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Super Smash Bros. 3DS [Review]

Overall Feeling: 

Smash Bros. 3DS may not even ATTEMPT a reinvention of the wheel with the latest iteration of the fan-favourite... but it at least devotes a noticable amount of effort into shining everything up nice and pretty like for the 3DS debut of the ridiculously hype cross-brand fighter. That being said, avoid the 3D feature at all costs.

The Pros: 

+Massive cross-brand character roster
+Solid Play Controls
+Full featured game, with plenty of new modes/items
+Fantastic attention to detail

The Cons: 

-Insanely obnoxious 3D
-Inherent feel of missing something, due to the time-gap with the Wii U version
-Poor platform choice for a 'serious' fighter

ShogunGamer.com Rating : 
7

Everyone has a game that the love to hate, right? Some people will play the crap out of shooters, but really aren’t any good at them, etc. – For me, it’s always been Smash Bros. I love the crap out of the nostalgia-saturated player list and the simplicity of “ring-out” style fighting… but as a competitive gamer, I could never really get serious about it in the way that I could about other fighters, and therefore find myself hating the gameplay at least as much as I love the cast and concept.

Super Smash Bros. will be making its 3DS debut this week, well before its Wii U counter-part a concept that Nintendo has somehow managed to sell its fan base on, though it seems absolutely ridiculous. In fact, it was one of the biggest sore points for me (throughout my play-time with the game): There’s the option right there in the menu to link up with the Wii U version… but here I am stuck playing on a teeny-tiny little screen.

It is what it is though, right? At least the rabid fans of the franchise will have something to get to work on, some kind of an approximation of the next instalment of their tournament fighter (now featured annually at EVO thanks to the crowd-sourced outcry of its players).

So let’s dive in and, if you don’t mind, let’s get the one big glaring issue of the game out of the way first: It’s on the 3DS, so there has to be 3D.

I’m a fan of 3D.

I’ve said it before, I don’t write it off as a novelty and I believe that when it’s used appropriately it can actually enhance the experience of a movie or a game. Unfortunately in the case of Super Smash Bros. it is absolutely horrendous.

I make it a point to play in 3D for at least part of each game that I review on the 3DS, and Super Smash Bros. has to absolutely be the shortest run I’ve ever had with that attempt.

When I first booted it up, I switched into 3D (generally I have a side-game with myself where I see how long from the start of the game before I decide to switch 3D off in favour of a higher frame-rate, or just generally ease of viewing over long periods of game-play). The menus looked slick, just enough pop to let you know you’re witnessing the classic sticker-esque menu system of Smash Bros. on a 3D screen…

Then, about 10 seconds into my first match (and I think that’s generous approximation of the duration) I rage quit 3D on the game. It’s something that I’ve absolutely never experienced on a 3DS game before: actually getting mad and throwing the switch into the ‘off’ position. Generally speaking I’ll just be like “eh, not right now” or “doesn’t work with this game” but in Smash Bros. it ACTIVELY pissed me off to the point where I had to remove it immediately and wished I’d never switched it on in the first place.

I could absolutely go on (and if people want specifics, we can lay into that later), but I know the majority of gamers looking to find out how the new Smash Bros. stacks up couldn’t care less about the 3D aspects of the game, let’s just all agree to skip it.

Smash Bros. has always been a game about playing with other people, and I get that. Whether you were taking the game seriously, or just having people over and drinking while goofing around in the game… it’s something that was developed as a social experience.

So I understand that when I say they have done a hell of a job burying what was (for me) the main/first feature of every Smash Bros. (the “Story Mode”) I get that this is again a personal gripe.

In order to get into the standard story line-type game play though, you need to branch off of the main menu into the tiny off-shoot titled “Games and more” from there you select a Solo experience, and finally you’ll be rewarded with an option for “Classic” mode which allows you to advance through the game in a series of smash-themed challenges and fights inevitably ending at a battle against Master Hand.

That’s generally how I go about getting used to any game, fighting games included. I like to dick around in story mode where I can feel like I’m accomplishing something via the training wills of the advancing AI until I get a handle on how characters work and the mechanics of the game before I ever consider playing with friends/competitors (though with the ever-going population of gamers that ignore shooter/fighter story mode I can see why Nintendo doesn’t care about us mutants that play like I do).

Luckily in the “Games and More” category I also came across some other old favourites, like the Home Run challenge. It’s the side-questy things in Smash Bros. that I’ve always appreciated… there’s something to be said, I think, for a game that makes other games inside of itself based on the mechanics established from the core.

I’m getting away from the meat of the game again, and I apologize. Let me try and swing ‘round back to the main screen here and take a look at what Nintendo knows that its fans are REALLY after:

SMASH/ONLINE and SMASH RUN

Those are easily the biggest two buttons through the menu system, so I’m going to go ahead and say that’s where they are expecting their players to want to get to first.

Smash Run is an interesting game mode (and the second largest button, so let’s keep with the theme and work backwards to the core of the game) where-in you have the ability to navigate a sort of vertical-maze with a character of your choosing. The purpose of doing so is to obtain both items and boosts for your character, upgrading things like their power and speed… while your opponents (hypothetically) do the same.

You all get a couple of minutes to run around like crazy people, taking out AI-controlled enemies and opening boxes that you come across to nab as many of those buffs as you can. Then, once the time runs out, everyone’s stats are tallied up so you can see exactly what you’ll be up against in the upcoming brawl.

As far as keeping the core structure of the game (the standard fighting gameplay) while lending to weirdos like myself who like the goofiness of the game expanded into different game-types, this is ends up being a pretty good blend of both.

One could easily argue that it’s not going to be played seriously/competitively… but I would definitely say that it adds a large amount of fun if you’re just going to be fooling around with a couple of drunk friends anyways: Show off your platforming skills making your way through the maze and collecting loot, before you swat at each other randomly!

And finally, for the competitive gamer (or for those that just want the raw experience of Super Smash Bros.) there is Smash both local and Online, representing the two biggest buttons in the menu by far. They are bold and upfront to let you know where you should be heading. Which is absolutely fair, it is where the majority of the people getting this game will want to head: quick action with their friends, or testing their skills online against foes from around the world.

At its core Smash Bros. hasn’t changed all that much. There are no massive tweaks to any of the game play mechanics, or huge surprises (other than maybe some new obscure character references). It’s just the same game we’ve been playing since the N64, but spruced up a bit with new theaters to fight in, and a couple new faces added to the roster of fighters.

That being said, Nintendo has had a knack, since their console debut, for taking one idea and making its slick and shiny and new over and over and over again.

The concepts that they have been reselling us on since the 80s are refined and polished again and again to a point where honestly, I don’t even mind buying the same basic game again and again because it’s the subtleties of the game that really start to shine and that I can appreciate (along with of course the needed graphical updates in most cases).

In the instance of the 3DS iteration of Smash Bros. in specific, it’s a lot of small graphic tweaks that show that Nintendo is paying attention.

Now I know some people have already stated that they don’t care for the black-outlining around the characters in the 3DS version (though that is customizable and you can lower its intensity/turn it off in you pleasure). Personally I think it helps, especially if you’re playing on an older 3DS (non-XL) to help you get a clear picture of where the players are at.

Secondly they’ve done a great job at making it clear what everyone is up to at a glance: Items thrown show a little player indicator (e.g. P1) to let you know who’s item your contending with (or that you’re in the clear, if you used it and forgot about it yourself).

It’s those little things that I really appreciate in a long-running franchise like Smash Bros. and from Nintendo in specific. They’ve done a great job locking down gameplay mechanics that everyone enjoys and is always looking for more of… so when they make the next version of the game they can really drill down and nail the little stuff like making sure everything is visually represented in a smart way, especially when they bring it down to a hand-held console like the 3DS.

Bottom-line, Smash Bros. is a lot better on the 3DS then I was expecting. I fully expected the game to get diluted when it came to the 3DS, to be cut-short in some fashion (especially considering we have to wait for the Wii U version still).

But honestly, if they let me broadcast this version of the game to the Wii U (and by extension my TV screen) I would have been absolutely satisfied with the amount of content and new additions to the series to consider this a true sequel to the tent-pole franchise from Nintendo.

The only problem I could see fans of the franchise having, coming in slightly underwhelmed from the other Smash Bros. outings, would be that trying to play competition-level games on a hand-held console will never really be a thing…

As long as you take it as a casual game, or don’t get too stressed out about the tiny buttons, small screen, etc. I think fans of SSB and just fun games in general are going to have an absolutely blast with the portable version of Smash Bros. It makes me yearn for a cross-country road-trip with friends/family as an excuse to spend hours beating the absolute crap out of each other with our childhood memories.

 

P.S.

As a fan of Sega, it was a huge deal with Sonic made the cross-over to fight alongside of Mario in Smash Bros. It might have been bitter-sweet at the time (knowing that the franchise had been diluted enough to be swallowed by the victor’s license) but I hope that fans of Mega Man and Pac Man enjoy the cross-over in SSB3DS as much as I did with Sonic (eventually) and have enjoyed the fantasy smash-ups with the iconic characters in my play-time with the 3DS version of the title.

Review based on a retail copy of the game supplied by the publisher.