THE GREATEST WARM UP EVER
There are three things I thought I would never see in my life on a handheld as a Nintendo fan: a 3D Metroid game, a 3D Zelda game, or a Super Smash Bros. game. By 2006, Metroid Prime Hunters had made its appearance on Nintendo DS. Half a decade later in 2011, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D was released on the Nintendo 3DS, shattering handheld expectations for the Big N. Smash Bros. stood in isolation as the last flagship Nintendo series not ported to handhelds. That is, until that year.
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS was announced by Nintendo during their press conference at E3 2011. While there was no release date known, no gameplay footage shown, and distinct confusion from Masuhiro Sakurai (the creator) about whether development had even started, the crowd was ravenous — Smash would be coming to handhelds for the first time ever. After three and a half years of anticipation, the game is finally here — does it live up to the series’ monumental legacy?
Smash Bros. on the 3DS is a no-nonsense iteration of the franchise — following Sakurai’s typical fashion, the menus and UI are both sterile and welcoming. After a couple of moments of navigation you‘ll understand that this iteration is all about one thing: gameplay. There are no campaign stories, no flashy cinematics, no fluff.
This is good news for gamers — gameplay is the best aspect of the game. After spending a couple of hours getting used to the control scheme (it is a hard and painful jump to break seasoned Smashers from their GameCube habits), the mechanics fit like an old shoe. Despite worries about the processing power of the 3DS, the gameplay is as snappy as any console version.
To add some variety and nuance, skill set customization of Mii characters and normal characters is allowed (and even encouraged). It certainly adds complexity but is no substitute for skill.
While players will be tempted to start with “Solo Smash,” the meat of the game is found in “Solo Games” which contains “Classic,” “All-Star,” and “Stadium” modes. Classic pits you against a variety of battles in an attempt to win more gold, All-Stars lets you fight your way through video game history in decade-divided fighting groups, and Stadium brings mini-game-esque options to the table. Not only that, but Sakurai’s notorious checklist system (first seen in Kirby’s Air Ride) will give you specific goals to meet in order to unlock all of the content.
The solo options are one of Smash Bros.’s greatest strengths and weaknesses at the same time. On one hand, I have never felt bored playing the game — there is a wealth of content, and tasks help emphasize that. In this way, Smash feels like the best mini-game collection I’ve ever owned. However, the solo campaign lacks the substantive elements sound in prior games — for instance the story campaign of Super Smash Bros. Brawl or the game-changing Event Matches of Super Smash Bros. Melee. Without this, the game often feels like more of a distraction than a substantive game in itself. There is depth in the actual gameplay, but otherwise it caters to high-score chasing.
The 3DS specific mode, “Smash Run,” is ripped right from Kirby Air Ride’s City Trial. Placed on a near-endless map, the goal is to rack up as much power ups by killing random enemies. The power ups will then influence the battle, event, or race afterwards. It’s an interesting concept, especially with friends, but it is no substitution for more fleshed out modes.
Unfortunately, online play takes a hit on this 3DS iteration. If you aren’t greeted by the infamous error message, then you are dealt small delays with each match. In nearly any other game, this might not matter; however, Smash requires a type of precision that is negatively impacted by this kind of lag. The delay is sometimes better or worse depending on the speed of your characters, but it is no comparison to couch co-play on a home console. It feels like a cruel reminder of Nintendo’s overall online-play scenario: it’s come a long way, but it simply isn’t there yet.
Back to positive news, the music is as great as ever. While you may not realize it thanks to the 3DS speaker limitations, I highly recommend plugging in some headphones to enjoy the iconic tracks.
Additionally, the Nintendo nostalgia will hit hard. Specifically, the trophies add a ton of history to those interested to take the time to read.
Last but not least, the new characters. I normally stick to my go-to, Samus. That said, some of the additions are hopefully permanent members to the cast. While I was speculative about some of the additions (I’m looking at you, Pac-Man), they soon became new favorites. While I can’t speak to balance issues, the lineup seems to be fair, balanced, and on-point with the Nintendo theme.
The Verdict: 8.2 out of 10
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS does a lot right — Bandai Namco and Nintendo have managed to perfectly nail the gameplay, in a way not done since Melee. Though the game has robust mini-game content, it feels like a mere appetizer to the home console franchise. This is partially excusable, seeing how it is a handheld game; a stress on mini-games is expected and better suited for the console. Thanks to the problem-ridden online play and lack of substantive campaign, the game begins to feel shallow for those looking for the console experience. However, don’t take this too harshly — I can easily recommend this to anyone with a 3DS.
Lou Contaldi is MONG’s Executive Editor. In his off time, he enjoys being aggressively mediocre at Hearthstone. You can follow his incoherent ramblings at Twitter.