In 1999, Super Smash Bros. debuted on the N64, doing away with life bars, quarter-circles, and impossible-to-remember combos in favor of one-button specials and an over-the-top “smash” mechanic that anyone could get into. At the time, it was the most unique and rewarding fighter I’d ever played. Super Smash Bros. Melee, its Gamecube sequel, came along in 2001 and packed in more content than I even realized was possible in a single game. 2008’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl gave us even more stages, characters, music, and other bonuses, and attempted to take the the fight online for the first time (albeit to disastrous results.) Brawl was one of the biggest games Nintendo had ever released up to that point, but it was also a turning point for the series, as many fans rejected the game for the countless changes it made to the formula, particularly the introduction of a random tripping mechanic, which balanced the game further toward casual enjoyment but ultimately took total control away from players. Personally, I loved Brawl and still feel it was superior to Melee; in fact, it’s remained a staple of multiplayer gaming in my social circles for over half a decade. But that all changed this past Friday, when my copy of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS arrived. And though the game may have been scaled down in terms of resolution, in all other ways, this is the best and biggest iteration of the series yet.
First, I want to talk about the overall feel of the game on the 3DS: it’s fantastic. As a longtime Smash fan, I was a bit concerned when I first heard it was coming to a handheld. Was the game being scaled back to fit within the more limited confines of a traditional handheld Nintendo game? And how would the controls work without the beloved Gamecube controller by my side? Well, I’m happy to admit that within my first hour or two with the game, all my worries had melted away. Smash on 3DS is incredibly fast and fluid, and it feels great to play. The lack of a C-Stick for quick smash attacks and traditional joystick for precision control are fairly easy to adjust to; certain mechanics, like edge guarding, have been tweaked, but the overall physics and weight of the characters feels spot on, and even improved over previous iterations. That said, the screen resolution does present a bit of a challenge — it can be tough to differentiate among players when the screen becomes zoomed out — but that’s nowhere near a deal breaker for me.
For the solitary player, Smash Bros. presents a plethora of options to keep you busy. The tried-and-true Classic and All-Star modes are back, along with the 3DS-exclusive Smash Run, which combines the platforming elements of Brawl’s Subspace Emissary with the traditional fighting found in Smash mode. Unlockable trophies are back once again, and they’re as fun to chase down as ever, with neat snippets of text providing humorous anecdotes on their origins (Yoshi’s Island’s Fly Guy enemy is described as being “pretty fly for a Shy Guy.”) There’s also a trophy-unlocking minigame, along with a trophy shop where you can spend your in-game coins. A new version of Target Blast is a bit of a letdown compared to the older, far more strategic version found in Brawl, but Home Run contest is as simple and enjoyable as ever. There’s also a gallery of challenges, which give you direct objectives to achieve within all the aforementioned modes.
I’ve put over 25 hours into the game so far and have barely scratched the surface of everything there is to achieve and unlock within the single player modes, but Smash Bros. has always been a multiplayer game first and foremost, and that really hasn’t changed here. It’s changed in some ways, of course; whereas previous games were meant to be enjoyed on a couch (where lifelong friendships devolved into bitter rivalries over the course of a few hours), Smash 3DS lets you take the fight wherever you want, whenever you want. I played with good friends this past weekend at home and at a grocery store, and it was a total blast no matter where we were. You can also play online as long as you have a stable wi-fi connection (so if you’re trying to connect at your local Starbucks along with 30 other people drinking lattes, you can just fuggedaboutit!), but honestly, I’ve played over 50 matches online and have only experienced one instance that was completely unplayable, with a random opponent online. I have dominated BFF’s, Invisible Gamer colleagues and Twitter pals online with little to no lag, and it has been straight-up awesome. The nightmare of Brawl’s broken netcode is a thing of the past, and I couldn’t be happier.
The most important feature in any Smash Bros. game is the character roster, and Smash 3DS is no slouch in that regard. The game features 48 characters from all corners of the Nintendo universe, as well as 3 customizable Mii Fighters letting players use any Mii on their system; I went ahead and imported Dobby, the cast of Seinfeld and Captain Picard. But if Mii’s are not your forte, the extremely well rounded roster from past games makes a return and has a fighter fit for anyone’s play style. Classics like Mario, Yoshi, Link and Kirby all make their welcome returns, but the all-new fighters this time around are fantastic and offer some seriously diverse play-styles. If gut-punches and KO’s are your thing, check out Little Mac, whose punches so strong they almost made me lose my lunch. Wii Fit trainer has the best one-liners in the game, while her Yoga poses aren’t your standard exercise. Animal Crossing’s Villager makes his/her way into Smash with a move-set so diverse even Mr. Resetti gets confused. And finally, Pac-Man and Mega Man join the battle, both with unique move-sets that celebrate their status as classic game stars. I myself have never had a “main” in Smash and prefer to jump around the roster. Whether it’s floating around as a balloon with a Pompadour as Jigglypuff or using Mario’s feather cape to precisely repel items and projectiles, I love basking in the diversity that the Smash roster gives us. I can’t help but laugh every time Wario farts me into oblivion, Kirby swallows me whole, or Donkey Kong does his Down-B taunt after he headbutts me into the Earth. Smash is a game whose characters make me smile because I have grown up playing them in a multitude of different formats, and it’s just so heartwarming to see them all together in one place.
Speaking of all those characters, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS offers series-first character customization options, and they’re pretty intriguing. Say you’d prefer that Mario’s cape shocks opponents instead of repelling items, or you’d rather have Kirby breathe ice than inhale enemies; these new customization options give you that choice. The only requirement is that you unlock each custom move first. The game features 3 customs for each B-button special, 12 in total, for each of the 51 characters. Mathematically this comes out to 612 different specials that you have the choice in which to build a custom fighter with. That’s a lot of customization, and a definite appeal to fans who preferred the unofficial Project M mod of Brawl to the official release.
Super Smash Bros. is a series that, at its worst, is a fantastic museum celebrating all the creativity and fun Nintendo has built over the last 30 years. At its best, it’s a massive fighting game, packed to the brim with content, that provides endless hours of fun. The newest entry to the series introduces a handful of welcome changes, as well as making the series’ first jump to handheld consoles. And it’s an overwhelming success. The gameplay is smooth, the content is massive, the humor is spot-on and the online is exactly what the series needed. And you’d be hard pressed to find a game that caters to so many different skill levels and flavors of Nintendo fandom. It can be played on a competitive level for money, or casually with friends for laughs and high fives. Ultimately Smash embodies everything that makes up a perfect Nintendo game — overall simplicity yet prolific depth in an extremely fun and creative setting.
Invisible Gamer’s review of Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS is based on final review code provided to us by Nintendo. The game launched on Friday, October 3rd, 2014.