Super Smash Bros is my favourite game series, and I’ve been there since the very beginning on the Nintendo 64. Needless to say, I was hyped for this game. Do I love it? Hell yeah brother.
Smash Bros is very different from most fighting games where you simply attack an opponent to deplete their health gauge. A typical Smash game takes place on a 2D stage with up to four players, and the objective is to attack opponents to increase their percentage of damage and then knock them out of the stage. The higher their percentage is, the further they fly when attacked. All K.O.s are ringouts, essentially.
The fighting itself is as good as ever. The game has been slightly sped up from Smash Bros Brawl, taking us back to the Melee days. Nothing major has changed, but it is all in the little things that make the experience better, and makes Brawl feel obsolete in comparison. The new stages are well designed, some being utter chaos, something only this series can get away with.
It amazes me how well the 3DS captures the feel of a console Smash Bros title. While the 3DS does obviously have hardware limitations, the game didn’t feel like a dumbed down handheld port. The only thing that didn’t feel right was the controls at first. The GameCube controller or the Wii Remote nunchuk is the way I play Smash, but the 3DS control layout isn’t as well equipped to handle the fast paced action of Smash Bros. Sometimes the screen zooms too far out and the characters appear too small on screen, even when two players are up close and personal; this is when it’s not necessary to zoom out that far.
Another thing that sets the game apart from other fighters is its aforementioned controls. Many fighting games have players memorise different button and control stick combinations per fighter to have an advantage over other players…but then of course you are easily beaten by the damn button mashers. In Smash Bros, once you figure out the core control commands, you can use them for all characters.
Despite every character following the same general button commands, each fighter feels incredibly different. Marth’s swordplay is very different from Little Mac’s boxing chops, for example. A rewarding challenge is learning how to utilise the unique attributes of each character.
Super Smash Bros is of course, the Avengers of the Nintendo universe. About 50 characters are playable, from decades of Nintendo history. Mario, Pikachu, Link, Kirby, Samus and many more recognisable players enter the fray, along with some unexpected surprises. Capcom’s MegaMan and Namco’s Pac-Man also make welcome guest appearances, fitting right in with the cartoony ensemble cast, along with Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog making a welcome return. A handful of characters from the game’s predecessor have been cut. Konami’s Solid Snake, who started the entire guest character concept in Smash, hasn’t returned, presumably because he may not fit in as well as some other characters. Ice Climbers were cut because of the 3DS limitations. The 3DS’s limited horsepower also led to Zero Suit Samus, Shiek and Charizard becoming full characters rather than as part of another character’s transformation, but this is a welcome change.
Characters are customisable now, and you can unlock badges to change their stats. Even their special modes can be altered. There are also special Mii characters that come in three classes: Brawler, Swordfighter and Gunner classes, and these are essentially three different characters that are completely customisable. The customisation options are very impressive and can be used in all modes except when playing online with strangers.
A staple of the Smash Bros series has been its multiplayer from the very beginning, but lag is an issue. It’s not as bad as Brawl, in fact, nothing is as bad as the lag from Brawl. Even in online matches with one friend who lives 5 minutes away I’ve suffered lag. It’s not a deal breaker, and I’ve had plenty of enjoyable online matches, but the times where the game lagged so much it was almost unplayable just simply isn’t fun. In fact, I was playing a local match with someone with 3DSs literally centimetres apart and we suffered from latency issues.
Online matches with randoms are split into ‘For Fun’ and ‘For Glory’ modes. For Fun selects stages at random and items are on. Only your wins are recorded. For Glory pits you on flat stages with no hazards and items are turned off. Your wins and losses are recorded. Both For Fun and For Glory have Free for All and Team Battles, and For Glory also having the one versus one, a true test of skill.
The usual Smash versus mode is the star of the show, allowing you, the computer players or friends to battle each other with an astonishing level of customisation. There are free-for-alls and team battles, survival or timed matches, and you can turn items on and pick whatever characters and stages you want. It’s play how you want, and it is excellent. You can have all these same options when you play with your friends online.
Exclusive to the 3DS version is a mode called Smash Run. I was pretty excited about it because it’s based on the City Trial mode from Kirby Air Ride, and oh the memories I have from that mode, and what a great game too! Four fighters are placed in a large map, and you are given five minutes to attack enemies from other Nintendo games in order to collect stat boosts. After time runs out you take that boosted character over to a battle, or sometimes a race.
Smash Run is a fun distraction, but wasn’t as executed as well as it could have been. In Kirby Air Ride you could attack other players, while in Smash Run you can see the other fighters on the map screen but can’t interact with them. That would have been a fun element. Also, while I gushed about the options of Smash Bros just before, Smash Run is surprisingly restrictive. Searching the map is locked at five minutes, and after all that, your fight lasts one minute. It would make the hunt for stat boosts more meaningful if you could set longer end matches. A lack of an option to actually know what the match is going to be means you won’t necessarily be hunting for certain stat boosts, and I died a little inside when I saw my awesome attack and defence buffs at the end, only to find out the match was a race and I had almost no speed
Classic Mode returns as the single-player mode where you fight one character after another, sometimes giant, sometimes, metal and sometimes in teams. All-Star mode allows you to fight every character in chronological order starting in 1980 with Pac-Man and ending with Greninja in 2013. Returning modes include the Multi-Man Smash where you defeat as many foes as possible, Home Run Contest where you rough a sandbag up and send it as far as possible with a home-run bat. Target blast is Smash Bros Angry Birds where players fire a bomb with a timer in the hope that it blows up in the right spot to hit all the targets. I haven’t personally spent much time in any of these modes because I’m all about the battles.
There is so much damn content in this game such as trophies, characters, customisations and ways to play with your friends that you’ll be playing it for months. And defeating strangers online is too satisfying to stop. I have been playing around with the new characters and trying to figure out whom to main. Smash works well as a portable game as most matches are very short, so the time on the train has all but disappeared. This game is a must buy for anyone who owns a 3DS. I am hoping the Wii U version won’t have the control or latency issues, but the 3DS version is a very, very, very damn good game. Oh my lordy I love Smash Bros.
4.5/5, Smash it out!
This review was originally written for radio. The pre-recorded review was aired on 31st October on the Australian digital radio station SYN Nation, on the show Player One. I’ve edited the article a bit to make it read better, but all opinions from time this was originally written have been kept intact. I paid for the game copy.