By Bryan Smith on October 6, 2014 at 4:00pm
It’s been six years since “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” was released, and the wait for the next installment(s) has felt even longer. Development for the next “Super Smash Bros.” game from there was locked tight from the public until director Masahiro Sakurai completed his game “Kid Icarus: Uprising.” Come E3 2013, the game was officially revealed, and the fandom rejoiced. Not only was there a new “Super Smash Bros.” coming to the Wii U, but for the first time “Super Smash Bros.” would be on a handheld device: the Nintendo 3DS. And now the time has come to smash together with friends portably. Does “Super Smash Bros.” play well on a handheld, or should it have just stayed with Nintendo’s main consoles?
New Characters Are Always a Blast
The biggest hook to “Super Smash Bros.” is bringing beloved Nintendo characters and a few outside ones together and having them duke it out. And with each new game, everyone gets excited for the new additions. And this one is no different. Fan-demanded characters like Mega-Man, Little Mac, and Shulk are a blast to see realized in Smash. Even the unbelievable characters that you’d never think of getting in like the Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, and the Miis surprisingly fit in well. There may be instances where a character inclusion could be eyebrow-raising (secrets that are up to you to find out) and some franchises being ignored for others, such as "Star Fox" and "Metroid," but the additions are pretty great, though the stages felt a tad limited and there wasn’t a whole lot of variety.
Same Gameplay, New Controls
The essence of “Super Smash Bros.” is to beat the living snot out of the all-star roster of Nintendo’s finest characters. As opposed to traditional fighters that pit two fighters against each other in a locked brawl, fighters are allowed to move freely on a two-dimensional plain with up to four players. You can jump, run, fly (briefly before plummeting), and attack anywhere you so desire. As a result, the gameplay is chaotic but in a good way. It’s a controlled chaos that makes fights fast-paced and thrilling.
While the core gameplay has stayed the same throughout the years since “Super Smash Bros.” debuted on the Nintendo 64, the feel for the controls are a bit different. The 3DS version marks the first time since “Super Smash Bros. Melee” that a Gamecube controller can’t be used. Whereas the A, B, X, Y buttons, circle pad, and directional pad are left unchanged (minus the rearrangement of said buttons), the c-stick is missing for quick and easy smash attacks, and the L and R buttons have different controls by default. R is used for shield and dodging commands specifically, while L has an additional function of grabbing. These controls might not sound bad at first until they are put into practice. The 3DS is not a system/controller devised to handle such quick and button smashing commands. Even if you take the issue of the circle pad breaking from the smash commands out of consideration, the buttons are just not set adequately enough for the speedy commands a veteran player can pull off. I found myself getting uncomfortable quickly holding the 3DS while performing fast dodges. The 3DS just isn’t the most optimal system to run “Super Smash Bros.”
Fixed Mechanics Means No More Accidental Tripping
One of the major complaints from Brawl’s mechanics was the random tripping, something most people disliked. Thankfully for everyone, tripping randomly is no longer an issue, as it has been removed completely (minus the banana peel still tripping characters, but that is the only case of tripping). In addition, ledge hogging, where someone would stay on a ledge and cause someone trying to get to said ledge to fall to his/her doom, has been modified. Dependent of percentage in damage, a character can pry another right off the ledge.
The speed and flow of the fighting lands itself right in between "Melee’s" and "Brawl’s," creating a nice middle ground. Everything flows smoothly without random tripping, and with the new customization of special moves, the game adds a new depth to "Smash" that hasn’t been seen before. It just adds to how unpredictable a fighter can be with how many combinations there can be. Sadly, this can’t be applied to the online functionality. It isn’t a dreadful thing, but it would be nice to see it implemented in the future.
The online multiplayer aspect has improved quite a bit from “Super Smash Bros. Brawl,” where online matches could actually run smoothly "at times" (as a disclaimer). Like most other new games with online support, the multiplayer can be lag-infested. Baffling enough, the local multiplayer suffered lag, as well. I heard from friends that dependent on the Internet speed and connection, matches could either run smoothly or end up choppy if even one person’s connection was bad.
Smash Run is ... Undesired
The Subspace Emissary from "Brawl" didn’t exactly garner a lot of praise. People criticized the waste of potential of having a full-fledged crossover of Nintendo heroes and enemies being focused on enemies no one knows or really cared about. The Great Maze of the single-player mode further generated a sour taste in people's mouths. So now we have "Smash Run," which feels like there’s at least one step in the right direction … only to see that it really isn’t anything special at all. In fact, many aspects are more like steps in the wrong direction.
Smash Run is where four players (and always four, nothing less) try to collect as many power-ups as possible in five minutes and then compete in a final challenge to get first place. This mode is only local multiplayer, so any chance of getting practice is with the computer-players. And the mode itself isn't anything special. It may add a few cool differences to regular fights like being able to jump extremely high and abnormal strength to attacks, but there's nothing outrageously different.
The one step in the right direction happens to be using enemies from a large chunk of the franchises, something fans have wanted. However, that is about where the good ends for Smash Run. Unlike regular matches, where at max there would be three to four opponents to deal with, enemies swarm you with around seven at a time. Because the controls aren’t up to snuff to fight proficiently, a lot of times you’d end up racking up to 80-100 percent in a matter of seconds without a fair chance to defend yourself. It just ends in frustration rather than a fun way to face enemies of yesteryear.
Hardware Limitations Hold Smash Back
My initial thought when the game was revealed at E3 2013 was what would be the purpose of having a 3DS version of “Super Smash Bros.” Because there isn’t a crossplay feature, as the only options we have (at this time) is to link customized characters and to use the 3DS as a controller for the Wii U, there really isn’t much of a purpose. The only strong defense I could muster is that people will have a portable version of “Super Smash Bros,” and then it becomes clear that the 3DS version is holding back the Wii U version. A lot.
Throughout 2013 and 2014, Sakurai has been giving us small updates on what the two versions will be like. The first indication was that the 3DS had taken hits in the frames of animation. Everything on the Wii U version, as far as we know now, runs at 60 fps. While all the characters and stages run at 60 fps on the 3DS, Assist Trophies and Pokémon can only run at 30 fps. At first, this doesn’t seem like an important aspect since those aren’t at the core gameplay, but that is just the beginning of what the 3DS can’t run.
Later on, closer to the release of the game, information on the development was revealed that the 3DS couldn’t run other aspects properly. Most notably, the Ice Climbers were cut from the game since the 3DS version couldn’t properly have Popo and Nana fight together (yet they could for Rosalina and Luma, who are extremely close to said style of fighting). However, the Wii U version could. This was also the same problem with another gameplay aspect- transformations. With characters like Zelda, Samus, and Pokémon Trainer, they offered a unique strategy of changing characters. The 3DS couldn’t handle those either. Now although one can appreciate having transformations separate, it just shows that the 3DS is forcing more limitations for the Wii U version than there needs to be. The 3DS can’t handle everything that makes “Super Smash Bros.” so special.
Still Very Great, but not the Smash We Hoped for ... Yet
It may seem that I’m a little harsh with “Super Smash Bros. for 3DS,” but it’s just tough love in what I think can make the next iteration of "Smash" even better. The game itself is great; don’t get me wrong. Obviously the Wii U version is going to be better, as the system can handle much more than the 3DS could. The main issue is that the 3DS is holding back the absolute potential the next "Smash" has to offer. But it gives people a portable “Super Smash Bros.,” which in itself is still great. There is still a lot of content and challenges to explore and complete. “Super Smash Bros. for 3DS” is also a good warm-up for its bigger brother version. Now my only thoughts after playing so much of the 3DS version is about what the Wii U version has to offer.