply down to the size of the screen. No matter which system the player uses, the game really does look great. However, playing the game on the smaller screen of the standard 3DS, rather than the 3DS XL, does make things difficult when the camera zooms out. The chaos on screen, all represented in miniature, can lead to confusion. Things are better with the XL, but are still far from ideal.
The other perceived problem was with the controls, and specifically with the circle pad. The GameCube controller has long been the preferred way to play Smash Bros. games, and using the circle pad on the 3DS consoles was thought to be far inferior. However, the good news is that the circle pad works incredibly well. The accompanying bad news is that playing the game aggressively is torture for the humble circle pad and there have already been many reports of breakages. Be warned.
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is quite a surprise. It is quicker than the previous game in the series, packed full of content, looks and plays well, and is open to both hardcore fans and the more casual players. Above all though, it is great fun. It may be seen by some only as the support act for the yet to arrive main event that will be Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, but Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is a full, portable Smash Bros. game that can easily stand on its own.