Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS Review

Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS brings Nintendo’s popular brawler series to mobile platforms. It’s an interesting but ultimately flawed effort.
It’s taken me a while to get this review written, because, if I’m honest, it’s taken me a fair while to assess what I really think about the first portable version of Nintendo’s classic all-in brawler.
Smash Bros, for those coming in very late indeed, is Nintendo’s take on fighting games. You play as any of a number of Nintendo’s classic characters, alongside a few hand-picked characters from other gaming franchises, fighting it out not to the death (because this is a Nintendo game, folks) but simply to knock your opponent out of the gaming arena.
The accent isn’t on split lips, broken bones or fatalities, but instead crazy cartoon style antics, weapons and the like, and that’s been the case since the first game on the Nintendo 64 all the way back in 1999.
Dang, but I feel old just typing that.

Nintendo’s always had an interesting approach to advertising

And clearly, it still does.

I’m no novice to the Smash Bros series; from where I’m sitting I could grab any iteration of the game that’s ever been released for a quick bash, or a lengthy session of play. The concept of a fully portable version of Smash Bros is one that should immediately appeal to me, because the core game lends itself to fast and frantic bouts that should sit well in a portable spectrum.
Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS offers plenty of things to do beyond the standard arena combat modes. You can modify player moves, set up your own Mii as a combat character, fight through dungeons and play online against other players either for fun or ranking status. I don’t have too many complaints here, either.
When in doubt, beat up the yellow rat.
When in doubt, beat up the yellow rat.

Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS even has Pac-Man in it, for crying out loud. I can quite literally take Pac-Man on a romp through areas filled not only with classic Nintendo enemies, but also selected Capcom arcade characters, or fight in an arena that is Pac-Man’s maze. That, in many respects, is amazing to a classic old school gamer like me.
I should be lauding Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS from the hills, telling every 3DS owner out there to go out and buy a copy.
I like to think that Pac-Man is essentially telling all these other youngsters to get off his lawn.
I like to think that Pac-Man is essentially telling all these other youngsters to get off his lawn.

Except that I can’t, and it’s taken a while for me to work out whether my complaints here are really just minor niggles or major issues.
On the minor niggle front, while the artwork in Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS is excellent, the smaller frame of play reference means that the camera often zooms out a lot and at great speed. This can easily be disorienting, especially when there’s a lot of onscreen effects in play. That one took me a while to get over, but ultimately I came to accept it as a simple limitation that could for the most part be worked around.
Teeny tiny fighters from time to time are a problem.
Teeny tiny fighters from time to time are a problem.

The bigger issue is one of control. When I first started playing Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS, I found the circle stick control hard to get to grips with, but I persevered, figuring that it was just a learning curve issue. Super Smash Bros’ strength has always been the way that it weaves simple move mechanics into a more complex fighting engine, so that it’s a great game for both novice button mashers and more nuanced fighting game fans alike. So my logic went, I should just adapt to Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS’ control style. The problem is that there’s a very definite limit to the precision that the 3DS controls can offer.
I should point out here that I’ve been playing a download copy on an original Nintendo 3DS, supplied to me by Nintendo. Download software is neat, but the issue here is that it means that this is the only platform I’ve assessed it on, because I don’t have a cartridge to pop into another system. It’s feasible that playability might be a little different on a 3DS XL, 2DS or even the upcoming “New” 3DS system, but I can’t comment on those.
It's on like that ape guy. I forget his name.
It’s on like that ape guy. I forget his name.

Ultimately, though, the controls on offer just aren’t quite precise enough. They’re workable, but not as fine tuned as could be reasonably expected for a game in the Smash Bros series. In many ways that’s a logical limitation of the hardware at play, and something that couldn’t entirely be worked around. If this was, say, a $20 download game, I’d have less of an issue with it.
Mario's blatant anti-turtle stance isn't even hidden here.
Mario’s blatant anti-turtle stance isn’t even hidden here.

But as a full price game I think it’s fair to compare it against other full priced titles, and behind and beyond the flashy visuals, the controls are what lets Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS down, and not to a small degree.
It doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun, but it does mean that if you’ve played any other game in the series at all, you’ll quickly figure this fact out. That means that no matter how much additional content there might be, you’re going to hit the limitations of those controls sooner rather than later, and that’s a big problem.
The concept that the mobile version of a big franchise might be limited is nothing new, but it’s one that’s usually expressed in the amount of content on offer, or some massive difference in play styles. That isn’t Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS’s core issue. The game play is there, but the controls mean that your method for accessing that content is seriously limited, and with that limitation to consider as a full price title, Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS is a tough game to recommend, no matter how much I’m torn in saying so.

About the author

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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