Super Smash Bros 3DS Review: Handheld Challenger Approaching

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Developers: Sora Ltd., Bandai Namco

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Release Date: October 3rd

Super Smash Bros is without a doubt one of Nintendo’s biggest flagship series. All of Nintendo’s mascots get thrown together into the biggest video game mashup ever conceived, and to date every installment has been a winner. Smash Bros 3DS looks to keep that tradition alive with tons of new characters, stages, and gameplay modes. But will it outshine its predecessors, or does it tread water?

NOTE: There are two separate reviews of Smash Bros 3DS below: One for overall play, and a second for players coming from competitive Melee and Brawl backgrounds. The overall score will be based on content and how much fun the game is overall, while the competitive score will focus on mechanical changes to the game and how well it holds up in a “For Glory”-style environment. If you’re more interested in the competitive review, it begins on the second page.

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Super Smash Bros for 3DS is a game of firsts. It’s the first Smash Bros title on a handheld system. It’s the first time the series has seen online play that didn’t require Nintendo’s dreaded friend codes. It’s the first time characters have been customizable, and the first time players have been able to make their a character all their own. That list alone is enough to get most fans of the series excited, but there is so much more to do in Smash Bros 3DS than simply playing on the go. Between the robust single player modes and several multiplayer options, the only way you’ll run out of things to do is if you run out of batteries.

Single Player

Smash Bros 3DS is host to a variety of single player modes that will keep completionists busy for ages. Several trusty standby modes have returned. Classic and All-Star mode are both available right out of the box – in past entries, All-Star mode became  available after hidden characters were unlocked, but this time around it pits you against however much of the cast you’ve unlocked at that point in time.

Classic mode returns with a familiar feel – players pick a character and progress through fights, coming up against opponents in a variety of situations. This time around, however, each new stage gives you three choices. This way, if you really don’t want to fight against a certain character, you don’t have to! This mode finishes with a bang, pitting you against Master Hand and occasionally his partner, Crazy Hand depending on the difficulty you choose. Classic mode allows you to pick a difficulty anywhere on a scale from 0.0-9.0, with higher difficulties netting you more items, custom moves and loot. Unfortunately, bonus stages do not make a return to Smash Bros 3DS, meaning your Break The Targets and Board The Platforms addiction will have to be sated in earlier versions of the game. As an added bonus, however, beating Classic will often lead to unlocking a secret character, so it’s worth your while to run through this mode more than once.

Classic gives players a choice of opponents

Stadium and Smash Run

Stadium minigames, on the other hand, are back – with a few new additions. Multi-Man Smash puts players up against hordes of paper-light enemies, and Home-Run Contest lets you see just how well you can put that Home-Run Bat to use. The newest addition, Target Blast!, mashes together Angry Birds and Home-Run Contest. Players smash a ticking time-bomb into a maze of targets and blocks – the goal is to destroy as much of it as possible. Occasionally, trophies or custom moves will appear in the blast zone as well, so aim for them and pick up new goodies.

Speaking of goodies, Smash Bros 3DS’ exclusive mode, Smash Run, serves up lots of them. Astute readers may have noticed that Subspace Emissary has not returned this time around; however, it’s fair to say that Smash Run continues to carry on its side-scrolling tradition in a different form.

With unlockables galore, new modes, and friends to compete against, I don’t see any reason why this game won’t be planted in players’ 3DS cartridge bays regularly.

Instead of playing through single-player stages, four competitors, either CPU or human, rush through a massive map beating up anything that moves. Competitors are given five minutes to have at it, and are tasked with powering up as much as possible by picking up power-ups that defeated foes drop. At the end of it all, everyone comes back together for a final showdown, but it’s not always fighting: Smash battles, races, climbing contests and more show up. It’s a shame these minigames aren’t available as stand-alone modes, but they’re a ton of fun when paired with Smash Run so it’s hard to be upset about it.

In Smash Run, pick up as many power-ups as you can! You’ll need them later.


Remember the goodies from earlier? Here’s where they come into play. Nearly every single-player mode in Smash Bros 3DS rewards you with equippable items and custom special moves. Equippable items grant your character stats and abilities – one, for instance, may give +40 Attack and -22 Defense, while another may give negligible stat boosts but let your character start the match with a beam sword! The custom special moves can be used to replace character’s original moves – they are based off of the same move, but often with a crazy twist. The only exceptions to this rule are Palutena and the custom-built Mii Fighters, who have three completely unique custom moves for each special. I won’t give any of these custom moves away, but trust me – they’re a lot of fun to play with. Purists have the option to turn customization off, as well.


What’s that you say? ‘I just want to play some good old Smash with my friends?’ Welcome to the best part – the Smash Bros you remember is here, and it’s better than ever. Smash Bros 3DS runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, and looks absolutely amazing in 3D. Local four player battles run without a hitch. All of the Smash Bros 3DS newcomers are interesting, unique, and most of all fun to play. Some even bend the traditional rules of the game. For example, Mega Man and Villager defy convention with unique moves – Villager can pick up and store LITERALLY ANYTHING with for later use with his neutral B special, and Mega Man can shoot his trademark Mega Buster while running and jumping.

How about a Tomodachi Life stage?

Mechanically, the game feels reminiscent of Brawl; however, certain issues such as ledge-stalling, the ability to air dodge too safely, and Metaknight (you know I’m right) have been fixed, creating a more enjoyable experience for everyone. There’s a great mix of new off-the-wall and neutral stages. For you Fox-only, Final Destination types, any stage can be turned into a single flat platform via Omega Mode, meaning you can have whatever background you want with your Final D. New items, Assist Trophies and Pokemon are great fun as well, and mix up the action in some really interesting ways.


For the first time, online play in Smash Bros is actually engaging. Brawl’s online was mediocre at best – bad latency and ‘Friend Code only’ gameplay kept all but the most dedicated Smashers from having an enjoyable online experience. This time around, things have been changed for the better. A lot better. While players can still face off against their registered friends, it’s also possible to play against strangers in two modes: For Fun and For Glory. For Fun is the standard party-style option – two to four players, items on, random stages. For Glory, however, eschews all those factors for itemless fights on Final Destination. ‘Casual’ and ‘serious’ players alike can play the way they want, and best of all lag is a thing of the past… as long as your Wi-Fi connection is strong, that is.

Don’t let the titles fool you – both modes are fun.

Final Verdict

Smash Bros 3DS is a game that will keep me occupied for years to come. With unlockables galore, new modes, and friends to compete against, I don’t see any reason why this game won’t be planted in my 3DS cartridge bay regularly. There are few complaints I can level against this game. The omission of a meaningful story mode and bonus stages are unfortunate, but far from game-breaking.  Also, while the controls are perfectly serviceable, they aren’t as precise as a GameCube controller – I definitely missed having a C-stick at times. But if that’s all I have to complain about, this is a winner – if you have any interest at all in Smash on the go, Smash Bros 3DS is worth your time.

Interested how Smash Bros 3DS handles in a competitive environment? Skip ahead to the next page and find out!