By Tyler Lubben / October 10th, 2014
|Title||Super Smash Bros for 3DS
|Developer||Sora Ltd., Bandai Namco|
|Release Date||October 3, 2014|
|Age Rating||ESRB – E10+|
It’s almost surreal to think that Super Smash Bros for 3DS has finally hit store shelves here in the US. With speculation on who would be in the roster, changes to the gameplay and the promise of knocking your friends around in new settings, I would venture to say that pre-release hype for any game is never as strong as it is with Smash Bros. However, now that the game is out, was all the excitement worth it? True, this is the first portable title in the franchise, but is that new element enough to satisfy fans, or should we just wait for the Wii U version?
Just in case Smash 3DS is your first foray into the series, let’s quickly go over the game’s basic mechanics. Super Smash Bros is a fighting series in which some of Nintendo’s biggest mascots (and a few of the more obscure ones) duke it out in two to four-player brawls. However, rather than using a traditional life bar, each combatant’s “health” is represented by percentage points. The more damage they receive, the more the percentage builds up. In turn, the higher the percentage, the farther a fighter will be sent flying when hit by an attack. So, to defeat an opponent, players need to deal damage with a variety of attacks, as well as special moves that vary from character to character. Then, after they have sustained enough damage, launch your opponent off the screen with a powerful Smash attack. Repeat until your superiority is clear to all your enemies.
Smash 3DS features a roster of 48 characters (plus a near-infinite number of player-created fighters) from some of Nintendo’s biggest franchises, including Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Kirby, Pokémon and Fire Emblem. Friends of Nintendo, like Sonic the Hedgehog and Shulk from Xenoblade Chronicles, are also present. After three previous installments, you’d think that Smash Bros would be reaching the limits of unique character play styles, but Smash 3DS has done it again. From Little Mac’s fast and powerful strikes to Duck Hunt’s incredibly pokey distance attacks, most of the new characters are quite fun to use. Though, (ironically) I wasn’t in love with Shulk’s moveset. My personal favorite, though, and I stated as much before, is Rosalina. While she may not be the strongest fighter out there, the tricky strategies you can cook up with her Luma support character are just fantastic.
From the start, 3/4 of the total roster is available to use – the rest will have to be unlocked by playing the game. Unfortunately, going about this is a bit simpler than it was in previous games. To me, part of the fun of Smash Bros has always been playing through the different modes and meeting requirements to unlock the games’ many characters. However, I was somewhat distressed to find that unlocking about half of the fighters in this entry could only be done by fighting a certain number of matches. So, instead of relying on your skill, it’s more a test of patience as you play one-life matches against a Level 1 opponent over and over just to fill out that roster. Sure, they’ll all get unlocked eventually either way, but it was always much more fun to play through Classic Mode on higher difficulties or Target Smash, and have that feeling that you actually earned them. Even so, it’s a minor gripe, especially in the face of such a large roster.
Like all the entries before it, in terms of its presentation, Smash 3DS is a Nintendo fan’s dream. With so many characters, stages and items from so many different franchises, there’s no doubt in my mind that anyone who enjoys the unique experiences of Nintendo titles will find something to love here. In what other game could you see Kirby using an Ore Club to blast Captain Falcon off the train from The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks? The stages, as always, really, are a highlight here. All of them are wonderful love letters to Nintendo’s history. Even the original Battlefield and Final Destination stages feel like homages to the stages from earlier games. From newer games like Tomodachi Life to beautifully retro ones like a Kirby’s Dream Land-inspired game, the themes of stages are unmistakeably “Nintendo.” The music reflects this as well, with a nice sampling of remixed themes of familiar tracks, as well as some unmodified tracks from other games. Unfortunately, the selection on tracks isn’t nearly as deep as it was in Brawl, so, if you were hoping to find lots of CDs to unlock different themes for the many stages, you’re going to be disappointed.
The graphics may be a little rough around the edges, especially if you’ve been drooling over the Wii U version, but gameplay is wonderfully smooth. The exception to this, though, is the various Assist Trophies and Pokémon that you’ll be utilizing in battle. While players and their opponents move and attack with almost no frame rate issues, these NPCs are strangely jerky in their motions. This is especially noticeable when the Nintendogs Assist Trophy comes up and gets right up into the foreground. I expect this is simply a limitation of the 3DS’s hardware. Really, though, it isn’t all that important in the face of all the hectic action you’ll be dealing with most of the time.
In terms of content, I feel that Smash 3DS is a little sparse on game modes. Actually, it almost seems to harken back to the original game on Nintendo 64. This is a game about fighting and increasing your skill in that regard, and the way Smash 3DS’s menus are set up reflects that. Old modes, like Classic and All-Star Mode, make a return, but you have to do a little digging in the menus to reach them. Meanwhile, a huge SMASH button takes up half the screen on the Mode Selection screen, just in case it wasn’t clear where players will be spending most of their time. Players hoping to enjoy another variation of Melee’s Adventure Mode or the sweeping narrative of Subspace Emissary from Brawl will be disappointed to find that there is no parallel mode in the new version. Classic Mode tries to address this by allowing players to choose different paths on the way to the final battle with Master Hand, but it’s a poor substitute for fans who were hoping for a bit more plot. It isn’t likely to bother those just looking for a good fight, though.
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