If you’re a diehard fan, you’ve played Super Smash Bros. on the go in some way or another, with CRTs strapped down in the middle of a minivan or purchasing third-party portable screens to attach to your GameCube or Wii. However, Smash Bros. has never truly been portable before — until now, that is. And yes, it’s everything you’ve dreamed about and so much more.
The moment Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS lands in your hands, it feels like a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders. There’s certainly nothing quite like going through the character selection screen for the first time and seeing your favorite characters brought to life on the dual screen. The 3DS is capable of handling some gorgeous scenery and effects and the game really does seem to push the handheld console to its limits by providing a beautiful portable game. Sakurai wasn’t joking in the Super Smash Bros. Nintendo Direct back in April — the game runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second — although some things, like items and assist trophies, run at 30 fps — and never falters in keeping this standard, even when the 3D slider is turned up.
This is the Smash Bros. you’ve come to know and love; however, certain qualities have been tailored for the single-player experience. This doesn’t just come in the form of exclusive modes, but also in the presentation of the game as it takes into account only one person watching a screen at a time. For example, damage percentages and other stats are placed on the second screen, which can also be used to place a target on an enemy you’d like to focus on if the chaos gets to you.
You can easily jump into a local wireless or online match, but where Smash 3DS really starts to heat things up is in Smash Run, a brand-new mode to the series and one that will only be featured on the 3DS version of the game. Now, if you’re alone, you don’t have to default in finding a friend or fighting CPUs in versus mode. It is surprisingly fun and addicting; plopped down in a big, floating obstacle course, Smash Run lets you run wild and free. How you survive the initial five-minute stage is up to you. Some players seemed to focus only on attacking Kremlings, Koopas, and other henchmen, all of which offer power-ups to increase the stats of your character. This is likely the most basic way to play this mode.
I had more fun keeping track of Smash Run’s news ticker. Notifications about what is going on around the rest of the obstacle course are available at the top of the bottom screen, whether it be the spawning of a big enemy or if two or more opposing fighters have engaged in combat. I found myself stopping what I was doing frequently to disrupt a faraway boss attack or to smash other players to gain their power-ups. The news ticker was a constant source of excitement and opportunity, so my eyes were always glancing at it whenever possible.
Everything you’ve come to love about Smash Bros. is ready for your enjoyment outside of Smash Run. You can easily set up matches against CPU opponents or friends, changing the settings as you wish, and selecting characters and stages is a breeze as they’ve always been. Being able to make certain selections with the touch screen felt very natural, too, as did surfing the game’s clean and polished menus.
With that being said, veteran players may need a match or two in order to get used to playing Smash Bros. on the 3DS or 3DS XL. I felt out of place without a Z button or C stick like those featured on the GameCube controller, but after I had a few rounds under my belt, I was ready to take on anyone. I can only assume that the Circle Pad Pro, if compatible with this game at all, will improve the experience. Without it, the game is still more than playable.
Smash 3DS oozes passion and creativity like the Wii U version, from the brilliant depictions of classic Nintendo characters to reliving familiar portable Nintendo locales. The addition of mutable outlines around the characters show the developers’ exceptional awareness that this is a unique Smash game and requires certain aspects to be played just right. Despite having two games in development, Sakurai and his team haven’t lost what is essential to the Smash experience: fun.
As the games are still in development, one of the largest differences between the demos were the character options. While Rosalina and Luma appeared on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, she doesn’t seem quite ready for her portable debut, so I wasn’t able to try her on Smash 3DS. A few other characters, however, were available on the 3DS while not on the Wii U version, such as Sheik and Yoshi.
These two characters were prime examples of the game being far along in development, but still not quite near the finish line. Yoshi, for example, had at least one bug that caused him to freeze in place afterwards. Sheik, however, was extremely polished and one of the most effective characters in the Smash 3DS version. Not only were her two new special moves packed with utility and power, but her overall move kit seemed to have been improved. She was a combo fiend in every match we used her in, racking up kill after kill with strings, set-ups, and speed to back it all up. Further, she felt and played more like her Melee incarnation than Brawl, which was a pleasant surprise for everyone.
It’s without question that Super Smash Bros. for 3DS will be a must-buy for all 3DS owners — though I do suggest picking up an XL, as it’s more comfortable to play Smash on! That may be just a huge tease for the big high-definition experience on Wii U coming out this holiday season; even so, Smash 3DS certainly holds its own as a stand-alone title. Although it has taken around a decade-and-a-half for Smash to finally make its portable debut, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it.