Review: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

The wait is finally over, but does Smash Bros. work on a handheld?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 10/13/2014 09:00 4 Comments     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Excellent production values; Huge roster, ample stages to choose from; Online is fun-when it's working right; Tons of gameplay
Poison Mushroom for...
Online is shaky and needs to become more consistently solid; some characters (like Mac) need to be balanced

It’s been a long wait, but with Super Smash Bros. for 3DS finally in my hands, I was thrilled to find that Nintendo was able to put together a game easily on par with previous series installments. Smash Bros. is not a pared down take on what has come before; this is a full-fledged, full-featured game that belies the fact that it’s running on a handheld and not a home console. Other than some issues with online play, Nintendo has brought the front runner for game of the year to the table. The only question now is how the Wii U version will hold up by comparison.

Gameplay is largely the same as ever in Smash Bros., but it’s clear that developer Masahiro Sakurai and his team (comprised of Bandai Namco all-stars this time around) took fan complaints about Super Smash Bros. Brawl to heart. In terms of speed, this game plays a good deal faster than Brawl, but doesn’t quite reach the blazing pace of that GameCube favorite. It’s a sensible compromise, one that should make longtime fans very happy. Players will likely be happier still with the removal of tripping– it’s completely gone, thankfully. That random element of sabotage never made any sense, functioning more as an irritant than a means of leveling the playing field, or whatever it was Nintendo was trying to accomplish with its implementation. Those two changes alone have brought Smash Bros. as a series back to perfect form.

Smash Bros. easily has one of the largest rosters in series history, and arguably its best. Though favorites like Snake, the Ice Climbers, and a couple of others are absent, overall Sakurai has provided a perfect mixture of old and new fighters. Almost all returning characters have had tweaks (some big, some almost indecipherable) made to their move sets, so expect to take a round or two re-acclimating. I was very pleased running through the roster and seeing all the changes, or lack thereof. The new fighters all mesh well with the old, though some are hit or miss in terms of effectiveness. I can’t think of a single one who is unplayable, but they will definitely take some getting used to.

Duck Hunt is a good example of this. Talk about oddball attacks! A couple of the dog and duck duo’s moves are heavily based in timing, but after a while I was getting into a solid rhythm with them. Others, like Shulk, felt much more reminiscent of old fighters, making it a good deal easier to begin playing with him. Half the fun of Smash Bros. is simply going through the roster and finding who will work best with a player’s fighting style. Even someone like me, who has been playing since Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64, will undoubtedly find one or two new fighters that will make a solid argument for becoming their new main. It’s some masterful design work. This all looks very pretty, by the way. Production values are top notch, to the point that I was taken aback at times when I thought about the fact that it was all running on a 3DS. Arenas are well-designed, but the ability to choose Final Destination versions of each had me grinning ear to ear. Now that’s how you show some love to your casual and hardcore players, Nintendo.

Unfortunately, Smash Bros. does drop the ball a bit in terms of balancing said roster. Little Mac, who is so overpowered that it warranted a Yahoo homepage article, leads the pack of fighters needing a patch. Sakurai previously stated that Mac’s weak air recovery was meant to even him out, but the reality is that the barrage of punches and attacks the boxer dishes out can be nearly insurmountable in an online match. It’s more of a problem for newer players, I think (I had my share of headaches with Mac, but Smash veterans should be able to deal with him), but it’s something Nintendo needs to address, eventually. Though I think it’s arguable that Smash Bros. will have a stronger online presence on Wii U, there’s no doubt that 3DS will continue to see folks getting onto Nintendo Network to fight, and the experience should be as smooth as possible to foster that.

Smoothness, sadly, hasn’t been the word I’d use to describe my time playing Smash Bros.‘ online multiplayer. I played the game on a 3DS, 3DS XL, and a 2DS, and across all three variations of the hardware, my online fighting was hit or miss as far as connections go. Lag, lag, lag would rear its head intermittently, much to my chagrin. I would go a handful of matches without issue, but then experience another handful nearly crippled by slowdown. It’s worlds better than the online multiplayer of Brawl, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be. In fairness, at this point I’m willing to give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt and point my finger at server overload being the culprit, as it seems likely that the game would never play well online if it were a coding issue. That being said, I’m no tech expert, so only time will tell if Nintendo can make playing Smash Bros. online consistently strong. 1-versus-1 matches never showed any slowdown for me, so I recommend playing that mode if four-player matches become too cumbersome.

Smash Bros. is as much about its multiplayer as its single player, of course, and in that Sakurai has done well, as usual. Though there is no Subspace Emissary to fawn over this time around, the abundance and quality of single player modes is excellent. Smash Run is great– it’s every bit as fun now as it was when I played it back at E3. Fighting through stages to power up my character was addicting at times, and it never failed to amuse me seeing all the different enemies to attack. Classic and All-Star modes are back, offering welcome twists. Classic has branching paths that yield different rewards, while All-Star acts as something of a history lesson, pitting players in fights with characters based on what years they were created. Stadium events make a return, with Multi-Man Smash and Home-Run Contest now joined by Target Blast! Target Blast is similar to Home-Run Contest, except instead of going for distance, players build up the potency of a bomb that is flung across the screen. Going for a high score was fun, and something that hopefully returns in future installments.

Customization is a bigger part of Smash Bros. than in any iteration before, but it wasn’t as engaging as I expected it to be. Creating a Mii Fighter with specialized attacks was the biggest highlight. I enjoyed selecting costumes, picking moves, and refining my Mii to suit my particular quirks, but at the same time, it wasn’t as intuitive as the rest of the game. I had to wrap my head around some of the finer points of customization, and wasn’t always certain that I knew what I was doing. For those willing to commit, it’s a blast making a Mii Fighter or altering the abilities of characters like Link and Mario, but it felt like an unnecessary addition overall. Luckily, custom fighters are limited to offline, so don’t worry that someone will be entering the online ring with an unfair advantage! I wouldn’t abandon this in the future, though, if I were in Nintendo’s shoes, but I would suggest streamlining it in a way that suits the nature of the Smash Bros. franchise.

It wouldn’t be a Smash Bros. game without goodies, and Sakurai didn’t disappoint, for the most part. There are a ton of Trophies to collect, but for this game Nintendo dropped some of the more historical touches, like game appearances in the Trophy descriptors that were shown in Melee and Brawl. The descriptors are better-written than ever, but the loss of those details is a shame. Getting the Trophies comes from a mixture of completing Classic and All-Star Mode, Trophy Rush (which has players destroy falling blocks), and an in-game shop that sells them for both coins and Play Coins. Collecting Trophies is as addicting as ever, but in general it felt like there was less to discover in Smash Bros. Music is all unlocked from the beginning, and stickers have been replaced with attributes for character customization. I’m nitpicking for sure, and believe me when I say that I’m not dinging Smash Bros. because I didn’t have CDs to gather this time around, but I think a lot of people out there might be similarly disappointed, so it felt worth pointing out. Regardless, there’s a lot of fan service in Smash Bros., it’s just toned down a touch.

I’m really only scratching the surface of Smash Bros. There’s so much to do and see that players will be absorbed by the game for hours on end. As far as fighting fundamentals go, Smash Bros. is a return to the glory days of Melee, while taking cues from the best of Brawl‘s presentation and refinements. Online multiplayer is shaky; when it works, it’s great, when it doesn’t, it’s off to play 1-versus-1 matches. Nintendo will need to come up with a fix at some point, but there’s a lot of potential on display. Smash Bros.‘ various modes are as fun as ever, and suit 3DS well. Whether playing in bursts or for sustained periods, the game is an excellent portable take on Smash Bros. Character balance could use some work, but this is a wonderful roster that will satisfy nearly everyone. Smash Bros. has arrived, and it didn’t disappoint. I can’t stress enough that this needs to be in everyone’s 3DSes.

4 Responses to “Review: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS”

  • 156 points
    excaliburguy says...

    Personally, I think that Little Mac is fine where he is. Sure, his ground game is superb, but having an awful air game takes away a bunch of approaching options. A lot of Macs I’ve played online use his side-special or his dash attack to approach, which is easily punishable (shield grabbing for the win!). Plus, his recovery “is just terrible”, as Sakurai so eloquently put it, making it a cakewalk to edgeguard him.
    But yeah, overall this game is looking pretty sweet. Can’t wait for the Wii U version!

  • 66 points
    haruhi4 says...

    personally, i hate the new smash for 3ds. My brother downloaded it on eshop, but the game crashes right on start(every time he enters characters selection screen, even on TRAINING mode). Then, re tried to redownload it, put a new SD and download, download without the update… Nothing went right. This wasn´t happening with other 3ds games. Then, sometimes, the game does not crash and we can play online, but i keep getting connection error A LOT. Smash 3ds is just for single player only, the multiplayer part is totally full of bugs and crashes. I feel ashamed of buying it on 3ds, i will buy the wii u version so at least i don´t get crashes, but i wasted lots of money on it ._.

    • 1291 points
      Robert Marrujo says...

      That’s totally weird, I haven’t heard of anyone having the game crash so bad like that. I have both digital and physical copies of the game, and didn’t experience that on either. Nintendo is usually pretty helpful if you give them a call and let them know what’s up, though! See if they’ll offer you a solution. Good luck.

      • 66 points
        haruhi4 says...

        you never heard of anyone because you didn´t get the error. But there is this thread:

        And lot´s of people are getting the error and the best solution is only “contact nintendo”. I have contacted nintendo and they send me an address so i can send my 3ds there to repair. It can take days, months… I don´t know. Also, there is this possibility they won´t find the error and i will just lose days of playing with my 3ds ._.

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