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Video Game Review: Super Smash Bros. 3D

Written by Harry S. Jackson


Could Super Smash Bros. exist as a portable game? When Nintendo initially announced plans to take its popular fighting franchise to the 3DS, many fans were skeptical. With its frenetic pace, orchestrated chaos, and special moves and stage effects that require plenty of real estate on the viewing screen, early speculation believed that Super Smash Bros. “on the go” was destined for failure. However, this collaboration between Sora Ltd. and Bandai Namco Games is a near-perfect translation of the console brawler that provides a satisfying experience for series veterans and newcomers alike.

Super Smash Bros. 3DS is the fourth title of the fighting game series, featuring playable characters from Nintendo history (and beyond – in some special cases). Those new to the mechanics of Super Smash Bros. may be surprised to learn that rather than the traditional “health bar” found in most fighting games, the aim of Super Smash Bros. is to “ring-out” your opponent by knocking them out of the visible playing area. The more damage a player receives from attacks, the further the player’s character will be knocked back from subsequent attacks. The 3DS release is the most recent game in the series following 2008’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii.


One of the highlights of Super Smash Bros. 3DS is the impressive roster of 49 playable fighters, including 15 brand new characters – the most exciting of which are Mega Man and Pac-man, former rivals of Nintendo’s mustachioed mascot. Many of the new characters on the roster are impressive additions with unique mechanics: for example, Little Mac from the Punch-Out!! series is a much more effective fighter on the ground than in the air (his character could not jump in his original game) and the fighter charges up a K.O. meter during matches similar to a mechanic from Punch-Out!! Another newcomer, Rosalina from the Super Mario Galaxy series, has a myriad of tricky combinations by summoning a “luma” or star character to assist in the battle. Nintendo also provided each character with alternate costumes which range from simple palette swaps to full gender changes for certain characters. One complaint that I have is that there are characters on the roster that are treated as separate characters when they could have been a simple alternate costume for another fighter.

My apologies to fans of these “clone” characters, but they are a waste of roster space and valuable resources that could have been used to provide us with more unique characters that were left off of the roster (still pulling for you Toad fans!). One last gripe about the roster is that the entire roster was revealed prior to the game’s release, robbing the game of some of its potential wonder. This was partially the fault of a major leak that was out of Nintendo’s control, but many of the secret characters that are unlocked through gameplay were revealed through Nintendo’s aggressive marketing campaign. It is an antiquated (pre-Internet) thought, but imagine the amazing shock if Mega Man and Pac-Man were discovered well after the game’s release as a result of some kind of monumental challenge. Many older gamers have stories of those classic schoolyard moments where someone was convinced that Sonic the Hedgehog was unlockable in Super Mario 64 by collecting all the stars and doing something ridiculous like flying around the castle 5 times. Just a little bit of that kind of mystery and discovery could have gone a long way for a game with a roster this deep.

Beyond the pick-up-and-play mode, Super Smash Bros. 3DS also features a variety of single player and multiplayer modes. Smash Run is unique to the 3DS version – featuring a five-minute exploration mode to defeat computer-controlled enemies to power up the player’s character followed by a random contest which could include a free-for-all battle, race, sudden death match or other variations of battles. This mode is fun, but the five-minute “appetizer” runs a tad long and can be rendered useless if it is followed by a disappointing “main course” like a sudden death match (these end in seconds) or if a player spends time building a character’s power only to find out that the final contest is a foot-race. I found “Classic” mode to be a much better use of my single-player time while playing Super Smash Bros. 3DS, as it allows the player to take a character through a variety of rounds and determine the level of difficulty, and thus the level of potential rewards, along the way. Unlockable rewards include secret characters, stages, and collectible trophies which provide insight into some of the more obscure corners of Nintendo history.

The true appeal in any Super Smash Bros. game is playing against other human opponents, and Super Smash Bros. 3DS faced the task of showcasing that a Super Smash Bros. game could operate online smoothly after the disastrous online offering in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Under the strain of possibly millions of players, the network has done an admirable job so far in maintaining a clean crisp online experience…so long as all players have a strong connection to the internet. I found that my 1-on-1 online matches ran very smoothly, but when I connected with two or three other random players, oftentimes the matches would lag to the point where a two-minute match took over 10 minutes to complete. I made the error of trying to play an online match from a distant public WI-fi router and was disconnected before I could complete the match but it slogged on far longer than it should have before I received the boot. The system needs to do a better job of identifying and disconnecting lagging players so that they do not drag down the experience for everyone else. Also, stay away from the online modes if you do not want to be spoiled on the full roster – many of the secret characters are now making the rounds as players flaunt their status in completing the game.


The game itself looks absolutely brilliant on the 3DS, and I could tell that the 3DS hardware itself is working overtime to output the bright and vibrant stages and special moves of the fighters to keep pace. Many criticisms of a portable Smash Bros. game is trying to condense all of the action to a smaller screen and keeping track of the playable characters in the arena as the camera zooms out. I believe the game does the best job that it can in assisting players in keeping track of the characters (players can toggle on a box target outline for their character) however, characters can easily blend into the background of a stage or among the other characters if the alternate costume colors are very similar. With time and experience playing the game, I believe a player’s eyes can adjust to better track his/her character, though one or two stages may still be a little too spread out for the Super Smash Bros. portable experience. As for the controls, most of the moves were easy to execute and the buttons were mapped to where I would expect them having played previous games in the series. I did swap the moves assigned to the L and R buttons (throwing and shielding) as I believed this better fit what I was used to from the older games. My hands did start to cramp up after playing the 3DS for longer than an hour – but I have larger hands, and that may not be the same experience for everyone.

With Super Smash Bros. for Wii U looming in the distance (release date was recently announced for November 21 in North America, two weeks later elsewhere), some are questioning whether Super Smash Bros. 3DS is worth the purchase. Without experiencing the Wii U version myself, that is not a question that I can answer here. However, if the question is whether Nintendo could make Super Smash Bros. work on a portable console – with its huge roster of playable fighters, different modes and collectibles, and smooth transition from the previous console generations, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” Despite some disappointments with the character diversity and foreseeable issues with the smaller screen size and formatting of the 3DS, this game is still a solid entry in the franchise and a must-buy for any competitive Nintendo fans on the go.

Score: 9/10


Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.


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