It's been a long wait for the latest installment of the Super Smash Bros. series, and for fans who've dreamed of having a portable iteration, it's finally here and has a number of expectations to live up to. Fortunately, it's a relief to report that the game pushes the 3DS to its limit, and leaves fans with a legitimate and enjoyable experience to throw in their pocket.
The entire premise of the longstanding fighting game series will sound like a euphoric trip down memory lane for casual and hardcore gamers alike. Pitting iconic mascots like Mario and Link against Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog is the stuff of dreams for many consumers, but Super Smash Bros. is notorious for allowing fans to play out these magical scenarios. Therein lies the main appeal of the property, but there's so much more depth to the game than just that.
Establishing a pace that meets halfway between Melee and Brawl, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS strays away from the floatiness of its most recent predecessor to appeal more to fighting game fans – while still maintaining its renowned pickup-and-playability. Anyone can jump in and deliver a devastating Falcon Punch to Pikachu's face, and that's always been the hallmark of the series. It walks a fine line to appease both audiences and the 3DS iteration is no exception to this ongoing and well-rehearsed dynamic.
Keeping that in mind, it doesn't hurt that the roster in this game will cater to a myriad of play styles thanks to its immense size. When the starting selection of fighters is 36 characters deep (39 if you count the three different Mii combatant options), there's little to worry that Nintendo hasn't taken every precaution to ensure that players' expectations were largely met. That said, there are a few notable veterans that didn't make the cut into the new game (i.e. Ice Climbers and the heavily desired Mewtwo), but there are so many new and returning mascots to choose from that those woes are overshadowed.
While the starting roster will take an ample amount of time to get accustomed to, there are additional unlockable fighters that can be added over the course of simply playing the game. This is where players will get their thrill, because earning new characters, adding trophies to the collection, unlocking stages to battle on and finding various hats and outfits for Mii Fighters quickly becomes an addictive and rewarding adventure that never ceases to let up.
Another big addition that makes its debut in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is the ability to customize characters. Players are able to swap out Smash Attacks with one of three options (provided they've unlocked them) and they can then alter the attributes of fighters by decking them out in Equipment. Both additional attacks and Equipment can be found while playing through the single player Classic Mode or completing challenges, and they allow for players to modify the title how they see fit.
Want Bowser to be a fast and fragile fighter? Done. Want Kirby to freeze foes instead of inhale them? It's an option. The customization allows users to make the game more of what they want. Another interesting trait about Equipment is that, while some pieces enhance traits, they'll also take away from one of the core three attributes: Speed, Strength and Defense. This keeps the system balanced and forces players to sacrifice something in exchange for benefits in other areas.
As previously mentioned, Classic Mode makes its triumphant return in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, but this time with a twist. Putting a greater emphasis on collecting coins, players are now able to raise the difficulty of their playthrough while forcing them to put their money where their mouth is. Charging participants faux currency to participate, raising the difficulty offers big risks for even bigger rewards. Additional gold, trophies, characters and more can only be earned on the higher difficulty settings, making it a much more in-depth and appealing option for longtime fans.
All-Star mode also makes its triumphant return and this time the option is available right from the beginning. Allowing players to take a trip down memory lane by fighting combatants in an order that's established by the date of their real-world debut, it makes for a fun and enlightening look at the rich history behind the characters of the Smash Bros. series. Unlocking all the characters adds additional foes to pummel as well, ensuring that the nostalgia grows as the roster rounds out.
Nintendo offers several options for online play with Super Smash Bros. on 3DS. Whether playing in 'For Fun' or 'For Glory' (the two core options available for online play), connectivity isn't consistent and is borderline problematic. Some matches are fluid and go off with little to no lag, while others stutter and chug along. Mind you, my experience took place against users that already have the game in Japan which could have been a factor.
As for non-online play, Super Smash Bros. is near flawless. Pushing the on-screen fighters to 60 frames per second, every ounce of the action is smooth and telling of what's capable on the portable Nintendo platform, even if it's not always perfect. Extended play will cause discomfort, and the layout of the buttons and lack of a true analog stick impede on the game's ability to be as technically compelling at times, but there's still a lot to love about the portable installment.
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is a must-have for Nintendo 3DS owners. It's an immeasurable nod to gaming's past, and its vast array of playable characters and enjoyable gameplay makes for a great gaming experience. The hardware may impede on the game every so often, but overall this iteration of Smash can stand proudly amongst its console predecessors. Now, the wait for the Wii U version begins.
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS arrives exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS on October 3, 2014.
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