REVIEW: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS [3DS]

“Doctor, doctor. Please.” I’d scream at the man in plain slacks and a button up shirt that looks like a tablecloth.

It would be the third time this week he’d kick me out of the clinic.

“I’ve told you how to stop the pain in your thumbs and the strain on your palms twice already!” he’d tell me. “It’s simple, Jack, just turn the video game off!”

I’d reply “but I just… I can’t stop playing, Doc, I mean. I’ve tried… but I think about it all the time. I think about it when I’m sitting at my desk at work. I pull it out on the bus ride home, and while my girlfriend is in the shower and while I wait for coffee at the café around the corner. It’s a constant during bowel movements. My friends ask to hang out with me and I tell them ‘I’m busy’ or ‘I’m sick’. I think these are all the signs of addiction, Doc, and I need your help.”

I’d wait for his expression to change, to see if any sympathy formed in his eyes before adding: “I’m addicted to Super Smash Bros.

Super Smash Bros. is an establishment for every new Nintendo console since the N64, where the game was first introduced. This year, we are lucky enough to be getting two versions – one for the 3DS and one for the Wii U. It’s a ballsy move by Nintendo, but it demonstrates the reverence for the series and the proven money-making formula its chaotic, unpredictable gameplay has provided. Now with Smash for the 3DS that reverence and, seemingly that money-making, will only increase.

If my completely (not-so) factual account of a trip to a doctor’s should tell you anything at all, it’s that this iteration of the Nintendo staple might just be the best iteration yet, though it does have a couple of technical issues. I get the feeling that, sadly enough, this version and its Wii U counterpart are sort of a swansong for developer Masahiro Sakurai and his well-documented failing tendons. As a result, he’s poured every bodily fluid you can think of into producing a handheld fighting game with absolutely no rival.

The basic tenets of Super Smash Bros have not changed over the years. Beat your opponent so hard using a combination of special attacks and fist-fighting that you raise their hit percentage so high you cause them to fly off the screen and explode into a virtual dust cloud. Each revision has slightly altered those mechanics but here they feel tighter than their predecessor on the Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and more realistic. There’s a real sense of weight to each character that is readily noticeable as you switch between the heavy, like Bowser and Ganondorf, and the light, such as Toon Link and The Villager.

However, Smash doesn’t rest on its laurels in regards to gameplay options. Classic mode returns but allows you to choose the difficulty of your next battle and rewards those players who choose the hardest routes. Moreover, All-Star mode is slightly revamped but allows you to play successive battles featuring characters from a certain era. It begins with NES era and takes you all the way up to the more recent Pokémon and Fire Emblem characters.

The key addition to Smash for the 3DS, exclusively, is ‘Smash Run’ mode. Smash Run drops your chosen fighter and 3 others into a maze filled with enemies and asks you to gather as many upgrades as possible to influence speed, defence, attack and even how high you can jump. After 5 minutes, you land in a random battle – anything from a team fight to a race to the goal – using the upgrades that you’ve recovered. The novelty in Smash Run mode comes from the ability to customise your character to your pleasing and the “just once more” mentality really kicks in here.

You can create a fighter based on your own Mii and get it to fill one of three roles – The Brawler, The Swordfigher or The Gunner. Each has can be assigned 3 different special attacks in each slot, allowing for a large amount of variation. Your Mii Fighter can be customised with their own equipment, which boosts stats, and their own clothing, which changes their aesthetic. Throughout not only Smash Run but the various game modes, you can pick up all manner of clothing and stat-boosting equipment that change your fighter even more. What impressed me even more was the fact you can change special attacks for the game’s main roster of 40 plus fighters, allowing you to have your own customised version of Samus, Greninja, Mario or whoever you choose.

It is these unlockables that play to one of Smash‘s greatest strengths. It has no lore, no central story to hook players in. Instead, it relies on the player having already experienced playing as these characters before and having formed a connection with them – whether through the character’s own franchises (Mario Bros, Zelda, Punch-Out, Metroid etc.) or through previous Smash titles. It uses that nostalgia to its advantage, sandwiching in as many unlockables from those series as will fit into the tiny 3DS cartridge. Trophies and ‘secret’ characters make a comeback, of course, and provide another driving force of that “just once more” mentality.

[img_big]center,11743,2014-06-12/N3DS_SuperSmashBros_screen01.jpg,Super Smash Bros for 3DS[/img_big]

The biggest troubles with Smash come from extended play time and online competition. There’s no doubt that although the game is ideal for short bursts, but those short bursts often turn into extended bursts and then I-can’t-stop bursts that take their toll on your thumbs and palms.

The online modes, divided into ‘For Fun’ for casual, all items, every stage, 4-player pandemonium, and ‘For Glory’, a 1v1 only, no items, ranked competition on a flat playing field, are fantastic when they work, but downright infuriating when they don’t. It seems that there are many kinks in the online framework that seem to cause communication errors and game-breaking lag that make you want to Home-Run Bat your 3DS into oblivion.

Luckily enough, there’s plenty of solo action to keep you interested, and if you happen to get into the same room as a few others with a copy of the game, it’s the traditional Smash feeling that fills your competitive heart. Besides the aforementioned modes, there’s plenty to be found in the return of the Home-Run Contest, Target Blast and the Multi-Man Melee as well as an array of trophy gathering options such as the Shop or Trophy Rush.

With the Wii U version on the horizon, you’d be fair to question the necessity of a 3DS version, yet Sakurai and his team have done such a superb job at moulding this into a handheld title which consistently asks you to play just that little bit longer. Painful thumbs and online issues aside, you’d have to be smashed yourself to not pick it up.

[img_big]center,11743,2014-06-12/N3DS_SuperSmashBros_screen07.jpg,Super Smash Bros for 3DS[/img_big]

“Give me that!” The Doc would say, as I stand there slack-jawed holding the 3DS open.

I’d resist, but he’d take it anyway.

“Let’s see what all this fuss is about, young man. It can’t be that addictive!” he’d tell me, straight-faced but sour.

A week later I’d return to the clinic. This time I wasn’t looking for help… I just needed another player to fight against.

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