The stage is set. Bowser squares up to Pikachu, one stock remaining, and each fighter on 200% damage. One smash attack will be the difference between victory or defeat. The classic theme tune blasts out of the speakers.
Yes, the latest instalment of peak Nintendo nostalgia, Super Smash Bros, is back. The multiplayer brawling game, which pits favourite game characters including Mario, Link and Donkey Kong against each other in hilarious skirmishes, has only ever been on consoles before. Now, you’re able to smash on the go via your Nintendo 3DS.
Fans were originally concerned when Nintendo announced that this version would be developed, not by an in-house team, but by Namco Bandai, under the direction of series creator, Masahiro Sakurai. However, the collaboration doesn’t disappoint – it is little wonder that Super Smash Bros has already sold over a million copies in its opening weekend in Japan.
As ever, players are able to choose from a list of characters before going in to battle. However, this is the biggest roster the series has ever seen: 49 characters drawn from Nintendo’s rich history, as well as outsiders Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-Man. 37 are immediately available at the start and the rest unlocked through playing the game.
It’s also the first time you can create characters based on your own Mii avatar, with the choice of being a gunner, brawler or swordsman. The characters are pitted against each other in a wide variety of locations, from the lush Gaur Plains to the ominous Final Destination.
It’s the mechanics of defeating your foes which sets this series apart from other traditional fighter games. Director Sakurai-san calls SSB an “opponent based action game”. The basic aim is to knock your opponents off the stage using your attacks to rack up damage, displayed simply as a percentage. The higher a character’s percentage, the further they will fly when hit with a powerful attack.
A bubble-like shield is your primary method of blocking attacks. However keep your shield up for too long and it breaks – leaving your character in a helpless dizzy spell. This keeps the game moving. Attacks come in the form of a special and standard moves, and the strength is determined by the how much you tilt the analogue circle pad on the 3DS console. It’s a simple enough system for novice players and yet deep enough to keep the series’ veterans coming back.
This game is faster than its predecessor Super Smash Bros Brawl thanks to the renewed “hitstun” feature, which lengthens the time it takes to recover from attacks, and so allows more consecutive fighting combos to play out. It’s a mechanic that should please the more competitive fans who enjoyed the demanding Super Smash Bros Melee on Nintendo’s GameCube console (and disliked Brawl, which lowered the impact of Hitstun, allowing more casual players more time to avoid attacks).
Super Smash Bros provides play modes for every occasion. Solo and group matches still provide the main ways to engage in battles, but old favourites such as “Target Smash” and “Home-run Contests” return.
The new “Smash Run” is an adventure mode that you can play solo, against the CPU or against others online. Players are given the chance to strengthen their characters by throwing them into a labyrinth-like world full of dangers, including familiar enemies such as Bullet Bill. It’s perfect for those who want to play a quick session of Smash, and is a nifty addition for the first portable Smash Bros.
The online mode has improved since the last game. Players can now record their wins and battle in two modes – “For Fun” or “For Glory”. The former keeps all the chaos of Smash Bros, with stage hazards and items galore, while the latter removes these options by creating flat versions of each stage and without any items for assistance. This allows for more competitive gameplay for those wanting to remove as much luck from their matches as possible.
Smash bros 3DS looks as wonderful as it plays. Characters move in fluid 60 frames-per-second allowing for a dynamic and visceral experience. Graphically, this is as good as you will get from the 3DS hardware. Sakurai and his team have managed to produce visuals on par with the Nintendo Wii’s SSB Brawl, while the lighter, bright colour palette actually enhances the experience.
The menu layout is a bit chaotic, though. The “Smash” icon takes you right into action, yet the icons are haphazardly spread out in different colours and sizes, and could seem daunting to some players. Also, because it’s a small screen, the characters seem tiny, and having four characters fighting with all sorts of items being thrown at you can make it a real challenge just to see what’s happening – although this does add to the frantic charm of this game.
Perhaps a bigger issue is the 3D capability in Smash Bros 3DS. I played through the game with the 3D turned on and off, and didn’t see much enhancement during matches. But at least you can appreciate the added depth and pop-out effect in the trophy gallery.
Whether it is the immensely catchy main theme that perfectly encapsulates the Smash Bros charm, or a remake of the classic Mario Bros tune, the soundtrack does not disappoint. Each stage has multiple songs that you can listen to while fighting, ranging from retro favourites to sweeping new rearrangements. The dedicated fan can also listen to the soundtrack while the system is in sleep mode, pushing those tiny 3DS speakers to the max.
This is a slick and energetic game. With it’s trophies, stages, characters and customisation, there is always a possibility that you will discover something new. And if you get tired of collecting, then the multiple modes are designed to keep you coming back for more. The online option and the added portability of the 3DS are real bonuses, too.
Whether you’ve grown up watching your older siblings play Star Fox on the Super Nintendo, were glued to Pokemon Red on your Game Boy, or are a casual gamer occasionally playing Wii tennis, this is a game that anyone can play and get into instantly. For button-mashers and hardcore smashers alike.
Super Smash Bros is available from 3 October for the Nintendo 3DS.
This article was written by Aisha Gani, for theguardian.com on Thursday 2nd October 2014 11.57 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010