Welcome to Fan-Service: The Video Game.
Any and all fan fiction should be checked at the door for continuity issues. Once through the doors, all original work will be returned because this is Super Smash Brothers 3DS and anything goes. Want to pair Bowser and Samus against Pac-Man and Pikachu in a battle for the legendary world of Hyrule? Or perhaps Little Mac and Marth against Meta Knight and Mega Man in Mushroom Kingdom for the title of Melee Master? You can!
You just won’t be the first to have done it. That’s the beauty of Super Smash Bros. 3DS. You can pick any Nintendo character not named Waluigi (Fact: Waluigi is the worst) and create the kind of fan fiction that would usually only be reserved for the darker places of the Internet. But you didn’t come here for me to tell you what Super Smash Bros. is, you came here to read how good it is.
And it is good. It’s almost like having Super Smash Bros. Melee in your pocket, ready for a round at any given time. The fighting is fluid and the portable hardware never struggles to deliver a flashy Falcon Punch or a fingertip ledge grab. You will need that smooth play because movement is fast and hectic. Combatants are flying across the screen grabbing Pokéballs and swinging Homerun Bats at a pace that occasionally left me unsure where my character was. And while that can certainly be a problem, it mostly just leads to plain and simple fun. That’s quite the accomplishment, since “fighter” and “portable” aren’t two words that traditionally inspire confidence (looking at you, every fighting game on the Vita).
Aside from the occasional “Where’s my fighter?,” Smash 3DS’s biggest problems come from a few of its many modes. Principle among them is Smash Run. Seemingly designed to be a combination of Melee’s Adventure, Brawl’s Subspace Emissary, and an RPG, Smash Run misses on most points.
What made Subspace Emissary (and to a lesser extent, Adventure Mode) so compelling was the explorative platform sequences that inspired a sense of discovery in the player. And yeah, those awesome cut-scenes.
Sending you across Subspace Emissary-esque platform sequences, Smash Run requires you to collect tons (and tons) of stat boosts dropped by defeated foes. Those stat boosts are then applied in a one-time battle against three computer players and never used again. That’s mostly a fine idea, but the execution isn’t there. Since you’re on a timer, there’s no need to reach any certain point to continue. This replaces exciting exploration with a cumbersome variety.
Piling onto the encumbered player, the varied enemies are everywhere. And while that’s typically a good thing, Smash Run seems to scream “SEE HOW MANY OLD SCHOOL NINTENDO ENEMIES I HAVE!!!!” by putting far too many on screen at one time. When you get poisoned by a Ghastly, put to sleep by a Chespin, and then KO-ed by a Goomba, it’s less embarrassing than it is maddening. And we all know how embarrassing death-by-Goomba is.
Other modes include the standard Homerun Contest and Multi-man Smash tiers, which are mostly unchanged. The StreetPass feature has you driving a token around a small battlefield trying to knock other tokens off the side and it’s as boring as a game of marbles. There’s also an Angry Birds clone disguised as Target Smash. Do with that what you will.
It’s not all bad though. All Star mode is a fun romp through Nintendo’s video game history. Start by facing off against Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Donkey Kong, and Little Mac and work your way through almost the entire roster with nothing but a Maxim Tomato, Fairy Bottle, and Heart Container to get you through. This mode is not for the feint of heart, but it is for the Nintendo-phile within.
Speaking of that roster, I’ve gotten this far without bringing it up. I don’t want to spoil some of the secret characters, but Nintendo dug deep in the best possible way for one of them, and he/she (we really don’t know) is a blast to play. The italicized word is a hint. It is not Bomberman. Suffice it to say you won’t be disappointed when you get the “Challenger Approaching” screen.
Nintendo mostly delivers on a portable Smash Bros. installment. The madness, speed, and near-death experiences are all there. The roster is as extensive as ever. The various game modes mostly deliver what they intend, and the ones that don’t are still fun enough. While not quite enough to satiate the hunger for a new Smash, Super Smash Bros. 3DS delivers a hefty appetizer for what will be a wonderful, Wii U main course on November 21.
Disclaimer: We did not play this game online amid reports that lag ruins the experience. Lag has also been reported in local 4-player versus matches. We lack the 3DS’s to confirm this, and therefore leave it to you to decide if Smash Bros. is a game you would like to play single-player. This review has assumed that you are willing to have a single player Super Smash Bros. experience.
Is It Better Than…
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale? Yes. In every way, yes. PASBR took everything that Smash is, changed it, and called it a clone. It was not. It was the ugly stepchild.
Mario Kart 8? No. We’re including this comparison for multiplayer’s sake. As stated in the disclaimer above, we did not try multiplayer with Smash 3DS, but reports do not reflect the positive experiences we’ve had with MK8, both online and local. Plus, we wanted to remind you that MK8 was super fun.
Super Smash Bros. Melee? No, and it’s not very close. The only area these two really compare well is in the smooth gameplay. Smash 3DS plays as smoothly and faster, but if I want to get together and beat our editor-in-chief (or you, for that matter) at Smash Bros., Melee is the way to go.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl? No, but it is closer. Playing as smoothly as Melee and at the speed of Brawl brings high expectations for Smash Wii U. This one is lost because Subspace Emissary was so good, and Smash Run is not so good.