At long last, the next chapter of the Smash Bros. series is finally available for Nintendo fans. For the first time in the franchise, the mascot-brawler is finally on a portable platform, with Super Smash Bros. for 3DS. Does the stereoscopic fighter stack up to its console predecessors, or should Smash fans just wait for the upcoming Wii U release?
Super Smash Bros. For 3DS (3DS)
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: 10/03/2014 (USA)
Developed by Sora, Bandai Namco
Published by Nintendo
The original Super Smash Bros. released for the Nintendo 64 in January 1999. While Capcom (“Versus” series), SNK (King of Fighters) and other companies were no stranger to cross-over Fighting games, this would be the first cross-over Fighter for Nintendo. While the Nintendo 64 Smash Bros. began as a small-budget Japanese-exclusive, domestic sales led to an international release, selling 3.7 million units across Japan and the US. Just two years later, Super Smash Bros. Melee released for the Nintendo GameCube. The next entry featured heavily updated visuals, much faster gameplay, the addition of side-to-side special moves, and more than doubled the original roster of characters. The 2001 title also featured extra Single Player modes, including 51 Challenges, and Adventure Mode- a 2.5D side-scrolling adaptation of the main game. Over its lifespan, Super Smash Bros. Melee sold over 7 million units worldwide, becoming the best-selling GameCube title of all time.
Seven years later, Super Smash Bros. Brawl would grace the Nintendo Wii. While Nintendo’s family and health-oriented system had a primary focus on motion controls, Brawl featured several different control schemes for various players; Super Smash Bros. Brawl included support for the Wiimote, Wiimote + Nunchuk, Classic/Pro Controller, and the GameCube controller. The third intsallment of the series recieved critical acclaim from the press, even gathering perfect scores from Famitsu (40/40) and Thunderbolt Games (10/10). During its US launch week, Brawl sold 1.4 million copies, becoming Nintendo of America’s fastest-selling title thus far. While it featured a staggering visual upgrade, a more in-depth variant of Melee’s Adventure Mode- The Subspace Emissary, and yet an even larger roster of fighters featuring 3rd-party characters Sonic and Snake, Brawl was subject to mixed reception from its players. While The Subspace Emissary was a vast improvement over Adventure Mode as far as content was concerned, many believed the lengthy mode to be too long and repetitive, on top of requiring multiple run-throughs to unlock additional stages and characters. The most infamous new feature in Brawl, “tripping” upset many players; characters would trip and fall to the ground, thus adding an unwanted, random break in the game’s momentum…It was something that would just happen beyond the player’s control. This was also the first title in the series to feature online multiplayer, however the experience was finicky at best, with almost all matches falling victim to lag.
15 years after its humble Nintendo 64 beginning, the Super Smash Bros. franchise has finally come to a handheld console, with Super Smash Bros. for 3DS.
A first for the series, the 3DS installment was developed with the help of Namco Bandai. While the developer has changed, the surface-level Smash Bros. experience remains true to its console predecessors. Players take one of many iconic Nintendo characters into a franchise-themed stage, where he/she will do battle against 1-3 other characters. Players win each match by sending their opponents flying off each stage; the higher the opponents damage percentage is, the easier it is to knock them out of the arena. Several underlying features have been added to the core mechanics of the game: Characters can jump off of each other’s heads a la New Super Mario Bros; performing the same attack over and over will decrease its damage output; characters are heavier than in past titles, thus extending match duration and increasing the effort required to actually knock an enemy off the stage. It should be noted that the overall experience has been sped up, making the gameplay in Smash 3DS faster than Brawl, but still not as fast as Melee.
“Stock” matches feature a set number of Lives, and the match ends with the last-man-standing; the winner of “Time” is determined by the player who knocks the most opponents off the stage within the specified time-limit (default is 2 min). Surprisingly, the “Coin” mode is nowhere to be seen. Single Player modes have returned, though in a different fashion: the Arcade-style “Classic Mode” returns, though the player can choose between three different “paths” between each match. Depending on the path, the player gains more coins, additional trophies, or extra customization items.
All-Star Mode returns to the series, though players will now fight against the entire roster in order of their franchise releases- an homage to the history of Nintendo, Sega and Namco. New to the series, “Smash Run” takes the place of Adventure Mode and The Subspace Emissary as the extra 2.5D mode. Smash Run combines elements from the previous versions with the traditional chaos of Smash Bros. to create a time-based run through a gauntlet, only to end with a 4-way brawl against other characters: The mode begins in a massive multi-tiered environment, overridden with enemies. The player has 5 min. to kill as many enemies as he/she can. Enemies drop stat-modifiers and perks upon death; these are applied immediately after picking each one up, and include upgrades for defense, offense and mobility. The 5 min. gauntlet concludes with the player facing off against 3 other opponents, all of whom have just completed the same Smash Run. Unlike standard matches, each character fights with the applied boosts and upgrades gained during the gauntlet; the winner of the match is the true winner of the Smash Run mode.
If fans dare, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS offers several online modes for players to test their skills against worldwide opponents. “For Fun” and “For Glory” are the standard modes, with For Fun being the basic game, and For Glory featuring ranked matches with no items and Final Destination-style stages. For a nice gameplay twist, players can also challenge each other to Smash Run online. Street Pass tags will translate into “Street Smash”, a game featuring the Smash Bros. roster as discs that bounce off each other, attempting to knock others off the platform. “Conquest” is an ongoing, passive mode based on worldwide stats: During each Conquest window, two specific characters are selected for a competition. If players choose to fight as one of these characters, his/her play-data will contribute to the overall Conquest status…At the time of this Review, the two characters in Conquest are Mario and Mega Man; if more players choose to play online as Mario- and win more matches, then Mario will win Conquest. “Spectate” has also been added, allowing for fans to drop in and watch in-progress matches all over the world.
The online capabilities of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS have vastly improved over Smash Bros. Brawl, however the option isn’t without its share of setbacks. Unlike a handful of other Fighting game franchises, there is no indication as to how strong a player’s internet connection is prior to the match. Smash 3DS does not use hosting servers or rooms; all connections and matches are hosted off of each players’ Nintendo 3DS. How well each match runs is co-dependent on the host-player’s internet connection. Even in local matches, expect to have at least one case of lag in a match. In severe cases, the game becomes virtually unplayable. If matches reach this point, players can either “ride it out”, or choose the unfavorable option of leaving the game…unfavorable, in that quitting a match will result in a 10 min. lock-out from all online functions. This system was implimented to reduce the frequency of rage-quitting, however even if players are kicked out of a match due to horrible connections, the ban will still activate, thus blocking users from accessing any online modes.
The Smash Bros. series features several unlockable characters and stages, many of which require some kind of cryptic process (i.e. Play Multiplayer for 10 hours to unlock Mewtwo in Smash Bros. Melee). While Super Smash Bros. for 3DS features the largest roster of mascots thus far, and incredibly unique stages, the unlocking process is substantially easier than in previous games. While previous titles required players to run through each mode several times with various [and often harsh] stipulations, every character can be unlocked by doing simply this: Play a total of 120 offline matches. For every 10th match, a new character will challenge the player; defeating each “New Challenger” will unlock him/her for normal play. Some of the additional stages are unlocked along the way; the others simply require that the player use specific characters a certain number of times.
The previous Smash Bros. games motivated players to run through each mode multiple times, at harder and harder difficulties, with more ridiculous conditions, just to get each new character and stage…Unless the player is really interested in doing any of the Single Player modes, there’s no real motivation for doing so. However, several trophies and customization items are still unlocked by going through each mode with each character.
Along with the massive 48-character roster, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS also gives players the ability to fight with their own Miis, or create new ones within the game. The Mii Fighter option allows users to assign one of three fighting styles to their Mii, which can then be used in all modes- offline and online. The three types are Brawlers, Swordfighters and Gunners; each style also comes with its own set of special moves for the player to pick-and-choose for personalized sets. The 3DS installment features a wide plethora of stages, stemming from various eras of Nintendo’s history. Stages range from battling in Fire Emblem‘s Arena Ferox, to fighting on top of vehicles in F-Zero‘s SNES version of Mute City, to playing within the screen of a classic Game Boy. Each stage also features a stripped-down “Final Destination” alternate, with only one flat platform and Items turned off by default. Each stage also includes a wide variety of musical tracks from the represented franchise- both original versions and orchestral mixes.
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is a fantastic title, capable of taking the chaotic fun of the console releases, and placing it within the screens of the Nintendo 3DS. It’s only through meticulous nitpicking that problems arise: The online features are a stark improvement over Brawl, however players are at the mercy of each opponent’s connection strength; the 3DS installment includes the largest roster of icons thus far- even going so far as to add the Duck Hunt dog, Pac-Man and Mega Man- but many of the characters are clones (characters with nearly identical move-sets)…some could even be considered “throw away” or “wasted slot” characters; characters and stages are easier to unlock, but the process removes any motivation for completing the Single Player modes.
All of this aside, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is a fun, endlessly replayable Smash Bros. title for a portable system. At the very least, it’s sure to tide fans over until its Wii U counterpart releases in the near future.