If you’ve got a 3DS and half a brain, you’ve also just bought Super Smash Bros 3DS – congratulations! It’s now time to ruin your friendships in glorious 3D. Whether you edge-guard like a frenzied fascist or power-shield your way to sweet, sweet comebacks, the new portable version offers more fun and flexibility from Smash Bros than ever before. The advent of Super Smash Bros Wii U, however, means that Smash Bros 3DS’ days may be numbered. Will the handheld version hold its own in the face of an optimized console version? Should we even expect it to?
The countdown to ruined friendships begins once you boot up Smash Bros 3DS – and it’s a long bloody countdown at that. The 3DS’ less-than-stellar hardware crunches stickily through the RAM with all the haste of a brontosaurus enjoying a long lunch – I genuinely started to worry that my system had snuffed it after my first-ever taste of the black void.
Fears are swiftly assuaged once in the menus and the game, however, as slick animation, hair-trigger controls and sophisticated detail run rampant at an impressive 60 frames per second. You really get the sense that real effort has been made to make the portable Smash Bros experience as visually comfortable as possible; fighters move smooth as silk, thoughtfully and subtly outlined in a defining black border, whilst each flurry of attacks flows seamlessly.
Problems do arise once you come across some of the busier, more-animated stages, as it is all too easy to lose track of your character amongst the – sometimes literal – whirlwinds of shite flying across your screen. Items are liberal, four-player matches overkill, and camera zooms seemingly arbitrary: thankfully, all this is made completely optional, meaning that you can launch everything that doesn’t agree with your portable fighter experience firmly into the stratosphere. Everything is kept optional, flexible and redefinable, and players can redirect the flow of the game according to their wishes and away from these faults.
Even the multifunctional, sensitive Circle-pad controls of Smash Bros 3DS perpetuate this idea of a sort of hypnotic, zen-like flow to the portable fighter; whilst the manic mashing of the Smash Bros titles of old is still a viable (if proven disastrous) option, the Circle-pad-sensei of Smash Bros 3DS extols the virtues of precise “pushes” or “taps” in order to make fully controlled and considered use of the various attacks and smash attacks available in the game. Some of the best combos in Smash Bros 3DS sprout from combined use of the more gentle “push” attacks from the Circle-pad, meaning that this title does a lot towards further elevating the Smash Bros series from fun brawl/mash-‘em-up to impossibly sophisticated and multifaceted fighting platform.
There is, however, more than enough goofy fun to be had with Smash Bros 3DS – the title comes packed with myriad modes of gameplay that keep things fresh and frantic. Even when you’ve been out battling your buddies for hours on end, you can stay hooked up to the game on the bus ride home by switching to Trophy Rush and adding to your obsessive hoard, or trying to beat your high score on Target Blast whilst Angry Birds lies dormant in your pocket.
Smash Bros 3DS is so much more than a mere port – it is portable, and a title so manifold that it can and will replace several of your other on-the-go gaming options for at least a while. The polished presentation and general construction of the game eliminates the generic and disappointing portable-fighter feel of being pixellated, clunky, simplified facsimiles of big-boy console versions. Super Smash Bros 3DS has all the natural, casual, impossible mien of a nearly perfect miniaturisation of a truly giant experience.
However, that Goliath is gaining on the David that is Smash Bros 3DS, and its name is Super Smash Bros Wii U. The fact is, the 3DS title is so expansive that it is actually spilling over the edges of the handheld and its players respectively. This is particularly noticeable in longer Smash 3DS sessions; eyes become strained, hands become cramped, systems become taxed. When online play isn’t lagging and slow to load, it’s bringing down the almighty banhammer and locking you out for 136 years. Despite this, we are, for now, content and endlessly grateful to hunch over our handhelds, rabidly devouring Nintendo’s clever aperitif and finding much more nutrition that perhaps expected.
Soon, however, the table will be laid and the banquet set down before us as we feast like kings on the Wii U’s 4 or 5 player Smash (8-player Smash, thanks but no thanks), Amiibo support and hi-def graphics from the throne-like comfort of our couches. No more will we suffer the frustrations of a system too limited to handle the game we’re hungry for. What is more, Nintendo will be re-releasing the GameCube controller from the days of Melee – drool. Why in holy hell would anybody choose to use Wii U’s 3DS-compatible control system?
Which in turn begs the question – will anybody even return to Smash 3DS after the indulgent gluttony of Smash Wii U? I certainly won’t ever be returning to the online play on the 3DS version, and whilst modes like Smash Run and Home Run Contest are fun right now, their gimmicky shine will wear, and fast, in the face of Smash Wii U.
For Glory’s army of Little Macs, I think, will subsequently migrate, digital trophy hoards will gather simulated dust, and 3DS systems will once again be reunited with charging cradles for long, unloved periods of time. No-one could accuse of Smash Bros 3DS falling short of expectations – in fact, its cup runneth over perhaps a little too much, and this will hurt it with the coming release of Smash Bros Wii U, as players choose a system that can accommodate the abundance of both the title and the enthusiasm of its players.
However, by its very nature as a portable dojo that pushes the limits of what we expect from the 3DS, Smash Bros 3DS will always be around. It perfectly fills and sometimes supersedes its purpose as something to jump into for a quick five minutes of solo Smash, or an impromptu three-way match between mates. In the face of the Wii U release, it might become more of an afterthought, a compromise on comfort, but there will always be a place for it in everyone’s pocket.