My very first encounter with Super Smash Bros. was with Brawl on the Wii. Prior to purchase, I knew nothing about the game other than that it took a bunch of Nintendo’s characters (and some other memorable franchises), and put them all in one crazy arena fighter. It was one of my most pleasant gaming surprises – I absolutely loved it! I often took my console to a friend’s house so we could play on his projector. I honestly thought the transition to a handheld console would somehow ruin the game I grew to love. I’m happy to say that my concerns are invalid.
For those who have never played a Super Smash Bros. game, I’ll give you a quick rundown. You choose from many recognisable characters such as Mario or Link, and you fight not to knock the other person out, but rather to smash them right off the stage. Instead of a health bar, there is an indicator showing how much damage you have taken. The higher your damage percentage, the easier it is to get knocked right off. Up to 4 players can play on the same screen, resulting in some truly chaotic matchups.
The franchise comes across as a very casual arcade fighter, but it’s got some surprisingly deep fighting mechanics. There are professional Super Smash Bros. players who know the game inside and out. I am definitely not one of those. I am far more casual, and for me the joy of the franchise comes from the over-the-top battles on arenas that are packed with unique perks and perils, as well as dozens of ridiculous items.
Starting off the game at first can be bit overwhelming even to somebody who is familiar with the various game modes. There is menu after menu of stuff the player can do. For starters, there’s the usual Smash mode where one can set up a game however they want with regards to time limit/stock, number of enemies, available items, and so on. It’s possibly the best way to practice the game before delving into the much more daunting online – more on that later though.
I was disappointed to find that there was no adventure mode like the Subspace Emissary in Brawl which allowed one to play through a story, fighting enemies and bosses from various Nintendo franchises along the way. This is offset by a new mode called Smash Run. Players have 5 minutes to run through a maze-like arena, defeating random enemies and picking up the stat items they drop. These stat items can boost the likes of defense or jump height for example. Once time is up, players fight their enemies (with their new stats) in an ordinary Smash Match.
It was certainly interesting at first, yet the experience of that particular mode soon wears thin. Traversing the maze happens simultaneously with other enemy players, except that you never encounter them until the Smash Match that follows. You are in your own instance for those first 5 minutes. Had you been fighting your fellow enemies for that much needed stat boost, it might have given the mode some longevity.
I wasn’t discouraged, as there were a ton of other modes to get lost in. There’s Classic, which takes the player through a series of fights that culminates in a final battle versus Master Hand, the ever looming series antagonist. Before starting, gold (earned from many of the modes) is paid to determine the difficulty. More gold means that you will have harder enemies, but also stand the chance to win greater prizes.
All-Star mode makes a return. Players fight every single character in the game’s roster in order based on their year of release. There’s also Stadium, a mode packed with all sorts of mini-games. Feel like defeating 100 Mii’s? How about an endless mode where you fight off a never-ending onslaught of the self-made characters to see how long you can last? Fan favourite Home-run contest also makes a return, and it’s addictive as ever.
For some reason, many of these modes are available for Multiplayer, but only via local wireless. Perhaps testing showed the experience was not optimal for online, which is a real pity because it would have made the game that much better.
Playing through the above modes yields all sorts of rewards. There are hidden characters who seem to pop up every now and then to challenge you. Defeating them adds them to your roster, bringing the total number up to a whopping 49 (a mix of old favourites and newcomers). There are also a handful of hidden stages, which when unlocked, brings the total up to 34 (also including a mix of old and new)
You can now dip into your Mii library and create your own character too. There are different styles and moves available which let you tailor accordingly, and it’s rather awesome. It’s now also possible to customise the main characters with different items, changing them to fit your play style. This is disabled online thankfully, as it gives room for some truly unbalanced forces. Link being able to one hit a person with his arrow attack? No thanks! It’s a nice addition nonetheless.
There’re also the trophies, of which there are a good few hundred to grab. What’s nice is that once collected, you can go to your vault to read a brief snippet of each, giving some insight into whatever franchise they are from.
Brawl was rather good when it came to local four-player co-op. Unfortunately, online was practically non-existent for me, and judging from what I have read, a laggy mess for many others. Super Smash Bros. 3DS seems to have fixed a few things.
For starters, the online actually works. I was honestly surprised to log in and play a game versus other real people. The only downside is that you can’t choose the game you wish to join. It’s a matter of clicking search and joining whatever lobby is available at the time, somewhere on planet Earth. What this means is that some games have barely any delay (maybe only a few split seconds) and others are a laggy mess. If any of the four players have a bad line, it diminishes the experience for the other three quite severely. This seldom happened at least, and even with the odd error here and there, I’m quite chuffed with my overall online experience. The game could definitely benefit from a lobby system of sorts though.
Online only allows the player to take part in traditional Smash games. There is the option of playing for fun (free-for-all and team smash) or for glory (same as for fun but with the option of 1-on-1). It’s nice that a player can choose to either be more casual or more hardcore. I learnt that I wasn’t half bad at the game when playing casual. Hardcore on the other hand… let’s just say that many tears were shed as I saw my cute little Kirby soaring into the sky.
Another neat feature is the ability to spectate. While this might come across as rather boring, it’s incentivised by allowing spectators to bet gold on who they think will be the winner. If the winner is predicted correctly, a player can choose to go on, building up their streak and thus winning more gold. What I really enjoyed about spectating wasn’t just the thrill of supporting whatever character you backed, but also the skills you pick up by watching more able players. I learnt a ton about some of the characters I really liked, and even learnt to adore characters that I had previously written off once I saw them used properly.
A friend of mine got his own copy of the game and we looked forward to playing some team smash together. Sadly, that isn’t possible. We could only either play versus each other or together versus the AI. There is no way to host a game and fill it up with random online people. Even attempting a matchmaking search on several dozen occassions at the exact same time resulted in us playing with completely different people.The multiplayer really does work for the most part, and rather well. There are just a few things Nintendo need to tweak to make it just right. For starters, let me play some of the other modes online (with friends and even strangers). That would be amazing!
What was a teeny bit problematic for me was the size of my visual real estate. I reviewed the game on the very original Nintendo 3DS which really has a screen for ants. With so much action happening, it sometimes became difficult to keep track of what was going on. Enough time with the game did soon fix that at least.
I also had the constant worry that my circle pad was going to see the end of its days with such active use. Thankfully, it does still seem intact, and should remain that way as long I don’t use it abusively. It is something to be mindful of if you are a rather… intense gamer.
Lastly, everybody knows the battery on the 3DS is horrendous. Don’t expect longer than maybe 1.5-3 hours depending on brightness and wifi use. If you plan on road tripping for several hours, be sure to pack a car charger.
Super Smash Bros. 3DS genuinely is everything I wanted it to be. Bar the lag from poorly matched multiplayer games and the lack of some modes online, it really is spectacular. It was a joy for my eyeballs and runs super smoothly – which is rather impressive considering just how much is happening on the screen at any given time. I’m not the biggest 3D fan, yet the game really does look good with it on. Having those characters pop out of the screen just gives it that extra bit of life.
I cannot stress just how much content there is packed into this title. I was genuinely shocked when the download squeezed onto my measly 2gb SD card, yet somehow, there is just a so much to do. I’ve already mentioned the characters, levels, and trophies, but there is also an entire music library with tracks from every franchise for your listening pleasure.
There are also dozens of challenges to fulfil. Just before writing this review, I finished my assigned 35, only to have an entirely new page unlock with another 35 tasks and their relevant rewards. OCD MODE ENGAGE!
Online could use some tweaks, but everything else is just phenomenal. I know that series fans are already likely playing the game, I just hope this review will sway newcomers to give it a go. If you are the OCD kind, I promise you, there is lots to keep you busy. If you’re not, well, you’ll still get well lost in the addictive game modes.
Super Smash Bros. 3DS has shown me that the franchise can work on the mobile platform. It really is more beneficial in some ways. Game modes are bite sized and perfect for short distractions, yet that hasn’t stopped me from falling asleep in the wee hours of the morning because I’m just laying in bed, playing one more game… just one more. If you’re waiting for this to arrive on the Wii U, good luck being patient.
Last Updated: October 7, 2014