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Super Smash Bros (3DS) Review

The mascot fighting game arrives on a Nintendo handheld for the first time with pretty much all the flair and gameplay intact.

Bowser puts Link in the hurt locker

I’ve never been much of a Super Smash Bros fan. Basically, I played the N64 edition that started the series off in the ’90s, had a few rounds each on the GameCube and Wii versions, and that’s about… it. For some reason, the game never captured my attention the way most other first-party Nintendo titles do. Most of the time, these games are like gold to me, but SSB just never was. It probably has something to do with the fact that I’m not the biggest fighting game fan in general and I prefer the classics when I do play around in the genre.

I love the Street Fighter series, and really dig Mortal Kombat and King of Fighters as well, but I honestly try and stay away from the genre as a rule, as it tends to eat up time (at least, they did for me when I was younger) and that’s something that I just flat-out don’t have these days. Super Smash Bros for the Nintendo 3DS though, I think has changed my mindset a bit.

For starters, this is Super Smash Bros as you know it, with all its various little gimmicks, power-ups, and mini-games. From the moment you boot up the game, there’s a menu giving you multiple options for play. There’s straight-up Smash for just diving in and playing a few rounds in the arcade style, then there Smash Run where you’ll be timed in beating enemies back, Challenge where you can view the various challenges you’ve unlocked, and Games & More which holds multiple game modes. And if that weren’t enough, you can also choose to play most all of the above in solo or team modes.

The levels are pure Nintendo charm and incredibly well-made

If that sounds like there’s a lot to do in SSB, it’s because there is. In addition, you can also use your 3DS version of Super Smash Bros to link up to the forthcoming Wii U edition and use your handheld like a controller, though my hands got cramped beyond belief playing this one, so I’m not sure why you’d want to. You can even transfer characters, that you’ve outfitted in gear and built up the stats on, over to that upcoming version, which is pretty great. Let it not be said in any way, shape, or form that the portable Smash is a stripped down affair.

And the presentation isn’t anything to sneeze at either. Sure there’s set to be a lot more going on in the Wii U edition, and the graphics will be in HD and all that much prettier than what’s on the 3DS, but Super Smash Bros on the go isn’t anything even close to bad looking. It’s just a fantastic looking title. Everything from the characters themselves right down to the menu screens are poppy and crisp and bursting with color, and have a cartoony flair that doesn’t get old no matter how much time you pour into it. And the levels are stunning by the way. Sure there are a few clunkers that aren’t all that great, but most of them (and all of the Mario-themed stages) are awesome and have some of the coolest ‘evolutions’ you could think of. I mean, one of the Mario levels actually scrolls along as you fight, and if you get scrolled off screen, you’re out.

While we’re talking presentation, the sound design here is pretty awesome too. There are plenty of tracks to listen to and each one matches up with the game-themed level that you’re fighting on. Each fighter sounds pretty sharp as well, and the announcer (who I gather is something of a fixture in these games) is terrific.

As a player of the above mentioned fighters (and someone who hasn’t played a Smash in a long time), I was more than a little thrown off by the mechanics though. This was basically because, while they do mimic standard fighting game controls, they also do it in a pretty unique way. You’ve got your attack button, your special moves button, and your jump button alright- but each of the attack buttons is influenced by the circle pad.

Not only does the pad control movement in the game, it also controls what attack you’ll unleash when you use a direction in conjunction with pressing one of the attack buttons. Press up plus the attack button and you’ll do an uppercut, down plus your special attack and Mario will pull out his F.L.U.D.D. pack (from Super Mario Sunshine) to blast his opponent – that sort of thing. It’s definitely something that takes some getting used to, but it’s also really quite good and works flawlessly once you get the hang of it, which fortunately doesn’t take all that long. Would I rather have had a traditional scheme where there are three ‘punch’ and three ‘kick’ buttons? Yeah, probably, but this works pretty great so I can’t complain too much.

One of my favorite stages and new characters, Pac-Man doesn’t disappoint

One of the biggest differences I found between Smash and most all other fighting games I’ve played (and one of the things that took the most getting used to) is the fact that there are no life-bars. You battle in order to incur damage percentage upon your foes, but not till they get ‘knocked out’ or anything. Instead you try and blast them off screen using powerful attacks and just generally try to beat them up as much as you can. But even with that, if you’re getting your clock cleaned, it’s still possible to be very much on the loosing end of things and still play through a match till the timer runs out. Since you never really get completely knocked from a round, you never have to stop playing, even if you’re stinking up the joint. You won’t be the winner, but still.

Final Thoughts

As with most fighting games, Super Smash Bros takes a little getting used to and there is a learning curve, especially for someone who really has only played the bigger and more staple games in the genre. If you give it some time though (not a ton either), I think you’ll find that this is a title that’s got more than what it takes to shine for a long time in your handheld’s carrying case.

SSB just screams ‘pick up and play’. You know those games that are awesome when you get them, but then you can still grab and play for a while even years from release? This is definitely one of those. The graphics and sound are both top notch, the options are deep (incredibly so for a handheld title) and the controls are excellent once you get used to what’s happening.

Your hands will definitely need a good stretch after a long play session, but if you have a 3DS and you love Nintendo’s characters (as well a Pac-Man, Sonic, and Mega Man), this is as close to a must buy as you can get.

About Jason

Jason's been knee deep in videogames since he was but a lad. Cutting his teeth on the pixely glory that was the Atari 2600, he's been hack'n'slashing and shoot'em'uping ever since. Mainly an FPS and action guy, Jason enjoys the occasional well crafted title from every genre.

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