By Tyler Lubben / October 10th, 2014
Other classic mini-games, like Home Run Contest and the Multi-Man Smash also make a return. However, the old Break the Targets Mode has been replaced with an Angry Birds-like Target Blast Mode, in which players use a Home Run Bat to smash a time bomb into an arrangement of targets and obstacles. It’s interesting, but I found it a little impersonal. Most of the characters don’t require much of a change in strategy to get a good score – just reach a good percentage, then let loose with the Home Run Bat. There just isn’t a whole lot to it. Multi-Man Smash also makes a return, this time pitting players against the Miis they have saved in the 3DS in timed or stock matches to build up high scores. Of course, just about everything I’ve said so far is old news to longtime fans of the franchise, so what new features does the 3DS version bring to the table?
We’ve already talked a bit about the 3DS-exclusive mode, Smash Run, but, now that it’s available for everyone to try, how does it work? Here, players are given five minutes to run around a vast environment full of enemies from various Nintendo franchises. Defeating these enemies will yield various stat bonuses, like attack power, speed and defense. After time runs out, players will meet up for some kind of final confrontation. This could be a variety of challenges, including a free-for-all match, team battle or race to the finish line. It’s an incredibly interesting mode, and does a great job of breaking up the gameplay from the usual format. Unfortunately, Smash Run can only be played single player or through local multiplayer – no online support here. That will likely be disappointing to players who might get tired of doing nothing but fighting online, but we’ll get to that in a little bit.
The 3DS version also includes a StreetPass mini-game called StreetSmash. This is a pretty simple battle top-type game where players control a character token in an overhead view, and must knock the tops of people with whom they have StreetPassed off a large arena. These can be controlled in much the same way as combatants in usually matches, with the ability to charge attacks, dodge and block incoming damage. It isn’t too terribly exciting one-on-one, but, if you have the ability to accumulate many StreetPasses when you’re out and about, things can get much more exciting, with many, many tokens potentially appearing in the same brawl. As tokens are knocked off the arena, the remaining players will receive increased gold. Plus, whoever takes the top spot will receive extra gold, as well as a trophy or other bonuses. Unfortunately, out here in the sticks, I wasn’t able to try out this section of the game to its fullest. Even so, it’s an interesting distraction.
One of the more interesting new inclusions to this iteration of Smash is the ability to customize your characters and even create your own Mii Fighters. We’ve already talked at length about using Miis in Smash, so I’ll refer you here for more information. When playing Classic Mode, Smash Run or even random matches, you’ll sometimes find items with a wrench symbol on them. These can either end up being stat-changing items that you can apply to a character or a different variation of one of their special attacks. There is a trade-off when changing a character’s stats, though. Any stat you increase will mean having to decrease another. Increasing attack means lowering defense, increasing defense will lower speed and raising speed will decrease attack.
Standard characters can also receive different variations of their special attacks. For example, Mario’s Fireball attack usually just bounces along, but it’s also possible to use a larger, repeatedly-hitting fireball or a fast one that travels in a straight line. Unfortunately, while these attacks are interesting and add a new layer of strategy to the game, they are not allowed in competitive play. It is unclear to me why this is. These skills are great for people looking for something a bit more for their play style, and not allowing these on the competitive side seems pretty limiting. It’s not like these skills aren’t available to everyone – it would only serve to keep combatants on their toes. But I digress, that’s an editorial for another day.
Players who enjoy amassing a large collection of trophies will be happy to hear that this feature returns once again in Smash 3DS. Trophies don’t serve any functional purpose in gameplay, but they are nice to look at, with plenty of information on characters and items from many different Nintendo franchises. These can be found almost anywhere – from rewards in Classic Mode, to random drops in All-Star Mode and they can even bought purchased with in-game coins from the Trophy Shop. An interesting new Trophy Rush mini-game will also allow players to buy time in a block-destroying challenge to build high scores for trophies and customization parts. Certain trophies can also be earned through the returning Challenges Mode. Here, the game will task players with meeting certain requirements to unlock special bonuses, like hats and outfits for Miis, new stages, music, customization pieces and, yes, trophies. These challenges start pretty simply, like “Play X number of matches as a certain character,” but they’ll eventually get a bit more involved with challenges like getting a certain distance in Home Run Contest or accumulating a certain number of KOs or play time. It’s nothing too terribly involved, though, according to Smash Bros director, Masahiro Sakurai, the Wii U version is going to offer more of a challenge.
All of this is well and good, but, as I already said, the Smash Mode is where players are going to be going the most. Multiplayer is where Smash Bros is at its best, so it’s incredibly important for things to go well here. So, did they? Well, yes and no. If we’re talking about local multiplayer, it’s just as good as it’s ever been. Players can easily pick their characters, teams, difficulty levels and game rules from the different buttons on the screen. When choosing a stage, they can either choose a standard stage, or its “Omega” variant, which turns any stage into a flat Final Destination-like format. It’s a simple, yet extremely satisfying system, though it may be hard to capture the same excitement as previous entries. Rather than gathering friends in front of the TV and lending out your controllers, each player needs their own 3DS to play the game. That’s one investment not everyone might be willing to make. Many people may want to just hold out for the Wii U version to get that full experience.
However, where does that leave people that still want that multiplayer experience now, even if their friends may not have their own copies of the game? Like Brawl before it, Smash 3DS seeks to fill that gap with online play – allowing players to go up against random people or friends through the Nintendo Network. Unfortunately, these online features still leave something to be desired. While connection speeds are somewhat better than they were in Brawl, I still experienced a fair amount of slowdown from time to time while playing matches. It wasn’t game-breaking, though, and I still expect to play online a fair amount. Just know that gameplay still isn’t always going to be as silky-smooth as it is when playing locally.
It would also be nice if there was a way to more conveniently connect with people once a game has been started. Since it’s possible to always be connected to the Internet while playing anyway, it seems counter-intuitive to make it so tricky to join friends’ games. As it stands, the only way to tell if anyone you know is online is to go into the Online menu and check, and, even then, it isn’t a sure thing you’ll be able to join their game. It would be much better if there was some prompt to tell players when one of their friends has started a game. And, again, the ability to invite friends in-game, rather than trying to contact them outside the game via texting on your phone or a chat client, would have been a great addition.
Despite everything I’ve said against Smash 3DS, there’s always something to be said about portability. Finally being able to take Smash Bros with me everywhere I go is a dream I’ve had since first playing Melee nearly 15 years ago. If you’re looking for a satisfying single player experience, you’ll probably spend around 10 hours playing through Classic Mode and All-Star Mode to unlock everyone’s trophies. However, if that doesn’t strike your fancy, you’ll still find a passable multiplayer experience locally or online, if you can put up with the occasional hiccup in lag. The fact of the matter is that, even if you lament any missing features from Brawl or earlier titles, at the most fundamental levels, Smash 3DS still does a fantastic job of capturing the extremely satisfying gameplay we’ve been enjoying since 1999. If nothing else, it will do a fine job of holding everyone over until the main event – the release of the Wii U version coming next month.
Game was provided by the author
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