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Super Smash Bros is not a fighting game. It’s a party game that involves fighting, much like how every game of Mario Party inevitably devolves into a series of two-fisted brawls. Smash Bros is at its best when you have a room full of people, each with a different character preference, fired up and itching to get their hands on a controller. By moving the series onto the 3DS, Nintendo has made it easier than ever to have fun with (arguably) their best multiplayer series. It’s almost impossible to get into an online match, and the single player content is a tad light, but the core is solid and being able to challenge your friends while you’re out at dinner is absolutely worth the cutbacks.
One aspect of the game that remains untrimmed is the character roster. You’ve got a sizable amount of series mainstays like Pikachu and Link, but the new additions feel like the best of the bunch. I found myself switching between Little Mac and Shulk quite frequently; Little Mac’s standard attacks do enough damage to keep an untalented Smash player like myself above water, and Shulk can jump around like a crazy person. Apparently, talking about unlockable characters that have been public knowledge for weeks is simultaneously “breaking embargo” and “spoilers” but there are some very interesting characters hidden behind various feats of skill. It’ll be fun to see what the more talented Smash Bros players among us do with them.
There’s a decent variety of stages available, but too many of them feel overly familiar. Do we really need four Mario stages? If the random element of the stages adds too much chaos for you, press a button and switch to the stage’s alternate form: essentially Final Destination with a different coat of paint.
In the nine or so days I’ve spent with Super Smash Bros, I’ve had mixed luck getting into multiplayer games. Locally, it’s a snap. Two button presses, and you’re playing against your friends. This is somewhat dependant on having local friends with 3DS systems and a copy of the game, but the 3DS has been out for over three years. If you don’t think your social circle will be playing this game when it comes out in a few days, maybe this is a purchase worth re-examining. However, playing online is nigh-impossible, at least from my tests. I was unable to find anybody outside of Japan playing the game. This may have contributed to the unplayable amount of lag, but it’s not totally unreasonable to expect a multiplayer game to work regardless of location.
That’s not to say the game is totally bereft of solo content. There’s a “Classic” mode, which is basically a standard fighting game “Arcade” mode with branching choices. Also, you fight Master Hand at the end. You can also collect coins and some kind of wrench-based currency, neither of which seem to have any concrete use. Tougher branches will give you more coins, and ratcheting up the difficulty in general will make everything more rewarding. You can also play an ‘All-Star’ mode, which is a series of themed matches. There’s a match with characters from the 90s, a match with classic arcade characters, ect. But the limited roster means that you’ll have seen everything after one playthrough. It’s not poorly implemented, but there’s really no meat to it.
I found myself spending most of my solo time in the Stadium. Multi-Man Smash, Break the Targets, and Home-Run Contest are surprisingly addictive in their own right, and the various challenges associated with each mode are worth completing. There’s something undeniably charming about blowing through mobs of paper enemies with a well-timed counter or launching a sandbag into the atmosphere.
This review may seem a tad short, but that’s for two reasons: the most interesting parts of the game are locked behind an embargo; and it’s another Super Smash Bros. There may be a wealth of differences for people who are way into this franchise, but that’s all hidden behind systems that average players like me will never explore.
But that’s another story: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is still a fun party game. The numerous dice rolls you get from stages and items still frustrate, but that’s all customizable, so it’s not really much of an issue. If your last 3DS purchase was Pokemon, and you’re looking to jump into the Nintendo zeitgeist once more, you could do far worse than Super Smash Bros. Just take an internal poll amongst your 3DS-owning friends before you start putting up the money.