Nintendo’s iconic brawler is back and on the move with its latest installment, Super Smash Bros for 3DS. Building on the franchise’s established mechanics and gameplay, SSB3DS takes the fight to the streets; allowing us once again to pit our favourite Nintendo characters against one another in an insane battle royale of gaming history. With a massive roster of characters including two new franchise representations in Pac-Man and Megaman as well as new Nintendo additions Little Mac, Robin, Shulk and Animal Crossing’s Villager, Super Smash Bros for 3DS aims high and comes out on all cylinders firing.
As with the limitations to being confined to a handheld, SSB3DS takes on a cel-shaded appearance for characters and environments, differing from the graphical style of its predecessors. This is in no way detracting from the gameplay experience itself; battles are bright and flashy, characters are vibrant and battle environments are as detailed as ever. Character animations are snappy and sharp, and are only let down by the quality of the screen and the amount of detail crammed into something so small. The inclusion of series newcomers Pac-Man and Mega Man and the return of Sonic the Hedgehog allow you to settle scores over who was the better mascot in their heyday. Some players may find the game less favourable due to climactic battles rendering characters extremely small on the already small screen.
A bigger gripe with the game itself is the navigation of the menus; the amount of menu and sub-menu options is at times confusing, and could be refined or streamlined for easier access.
The SSB series has always been an aural delight, and this installment is no exception; from the in-game sound effects to the atmospheric battle pieces and even classic and retro songs, the game does not fail to deliver in both mood and nostalgic reference. Each stage is accompanied by either a medley of the series it draws from or a track from the original game itself (such as Green Hill Zone for Sonic the Hedgehog, and Mute City for F-Zero).
SSB3DS leaves itself in no shortage of options; with Classic Mode, All Star Mode, Smash Run, as well as Smash Mode and a series of minigames to accompany it. Classic Mode sees a return to the traditional single-player mode last seen in Melee; fighting through several stages to reach the end and defeat the series’ iconic villain Master Hand, while earning gold and trophies along the way. A new difficulty system has also been introduced for this mode that allows players to increase the difficulty level to earn a higher reward – but losing in this state knocks the reward and difficulty level down each time. Paths are also selectable along the way, allowing for additional challenges or rewards. All-Star Mode takes the premise of pitting the player’s character against each other character in the order of their year of debut, starting with Mario and Donkey Kong and working up from there.
Smash Mode allows players a no-frills, basic way to jump straight in and fight, with customizable rules and time limits. Returning minigames such as Multi-Man Smash and Home Run Contest are still fun and simple to play, and the replacement target breaking game (now titled Target Blast) is almost something straight out of Angry Birds, where players must get their character to launch a bomb into a field of targets and structures and score the highest amount of points.
Smash Run is the biggest change to the series, and is also one of the more disappointing modes. Four players (or one and three opponent AIs) are placed at random on a large map, and tasked to fight familiar series enemies to receive stat boosts and collectibles which can later be used to customize your characters. At the end of a five-minute period, the four players are pitted against one another in a seemingly unrelated and randomly-selected challenge, to which the victor go the spoils. This mode is sometimes frustratingly difficult, and can often seem pointless when not attempting to unlock new stat boosters for your character.
Character customization is a welcome addition to the series, allowing players to fine-tune their favourites, with areas focusing on attack, defense and speed. The ability to create your own fighter based on your Mii is also a handy little quirk, with three different classes to choose from and an extensive unlockable costume collection.
One of the touted features in the lead up to SSB3DS’s release was the ability to play online, but the feature itself is a mixed bag. Connecting with friends is an easy experience in itself, using friend codes to find and create games through the internet, but the matchmaking option is where I had a lot of trouble. Often, when trying to connect, I would get errors that did not allow me to connect. In the matches I did play with friends, lag was intermittent, but sometimes stopped the match entirely as it loaded.
The biggest issue with SSB being on the handheld console is the transition of gameplay from a controller to the 3DS controls. The Circle Pad, while comfortable, sometimes lacks the precision input required for particular moves, and can lead to some confusing and accidental movements that can sway a game either way. Reports of people’s Circle Pads detaching/breaking are also on the rise due to the excessive use and force applied to them. With no alternative such as being able to use the D-Pad, the question will be how long until Nintendo has to deal with the influx of issues caused by the game. Having played on a 3DSXL, the controls aren’t too fiddly; bigger hands may suffer as a result of being forced onto such a small gamepad.