Release Date: October 3, 2014Platform: 3DSDeveloper: Sora Ltd, Bandai NamcoPublisher: NintendoGenre: Fighting
The time has finally come to suit up and settle your disagreements with a brand new game of Smash, as Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. 3DS has just arrived a few weeks ahead of its Wii U counterpart. While a lot may have changed since 2008’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it quickly becomes clear that director Masahiro Sakurai still knows how to weave together Nintendo’s eclectic history into a wonderfully ambitious new handheld arena. From a truly huge and satisfying roster of characters, to intriguing new stages, to a variety of ways to play, Super Smash Bros. 3DS is here to usher in an exciting new age for the beloved fighting series. And the best part is that Nintendo is just getting started.
As you’ve probably heard by now, the character roster in Super Smash Bros. 3DS is positively massive, and the selected fighters do a wonderful job of merging the familiar Nintendo staples with some fresh new faces. Not only is the game roster vast and unique, but each new addition to the arena is bursting with personality that holds true to their own place in gaming as a whole. I was especially impressed with Pac-Man, whose special Smash Attacks invoke the 8-bit spirits of Blinky, Inky, Pinky, and Clyde. What’s great about Super Smash Bros. 3DS is the game’s slick and responsive control scheme makes it a very inviting process for players to switch back and forth between their favorite characters at will.
The character designs are also a breath of fresh air for the series, and they make perfect sense in light of the new handheld landscape. Every character in Super Smash Bros. 3DS has been drawn using thick black borders, which really helps them pop on the screen, and makes it easier to keep track of who is who on the battlefield. Admittedly, sometimes it can get a little difficult to see what’s going on when four fighters are spread out to great ends on the screen, as the stage will zoom out to a point where you character is nothing more than a mere speck against the scenery. Luckily, during team battles the black borders around your character turn different colors to reflect your team allegiance, an especially nice touch when things get a bit hectic.
In addition to the characters themselves, the new stages in Super Smash Bros. 3DS still hit that sweet spot of easy recognition and intriguing interactivity. Newer stages like Tomodachi Life, 3D Land, and Rainbow Road celebrate Nintendo’s greatest achievements in recent years. Conversely, retro-inspired battlegrounds like Balloon Fight, Mute City, and the Mother inspired Magicant remain an ever-present reminder of Nintendo’s historic past. And of course, in a nod to Super Smash’s own impressive history, you’ll also get to take your favorite new characters for a spin on some of the series’ most defining stages, such as Corneria and Jungle Japes.
Much like every Super Smash game that preceded it, Super Smash Bros. 3DS is built on an incredible foundation of amassing hundreds of Nintendo-themed trophies to stare at and brag about. There is also a return of the challenge grid from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which presents players with pages of mission-specific tasks to complete in order to uncover new tiles and unlock extra rewards. Added to the challenges for Classic Mode is an intensity meter that’s similar to the one used in Sakurai’s own Kid Icarus: Uprising. The intensity meter lets you adjust the game difficulty on a numerical scale, which in turn nets you greater rewards for clearing the higher challenge tiers.
In addition to Classic Mode, Super Smash Bros. 3DS also comes jam-packed with a number of other ways to play. Besides the traditional Smash Mode and fantastic online bouts, the Stadium also makes a triumphant return, with Home Run Contest, Multi-Man Smash, and a tweaked version of Target Blast that borrows some mechanics from Home Run Contest as players work towards increasing the blast radius and direction of a ticking bomb. The Stadium trifecta of modes, though quick but challenging, offer a nice change of pace from the traditional brawling and smashing that takes place elsewhere in the game.
The 3DS exclusive Smash Run Mode doesn’t fare as well, unfortunately, as it suffers from a sporadic and often glaring lack of identity. Smash Run is played in two distinct phases: the first gives you several minutes to run around a randomized environment that’s similar in design to the Subspace Emissary from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The object at first is to kill dozens of minor enemies, from Goombas to Mets, and collect character-based pick-ups which upgrade various abilities like your speed and attack power. Once those precious few minutes are up, you’ll then battle with your newly-enhanced fighter in a smash battle containing various parameters, rules, or restrictions, to earn more rewards.
The setup is certainly a bit jarring to say the least, especially if you’re not a fan of all the emphasis on equipment in Super Smash Bros. 3DS, and I still feel a bit confused by the mode in general, despite its often impressive level layouts and variety in enemies. Granted, the game still has enough fantastic modes which prevent Smash Run from dragging down the entire experience, but I still would have liked to see it developed into something a bit more expansive: perhaps a reworked version of the Subspace Emissary entirely that improved upon the basic formula from Brawl.
At the end of the day, there’s really nothing like having a full-fledged Super Smash Bros. game right in your pocket wherever you go, and that’s exactly what Super Smash Bros. 3DS turns out to be. All of the best parts of the Super Smash Bros. series are replicated here in a brisk and easily accessible fashion, and if you ever enjoyed a Super Smash Bros. game before, then the new 3DS iteration will be no exception. In many ways, this is only the beginning for Super Smash Bros. 3DS, as the game is expected to be enhanced even further in the coming months, thanks to its connectivity with Super Smash Bros. Wii U and its compatibility with Nintendo’s upcoming line of Amiibo figurines.