Current Price at Good Time Games: $44.99
The release of Super Smash Bros. on 3DS marks the series’ first foray onto portable systems. Typically associated with home consoles, Smash Bros. on 3DS seeks to prove that screen size doesn’t matter when you have nearly as much content as a full console game release. We all knew Smash Bros. was going to be good, but did it live up to the hype? My full review will fill you in.
Be sure to check out my SSB3DS preview on the Good Time Games website too!
Fans of old school gaming, predominantly Nintendo of course, will find that this title is absolutely dripping with charm and fan service. I will do my best to leave my Nintendo biases at the door for this review, but just understand that you’ll get a lot more out of Smash if you understand the video game references it alludes to, and my review will reflect that as a long-time Nintendo fan.
As a companion game to the upcoming Wii U version, the 3DS version contains all of the console version’s roster of fighters. Exclusive to the 3DS version are some of the stages, which are based on handheld games, and the Smash Run mode. (more on that later)
Alright, so, there isn’t one. Even Smash Bros. on 64 gave you the brief opening cutscene showing what appeared to be Master Hand play fighting with Nintendo figurines, causing them to come to life. SSB3DS relies on the player accepting that this is a Smash Bros. game, and assumes the player already has some knowledge on the background of its characters.
That’s not to say they don’t fill you in on key background details of characters, but they do so without a story, which may result in some of the references going over some players’ heads. For example, you see Little Mac’s trainer proclaiming him victorious at the end of each fight, but unless you know the Punch Out!! Series (which I really hope you do!), you may not get that reference. There are a ton of references just like this one, making this a Nintendo fan’s dream game.
You can choose from a healthy roster of 49 characters, including your custom-made Miis. The computer AI is very solid, allowing newcomers and veterans alike to find their ideal difficulty setting, although I would recommend online play for veterans. 49 characters is by far the largest roster ever seen in a Smash Bros. game, and seeing Mario, Mega Man, Pac Man, and Sonic in the same game is pretty special, but I can’t help but feel cheated on a few of the roster spots.
Necessary SPOILERS will follow. (I don’t like including spoilers in reviews, but I feel this review would be incomplete without addressing the issue of unlockable characters)
With the introduction of custom movesets, Nintendo could have easily offered us the ability to create our own Dark Pit, complete with his own unique moveset, but instead we are left with a “clone” of another character, something that Masahiro Sakurai, Smash’s director, wanted to get rid of entirely for Brawl. These characters are not entirely a waste of a roster space however, as they possess their own unique custom moves, but these are unusable in competitive play, making the stock variants of the fighters into definite clones, with only minor variations on their damage and movement models. It’s like melee all over again! (No one likes you, Pichu)
Dark Pit is not the only character who has a clone either. The majority of them are unlockable, and I don’t want to spoil too much of the game’s hidden roster, but they really convey a false sense of having a huge roster. Yes, the game’s roster is bigger than it’s ever been before, but 7 out of 49 (48 if you don’t count Miis) are clones of an existing character on the roster. Most of these clones do have slight variations on existing special moves, such as Dr. Mario shooting pills instead of fireballs, but other characters I find myself hard pressed discovering their merits on the roster. Lucina is practically a mirror image of Marth. Why, oh why, could she not have been an alternate costume for Marth and not her own character? That’s not unreasonable either, because characters like Wii Fit trainer, Robin, and Villager all have alternate gender costumes, and another character who I don’t want to spoil even has multiple different alternate forms! It really makes me question Nintendo’s design choices on this one. And yeah, I have to be that guy to say, “Where the **** is Ridley?!?!” [/rant]
Many of your favourite moves from the old Smashes are back, including air dodging and getting up quickly from hits by pushing the guard button. A few annoying mechanics are no more, including the infamous random tripping from Brawl. Also gone is the ability to “ledge guard” opponents, which is when you knock your rival off the stage, then immediately grab the edge of the stage so they can’t grab it when they try to recover. Now, whoever grabs the ledge last boots the first player off of it. This is great, as ledge guarding resulted in some cheap kills back in the day.
A solid 34 stages are available for play and unlocking. These stages predominantly encompass Nintendo’s handheld franchises and games, but you’ll still find a few stages which come from a home console. These stages are all very fun, and if you don’t feel like getting tossed around by the various stage hazards the game has to offer, such as the Yellow Devil from the Megaman series or the Dark Emperor from the Find Mii game, you can turn them off with the omega variants of stages.
Omega versions of stages, which reduce each stage to a flat plane with no stage hazards (think the Final Destination stage), are a welcome addition to the competitive Smash Bros. community. The omega variants of stages can be applied to every stage in the game, making each one suitable for competitive tournament play. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the stage hazards are fun and clever, referencing various points on Nintendo’s timeline, but once and a while it’s nice to take a break from them.
The new items and assist trophies are great, although I’ve noticed many of the new items are able to instant kill players. Fortunately, every item has a weakness to exploit, with some susceptible to damage, letting you destroy or even turn the item against your rival! The same goes for assist trophies and Pokemon, they are quite tough, but many of them are vulnerable to damage or have an exploitable weakness.
If that’s not enough, there of course is the item switch option, which lets you choose exactly which items you want to be able to spawn. A glaring omission with this feature is the ability to set the frequency at which items spawn. As of writing this, there are only two options: tons of items, or no items at all. Hopefully changing the frequency of the spawn rate of items gets added in with a future patch.
Making a return to Smash are the classic and all-star modes. All-star mode, for those unfamiliar, tasks you with knocking out the entire roster in various increments of gradually increasing difficulty. I love how they have chosen to create the order of who you must face in all-star mode; you must face each character in the order of which they make their gaming debut. This means you’ll be going from the early 80’s (Pac-man and Mario, among others) all the way to the present day, where you’ll face off against newer characters such as the Wii fit trainer. This does remove some of the randomness of the all-star mode of the past, where your opponents were literally random, but I’ll excuse this in favour of an awesome retrospective battle royale.
Classic mode has been much improved, allowing you for the first time ever to view the path to your battles from an overworld view, even letting you choose your own path depending on which difficulty you’re feeling like playing. I won’t spoil anything here, but the final boss of classic mode is definitely the coolest (and toughest) fight in the history of classic mode Smash Bros., especially on very high level difficulties.
The new and exclusive mode for the 3DS is known as Smash Run, and at the time of writing this review… I don’t like it. While I really enjoy seeing and beating up a bunch of familiar Nintendo characters and enemies instead of the fabricated Primids of Brawl, the mode lacked a certain substance for me.
You have five minutes to beat up and power up from the enemies, while competing with three other players, computer or human if you try online. Although these power-ups can get quite chaotic, as they increase your character’s speed, jumping ability, attack, defense, and special, I always preferred the physics and balance of the stock variants of fighters. Maybe it’s just a testament to how well Nintendo nailed the gameplay, but I’m not a fan of the over-the-top power up system in Smash Run.
If you’ve ever played the Subspace Emissary from Brawl, think of that one labyrinth stage near the very end of the game, but on steroids due to the power-ups, with a five minute timer, random challenge rooms, and you’ve got smash run. Anyone who’s played Subspace Emissary will know what I’m talking about and may even cringe recollecting it; it was not for everyone.
It’s not completely like the labyrinth level from Subspace, however, as after you’ve finished beating up and powering up from various Nintendo enemies, you’re tasked with an objective, such as destroying crystals or fighting the three players you were in the game with. Not only have you been collecting power ups boosting your stats, but the other three fighters have been doing so too! The final fight, if you get a fight that is, plays out mostly like a crazy version of special melee from, er, Melee, where you have speed set to double, everyone has the bunny hood, and damage ratios are increased. Another complaint I have about this mode is that it’s local-play only, so anyone wishing to play Smash Run with faraway buddies will have to suck it up or make a roadtrip!
All-in-all smash run isn’t bad, but it’s definitely the weakest mode in the game in my opinion, which is a shame, due to it being the main difference that the 3DS version has over the upcoming Wii U release.
Alongside this complaint of Smash Run not being fulfilling is the blatant lack of an adventure mode. I was not expecting, nor wanting, truthfully, anything akin to Brawl’s epic Subspace Emissary, but I had expected at least something. Remember how awesome Melee’s adventure mode was? It wasn’t too long, but it wasn’t short either, and it let you run around a few locales from the game, namely the Mushroom Kingdom and a dungeon from Zelda.
Likely, this omission was due to the hardware limitations of the 3DS, but I expect a mode like this to be included in the Wii U version, especially since it lacks the smash run mode.
More modes exist in the stadium menu, such as multi-man melee from the old games. The fighting polymorphs from the series’ past have been replaced by Mii fighters, but other than that, the games play the same. There’s 100 man melee, tasking you with taking down 100 Miis in one life, and cruel melee, which pits you against the toughest possible Mii fighters, challenging you to kill even just one, to name just a few of these modes.
Also present are mini-game modes, such as Home Run Derby and Target Blast (no break the targets, board the platforms, or race to the finish, unfortunately). I’ll go more in depth into these modes later on in the replay value section.
Also new, and adapted from Kid Icarus: Uprising, also by Sakurai, is the risk and reward difficulty system. The higher difficulty you choose, the more rewards you gain. These rewards range from more coins to buy trophies, trophies themselves, equipment, and custom special moves. This is a fantastic way of managing difficulty in the game, and I hope it sticks around for future installments.
The 3DS has clearly been pushed to its limits with this game. The graphics are fantastic for a portable system. Each character has an outline around them, allowing you to easily find your fighter amidst the chaos. This outline can be turned off or thickened, depending on how tough you find it to see your character. I did not find this to be a problem, even with 4 players, so I left it at the default setting.
I’ve also heard a complaint regarding the 3DS’ analog stick not being able to pull off certain moves with accuracy, but I haven’t run into any problems with this either. The controls are fully customizable, although there is no way around using the analog stick for those of you who don't like it, as taunts are always mapped to the D-pad. Like I said though, I have no problems using the 3DS' analog stick, although there's no denying that the Wii U version will have superior controls.
Many were skeptical on the series’ transition from a home console to a portable one, but rest assured, the game plays fantastically on the 3DS. The fighters all run at an impressive (for a handheld) 60 frames per second (FPS), while assist trophy characters and poke ball Pokemon run at 30 FPS. This compromise may seem a bit weird at first, but within no time you’ll get used to it.
The music included is top notch. Returning classic music from Nintendo series’ past, along with a few new compositions, make for the best 3DS game soundtrack in the whole library. Yeah I said it. How could I not though? Each franchise has an extensive amount of music and sounds dedicated to them, with even the simplest of sound effects able to produce a nostalgic feeling for any old-school gamer.
How serious was Sakurai and his team about including great music? If you know the guy, you’d know the answer is, “very serious”, but for those of you don’t, here’s a good idea on how to answer that question: You can put your 3DS in sleep mode while continuing to listen to the game’s soundtrack. Yup, your 3DS just became an oversized Nintendo iPod filled with some of the best tunes in Nintendo’s history. Obviously there are some omissions, but with a history as rich as Nintendo’s, that is to be expected.
There are a plethora of activities for you to do in SSB3DS, and most of them hit it out of the park. One returning feature which I really enjoyed was the ability to take screenshots of your fights, and also, for the first time ever, the ability to save videos of your fights to an SD card! The system is intuitive and works exactly how you'd expect it to work; great design all around.
One problem that I did have with the game's replay value was the general ease in which you can unlock every character and stage. All you have to do is play 120 versus matches and you’ll have the full roster at your disposal, and a match can consist of you setting it to stock with one life, and jumping off the edge yourself.
Compared to Melee, where the characters and stages were actually difficult to unlock (Mewtwo required you to play 20 hours in versus mode!), SSB3DS is very easy. I was able to unlock every character and stage in just a few hours on the day of launch, something that may only have been possible on the N64 version before it. To me, it diminishes the sense of accomplishment you get from unlocking all these characters, but I suppose this is just a staple of newer games nowadays.
Thankfully, unlocking characters and stages is not the only thing for you to do in the metagame. Customization is huge in this game, along with the return of trophies. Trophies are collectibles which shed light on the past of Nintendo’s most famous (and random) characters. Playing most of the modes will let you unlock random trophies. Also present for unlocking trophies is a shop (currency is ingame coins; you won't find any microtransactions here), and a new mode called Trophy Rush, which tasks you with breaking open boxes looking for trophies.
This new mode won’t eat up much of your playtime though. It’s not very deep, and the only reason I could see someone playing it a lot is because it’s a great way to unlock missing trophies. Likewise, the other new mode, replacing break the targets/board the platforms/etc. is Target Blast. The best example I can give is like if you were playing Angry Birds with a sandbag instead of birds, although it’s definitely not as deep as Angry Birds. It’s fun for a while, but you won’t be spending a ton of time here either.
The Home Run Derby makes a return from the previous titles. While fun, it remains largely the same. You can still hit a boss drive by using Yoshi’s down aerial A move over and over, for those of you remembering unlocking the Yoshi’s Story stage in Melee. Some challenges require you to hit the sandbag long distances, so remember that tip. And if a better way of racking up damage on the sandbag is out there, let me know about it in the comments!
Rest assured though, this game is massive, despite some shortcomings with a few modes, and will offer endless replayability to nearly every type of gamer. I've put in roughly 20 hours into it since release, and still play it every night. Collecting trophies, customizing characters, and just general smashing with your friends will take over your life. You've been warned!
As previously alluded to, character customization plays a huge role in this game. You can collect equipment that modifies a character’s attack, defense, and/or speed, with some actually giving you a special ability, such as giving your character a gravitational pull for smash balls.
This customization is a very welcome addition to Smash, and will keep the game fresh for many years to come. Not only does unlocking the special custom moves for each character take a long time, but it also takes a while to nail down exactly which special moves suit your character and your playstyle best. Although these custom moves are just slight variants on the already existing special moves, they provide lots of fun and variation to the classic Smash Bros. gameplay.
Custom characters, equipment and all, can be played in versus mode and online with friends, but to encourage a fair and competitive environment, they are banned in the competitive online mode, “For Glory!”.
How is the online play you ask? Well, in my playtime with it, I experienced very little lag. When I did encounter lag, I also encountered someone from Japan, so I’ll chalk up any connection issues to distance.
Online play, as expected, is much improved from the lagfest that was Brawl, where I couldn’t even play a full match with someone in my town. The separation of competitive and casual is a great idea, and should be standard in competitive fighters such as Smash, in my opinion.
As good as the CPU A.I. is in the solo game, nothing compares to playing against real players. I’m happy Nintendo has been embracing online for the past while, taking off various restrictions such as ingame friend codes. Now, you only need to add a player to your 3DS friends list, and you can play with them. I might be persuaded to give out my FC if anyone is interested in challenging me!
Super Smash Bros. 3DS is an immensely satisfying brawler sure to ruin many friendships in the future generations to come. Its addicting core gameplay has been improved and is better than ever, held down only by a few questionable characters taking roster spots, and the lackluster Smash Run mode. Every 3DS owner should absolutely own this fantastic title. The hype is real.