Super Smash Bros.

Super Smash Bros. is a franchise that has made the impossible possible. I mean, what other game would let you fight as iconic characters like Mario against Link from the Legend of Zelda series or Samus from Metroid? For the first time since its inception, the latest game, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, is available on a portable platform. Many are worried that a series known for its plethora of content and staggering replay value may be marred by the limitations of the 3DS, but I’m ecstatic to report that those fears are unmerited with Super Smash Bros. for 3DS.

For the uninitiated, the Smash Bros. series is one that pits Nintendo characters both new and old against one another. Each hit you land on your opponent will rack up percentage points and the higher your enemy’s percentage points, the easier it is to send them flying. To take a life (or stock, as they’re called) from an opponent, you must knock them off of the stage you’re battling on and keep them off or hit them so hard in one direction that they hit what is called a blast zone and automatically lose a stock. In addition, almost all of the stages you fight on and the items you can use have taken inspiration from previous Nintendo titles. The controls and general flow of gameplay in Smash Bros. are easy to grasp, but it’s another story when it comes to mastering the game.

This formula has remained constant throughout the years, with each new entry merely altering the physics and characters in notable ways. While many of the elements introduced in Super Smash Bros. Brawl are still present, the game feels much faster, which greatly works in its favor. Brawl is often criticized for being too slow and defensive-oriented, but Super Smash Bros. for 3DS provides an excellent balance between that and the fast, fluid gameplay of Super Smash Bros. Melee. This game feels like the best of both worlds and seems to be the most inviting entry in the series to date. Much to my delight, the controls aren’t too cruel to your hands, either. The circle pad isn’t nearly as precise as a control stick, but adjusting to the control scheme on the 3DS is effortless and not at all uncomfortable, unless you play for an extended period of time. It’s also worth noting that you can change the control scheme, if you so desire.

Super Smash Bros. could almost be called a Nintendo history book since it contains such a vast amount of information about its characters and the series in which they originated. Each new game has added a colossal amount of content in the form of trophies, songs, items, stages, and so much more. This game is no different and completionists will have quite the journey ahead of them if they want to collect everything. Besides what was just mentioned, this game has added Mii accessories to collect for Mii fighters, equippable items that change the parameters of the characters that use them, and even customizable moves for all of the playable characters that can completely alter the functions of their special moves. Competitive players will also be happy to learn that every stage in the game has a Final Destination form, making them all appropriate for a tournament setting. It’s almost awe-inspiring thinking about the amount of substance present in the game. The fact that you can personalize your characters to such a degree only increases its replay value, which is quite large from the start.

Many of the modes from previous games return, such as Classic mode, All-Star mode, the various versions of Multi-Man Smash, Training mode, and the Home-Run Contest, but there are several new additions as well. Target Blast is a mini-game that can only be called an Angry Birds clone. There are 10 targets scattered around an area or within destructible environments and your character is on a pedestal with a bomb. The purpose of the game is to rack up damage on the bomb and then send it flying into the targets to blow them all up. StreetSmash is a mini-game where StreetPassing other people puts tokens of them into an arena with the objective being to push all of them off of the edge with your token. Each defeated opponent yields gold, so StreetPassing in populated areas may be a good way to earn extra money.

Speaking of gold, it can be used at the trophy shop to purchase trophies, or in Classic mode to make it so that fights are more difficult, but give greater rewards in return. Trophy Rush also exists and the time you spend obtaining new trophies can be extended by using more of your hard-earned gold. To my dismay, it seems like the special modes from Melee and Brawl, as well as the Event mode matches, have been omitted.

The newest and most significant addition regarding modes in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is the one exclusive to the 3DS version, Smash Run. Smash Run is an offline-only mode that can be played solo or with friends and involves you traversing through a huge obstacle course to acquire power-ups for your character, as well as collectibles. Throughout your journey, you’ll encounter a number of enemies spanning dozens of Nintendo games, and defeating them promptly will yield attribute-raising items. Some may raise your power, while others raise your speed or defense. You continue this for 5 minutes and after that, you take your souped-up character into a random match against the other people (or computers) who played Smash Run with you. These matches range from  deathmatches to climbing up a huge tower as quickly as possible. Smash Run is an addictive mode to say the least, and its chaotic, unpredictable nature perfectly encapsulates the essence of Smash Bros.

Should you feel like playing online, that’s also an option, and you can opt to play with friends or with anyone. Playing with friends is self-explanatory, but playing with anyone divides the categories even further. For Fun has you playing on any stage in the game with items on in a 2-minute time match. For Glory has you play 1v1 or 2v2 against other people on any of the Final Destination variants in the game in a 5-minute, 2-stock match with no items. Another key difference in the modes is that in For Fun, only your wins are tracked, while For Glory keeps tallies on everything. Overall, the two modes are a great implementation, as this allows competitive players to fight in a more balanced way, while still giving everyone the chance to delve into the deliciously random temperament that the series is known for. Another neat online function is spectating other matches that have already transpired. Besides watching them, you can gamble some of your gold on who you think will win.

One of this game’s greatest strengths is how it handles its characters. All of the characters introduced in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS bring something new to the table and are completely distinctive. Rosalina controls a Luma, much like a puppeteer character in other fighting games, making her difficult to approach and fight against, while Shulk possesses 5 different stances that completely change various attributes and how he plays. That’s not even mentioning the fact that both Mega Man and Pac-Man are present. The end result is a game that is absolutely stacked with star power and an incredibly sundry roster.

The newcomers aren’t the only characters worth mentioning, though. Chances are if you’ve played a game in the series before that there are at least a couple of characters you’re dying to try out, and the good news is that they all feel fantastic. In fighting games, there’s almost always at least a couple of characters that just feel weaker than the rest of the cast or can’t keep up. No matter how much you try with them, they don’t have the tools necessary to stand toe to toe with the stronger characters. In Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, every character feels viable. Sakurai stated that they built all of the characters up from scratch and it certainly shows. Even if a character’s general moveset has remained unchanged, there are enough subtle tweaks to give them that something extra they needed. While it’s way too early to speak of the balance of the game, the sheer fact that no characters feel fundamentally bad is a promising start.

Despite all of the praise I have for this game, it has its share of flaws. The sad thing is that the biggest one is in one of the most vital areas of a Smash Bros. game, which is the multiplayer. The modes available in the multiplayer section are robust enough, as I’ve already mentioned, but it’s the execution of multiplayer that is lacking. I had read reports from various users that even local multiplayer matches were subject to crippling lag and after experimenting in an assortment of locations, I can confirm that it is possible. While I can’t isolate the cause (perhaps interference from other electronic devices), some places make even local multiplayer matches nearly unplayable. For a game like Smash Bros., having unreliable matchmaking, even on a local level is quite disheartening. Luckily, these types of matches have been a rarity to me, but it is something worth noting, nonetheless.

The local multiplayer can be somewhat iffy, but maybe the online is better? Well, that depends on a couple of things. In Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, your experience online essentially boils down to if you and the person/people you’re playing against have a good connection. The sole purpose of the servers for this game is to pair people up and once that is done, it’s you and your opponents that decide what type of match it will be. It doesn’t matter if you have the best connection on the planet if the person you’re playing with has one that is terrible. As you can imagine, this makes 4-player matches an even bigger gamble because one player can make your fight insufferable. My experience online has been great for the most part, and this game is miles ahead of Brawl., but it could certainly be better. For the record, the majority of my matches online were 1v1 in For Glory mode and they were relatively lag-free.

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is almost everything you could ask for from a portable version of Smash Brothers. It sports a huge, diverse roster of characters, a ton of new, quirky modes, and has enough collectables to keep any Nintendo fan busy for quite some time. If not for the flaws with its multiplayer, I would actually go so far as to say that it is the quintessential Smash Bros. experience on the go. I understand that people may be hesitant to buy Super Smash Bros. for 3DS with the Wii U version coming out soon, or because it's feared to be a subpar entry in the series being that it’s on a weaker handheld system, but I could not disagree more. Whether you’re a longtime fan of the series like me, or a curious newcomer, you owe it to yourself to buy this game if you have a 3DS.