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  1. Jonathan Higgins

    Review: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

    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. Pros: + 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. Cons: - 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) Great 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
  2. UPDATE: 9/18/14 This morning, I return to Smash coverage after basking in the retro-gaming glory of my RetroN 5 and Theatrhythm: Curtain Call. Despite life“s many distractions, I“ve still been playing Smash regularly. Now then: Online Mode has been intimidating for me because...well, it“s in another language. Sakurai“s love of menus is not for the faint of heart. But I“ll do my best to describe what I see, in addition to getting to the important part...eventually. You can play online with your 3DS Friends or with strangers in the left and right top-menus, respectively. There are two data-related buttons to click right underneath them. The left one, a sort of pie-chart, is one I don“t quite understand. But in my game, I see Shulk and Marth on that screen. Shulk has “55%é in red, and Marth has “45%é in blue. I“ve used Shulk and Lucina online so far, not Marth, so...I honestly have no idea what this pie chart is depicting. Is it online usage percentages? The right one, showing a map of the world, is a little easier to understand. It leads to another breakdown of three menus. One is a launch minigame (the bigger, top one). One is a replay channel where you can watch saved online matches of your favorite characters (whomever you choose), and the last is a world map of everyone currently playing online. These various extra bells and whistles associated with online play indicate to me that a ton of polish has been put into the online interactivity of the game. While I strongly believe the 3DS version of the game is built more for people who play for fun versus playing competitively, anyone whose aim is to exclusively compete online will not run out of things to do anytime soon. Battle itself is divided between those who play for fun and for glory. I“ve tried both modes, which play seamlessly, without any lag on my end. For fun features items and randomly selected stages. For glory has you playing on Final Destination without items. I wanted to give the game its proper online stress test, so I played at 7 AM, 10 AM, 1 PM, 3 PM, 7 PM and 10 PM. No lag at any time. None….whatsoever. Your experience may differ because the game will be out on a global scale, but man did online run smoothly over here. This is good news for many, I imagine. I wish I could detail the StreetPass features, but since no one else on my block has the game yet, I can only offer a bit of my “practice run(s)é, which promptly unlocked some sort of challenge in the challenge room. You can edit a greeting and pick a character, then...unleash your character in a sort of minigame that reminds me of tin-pin slammer from The World Ends With You. As a small, circular pin-like object with a sharp end, your objective is to get behind your opponent(s) and try to knock them off the stage. Beyond playing through Classic Mode as each character and potentially unlocking more challenges, I think my Smash coverage kind of draws to a close here. There are an infinite number of things to do in the game thanks to Smash Run, customizable stuff, and hidden, custom moves for each character. But there“s only so much I can talk about, beyond answering individual questions. I“ll probably move towards weekly updates versus daily ones from this point on, focusing on the things I“ve found and the characters I“ve played as. Hey, hey. One last tidbit concerning Smash Run. So, the music that plays is random. To give you the ideal Smash Run experience, the game allows you to pick which music (out of every tune in the game) you want to play as you complete the challenge(s) of Smash Run. It“s certainly a nice touch! So, to recap: Smash Bros for 3DS features: 48 playable characters 34 playable stages (many of which are repeats from Brawl) 70(+) challenges to complete 4 competent modes in Battle Royale, Classic Mode, All-Star Mode, and Smash Run Many, many bonus modes you“re used to, and many more you haven“t seen. Over 600 trophies Hundreds of stat boosts, Mii Fighter Equipment, Custom Moves for all characters, and more. Over 114 pieces of music (including repeats from Brawl) It“s certainly worth the $40 price-tag here in the United States, in this guy“s opinion. It“s got everything Brawl had except a story, but you can play it on the go. It“s been a pleasure bringing all this info to you guys. My coverage is far from over, because the spoiler thread will go live as soon as I“ve finished writing it up. But beyond character analysis, I“ve simply run out of things to say. Look for weekly updates to this thread from this point on detailing small things I“ve found. And, as always, I“ll take the time to answer questions I can. From 9/14/14 For those of you who have heard the news about Circle Pads breaking from people playing this game--don't fret. I've spent a ton of time with the final version...and the Circle Pad on my 3DS LL shows no sign(s) of wear. Just be careful, all right? If you want the serious kind of competitive play that might put your hardware at risk, I recommend just waiting for the Wii U version. Something tells me the 3DS version is for fun, while the Wii U version is more "for glory". Anyway. So, remember yesterday when I unlocked all the characters and pondered where all the stages were? ...I had them all unlocked about an hour later. Here“s a hint: if you see a hidden stage from a Rep in Classic Mode, try using that character in Battle Royal 2-3 times. Apparently each hidden stage is tied to a task in the Challenge Room, so...maybe you all won“t need hints when the game comes out in a language you can understand. Hahaha. Also, remember when I said the game had 35 challenges? Turns out, by unlocking stages and frolicking around in other modes including what“s referred to as Target Blast and Trophy Rush, I mashed the remaining challenges and unlocked Page Two (which then triggered a chain reaction breaking 13 more of the now 70 total challenges in the game. Could there be even more? I don“t think so. But: if you complete a Challenge that“s on Page Two before unlocking Page Two, you needn“t worry. The game apparently remembers. No, I still have no idea what these challenges are. I have a feeling when I get the game in English I“m going to have many a facepalm moment. All-Star Mode is really frantic, with almost 50 characters. You don“t face them one at a time in Easy or Normal Mode (I haven“t been brave enough to try Hard yet); it“s more like….8 or 9 at a time, with 3 fighters (in addition to yourself) occupying the arena. The physics have been altered slightly in the player“s favor, making foes easier to blast away, much like the Fighting Polygon Team from the old Smash games, or the Fighting Mii Team (yeah, that“s a thing) from this game. Apparently there are so many characters that Sakurai thought it would be impossible to complete the task as issued without a little nudge. Maybe Hard Mode loses the edge? I“ll let you guys know. Characters are grouped by year, and come at you in volleys. The final few are Shulk, Lucina and Greninja, as can be predicted. I“ve yet to see any stages, modes or features (beyond trophies and coins like in Classic Mode) rewarded to me for beating All-Star. Seems once you unlock every character & every stage, there“s no “big twistsé left. The music seems to have changed for my main menu, indicating that I“ve...well...accomplished things. Just like it did in Melee and Brawl once various modes were unlocked, or when someone completed the Subspace Emissary for the first time. I think that“s all there is to it, though. Classic, All-Star, Battle Royale, and Smash Run. Four competent modes, 48 characters, 34 stages, 70 challenges. I think the true single-player replayability in this game is going to be gathering up all 600-something trophies, finding all the various Mii equipment and custom moves, and playing the ever-loving snot out of Smash Run. At just under 13 hours, I consider the “bulké of my single-player “coverageé to be complete. I guarantee I“ll spend double that just mucking around in battle against the computer, Smash Run, etc. Speaking of Smash Run, I have dabbled in it a little more since my first update two days back. I“ve gone through as five different characters now, so I can report some things I“m noticing: - I“ve seen enemies from almost all repped franchises, but I“ve not seen a single boss character yet. I“m thinking boss characters and modes like that may be reserved for the Wii U version of the game. - To my knowledge, there is no way to alter the five minutes you get to explore the (very massive, always the same) Field. Think of the size of the field as relating to the size of the final level of Subspace Emissary. It“s going to take you a long time to explore every inch--and I think half of what will keep the experience fresh is the enemies you encounter. - Smash Run assigns various “tasksé to you during your five minutes. Find a door, then go inside and rob the room of its treasures. Or break targets. Or defeat enemies in 30 seconds or less. Rewards for accomplishing said tasks are typically heaps upon heaps of stat boosts for The Final Battle, and likely trophies/Mii Equipment/custom moves. - The Final Battle is typically a one minute Battle Royale on a random stage, with 1 vs. 1 vs. 1 vs. 1 setup. Sometimes, it“s even a team battle. Rarely, there are various handicaps associated with the battle (such as everyone being at 300% damage). - Sometimes, The Final Battle will take place on an event field. Run, jump, or punch your way through a level and get to the finish line first to win. Levels are plagued with obstacles that kill you instantly if you touch them, forcing you to respawn behind your opponents. But, once anyone hits said obstacles, they“re gone for good. I think that about covers it. Like I said, I“m way too fearful of Japanese reading comprehension (and the fact that I completely lack it) right now to try to explain custom moves and character customization, but that is a major part of how Smash Run works, and no character is excluded. My next update may dabble in some of the online and StreetPass functionalities. Am I too afraid to play nice with others? We'll see. I“ll post any updates I discover while frolicking around in other modes, too. I wonder what kind of secrets the game has left for me to find now that the “majoré ones have been discovered? I“ll also begin an all-out, no-holds-barred SPOILER thread tomorrow. If you want to stay in the dark, you've been given ample warning. From 9/13/14: As of this moment, I have officially unlocked every single character. Without spoiling who any of them are, I can officially confirm there are 48 characters total in Smash 4. The one thing I haven“t done is unlock stages. Beyond the two that that unlocked with a certain chain of events related to secret characters, I“ve seen no new Stages in Battle Royale beyond the ones you can see (but not select) in the demo. It“s puzzling to me. I“ve seen a handful of fantastic stages (again, since I“m attempting to keep this thread spoiler-free, I“ll not talk about them here) via Classic Mode battles, but...none of those have unlocked in multiplayer yet. Are they exclusive arenas only featured in Classic Mode? Speaking of Classic Mode, I do want to say a few things about it now that my brain is less muddled from playing six hours straight. - “Intensity Levelé can be altered like in Kid Icarus: Uprising. Higher difficulty yields better rewards. How are these rewards earned? At the start of every battle, a roulette spins. Rewards include custom moves for characters, Mii equipment, trophies and coins to spend on custom moves, Mii equipment and trophies. Fair enough, right? - It“s over fairly quick. Seven battles stand between you and the credits. Still, you“re given the option to choose who you fight between one or two branching paths. - The Master Hand is back. Crazy Hand is also back--and the two are a pair if you elect to go with the harder choice at the end--the path has always branched for me, giving me the option to choose. - For those of you who did not watch the Nintendo Stream: there is a new Final Boss that is not Tabuu. Will detail my experience(s) with it when I create the SPOILER thread soon. (Give me a few days? Just trying to keep things basic for now.) - Rather than being able to choose a set number of lives, the game opts to give you two lives per battle. If you die twice, you continue. The game isn“t harsh when it comes to cutting your rewards, but I can only assume certain characters won“t be unlocked via Classic Mode if you continue (you can unlock all of them by fighting in Battle Royale, however). Now that I“ve unlocked every character, I“ll be going through All-Star Mode before long. Wanted to wait until every single character had been unlocked before I made the journey to the end. A few random tidbits gathered from questions asked of me here on the forums, in Chat or elsewhere across Social Media: - Smash Run functions like the Subspace Emissary from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but without the story. And instead of random Brawl enemies, the whole game is filled with crazy nostalgia in the form of the enemies you face. I don“t want to spoil any specific ones here. - My favorite new character is a secret one, which I“ll detail later. If it weren“t that one, it would be Shulk. But...the roster is filled with characters that will settle in any niche. I“m certain everyone who plays will find a suitable. - The returning character that surprised me the most is actually Yoshi, followed by Bowser. Those two are perhaps the perfect example characters when referring to how much weight and attack power have shifted in the game. I slashed a foe in Classic Mode and killed him with a single, non-powered-up Smash Attack as Bowser. Dude is a powerhouse. - Lucina has replaced Marth in my “mainé rotation. I“m not sure why she feels better than Marth to me, but...so it goes. It“s the subtle things. - Yes, you can alter the game“s controls. You can swap what buttons do what by way of the touch screen in an Options Menu, and it gives you the option to test out your new configuration or restore to defaults. - I haven“t found a way to pick what music plays for any given stage...yet. Granted, I haven“t really looked all that hard. - I also haven“t gone online yet. Trying to keep things streamlined and personal since I“m still coping with understanding the language, haha. - I“ve gotten 98 trophies in two days. I“ve successfully completed 20/35 in-game “Challengesé. The screen isn“t nearly as vast as it was in Brawl. No, I have no idea what the challenges are asking me to do. - The (default) controls and overall system still feel comfortable to me, despite being on a handheld. From 9/12/14: I've had the full game from Japan since this morning, and I've played for over six hours. I haven't even scratched the surface regarding what this game has to offer. Modes of play I've experienced fully include Battle Royale, Smash Run, Classic Mode, Multi-Man Smash and more. There are unlockable characters and stages. They are plentiful. I've found most through Battle Royale (just simple fighting, me versus the computer) and at least one through Classic Mode. I've battled on every single stage, and explored the game's trophy shop and modes to get trophies at length. The game also has a very full soundtrack that's available for your listening pleasure, even while your 3DS is closed. Smash Run by itself would take me thousands of words to cover in full due to the extreme level of customization. You can alter every character's stats for Smash Run, and you can find hundreds of clothes, moves and more for your Mii Fighters. It's freaking overwhelming, especially since it's in a language I don't understand. Haha. Characters I've played as, in order from most playtime to least. - Shulk - Lucina - Pikachu - A super-secret character who may be my new favorite. - Robin and characters (not including the above) I've gone through once in Classic Mode (will update daily): - Mario - Luigi - Peach - Rosalina & Luma - Bowser - Yoshi - Ike - Kirby - Dedede - Mii Fighter (My goal is to slowly make my way through Classic Mode as all 36 characters in the starting roster. Should reward me somehow.) What questions do you all have? What characters do you specifically want me to try [and to write about]? Keep secret characters out of this thread if you already know about them; I'm aiming for it to be spoiler-free. I will create a SPOILERS thread sometime next week that details all the hidden stuff I've found. There's too much for me to try and do this without some sort of structure. So I'm counting on all of your questions to help create that structure. Happy gaming! I know a ton of you got to play the demo today, or will next week. And many more watched the streams that happened! Suffice to say, the full version is absolutely amazing, and I've found very little flaws.