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Review: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

In a word? Smashing!

By Jack Taylor – 3 December 2014
Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS (code provided)

It's been more than three years since Satoru Iwata, Global Nintendo President, stood on the world stage at E3 2011 and announced not one, but two new Super Smash Bros. games. One of those games was the first to be announced for Wii U - and let's be honest, if you're going to introduce a new Nintendo system, Super Smash Bros. is a cracking way to get it done - but the other was the first game in the series to be announced for a handheld. Smash on the go was a wildly exciting prospect at the time, and it remains one to this day.

We've been fed regular updates on the new Super Smash Bros. games since they were first showcased in June 2013, and it's clear that - as you'd expect - both games are very similar indeed. They have different selling points, of course: the Wii U version is a high-definition spectacle with GameCube controller compatibility; the Nintendo 3DS version can be played on the train, on the bus, on the toilet, or basically anywhere you like with the possible exception of meetings, museums, and funerals. You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Nintendo 3DS version is going to be weaker than its big brother, but it squeezes every ounce of power out of the system - and then a little more for good measure.

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS brings together the finest from the world of Nintendo - and beyond - and pits them against each other in a wide variety of familiar settings. Each character has different attacks, strengths, and weaknesses, and every battleground presents a unique new challenge. A wide variety of modes has you pitting fighters against each other, or against bombs, targets, trophy boxes, sandbags, and even the occasional floating hand. You'll collect coins and trophies, meet new faces, fight against people in different time zones, and play 'last one standing' with people you've passed on the street. Put simply, if you couldn't do all this in Super Smash Bros., you wouldn't be doing it anywhere. Nobody else is mad enough to think up stuff like this.

Fans of the Super Smash Bros. series will be familiar with the structure of the Nintendo 3DS version of the game, though there have been a few notable changes to the formula. You begin with an incomplete yet impressive character roster, as well as a hefty number of modes and a variety of different stages to fight on. As you progress by participating in the most prominent modes, more fighters and stages will be made available to you. The main difference to this formula in the Nintendo 3DS version of the game is that quite a lot is already available at the very beginning, while the rest isn't at all difficult to unlock. There's a very clear statement here: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is all about the gameplay experience.

This goes quite some way to explaining why so much of the content in Super Smash Bros. For Nintendo 3DS was showcased prior to its release. This obviously includes fighters, for the most part - more fighters were revealed before the game was out than were included in the entire Super Smash Bros. Brawl roster - but there are two reasons for including so much content right off the bat. Yes, the developers want you to know that it's about the gameplay, not about rushing to unlock everything; but by including so much content from the beginning, everyone is provided with a very level playing field, especially when it comes to online play, and everyone has the chance to try out a whole load of stuff right from the word go.

Jumping right into the action, Smash Bros. fans will feel right at home with the gameplay modes available. The single-player favourite Classic Mode makes a welcome return, serving the same purpose as always: fight your way through a select number of enemies before taking on Master Hand or the dreaded Crazy Hand, thereby winning yourself a nice trophy of your victorious fighter. This time around, Classic Mode gives you route options, so even though you'll always fight the same number of battles, you'll be able to choose from up to three different branches after each one; the blue and green routes are relatively easy, while the red route is the toughest. Before each fight, you'll also be able to stop a roulette, nabbing you coins, trophies, custom moves, and more besides - unless you land on absolutely nothing.

The other main single-player mode, All-Star Mode, has had quite a significant change made to it. Much like in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the mode pits you against fighters from different eras, so you'll start off against the likes of Mario and Donkey Kong while finishing up with Olimar at the other end of the line. The difference - certainly compared with previous games in the series, like Super Smash Bros. Melee - is that the mode is available from the very beginning, and that the characters you unlock will be added to All-Star Mode along the way. As before, you'll receive a new fighter trophy for beating All-Star Mode as you'd have done in previous games, but this change means that you don't need to have unlocked everyone to get your hands on the trophy. All-Star Mode now supports two-player local play as well, meaning you and a friend can team up to make the fight that little bit easier.

The return of the Training mode along with various Stadium modes is also very welcome, especially since Multi-Man Smash and the Home Run Contest have always been firm favourites; as with All-Star Mode, the ability to take on Multi-Man Smash with a friend in local play has been included, providing even more fun than usual. Target Blast is a suitable replacement for Target Smash, even if it's not quite as difficult; the challenge isn't in getting all the targets as much as it is figuring out how to strike the damn bomb at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's as an enjoyable an experience as you could expect, which is no bad thing.

The main new mode - exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS version of the game - is Smash Run, a five-minute mad dash around gaming-themed labyrinths filled to the brim with classic and little-known enemies from the world of Nintendo. Whichever fighter you pick, you'll begin with a number of different varied statistics, including attack, defence, and speed primarily. By defeating enemies, you'll obtain boosts in these and other stats, but being knocked out will drop your numbers fairly significantly; enemies can also leave behind custom moves and equipment, which you'll find to be incredibly useful in fighter customisation, which we'll get onto next. At the end of each Smash Run is a final battle, which you'll contend with up to three other fighters - either computer-controlled or human - and winning this will grant you coins and other bonuses. It's a hugely addictive mode that's obviously been designed for frequent play; it goes without saying that it does its job very well, as every Smash Run will be completely different to the last.

Fighter customisation is the biggest new addition to the series alongside Smash Run, and the Nintendo 3DS version of the game probably only scratches the surface of what's possible. The idea is based around the fact that Mii Fighters have been added to the roster, and each type of Mii Fighter - brawler, swordfighter, and gunner - has three different options for each special move. Special moves are carried out using the B button, and each fighter has a standard special move, a side special, an up special, and a down special. Then, Mii Fighters have three options for each of these, so you've got a selection of 12 moves per type of Mii Fighter to pick from. The same also applies to every other character in the game, as you'll begin with one option per special move and be able to unlock a further two by picking them up in Classic Mode or Smash Run. You can also attach up to three pieces of equipment to a custom character to change their attack, defence, and speed stats, or to provide additional effects in battle such as held items or auto-healing.

One of the best things about fighter customisation - aside from the fact that it's so damn cool in the first place - is that it doesn't go unused. You can use your custom fighters in many of the game's modes, including Classic Mode, All-Star Mode, Smash Run, the main Smash mode, and more besides. If you're having a tough time with a standard character in Classic or All-Star, then, all you have to do is quickly set up an enhanced custom set for that character and give it a whirl. You can save up to 10 custom sets for each character, naming each one as you like, which is handy for remembering how you've built them. By collecting more pieces of equipment, you'll be able to better test many different setups for each character; it's a fine balance, because providing a boost in one stat will almost always deliver a negative effect to one of the other two. The trade-off, then, is much like Smash Bros. characters in general: a strong fighter won't necessarily be a fast or a resilient one while a quick character might not be slightly weaker, unless you manage to strike an almost perfect balance using different equipment.

It should go without saying that Smash Bros. is a huge amount of fun, and it goes to show that the vast development team has painstakingly thought out every detail of every character and move. Creating interesting and competitive moves for more than 40 characters is no mean feat, but it's been done in a way that ensures the game is challenging and fun in equal measure, as well as entirely one or the other for those who want it to be. The character roster epitomises the idea of 'fun' all around, something that was evident from the day Villager and Wii Fit Trainer were confirmed to join the fight, and a number of the unlockable characters really are proof that Smash Bros. - for all its staggering beauty and importance - should never be taken too seriously.

Despite the fact that Smash Bros. is easy and enjoyable to play on your own on Nintendo 3DS, the series has always been based around good old multiplayer fun. The main Smash mode is front and centre here, which couples incredibly nicely with the fact that quite a bit of content is available from the off; you're being welcomed into a world that isn't going to tell you to go elsewhere to unlock the rest of its offerings, because you can quite happily spend more than a couple of hours here before you've even thought about anything else the game has in store for you. Many fantastic stages are included in the game, some of which are bound to be old favourites, while the Smash mode sees the return of Smash Bros. match rule options including stock and time matches, items, and much more besides.

A multitude of online offerings are also available, including the For Fun and For Glory modes that further enforce the notion that Smash Bros. can be as challenging or as enjoyable as you make it, while Conquest rewards players who choose wisely in face-offs with certain characters or character groups. Peak times can be problematic as lag is an issue when everyone's trying to get in on the action at the same time, but online play during quieter times and with friends is usually pain-free and enjoyable. Often you'll find that, if there's any lag at all, it's likely to only be a small amount, but it can still prove to be an unfortunate side effect of so many people wanting to play such a popular title.

There's only one thing that can be concluded from Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and that's that this is, in many ways, an instantly recognisable yet very different Smash Bros. game. Perhaps, we wondered at one point, if this was down to the lack of an Adventure Mode; it might not have been the main event in Melee, but the Subspace Emissary was arguably one of Brawl's crowning glories. Does the lack of something similar mean there's nothing standout about Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS? Absolutely not - it simply helps to showcase the fact that this game is all about the experience, and it really is one hell of an experience.

The opportunity to play Smash Bros. on a handheld is one that has to be taken very seriously. Yes, the game might have to push the Nintendo 3DS to its absolute limits - no Miiverse for anyone who doesn't own a New Nintendo 3DS, folks - but it's testament to the system that the game can pull so much out of the bag at once. Whether you're perfecting your mains, collecting trophies for your hoard, abusing a sandbag, or giving it your all in Smash Run, you'll never be short of new experiences here. The promise of future developments, including amiibo support and at least one new playable character, makes this a must own title if ever there was one. The choice between Smash Bros. on a console or a handheld remains up to you, but this is easily one of the most enjoyable games on Nintendo 3DS, and a very, very proud moment for anybody who loves to play Smash.

Verdict: Very Good

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U