Hands On With Super Smash Bros. For 3DS And Wii U

Since the days of Nintendo 64, Super Smash Bros. has always been my favourite Nintendo series. Given that it blends all of their other franchises, creating a celebration of all of their esteemed titles, it’s easy to see why. And despite Nintendo’s casual background, there’s a depth to the gameplay which can only be found in fighting titles, tinged with an edge of competition which creates a real staying power, even more so than the likes of Mario Kart.

So, when Nintendo announced an inevitable fourth instalment in the series for Wii U, I was naturally very excited, but also very wary. After all, many fans of Melee didn’t like the changes which Brawl brought to the table, and there’s always the worry that Nintendo could pander to the masses, diluting the mechanics further. Or it could go the other way entirely, and perhaps move away from the simple yet effective control scheme.

After going hands on with the Wii U version recently – using the new GameCube controller adapter – I was very pleased with how the game plays. Although it’s a while off release, it was mostly balanced; some of the new characters felt comparatively weak (or maybe that’s because I hadn’t used them before) and Link has definitely had too much of a boost to his stats [no he hasn’t, I just beat you with him – PC], but there’s time to sort that yet. What we have now is a fluid fighter with plenty of variety and a lot of competitive fun.

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Ever since the reveal, I’ve been eager to try out Greninja, the latest playable Pokémon character added to the roster. He’s fast and decently powerful, but his attacks took some time to get to grips with. Greninja has a variety of close-range physical attacks and longer-ranged special attacks, with the former being acrobatic and the latter making use of his water-type Pokémon abilities.

While most of the characters follow this template, with a mix of close and long range attacks, there are some oddities. Take Little Mac for example, who is a purely physical fighter. On the ground, he throws a heavy punch, but in the air he’s at a disadvantage. Then you have characters such as Rosalina and Luma – this game’s Ice Climbers equivalent – who can literally fight on two sides of the screen at once, but are also more powerful when used together.

It’s quite a varied roster so far, and despite only a limited selection being on show, it’s clear that Nintendo is creating something which should suit everyone here. Some characters, such as Link and Donkey Kong, may remain very similar to previous iterations with their base attacks, but their final smashes have also been altered into devastating events, to size up against some of the show stealing events. It’s a stunning looking game for the most part, but the use of a final smash really takes things to the next level. Elsewhere, it all runs extremely smoothly and fighting is streamlined, with all characters reacting to each other and the environment with extremely close detail.

The stages I encountered seem much calmer than those in previous titles. Perhaps this is because the more complex levels are still in development, but there was certainly nothing as egregious to fight on or navigate as the ever-moving Rumble Falls. This is good, as it means that there are more stages similar to Battlefield or Final Destination (with every stage design having its own flat, Final Destination layout) rather than some of the over-complex ideas in Brawl.

That’s not to say that there was nothing going on in all of the stages, though. A Mega Man level saw a boss enemy being assembled, which players had to fight against to gain control of, and this could act as a distraction from the fighting at hand or a tactical way to get ahead. It’s clear that there will be lots of these ideas, but we’ll have to wait to see some of the more outrageous levels.

Beyond the events on stages themselves, items will change up the gameplay, with many favourites such as the beam sword – now redesigned, and no longer resembling a lightsaber – and the Pokêball, which features more Pokémon than ever before. There are also new items, with Bullet Bill making an appearance and the Blue Shell from Mario Kart being an unwelcome – yet brilliant – addition to proceedings.

Of course, before the Wii U version releases later this year, the game is first making the transition to handheld consoles with a version for 3DS. Smash Bros. isn’t a game you’d expect to work as well on handheld devices, particularly with the more cramped controls and less powerful hardware, but this version plays as well as Brawl, despite naturally not quite matching its HD sibling.

The 3DS version has a couple of tricks up its sleeve. While they’re keeping quiet about the console version’s modes for now, Nintendo have introduced a new experience here, where you’ll change your character’s stats before doing battle, though it’s all about skill rather than assigning points here and there. This comes in the form of Smash Run, where you’ll dart through a stage, killing various enemies from Nintendo franchises to collect power-ups before the main event, which is a standard brawl.

Multiplayer works smoothly with lobbies and the ability to drop in with nearby players at any time, and there’s as much of a varied roster in the handheld version as there is in the console edition. It also looks great, with characters themselves rendered at 60fps and certain elements running at a lower 30fps. This is persistent in 3D, which is a real feat considering the underpowered device which it is running on.

There’s no denying that the Wii U version will be the main event here, but the 3DS title should be plenty to tide us over, and it definitely deserves more merit than it’s getting. Still, much like Mario Kart, Smash Bros. is at its best when you’re playing with friends on the same screen, and we can be thankful that we don’t have too long to wait for either release.

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3 Comments

  1. I remember the day I bought Smash on N64, boy I tell you: My body was not ready.

    Unfortunately I haven’t played as much Melee and Brawl as I’d liked, since I’ve been away from Nintendo for two generations. (I did buy a Wii, but that was at the very end of its life so most of my time with Brawl has been through the U)

    I can’t wait to get back in the fight with 4 on both systems, been following this game religiously.

  2. So I suppose the question would be, is it more like Melee or Brawl?

    I found Brawl too item heavy and hated the final smash, much preferred the Playstation All Stars way of earning your powers with hit points.

    Will likely buy this as it’s a 4 player game when your mates are round, but might delay for a few months if it’s a Brawl clone.

    • most of what i hear is that it is somewhere in between.
      supposedly one of the biggest “competitive” issues is that there is a big of a landing lag on most characters which may end up skewing character usage towards those with less/out the delay when it comes to higher skilled players.

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