Well, it’s finally here: Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS (SSB4-3DS). I can’t accurately describe the way I love this series, and it isn’t hard to see why. The series has been a fixture in Nintendo’s line-up for well over a decade now, and is almost an institute in and of itself. It’s taken beloved Nintendo characters from across a range of franchises and given players the opportunity to settle so many “who would win?” arguments. Even when the game is at it’s worst (Brawl), it can still be picked up and enjoyed by just about anyone. My hopes soared when I played the demo for SSB4-3DS, and I’m pleased to say they weren’t shot down on release day. They were instead greeted by nirvana, where I’ve been chilling with Smash for the last week or so.
The character roster has been updated to get rid of a few of the clone characters and even a few of the veteran fighters have been culled. Those fighters who are left feel like they’ve all been well balanced, with the game encouraging and rewarding players to learn how to play to their chosen fighters’ strengths. Lil’ Mac, for example, hits hard and is incredibly fast, but jumps like he’s carrying lead in his everything. Fighting at the edges with him becomes risky fast once the damage racks up and coming back from being thrown off the edge is easier said than done. Characters like Fox and Falco or Captain Falcon and Ganondorf, who’ve been historically similar to one another have also been updated to make each a more unique fighter.
SSB4-3DS spoils you for choice in terms of game modes; some are better than others, though all of them are still a lot of fun. Smash Run, the latest addition to Smash’s multitudinous modes, drops 4 players into a vast, enemy-filled world and pits them against one another in a competition of ability stats. Classic Run, Multi-Man, and the Stadium mini-games all also return, with various updates and changes to each. Some of those changes are great, like the branching paths in Classic Run, which allow you to choose the difficulty of each match. Some are kind of not so great, like the Target Smash game which plays like a broken Angry Birds clone.
I honestly would have preferred the N64 Target Smash. That was a rad mini game. Should we play it? Right now? Real quick?
As with all Smash games, however, these generally tend to lose their novelty quickly and you’ll likely move on from them just as fast. The main draw card of Smash Bros. is, well, the Smash mode, and there’s a bunch of different ways to enjoy it. Local multiplayer via WiFi is, of course, available and provides the same classic smash experience we’ve always enjoyed. Online play gives you the option of playing across two modes with friends or randomly matched opponents: non-ranked in “For Fun” mode, or ranked matches in “For Glory.” For Fun enables all items and disallows Omega versions of stages while For Glory is the direct opposite. It’s crazy, but it’s almost like the developers were listening when fans complained that casual and hardcore players were being forced into the same play style, and decided to cater for both.
By far and away, the best additions for SSB4-3DS are custom characters, custom move-sets, and custom button configurations. A handful of the myriad of unlockables to be found are new abilities for each of the characters. You’ll also find equipment, items which can be given to characters to min-max their stats and assist them during matches. These features are only available in local multiplayer for normal Smash and Smash Run, though they do a lot to extend the playability of both of these modes. Custom button configuration is still available in online mode, however, meaning that you’ll always be able to play in the way most comfortable for you.
Though with this witherer of hands, comfort is relative.
Trading blows in SSB4-3DS is incredibly fluid, with some much-needed changes really improving the experience since Brawl. Random tripping has been removed, players can’t ledge hog anymore (a second person grabbing the ledge will knock the first off), and custom move-sets allow you to experiment with your character a bit more. Attacks also lose their power over time when constantly spammed, and the more damaged your character, the stronger their knock back ability becomes. The speed is probably somewhere between Melee and Brawl, being closer to Melee, and falling from the stage is much faster than it was in Brawl. Few games are without flaw, however, and SSB4-3DS is no exception, though most of its issues are minor at best.
Items, if you’re into that kind of thing, are still present and are still broken as hell. Especially the Smash Balls, whose associated Final Smashes have been supposedly “balanced.” Thankfully, mercifully, the option to turn items off is also still available. Without a c-stick on the 3DS, pulling off smash attacks can be a frustrating process until you get the precision down. I expect this will become a non-issue for many upgrading to the new 3DS models though this doesn’t help anyone who isn’t. Keeping track of your character can also sometimes be difficult on some of the larger maps once the camera zooms out. This is greatly aided, however, by the ability to tap your character on the touchscreen and have them highlighted in the fray.
It helps especially in Smash Run when stuff litters the screen and you need to get away from… things.
That being said, it’s still a pain when you have to keep a constant, close focus on your character and falling off the stage because you can’t see what’s happening can happen a lot. It’s an issue which is to be expected when porting the game to a relatively tiny screen compared to what previous titles in the series would have been played on. If this were the only Smash game being released this generation, you better believe that I’d be pretty pissed about this. But it isn’t: a full console version is being released in a couple of months. So long as this issue is addressed in that version, then I consider the problem to be a small price to pay for a full Smash title on a handheld console.
Online play, unfortunately, is an area which lets the game down as it started off pretty bad and improvements have been incremental and slow. When I first started playing online, regardless if it was with friends or in global matches, it was almost unplayable for the lag. Fighters would trudge across the screen as though they were stuck in cooling molasses. With lead weights. Performed via slideshow with inexplicable time-skips. Input lag was just as bad, with fighters on screen reacting to player input with up to a second delay, depending on your connection. Mine isn’t the greatest, but it isn’t terrible and I sometimes wasn’t even able to connect to matches.
They got to enjoy that view in stillness for a whole five minutes before dropping out.
In the nearly two weeks since its release, connecting to matches has become a lot faster and easier, with fewer disconnects. Gameplay is much smoother with general lag being pretty good for 1v1 matches, though it’s still present when more players start to join. Input lag is still an issue as well and has almost become a challenge in itself for players to master. I’ve become pretty adept at timing my attacks to compensate for lag, which is not something I should have to boast about. I certainly hope that the online aspect of the game continues to improve to reflect the otherwise relatively flawless local multiplayer. Occasionally, however, local multiplayer can be disconnected by interference from… something. This doesn’t happen often though and when the connection works, it works perfectly.
I had some trepidations about how the game would look going in, it is a handheld console after all. A downgrade in appearance is to be expected and, sure enough, there is though this isn’t really a problem overall. Characters have thick, black, comic-book style outlines around them so that they stand out on the battlefield. Everything has the “jagged edges” appearance, which is fairly typical of all DS games; however, it’s barely noticeable during the fast action of the game. All of the fighters, assist trophies, items and stages have been incredibly detailed and are instantly recognisable. The soundtrack is fantastic (catchy even, as I’ve been humming it to myself while writing this review) and does a great job of capturing each characters general vibe. More to the point, SSB4-3DS still looks like a smash game and feels how a smash game should feel.
And that feeling is… classic.
The new stages fit in seamlessly with the returning ones, as do the characters, both in terms of appearance and how they play. Sure, there’s a stage or two I might hate (Jungle Japes) and characters I’m not fond of (the entire line-up of Fire Emblem, for instance). That’s all still a part of what makes a great Smash game. There are always stages which are hated by some and loved by others, just as there are characters that are considered potatoes by most, but mastered by a few. I’m sure someone will call me crazy for hating on JJ back there and I know what you Fire Emblem fr– fans are like. The conflict of personal preferences just fuels the fight and helps to get everyone into the mood for a good ol’ fashioned showdown.
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is a great addition to the series and a huge improvement on Brawl, but it’s still essentially Smash Bros. which will always remain great. There’s a reason why the game is so popular and it’s because its simple design is also a fantastic one. Smash Bros. is simple to play, so easy to enjoy, and SSB4-3DS is no exception to this.
The fights are smoother, faster, and still allow for those epic (sometimes, seemingly impossible) moments that the franchise is known for. In practice, however, it can still be quite difficult to pull off just standard abilities because of the 3DS controls, and that’s assuming you know where your character is. Online play is also disappointing, but it is improving and hopefully continues to do so. (Let’s all hope the console version does it better from the start.) Overall, the issues that the game does have are far outweighed by the positives, and I can easily say that this has taken its place as my favourite in the series. Seriously, Sakurai-sama, I… I love you so much for this.
Please Note: This review was based on the Nintendo 3DS version of the game, and purchased at retail by the writer for the purpose of review.