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Review: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

Jonathan Higgins

Developer: Sora Ltd.,

Bandai Namco Games

Publisher: Nintendo

Platforms: 3DS

Release Date: October 3, 2014

ESRB: E 10+



Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS means different things to different people. Many adults who have been with the series since its 1999 debut will look at the game as “how far we've come” since the days of the Nintendo 64. Anyone who grew up playing Super Smash Bros. Melee will find it difficult to shake the notion that this game should be directly compared to that one. Anyone who enjoyed Super Smash Bros. Brawl will immediately notice the various mechanics in the new Smash that mark a bit of a departure from what they enjoy. And if you“re a newcomer—does the portable version of a series that“s been around for fifteen years make a good entry point?


That question begs about ten-thousand more questions just relating to the fact that this console-based fighting game is confined to a variety of smaller screens. Do you have a regular Nintendo 3DS? A 3DS XL? A 2DS? This game means so many things to different people, and it can be played on at least three different types of systems. How in the world do I answer everything for everyone in a single, concise review?




I“ve spent over forty-five hours with the game, spanning both the Japanese Import (including the demo) and the English version. I“ve spent at least fifteen minutes a piece with 48 unique characters, whether we“re talking the starting roster of 36 or the unlockable 12. My experiences began in a language I couldn“t understand, and they“re not going to end anytime soon. Before I get into what works especially well (or what doesn“t) with Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS—if I may be so bold—I'll say this about it:


This game is a competent stand-alone entry in the Smash Bros. franchise. It does almost everything Melee or Brawl could do. If this is the only version of the new Smash you can pick up because you can“t afford/don“t want a Wii U... you will not be robbed of the core experience at the end of the day. The first portable entry of the series does manage to meet the incredibly high standards set by the previous games.


There are new stages and old, some created as an homage to handheld gaming. It may disappoint some that there are a good number of Brawl stage repeats and only a few unlockable stages, but there is an impressive sense of detail to every single arena in the game. New characters feel welcome among the returners. Whether we“re talking about characters that fit a specific archetype—like Shulk from Xenoblade Chronicles being compared to sword-fighting veterans like Marth or Link—or whether we“re talking about the new characters that seem crazy to conceptualize, like the Wii Fit Trainer, Villiger, Pac-Man or Rosalina & Luma... every single character in the roster has a unique fit. No one feels like a waste. All the old characters have received a breath of fresh air thanks to brand new (and in my opinion, improved) physics. Your old throw-away character just may become your new favorite after you've spent time with every fighter in any given mode.




And my goodness, there are so many modes of play. They“re all buried among overly-busy, cluttered menus that were almost overwhelming to sort through in a different language—which speaks to a small problem I had with the game right away, I suppose. But after you learn where everything is, you realize just how much time you can potentially sink into this game. Series veterans know what Classic Mode and All-Star Mode are.


Both of those have been newly renovated for the modern age, with Classic Mode allowing you to pick who you“d face next, and mess with levels of intensity similar to Sakurai“s last 3DS entry, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and All-Star Mode successfully packaging a roster of up to 48 characters in a pleasing, not overly-difficult way. There“s a new, definitely more challenging foe awaiting folks who have been with the series since its debut at the end of high-intensity Classic Mode, too! Various mini-games including the familiar Home Run Contest and Multi-Man Smash, and the new Target Blast and Trophy Rush, will keep you entertained for hours when you“re not fighting friends or computer players. Everything--and I do mean everything--feels fresh, fun and addicting.




Smash Run is a brand new mode that will remain exclusive to the 3DS version of the game. Think of it like Super Smash Bros. Brawl“s Subspace Emissary adventure map: a wide open space to explore that seems boundless at first, but can be fully traversed after playing about twenty matches or so. Instead of being filled with original enemies like the Emissary, players are greeted with familiar faces representing many Nintendo or third-party franchises, whether we“re talking Goombas and various Pokémon, or enemies from Dig Dug and Sonic the Hedgehog.


Much like the premise I set up with exploring the world--it will marvel you at first. But after playing several times, whether it“s to unlock challenges or simply due to the addicting nature of Smash Run“s gameplay itself, you“re going to get sick of so many re-used Kid Icarus: Uprising assets. Still, collecting stats to face foes in a race to the finish at the end, or an epic grand finale battle, is addicting alone or with friends alike. I“d say it“s marketable as a stand-alone mode, but the fun may not last forever.




Anything and everything about Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is customizable to suit players“ needs, too. There are pieces of equipment to collect that can alter characters“ stats (and no, I“m not just talking about Mii Fighters, whom you can actually outfit—I“m talking every single playable character). Want a hugely defensive tank character like Bowser to become more weighty than ever at the cost of his attack? Feel like zipping around the screen even more as Sonic the Hedgehog by increasing his speed? You can do all that and more. If playing on the go isn't enough of a selling-point for you or if a good online that caters to both competitive players and casuals alike isn't enough….wait for it. Just the sheer number of options for characters, including customizable, hidden Special Moves that alter characters“ attacks is why I said it could stand alone earlier.


But here“s the thing. Yes, it can stand-alone. But Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS isn“t the only new Smash coming. There will be a console-based counterpart that does not suffer from the many flaws this game has due solely to its portable nature. If you play the new Smash on Wii U, you can play it without the risk of breaking your 3DS“s Circle Pad due to the nature of playing a competitive fighting game on a handheld. You can completely forgo the barrier of entry that complex handheld controls present in favor of a Gamecube controller like everyone“s used to, or other options. You can play it without straining your eyes to focus on tiny fighters zoomed out on a tiny screen to accommodate four-player action. The game“s already stunning visuals and soundtrack, which are impressive and give every single represented Nintendo franchise the love they deserve, will seem even better on a television screen and not in the palm of your hand.


What have I learned after spending almost fifty straight hours playing the new Smash on handhelds? I“ve learned that, while this version of the game is competent all by itself, the console version will probably be superior to it in every single conceivable way. If you“re reading this review hoping to be sold on one version over the other: I can confidently suggest you wait on Wii U. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is a great game that“s held back solely by its intended platform, not by its many (seemingly limitless) features.




+ The core Smash experience plays great on the go, with both new and familiar features.

+ New characters feel like welcome additions; everyone feels unique.

+ The extreme level of customization makes Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS a great game for newcomers.




- Many may be disappointed by how much material (including stages) is recycled from previous games.

- Sometimes the action just feels too chaotic for the 3DS hardware to handle--whether it's the small screen or a potentially broken Circle Pad


Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)



The first portable entry of the series manages to meet the incredibly high standards set by the previous games.


Disclosure: This game was reviewed via copies purchased personally by the author

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