Smash double-jumps gleefully onto Nintendo’s handheld with a few minor niggles.
When i think back to the N64 days and the first outing of Smash there was many a wasted hour spent with the game’s, ‘just one more go’ addicting and overtly silly battles. The other triumph of the game is its ‘everybody’s fighter’ accessibility. In couch multiplayer fighters at the time the champs were separated from the rest by virtue of playing the game a lot and being able to memorise complex moves and pull them off without mistake. When Smash came along it simplified moves to make things the same for all characters and made the gameplay less about remembering those ten hit combos and fatalities and more about learning how your moves worked and when to pull them off to get the most effect.
Up against your Street Fighters, Tekkens and the like, Smash has always been busy and chaotic by comparison. Taking its combatants from Nintendo and (in later years) other memorable gaming classics, the feel has been like the imagined bar-fight that would occur if all the characters from games got too drunk one night and invaded each other’s universes, to settle the all-important score of who wins out of Pikachu, Mario, Donkey Kong and Nes etc...
And it’s this humorous nostalgia that really sells the game. Now on 3DS with more unlikely fighters than before, you’re spoilt with 36 starting, 12 unlockable characters, bringing loads of variety and imaginative attention to the originals. Animal Crossing Villager; cute, yet deadly, erecting a house for a finishing move, the WIi Fit Trainer; using yoga to fight opponents while dishing out fitness advice, Pac Man turning into a giant munching 2D mouth, chomping up opponents and turning them into eyes.
Stages, items and assist trophies also draw from a myriad of games and do well at bringing little details that fans will recognise.
You can dress up and equip the Smash fighters with items and moves you gain, offering ways to subtly customise them using a straightforward system of parameters. If you’ve got stored Miis you can use them to fight too, with their stats defined by their size and shape and their move-sets drawn from three archetypes, brawler, gunner or swordfighter.
Add to this 8 different modes, unlockable challenges, bundles of trophies, online and local battles and there’s plenty in the game to keep you replaying it. Finding things can be tricky, as the menu system is a bit fractured. Once you’ve got to grips with where things are you soon find yourself jumping around between different modes, earning upgrades, customising your characters and getting back into battles to try things out.
The 3DS’s exclusive Smash Run mode is an intriguing one. Offering something of a rogue-lite, runs have a randomised final showdown after a set of 5 minute platform-ish areas throw up different power-ups. Build up the wrong stats for the fight at the end and you’re at a disadvantage. The challenge to build up the right stats in lieu of any helping hints of what’s coming up is something I can see turning some players off.
Where Smash on 3DS fell down for me was in four player battles. Things are just too small with four fighters and all the other gubbins squashed onto the screen. Even with models appearing more stockier than on console, when the camera zooms out it’s easy to lose track of characters. Nintendo have added a targeting box you can use on the 3DS touchpad, which helps a bit, but fights with less players work better, one on one play really being where the action works best on the 3DS.
There’s a feeling as well that the most enjoyable aspects of couch multiplayer are lost in the move to handheld. Rather than gathering around the big screen to take on your pals your left cocooned, head down, staring at a tiny screen. The 3DS is going to double up as a controller for when Smash comes to Wii U and you can see with this the wider Nintendo ecosystem coming into play.
Other than having to squint a lot to see things in the heat of four player, Smash fits well on 3DS and you can feel the love and care that has gone into making it. The achievement of a low entry level game with plenty of addiction has naturally not been messed with and the game is beautifully polished and smooth (running at a solid 60fps). Get into the basic make-up of Smash and you can argue it’s not the best fighter around and I felt the game did lean a bit on all the extras you get with it. While i do envision a future where Smash has a roster with enough characters to populate a small country and more mini-games than Bishi Bashi Special, its iteration in the latest generation retains all the joy.
Score - 7/10