You’d be forgiven for assuming Super Smash Bros. is made for kids. The series is from Nintendo, a company that tends to choose bright colors and cartoonish art over the bleak, war-torn trappings of many modern titles. When you see characters from Zelda, Mario, and Animal Crossing engaging in battles royal, it looks more like button-mashing chaos than any kind of strategic fighting. Turns out looks can be deceiving.
The Super Smash Bros. series does appeal to casual players, but its kid-friendly looks hide a seriously deep fighting game. Similar to Pokémon and Street Fighter, a whole subculture of tournament play has sprung up for Super Smash Bros. devotees. Some people take these games very seriously.
That’s one reason why the new Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is such a big deal. Hardcore players will pick apart every detail of the game, from how high characters jump, to how many frames certain animations take to complete. If Nintendo fails to deliver a superb product, diehard players could turn away in droves.
Based on the game’s critical reception, however, fans have nothing to worry about. At the time of this writing, the game holds a very healthy 86 out of 100 on Metacritic’s chart, with most reviewers raving about how much fun they had playing it. So how does the game succeed, and how does it fall short? Let’s dive in.
First up is the roster of combatants. The game contains 36 fighters from the start, with 12 more to unlock by playing the game. Fighters come from decades’ worth of Nintendo properties, plus a handful of additional games as well, like Pac-Man and Mega Man. You can even make a fighter based on your personal Mii character. Moreover, you can customize the characters to your liking, something Polygon in particular loved.
The core gameplay consists of up to four fighters duking it out in timed battles. The goal is to rack up a high score by beating on your opponents and knocking them off the screen as many times as you can before the buzzer sounds. To do that, the characters have an array of special moves taken from whatever series they’re originally from. Donkey Kong can do a powerful ground slap, for instance, and Mario can shoot fireballs.
All of the fighting mechanics work great, says Destructoid. “Everything feels rather fluid. Smash hits, tilts, and aerial attacks are easy to pull off no matter what 3DS model you’re using, and the game is very responsive.” This is great, because for a twitch-reaction fighting game like this, every button press counts.
All of this fighting occurs across eight modes, including single-player, online play, target blast, and a new all-star mode. All-star mode delivers fan service by taking you through a year-by-year history of the titles referenced in the game. Another new mode, exclusive to the 3DS version, is “smash run,” which has you play to power up your character before facing off against three computer opponents. IGN loved the wealth of modes, but found smash run to be lacking, saying that, “The randomly selected final match could be something I’m completely unprepared for because I didn’t have the right stats needed to win that type of challenge.”
Online play has some issues as well, according to critics. The Escapist says that, “The latency is quite noticeable, and the game even has to stop now and then while the connection plays catch-up.” GamesRadar had a similar issue when playing local multiplayer over a Wi-Fi connection. “Local multiplayer isn’t exempt from unreliable connections, which is pretty inexcusable for a party-friendly game like Smash Bros.”
Overall, though, the reception for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS has been very positive. Whether you’re a fan of the series or a newcomer, this installment is a great place to start. But if you’d rather wait to see how the upcoming Wii U version shakes out, that could be a good bet, too, as the more powerful hardware could minimize latency issues in the multiplayer modes.
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