Let’s get the point of this review out of the way right in the first paragraph: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is more Smash in a portable format. It’s the same hilarious combat you’ve loved for years and the only qualms you might have are that the controls are a little finnicky. You’ll easily forgive this when I mention that you don’t have to play through a long, dull story mode to unlock all of the game’s characters. Got it? Good!
Now let’s talk about all the nitty-gritty: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is the latest in Nintendo’s party fighting series as well as the first portable entry. It features a roster full of classic favorites as well as quite a few new faces. There’s plenty of content so you’re not going to run out of stuff to do whether you’re playing by yourself or with others.
In terms of characters, the newcomers to the series definitely bring a little more life to the cast. The game’s dark horse is definitely Shulk, the lightsaber-wielding protagonist from the JRPG Xenoblade Chronicles whose presence in the game was leaked a few months ago. His gameplay is comparable to Marth, the swordsman from the Fire Emblem series, though Shulk also features a unique self-buffing mechanic that allows you to change combat modes to suit your situation. There’s also the trainer from Wii Fit, a bizarre choice who plays something like Samus and is hilariously out-of-place in the game; she offers tranquil descriptions of the various yoga poses she performs as attacks and exhorts the value of daily exercise during the match. Little Mac, the boxer from Punch-Out!, steps up to playable character status after appearing as an assist trophy in Brawl. He’s definitely proven one of the more popular newcomers online, probably due to his extremely quick movement and attacks.
Other new characters include Super Mario Galaxy’s Rosalina, the playable villager from Animal Crossing, Pac-Man and even your own Mii which can be customized to your liking. Previous characters have also received a little love in the transition to the new game. Several characters which previously acted as two-in-one packages, namely Zelda/Sheik and Samus/Zero Suit Samus, have been separated and given new moves. Characters who were on the weaker side, like Sonic the Hedgehog, also feel a little more powerful and enjoyable to play. This game adds in a customization option for each character allowing you to adjust their movesets using unlockable features found primarily in the game’s Smash Run mode. For most characters this is generally used for “sidegrades” of special moves, though newcomers Palutena, Mega Man and the various forms of the playable Mii can be customized with new moves entirely. It’s a great little touch and adds a lot of replay value.
The game’s various modes include the aforementioned Smash Run, a five-minute dash through a Metroid-style stage where you players compete to grab power-ups before engaging in a giant battle royale. It’s a bit reminiscent of the later levels of Brawl’s Subspace Emissary, though it’s been vastly streamlined and is much more enjoyable as a result. There’s also the standard array of tournament fighter-style modes, the usual Smash Bros. trophy collection mode and so on. Suffice to say you’re not going to run out of much to do here.
Online multiplayer is available and, naturally, it’s got some issues. This is Nintendo, after all. In order to play with friends you’ll need their friend codes, which is as obtrusive and aggravating as ever, but when you’re connected the experience is generally decent. There are issues with lag but on the whole it’s less prominent than Brawl’s disastrous netcode. You’re also able to play with random players in either an unranked (For Fun) or ranked (For Glory) capacity; the nod to more hardcore players is nice and marks another departure from Brawl, which largely thumbed its nose at competitive play.
Graphically, this entry departs from previous titles in the series by portraying characters closer to how they look in their respective series. While Brawl aimed for a more unifying style, here Pac-Man looks like he does in the later Pac-Man games, for instance. It’s really up to the player whether or not this is an improvement, though generally things look pretty good given the hardware. One issue is that larger battles on certain maps can cause some visual lag, which is a significant issue in a game like this. There’s no issue to be had with the audio as themes from the various series represented in the game are all here and the sound effects are clear and crisp.
One note that needs to be said: the controls can be a bit…touchy, particularly when it comes to performing Smash attacks by smashing your control stick in a direction. There have already been reports of people damaging their systems by doing so a little too energetically. Maybe Nintendo’s upcoming ‘New 3DS’ hardware and its second analog nub can fix this, but until then, be careful!
The bottom line is that this the kind of quality we’ve all come to expect from first-party Nintendo games with, for better or worse, wonky online capabilities. Unless you’re dead set on playing online with random players at all times, you can’t really go wrong here. At $40 or so, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is a fantastic value.