Super Smash Bros 3DS Review: Handheld Challenger Approaching

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Smash Bros 3DS Competitive Review

While a few dedicated individuals in the community have gotten their hands on Smash Bros 3DS by importing it from Japan, most competitive Smash Bros players are still wondering – how does the game play? Will it hold up competitively? Are there any fatal flaws in the game engine? I’ve had hands on with this game for some time, and know a fair amount about the series: I am the current Editor-In-Chief of Smashboards, and have been playing Smash Bros competitively since 2004, both in Brawl and Melee. As such, I feel I am qualified to rate this game on a competitive level. This review is wholly separate from the review on the previous page. No doubt about it Smash Bros 3DS is fun – the review below will instead analyze mechanics and the game’s competitive viability. You may agree with me in spots and disagree in others, but the conclusion I have come to is outlined below – enjoy, and feel free to leave me your feedback on Twitter at @TheDerrit.

Melee Mechanics Are Not Present

If you’re reading this, it probably means that you already know a fair bit – so let’s start with that. Melee mechanics like wavedashing, l-canceling, and dashdancing are not in Smash Bros 3DS. However, you can continuously re-start the dash animation going in one direction, meaning that forward smashes out of a dash are possible Some aerials can still be used safely on approach – some have no lag on landing, and some aerials fit perfectly into the space of a short-hop, meaning they can be used without lag if planned correctly.

Because of this, characters that have these types of moves are at a distinct advantage in close quarters and combat. Captain Falcon, for example, has three aerial moves with little to no lag on landing – his back-air, up-air, and neutral-air. While this initially may seem like a  problem, some thought has clearly gone into which characters have what auto-cancellable moves. Both fast and slow characters have auto cancels, and these cancellable moves are rarely ever killing moves. While having this setup undeniably slows the game down, it keeps characters built on speed from overwhelming slower, more methodical opponents.

Hitstun, Air Dodging, And The Neutral Game

When a character is finally hit, aerial hitstun and dodging come into play. In Smash Bros 3DS, you can’t air dodge quite as quickly as you could in Brawl. This means that there are more options for follow-up attacks at lower percents. Some characters have guaranteed follow-ups out of throws – Metaknight and Captain Falcon are two such characters. However, in many cases defenders will still have the opportunity to air dodge out of a follow-up attack. The key difference between this game and Brawl is that air dodges are not as safe as they used to be – if an attacker reads an air dodge, there is a larger cooldown window that they can use to punish it. Also, if a defender air dodges into the ground, landing lag occurs allowing a strong punish.

Melee’s metagame has had over a decade to develop, and Brawl has been around for eight years. Optimized play doesn’t get figured out overnight.

The main issue that has become clear to me is that most moves are not intended to combo into other moves. Very few attacks put attackers in a position where follow-ups are possible, and many of the ones that do have too much cooldown to allow attackers to act on it. In most fights, once percentages get past 50-70%, follow-ups become irrelevant. This makes the neutral game incredibly important – because positioning  yourself for combos is usually unnecessary, the only focus is getting the next hit, and resetting to neutral.


Recovery in Smash Bros 3DS has improved in places, but there are also new issues. Ledge stalling, or “planking,” has been eliminated. This has been done by completely removing ledge invincibility after the first ledge grab, meaning the days of players constantly up-Bing to recharge their invincibility is over. The exception to this rule is if the player hanging off the ledge is forcibly knocked or pushed off of it – in that case, invincibility returns.

Another interesting wrinkle is the introduction of the ‘ledge push’ mechanic. If a player is hanging on a ledge and another comes into contact with the same ledge, the original resident is pushed off and away from the stage, sometimes allowing for follow-ups. So while defensive ledge play has been dealt with, offensive play has been as well. This leaves would-be edge guarders in an awkward position. – Going out to hit a character attempting to recover is still viable, but between the recovering party having a strong advantage and the fact that very few moves hit at shallow, semi-spike angles, unless the edge guarder can kill outright the recovering player has a very good chance of making it back. Players will either need to become very good at guarding the ledge or find effective ways to K.O. their opponents outright to succeed in Smash Bros 3DS.

Rolling and Shielding

In my personal opinion, these are the most problematic facets of Smash Bros 3DS. Rolling and dodging in this game are very good. So good, in fact, that all but the fastest runners can roll at roughly the same speed they can run. To top it off, most rolls have small cooldowns – while a read roll is punishable, it is a much tighter window than in games past. This gives players who choose to roll constantly a large amount of invincibility with little risk.

This problem is compounded by the strong lack of shieldstun present. When a move hits a player’s shield, the shielding party is able to drop their shield or roll almost immediately. Rolls are, in most cases, faster than the landing lag of moves that do not auto-cancel, meaning that rolling after shielding an attack presents a window of opportunity to counter. Even moves that autocancel pose no follow-up threat – they can be shield grabbed or rolled away from faster than an attacking opponent can throw out a threatening second attack. As someone who has played every iteration of Smash exhaustively, I do not say this lightly: rolling and shielding are very good. Worryingly so.

So What Does All This Mean?

I do not presume to understand the consequences of these mechanics absolutely. Melee’s metagame has had over a decade to develop, and Brawl has been around for eight years. Optimized play doesn’t get figured out overnight. However, I can say this. Due to strong rolling and shielding properties, and the inherent risk of going on the offensive because of them, playing defensively is still a very strong option. Forcing opponents to come to you is much more effective than taking the fight to them, and as such defensive play is likely to become the norm, or at least until better options are discovered. Good tournament rules can alleviate this to a degree – three stock matches will see run-away play, where two-stock (or even one-stock) matches may not. I also believe the use of a more creative stage list than games past will help keep overly defensive play in check. It’s in the community’s best interest to revisit things like walk-off blast zones and scrolling stages: these things force defensive players to keep moving, which will keep matches active.

Final Verdict

While this number is subject to change as the metagame evolves, the game in its current state is a viable competitive title. However, it’s certainly not without problems. Smash Bros 3DS allows players to be safe with very little effort, and until players find a way to breach rolls and dodges competitive play eventually will be dominated by characters who can safely pressure their opponents with projectiles or large hitboxes. This game is a strong improvement from Brawl, but players and tournament organizers alike should to experiment with new ways to balance offensive and defensive play. As it stands, defensive play is decidedly stronger.