One of the more interesting parts of attending an event like E3 or PAX East is waiting in line. You get to watch people play the games you’re about to sink your teeth into; maybe you’ll engage a fan or two if you’re lucky. I was waiting in line to play Hyrule Warriors when I noticed folks playing a 3DS with a Nintendo representative attached to them behind me. At first, I thought…well…what could they be playing?And then I looked at the bottom screen and saw character portraits. I knew what I was playing next.
I managed to get ahold of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS. It was a game I meant to seek out eventually on the show floor, but I never imagined I’d beat the lines to it so soon. Anyway, to get this out of the way, I am not a hardcore, competitive Smash player. My background with the series is vast, but I have never taken it quite as seriously as I’ve seen others do in my life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; just take these Smash impressions with a grain of salt…because I’m a casual, for-fun player versus for-glory.
I main Marth. I’ve mained Marth for over a decade… Hasn’t Melee been around for at least a decade? I contemplated trying some of the new characters, but I wanted my impressions of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS to highlight the handheld nature of the game at their core. Indeed, that’s the point I’ll get to in this write-up. Before I do that…
I started off by playing Classic Mode. It was a simple match that pitted me against three computer players…who absolutely destroyed me because going from a GameCube controller on my big screen to 3DS controls on the small screen was a little jarring, at first. I promise I’m not awful at it or extremely out of practice… Maybe. (Just for those curious, I played the Arena Ferox stage from Fire Emblem: Awakening. As you’ve no doubt seen from various footage of the Invitational and more from E3 2014, there were a wide variety of stages available.)
After being destroyed in the mode I was used to, I decided to venture into new territory: Smash Run.
I…well, I fumbled around like an idiot for five minutes in a randomly generated arena that featured foes like a Gastly that couldn’t be killed, a yellow-shielded ghost from Find Mii, and so much more. The variety of enemies is definitely something worth noting—Smash Run is just a tiny tip of the iceberg of how much Nintendo charm has been shoved into the newest Smash Bros. games. But I’m guessing you all knew that.
Some things to note about Smash Run—you’re constantly kept up-to-date regarding how much better your friends and foes are doing than you…I mean how they’re doing in comparison to you. The messages that cross the screen are not obtrusive, for those curious. Everything about the menus, the hubs…it’s perfect. Presentation-wise, the game is impressive. It doesn’t stutter, it looks and runs as it should despite being on a more compact device. The only real issue you’ll have at first glance…is that first glance. Playing Smash Bros. on a tiny screen feels a little weird. But it’s nothing you can’t get used to! Anyway, I digress.
After I was done wandering around like an idiot for five minutes, the game tallied my collectibles and brought me to a Final Battle against the three computer players—Classic Mode with a twist. It was a 300% Damage Free-for-All timed battle. “Sudden Death” mode, but lasted for two minutes. I was Marth, ladies and gentlemen. I had his Down+B Sword Guard. Nothing touched me. I won handily—not because I’m good, but because I knew how to abuse the hell out of Marth in that particular situation. Still, I won with a smile on my face—believe you me.
Here’s the thing, though. If you’re worried about how Super Smash Bros. 3DS controls…you kind of should be. The 3DS is not a GameCube controller, nor is it well-suited for a fast-paced fighting game like Smash Bros.…at first. You’re going to struggle with the controls. It’s genuinely something to worry about…and something that (if you’re going to pick between the two versions, anyway) should lean you more towards the Wii U version of the game. They’re hardly broken, and given that Sakurai will probably let you map everything ’til kingdom come, you can probably find some sort of configuration that works for you. But it just seemed strange. The A and B buttons did precisely what they should. But that control stick just isn’t well-suited for moving quickly sometimes…which is why jumping is best left to the X and Y buttons. It’s not as though these controls are something new or something game-breaking, but…the handheld nature is just a little jarring.
It’ll take some getting used to, but it’s by no means a deal-breaker for me. Super Smash Bros. 3DS will be a worthy purchase while I wait for the better version or if I want to play Smash on the go. It’s definitely a full experience that has its shining moments, but…the controls will make grizzled veterans feel a little funky for awhile. Maybe it’s one of those things that gets better in practice. Maybe I’m just awful. Who knows?
For now, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is something you ought to look forward to. Just be wary when approaching the controls for the first time, that’s all. They’ll take a little bit of a learning curve—and you’ll probably go through more than one Circle Pad trying to get characters to move as quickly as they should. It’s the nature of the beast when it comes to competitive fighting games. Just putting them on a handheld requires an extra layer of learning because it’s so portable.
Still, I know I’m excited. You all should be, too. Don’t let my word of caution make you think this game isn’t as close to perfection as something Sakurai spends years hyping.