GAME REVIEW: SUPER SMASH BROS. / DEVELOPER: SORA LTD., BANDAI NAMCO GAMES / PUBLISHER: NINTENDO / PLATFORM: 3DS, WII U / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (3DS), DECEMBER 5TH (WII U)
Representing the first pillar of Nintendo’s fascinating cross-platform release strategy with the Wii U, Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS sees the company’s huge nostalgic throwdown bottled up inside a handheld console for the first time. Packing nearly 50 playable characters and a plethora of ways to play, does the 3DS have enough power to ensure daily commutes are rife with battle-torn yells and inflammatory remarks against cutesy pink balls waving hammers? Surprisingly, it does with remarkable ease.
Smash Bros. for the 3DS triumphs in bringing the blockbuster fighting experience to a handheld without feeling like a lesser or diluted version. The battles are still lightning-fast, all the modes you’ve come to expect like Classic, All Star and Stadium challenges are here, and they’ve even crammed in the best online experience for the series yet. Basically, online multiplayer matches now actually work.
For the unfamiliar, Smash Bros. is essentially Nintendo throwing a house party and leaving the cocktail station unattended. Franchises old and new are bundled together in tight arenas, music pumping, booze (probably) flowing, with battles inevitably breaking out between some of gaming’s biggest divas, from Star Fox and Pikachu to Pikmin’s Captain Olimar. Meanwhile, away from the main ruckus, there’s the blissfully sweet drunk in the corner; recounting tales of forgotten Nintendo characters and guiding you past trophy cabinets which celebrate the company’s illustrious and colourful gaming history.
The invited roster this time around is the best yet. Alongside household names like Mario, Link and Donkey Kong are welcomely obscure additions such as Kid Icarus’ Palutena and Shulk from the Xenoblade Chronicles. What’s most impressive is how each fighter (aside from a couple of clones unlocked along the way) feels so distinct and rightfully represented within the beat em’ up frame. The floaty elegance and distance attack reliant Rosalina requiring a completely different style of play in comparison to Punch Out’s Little Mac, who reeks havoc in ground-based assaults but soon loses bite when he’s smashed into the air. The entire roster feels varied without being unbalanced, with customisable moves also being well integrated to make each fighter your own.
While the control scheme is undoubtedly more suited to a console setup, the 3DS button layout still does an admirably commendable job of supporting your grasp on the chaos. There’s a learning curve, certainly, with the less responsive circle pad destined to take a battering in the early stages amongst seasoned players. But after a few matches, it soon feels like you’re slipping back into an old comfy glove, with brief introductions to the games many modes for those new to the series.
The 3DS-specific mode called Smash Run, however, falls a little flat. Before a match, you’ll be thrown into a labyrinth full of Nintendo enemies from across different franchises, from Metroids to the ReDead from the Zelda series, whom you fight to earn power-ups. These temporarily boost your character’s stats, including agility and strength, and once the 5 minute time limit runs out, these abilities are carried over into a context-specific match of random choosing. It has potential, but the labyrinth build-up to the closing match simply lasts far too long. During this time, you won’t come into contact with other players either, making the mode oddly isolating; a bizarre feeling for a mode which is essentially designed for multiplayer.
This misstep aside, Smash Bros. for the 3DS manages to surpass all expectation and excitedly raise them for the forthcoming Wii U iteration. While it’ll be interesting to see if Nintendo can provide enough incentive to keep players interested for its console brethren, the 3DS version is, astoundingly, the full Smash Bros. experience many of us perhaps didn’t expect. So dive in and pick your poison, Nintendo’s party extravaganza has gone mobile and adventures on local transport might not ever be the same again.
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