15 years after its initial mascot-smashing debut, Super Smash Bros. remains something special in the good ol’ Nintendo lexicon. The company has been wise in how they dole out each chapter, waiting until a new console comes along for a single release that’ll have fans frothing at the mouth without hopes of a sequel. Now after literally years of hype, Smash Bros. makes its first ever appearance on a handheld console with this delightful 3DS title that offers crack levels of addiction for players. The titles plays just like the Wii chapter in the palm of your hands, offering the same cavalcade of gaming references and the simple-to-learn, difficult to master unique fighting style that made gamers giggle on the N64 15 years ago. Somehow the game still feels special and still plays unlike any other fighting game on the market. Are there problems? Sure, but nothing close to a game killer. The fact is that this is easily one of the greatest games to ever grace the 3DS and a new chapter in a franchise that somehow resists aging.
On the most basic gameplay level, Super Smash Bros. For The Nintendo 3DS is more of the same (as the cheeky title suggests). Controls are limited to two attack buttons that have different variations for every direction on the circle pad. There are also jump, block, and grab commands. It’s the same for every character, with different commands offering different styles of attack for each character. Learn how to use one character and you can use them all, but to master any specific character still takes time. You’ll start off with over 30 characters and unlock more over time (just like the Wii version, it’s designed so that you’ll be unlocking characters, items, levels, and rewards for months). All of the old staples return with essentially the same attacks as before.
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In terms of new developments, you can also customize your own Mii fighter, with a variety of alternate attacks and costumes. They slot into the battles well and also fit into that strange mandate the big N has been imposing over the last generation, making player avatars part of the extended Nintendo universe. Customization in general is a massive part of this game’s appeal and longevity. Virtually everything can be customized to suit each player’s preferences. Any aspect of matches can be changed, levels and items can be altered, replays can be edited and saved, even the move list for all of the 51 characters can be toyed with (once you unlock the alternate moves over time of course). That seems to be the primary mandate of this latest chapter in the series and it’s completely appropriate for the first ever handheld Smash Bros. This is the first version of the game that you can take with you anywhere, so it only makes sense that it’s the first version of Smash Bros. that you can make entirely your own.
The only other complaints that can be tossed at this absolutely excellent game are technical. It’s incredible how the developers were able to transfer over the look, feel, and style of the Wii Smash Bros. onto a single 3DS cartridge with so many modes of play, customization, and a cast of 51 total fighters. However, there are small places where the little system can’t quite handle the game. When the camera zooms back to incorporate a full four fighter brawl, it can be tough to track the tiny figures on the screen. Likewise, the levels had to be simplified to accommodate the smaller system, cutting back on the Power Stone-style elaborate morphing level design. Also, the system can occasionally chug through black screen loading times that will cause momentary fear that your little 3DS can’t handle the full Smash Bros. experience and might become a brick in your hands.
Those problems all exist, yet rarely ever impede the pure joy that comes with carrying Smash Bros. in your pocket. This isn’t just some handheld approximation of a console classic. It’s a full and satisfying next chapter of a beloved series that just happens to be available portably. Super Smash Bros. For The Nintendo 3DS lives up to every expectation fans possibly could have and then surpasses a few just for fun. It’s not just one of the best titles on the 3DS, it already feels like a classic that will be fondly remembered. I can’t imagine what they have planned for the Wii U version given that everything teased to date showed up on this 3DS edition. Yet, it’s safe to say Nintendo has some big surprises in store when they unleash the console partner for this pint-sized masterpiece. That’s just how they roll. Bring it on.