The prospect of a portable Smash Bros. game has been a tantalizing one ever since the original iteration debuted on the Nintendo 64 in 1999, but the premise remained a pipe dream for many — until the Big N announced that the series would be coming to the 3DS. The joy of playing such a beloved console franchise on the go was soon met with skepticism, however, as many wondered of the series could maintain its quality in a shift down to handhelds.
E3 2014 brought with it the very first opportunity that gaming journalists had to go hands-on with both the Wii U and 3DS versions of the next Super Smash Bros. game. I’ve already summarized my thoughts on how the Wii U iteration holds up, but I also scored ample time with the 3DS installment of the crossover-fueled beat ’em up. I’m happy to report that anyone concerned can safely lay their worries to rest, because the game — albeit less shiny than its console counterpart — is a true to form experience on Nintendo’s handheld.
After entering the Nintendo booth, I was handed a 3DS with Super Smash Bros. installed on it. The starting menu was simplified with only two options to play through: Battle and Smash Run. Not wanting to jump into the new mode right off the bat, I selected the standard battle mode to nail down the modified controls of the portable fighter.
The selectable characters varied from those in the Wii U demo on display, so I selected a character that couldn’t be found on the console demo, Sheik. I was then asked to select a stage, which I did in the form of Prism Tower from Pokemon X and Y, and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS quickly began to load. As has been previously addressed by series creator Masahiro Sakurai, the stages in the 3DS version of the new game will not be the same as the ones found on the Wii U — instead they’ll be based on existing portable titles.
Once in the match, it was instantly apparent just how smoothly the characters move across the screen. Running from one side of the stage to the other proved to be just as fluid as the console version I had been playing through moments earlier, and the action managed to keep me engaged for the entirety of the battle. Admittedly, the circle pad on the 3DS takes a little getting use to, but longtime fans will quickly be able to adjust to the different layout of the 3DS.
After defeating the helpless CPUs, I shifted into the Smash Run mode. For those that aren’t familiar with the new mode, it’s a feature exclusive to the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. that tasks players with traversing through a massive map to defeat as many enemies and collect as many power-ups as possible within a short amount of time. Afterwards, players are thrown into a battle against three other competitors — this time super-charged by all the power-ups that they’ve gathered.
While playing through this new mode, I faced off against countless characters and creatures that had appeared in a number of past Nintendo titles; even a few baddies from the Mega Man games made an appearance. After pummeling generic foes, enhancing my stats, and collecting a handful of trophies, I was cast into a ‘Flower Battle’ against three other powered-up combatants who had been running around the same area I had just been in.
The cool thing about this end game is that it will randomly select an end game for players to compete in. The aforementioned ‘Flower Battle’ that I found myself in placed flowers on every competitor’s head and it slowly increased our damage over time, but fans could be thrown into a standard battle, a race, or anything in between. There are a a copious number of challenges that can greet players, and they’re all decided at random.
After a few close calls, I emerged victorious in my bout. Overall, Smash Run is a fun ordeal for players that are looking to mix it up from standard battles, and it’s a mode that Super Smash Bros. for 3DS needed to give fans something else to keep playing. This version of Smash may not hold up to the mechanical expectations fans hold to standard console iterations of the franchise, but it looks as if it’s building up to be a high-traffic addition to anyone’s Nintendo 3DS library.
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS will be arriving on October 3, 2014, while the Wii U version is scheduled for Holiday 2014.
Follow Riley on Twitter @TheRileyLittle.