Nintendo’s Smash Bros. series has been a firm favourite ever since the days of the mighty Nintendo 64 console. The Smash Bros. series is best played with a group of friends, hopefully good enough friends that your cheap shots won’t completely end the friendship. That’s what Mario Kart is for, in our experience. So the first outing on Nintendo’s handheld 3DS (or 2DS or 3DS XL) console for the multiplayer fighter is one that we’ve been watching with interest.
Mostly so we can see just how Nintendo is going to manage to scale down the big-screen action into something that will fit into your pocket. The answer to that is: surprisingly effectively.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Super Smash Bros. involves taking on one to three opponents, either computer or human controlled, for four-player mayhem on a selection of familiar gaming locations – provided those locations have something to do with Nintendo. The rules and game types can alter but the basic premise is to deal enough damage to opponent characters – who form a who’s who of gaming history (again, mostly Nintendo) – to launch them off the side of the screen.
One of the best outings was Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which is available on the Nintendo Wii, and Super Smash Bros. 3DS measures up favourably in many respects to the huge game that was Brawl. Anyone familiar with the control method, characters and locations seen in Brawl will be at home in the new 3DS version, as some levels and fighters make a reappearance here. There’s also the odd stage (and character) from the prior game, Super Smash Bros. Melee, for those who’ve been smashing their way through Mario and company’s world for a while. And there’s also a fair number of all-new additions in terms of fighters and stages but we’ll let you discover those for yourselves.
It’s the combat that really shines in Super Smash Bros. 3DS. There are a few niggles to be had, getting a given character’s charge attack working or unwanted sprinting can be laid at the door of the tiny thumbstick on the 3DS console but for the most part navigation, special and standard attacks work as effectively as if you were playing on a full-sized controller.
As with previous games, fighters all handle differently and have a unique skill set – one that can be further modified by the player, a first for the series. That said, there are three basic fighter types: brawlers (like Captain Falcon), swordsmen (such as Marth) and then those who use guns or ranged attacks (examples are Fox and Falco). These can be further divided into slower but powerful fighters, speedy characters who deal less damage and the balanced lot. Each has their adherents and their merits – Smash Bros. 3DS has done its homework and each fighter has a fair shot at winning.
And it’s a darned good thing that the fighter lineup is so well done, as there’s more than enough to do in Smash Bros. 3DS to keep you busy for months, if not years. There’s a standard Smash mode, in which players set a time or life limit and fight to the death, either in teams, or in a free-for-all. There’s Smash Run, a five minute rush to annihilate enemies in order to boost your stats before a random four-player challenge finishes the whole event off. It could be variations of a Smash bout, a race to a finish line or facing waves of enemies.
Then there are the Classic and All-Star modes, where you will face set enemies in the former or all of your possible opponents in the latter. The Stadium has multi-man challenges, the old Home-Run Contest and the Angry Birds-like Target Blast event for you to improve your damage-dealing skills in. Lastly there’s a Training mode, so you can tweak your skills in peace.
All of which seems like a lot but you can play all of these modes against the AI, against local opponents over WiFi or against others online. Each option brings something new to these events, so you’re really going to be entertained approximately forever. Online actually works quite nicely, during our tests there were a few initial hitches and the occasional slowdown that could be the fault of our connection but for the most part it’s quick and easy to load into a game against someone else online.
Some Things Can’t Be Scaled Down
But Smash Bros. 3DS isn’t all perfection. The aforementioned control irritations are one thing, the fact that the game zooms out during play on some stages are another. The small screen size is also a frustration factor but these don’t do too much to mar a brilliant handheld game.
When players separate too far, the screen zooms out enough that you’re barely able to make out your fighter. Nintendo have attempted to compensate for this by adding in an outline that makes them easier to see but it’s not enough. Smash Bros is also too busy to really have justice done to in on a handheld, though Ninty have done a fine job of making it as awesome as it is. As a result, we’re suddenly extremely keen on the upcoming Wii U version of this brawler.
Super Smash Bros. 3DS is almost everything that we had hoped it could be. It’s held back by the limitations of the platform but it’s still one cracker of a game. A game that will keep you busy for about as many hours as you put into Brawl, and that’s saying something.