Thursday, October 16, 2014

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (Review)

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS Review

This review was originally published on ZeldaChronicles (formerly known as ZeldaEurope) and got translated for this blog in 2021 by the same author. Nintendo had provided a download code.

Zelda fans already got their own action game this year with Hyrule Warriors, nevertheless they are cordially invited to join the tumult of the battle as Link, Zelda or Sheik in the next generation of Super Smash Bros. – the Nintendo 3DS version has been available for two weeks now, so let's take a look.

This review is split up into different categories, where in each category there will be a special focus on what's offered for the Zelda franchise. Out of the unlockable fighters, only the one for Zelda will be spoiled in this review (and shouldn't be much of a surprise).


Actually, there isn't much to say here other than: it's Smash Bros. to a T. If you've never played a single game from the series, then Super Smash Bros. is Nintendo's special in-house fighting game, where you have to smash up to three opponents out of the arena. The fighters are all characters from different video game series and the controls are relatively simple. There is one button for normal attacks, one button for Special Attacks and depending on how you're using the control stick those will turn out different. In addition there is a plethora of items and a variety of stages for a lot of fun and chaos.

Link in front of Engineer Link on the Spirit Train

Super Smash Bros. has been a successful formula with its very own fanbase and it shouldn't come as a surprise that the new title has already sold 2.8 million times. If you've played Super Smash Bros. Brawl, then you know what you're getting into. But the game has gotten slightly faster, which should make fans of Super Smash Bros. Melee happier, and the random tripping mechanic has been removed as well, which caused a lot of controversy in Brawl.

There aren't any major innovations in the gameplay this time, however. Super Smash Bros. Melee introduced the Side Specials (like Link's Boomerang) and Super Smash Bros. Brawl the Final Smashes, as well as the Assist Trophies. In Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS it's the same old, same old for the most part. The one new thing that sticks out as innovative is the ability to swap the Special Attacks of the fighters, but this doesn't really affect the core of the game.


Super Smash Bros. on the Go

Basically, the big, new thing about the new Super Smash Bros. is that it's also releasing on a handheld system for the first time, the Nintendo 3DS. And it might not be easy to decide whether this could be for you or not.

The main advantage is is certainly that you now can play Super Smash Bros. anywhere. But overall the game doesn't really suit such a small device. If you don't own a Nintendo 3DS XL, but only a normal Nintendo 3DS, then you'll be quickly hoping for a renaissance of the GameBoy magnifier. Especially with larger stages it zooms out quite a bit, making the fighters so small that it's even harder to follow the action, which can be quite chaotic anyway. Even the smooth 60FPS won't help you much then. A solution would have been to bank on small stages only, but this didn't happen.

Samus and Kirby in front of the tent at Gerudo Valley

Next to the small screen the Circle Pad can be another issue, since the controls of Super Smash Bros. heavily rely on different speeds for how you input in any direction. The fighters will only dash or perform Smash Attacks, if you do it fast enough. And the Circle Pad simply wasn't made for this, where the internet is already full of pictures from players who have already ruined their Nintendo 3DS by playing the new Super Smash Bros. intensively. The controls really aim at this and if you try to use the Circle Pad more carefully, then you often end up in situations where the game doesn't recognize Smash Attacks properly. And that's annoying.

In the previous games there were some alternatives for performing Smash Attacks, like using the C-Stick. Even if they weren't ideal either, they are missing here entirely. And especially on the Nintendo 3DS it would have been important to offer alternatives.

(Update: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS does support the C-Stick of the New Nintendo 3DS systems, which lets you do Smash Attacks more easily. It does not support the Circle Pad Pro or the Circle Pad Pro XL for older generations of the Nintendo 3DS, however.)



Without any doubt, Super Smash Bros. is a game that's best played with friends and/or competitors. The single-player options even has decreased when compared to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where it's even more important to find other players with a Nintendo 3DS and the game in order to play together. There is no support for Download Play, so each player needs his own copy.

Sheik bending backwards

If you don't know anyone to play with personally, then don't worry, the game also has an online mode in two variants: "For Fun" and "For Glory". This is either with or without everything. In "For Glory" you play exclusively on Final Destination (or the respective "Omega forms" of the other stages) and without any items, for those who want to truly compete. Sadly, the flat layout favors certain fighters more than others...

If you play online with friends, you even get the full spectrum of options, where you can adjust rules, items and all that to your liking. So, only if you get matched against random opponents, you will be confined to the two options of "For Fun" and "For Glory".

In any case you might face a common problem: lag. There are no servers, so everything is played via peer-to-peer connections. With only two players this works usually well enough, but once a third or even fourth player joins the action, you will end up playing in slow motion or even not playing at all...


Modes and Content

Now, if you can't find anyone to play with and the online mode doesn't work as well for you, then the single-player attractions will be your last hope. But as already mentioned, compared to Super Smash Bros. Brawl this game doesn't have as much to offer on that front.

Especially those who are looking for a story mode will be disappointed, because there is none. Instead of the Subspace Emissary, there is now "Smash Run", which can be seen as a trimmed-down version of that. In this mode all competitors have to fight their way through a giant labyrinth for five minutes, which is full of randomly spawning monsters. This includes many familiar enemies from the Subspace Emissary, but also ones from other Nintendo titles.

Zelda fans for example should recognize the Stalfos, Peagats and Redeads from Ocarina of Time 3D, as well as the Darknuts from Twilight Princess. But sometimes you might not recognize the enemies at all... Especially if you haven't played Kid Icarus: Uprising, because the developers have imported many of the enemies from that game, whether they were memorable or not.

Pikachu fighting a Darknut in Smash Run

You don't fight all those enemies just for fun, however, where they will drop "stat boosts" to increase your speed, jump height, attack power, Special Attack power, item power or defense. You might also find trophies and other collectible items, which makes this quite addicting. It's fun to brawl your way through the labyrinth and collect all sorts of things. This would even have an amazing replay value, if it didn't use the same labyrinth every time. It will take some time to explore it all, because it's so massive, but it will get boring eventually.

Once the five minutes are over, all players will compete in one of five disciplines. This might be a normal Smash battle, a race or even some Stadium activities, like the Multi-Man Smash, where each player will play on their own for a highscore. But in most cases you'll have the same issue: collecting the stat boosts only makes of little difference.

For example you might have the best speed value, maybe even three times as high as the one of the other players, and then get lucky to end up in a race. But if your fighter isn't as fast by default, then your enemies might outrun you anyway. And also in other disciplines the stat boosts rarely ever seem to be the deciding factor. And this makes you wonder why you are collecting them in the first place, other than just for fun.

Next to Smash Run there also the familiar Classic and All-Star Modes. In Classic Mode you will now have to choose between three different paths, each with their own difficulty level. The higher the risk, the better the rewards. This makes this simple mode a little more interesting and might also lead to some surprises. All-Star Mode was enhanced as well, where now it turns into a small history lesson, grouping the characters by years, which is nice.

Otherwise there is the Stadium with the aforementioned Multi-Man Smash, the classic Home-Run Contest and the new Target Blast. Multi-Man Smash now uses the three different types of Mii fighters, which is a great change, even though it's hard to recognize their faces on the Nintendo 3DS.

The Target Blast replaces the Target Smash and similar modes. In Super Smash Bros. and Super Smash Bros. Melee those had special parcourses for every single character. Brawl simplified this by offering five different courses, which can be played with every fighter. And now this got simplified even more by making it more like the Home-Run Contest. The difference is that you're punching a bomb now, which then gets smashed into a set of targets – an amusing, but short diversion.

In addition there is also the Trophy Rush, where for the first time you get a mini-game for collecting trophies that makes use of the actual gameplay, replacing the Lottery from Melee and the Coin Launcher from Brawl, which were mini-games of their own. This time you'll use a fighter of your choice to destroy boxes falling down on you, which contain the trophies and other goodies. And this can be quite fun. The more coins you pay, the longer you can play.

And that's pretty much it. There is no Boss Battles mode (nor are there enough bosses) and for single-player enthusiasts Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS doesn't really have much to offer – especially when compared to Super Smash Bros. Brawl –, and is more something you would play on the side. Longer play sessions, like with the Subspace Emissary, are a thing of the past here.

On the one hand having a variety of single-player modes isn't really essential for a fighting game, but on the other hand it would have been nice to get something more on the Nintendo 3DS, since it's likelier to play this just on your own. 


This game offers a total of 49 playable characters (Brawl had 39 and Melee 26), which includes 15 newcomers. The rest is already know from Brawl and Melee, but every character has seen some adjustments, where this even led to some different or new attacks. One example would be Link, who traded his Down Aerial with Toon Link for whatever reason.

Zelda has now her own Down Special, where she can summon a Phantom in the style of Spirit Tracks. But with that she also can't change any longer into Sheik, who became her a separate fighter instead. Since the Nintendo 3DS has its technical limitations, this iteration of Smash doesn't have any transforming fighters any longer. Instead of the Pokémon Trainer you'll only get Charizard, while Sheik and Zero Suit Samus got their own slots on the roster. At least for the latter this is of advantage, because previously you were only able to transform via Final Smashes. Now Zero Suit Samus has her own Final Smash, which is reminiscent of the one from Snake, who sadly didn't make the cut this time.

Zero Suit Samus with her hand gun, looking good

Despite Snake's absence, there is still a variety of video game characters who didn't originate from a Nintendo game. Next to Sonic, Mega Man and Pac-Man now also join the fun, where they got integrated quite nicely. Mega Man for example has his classic death sound, whenever he gets blown out of the stage or destroyed, which would have been a nice idea for Mario as well. Apropos, Super Mario gets two new fighters (Rosalina & Luma and Bowser Jr.), much like Fire Emblem (Robin and Lucina from Fire Emblem: Awakening) and Kid Icarus: Uprising (Palutena and Dark Pit)... Pokémon gets another newcomer as well with Greninja.

Meanwhile fans of The Legend of Zelda are left out in the cold. It's Link, Toon Link, Zelda, Sheik and Ganondorf again, much like in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The only real change is the aforementioned separation of Zelda and Sheik, but otherwise it's pretty much it's the same old cast with slight gameplay changes and no big visual changes either, where most of the designs are still based on Twilight Princess.

It would have been more interesting, if the Nintendo 3DS version had used Ocarina of Time 3D for the models, while the Wii U version could have used the character styles from Skyward Sword. Or they could have done something like in Hyrule Warriors, where there are costumes for the different iterations of Link, Zelda and co. available. Some of the fighters in the new Super Smash Bros. do actually have some costumes with different models, even different characters (like Bowser Jr. with the seven Koopalings), but the Zelda fighters only get color swaps.

With Ganondorf it would have been also nice to make him more unique (instead of a heavy-weight Captain Falcon) and let him actually use the Sword of the Sages, instead of only posing with it during taunts. And overall it's a shame that there are no Zelda newcomers at all. Impa would have been a fine candidate or one of the four Zelda characters that got turned into Assist Trophies (more on that later). So, when it comes to fighters, the Zelda franchise got treated quite shabbily, which of course is a big minus for a Zelda site.

But if you're unhappy with the additions, you can now always make your own characters now with the Mii Fighters, which come as Brawlers, Sword Fighters and Gunners, while also offering a variety of costumes. Their attacks are quite similar to what the regular cast is offering, but for each Special Attack you can choose between three variants, which is fun to experiment with.

This also leads to one of the major novelties of this Smash title: you scan swap the Special Attacks of all the fighters. Palutena offers three different variants for her Specials right from the start and with other character you can unlock them, but it's usually just modified versions of the existing attacks. Link for example can use big bombs, which are slower, but have a larger blast radius. And Ganondorf even can use the Sword of the Sages for his Neutral Special, though this looks quite botchy.

In addition you can alter the attributes of all fighters by collecting and equipping special items. These may increase your attack value, but lower your defense or speed, which is different depending on the item. Anyway, you can only use these customized characters when playing with friends or in the Smash Run mode.



What's also important for the variety of the game are of course the different stages, where you will battle it out. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS offers a total of 34 (for comparisons: Brawl had 41 and Melee 29), but about a third is returning from previous titles. Some of them got polished a bit, others were simply recycled. And if you're greeted by the same old Brinstar, Corneria and Jungle Japes stages – after twelve years of playing them, since they also have been part of Melee and Brawl –, then this may appear somewhat uninspired.

If this was like in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where the returning stages were kept separate, then this wouldn't seem like an issue. But in this game they are part of the default stage select screen and used as a substitute for new stages for franchises like Metroid, where they seemingly didn't have any ideas.

At least The Legend of Zelda doesn't have to be content with recycled content and even got two new stages at once: Gerudo Valley from Ocarina of Time 3D and the Spirit Train from Spirit Tracks. The latter game is already five years old, but the stage might make you want to play it again. Accompanied with the great overworld music from Spirit Tracks you'll drive through the game's usual landscapes, while the wagons might get swapped or rammed by Dark Trains. It's a rather chaotic stage.

Gerudo Valley isn't exactly quiet either. The bridge at the center can be destroyed, where then you'll find some poles in the rock walls to save yourself from the abyss below. But this was also trigger Koume and Kotake, who will either completely freeze or burn one side of the stage.

Except for the two default stages, Battlefield and Final Destination, all stages come with such gimmicks. Some even have bosses to make your life harder, like the Yellow Devil from Mega Man or the Dark Emperor from the StreetPass Mii Plaza game "Find Mii". Or there might be other CPU enemies, like the Flying Man on Magicant from EarthBound.

As a compensation for all this madness, now every stage has an "Omega form", which turns them into a flat stage above an abyss, similar to Final Destination. This gets also used in the "For Glory" mode for some more variety, because otherwise you would be only playing on Final Destination all the time. But depending on the original stage, these Omega forms may vary a bit, where for example the version of Gerudo Valley is a solid rock with walls on each side, while the one for the Spirit Train is a floating platform.

Omega form of Gerudo Valley, where the stage is a square rock with a platform with Gerudo ornaments on top

And this also hasn't been fully thought through. Ideally, there also would have been "Alpha forms" based on Battlefield with the three go-through platforms above the stage. Because otherwise certain characters, who favor a plain playing field, will have an advantage all the time.

What also would have been really great, if the game had a stage editor, where you can use the backgrounds and visuals of all 34 stages, so you could just make your own competitive or crazy stages. The fun Stage Builder from Super Smash Bros. Brawl sadly didn't make a return on the Nintendo 3DS, where you can only hope that the Wii U version will have one...


At least one area where Zelda got expanded quite heavily are the items. So far there only have been the Heart Container, the Bunny Hood, Deku Nuts and Tingle as an Assist Trophy. Tingle now gets company from Skull Kid, Midna and Ghirahim, where arguably at least one of them should have had the potential to become a playable fighter, much like Little Mac in this game. And they are not the only Assist Trophies where you might think that, e.g. Dark Samus seems like an amazing candidate.

What's surprising is also how many new items there are from the Zelda universe: the Beetle and Gust Bellows from Skyward Sword, as well as Bombchus, a Cucco and a Fairy Bottle now all get utilized. The Fairy Bottle can only be used to heal yourself once you're above 100%, otherwise it can only be thrown. But it's really the items from Skyward Sword that are there for some totally cheap K.O.s.

Otherwise there are a lot of additions from Kid Icarus: Uprising, probably for the same reason as the monsters in the new "Smash Run" mode. There are a lot of new Pokémon as well and even the new Master Balls, which summon rare ones more often. There are even some Pokémon that you need to unlock this time in order to use them...

Collectibles and StreetPass

Other than the Pokémon, there is a lot to collect and unlock, where first and foremost there are 685 Trophies this time around. These might be not too exciting, however, where in case of Zelda you primarily get the fighters, enemies, items and Assist Trophies already present in the game. And rest comes from Spirit Tracks and Ocarina of Time 3D, where in some cases it even seems like the models were directly imported from these games. So, the times were these trophies got carefully crafted for Smash are probably over, offering quantity over quality.

It was already similar for the Stickers in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but for some reason those got cut and replaced by the equipment items, which you can use to customize your fighters. With that they work somewhat similar to the Stickers, but they are far less charming. There are also special "Powers", which can collect for the Smash Run mode and activate them via the touchscreen, but they don't really have the same collector's value as the Trophies and Stickers either.

What's more interesting are certainly the different outfits and headgears for your Mii Fighters, which lets you customize them with some cool looks. Some of them are obtained via the "Challenges" – these are special achievements on a board, which hide rewards like an Advent calendar, including stages and trophies.

This has already been a thing in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but here they are organized by pages. The problem is that you have to fully complete all challenges on one page before you can get to the next. And this might compel you into using one of the Golden Hammers to skip some of the challenges, even if you don't really want to. A good example would be the StreetPass feature, where you might not be able to use it for a time. But once you do, it will be annoying that you had to waste a hammer on it.

StreetSmash platform with lots of discs on it with directional arrows

The StreetPass feature is simply a silly, little mini-game, called "StreetSmash", where you to push round tokes from a platform. You can equip your token with the face of one of the fighters, but otherwise this doesn't really have to do much with Smash and is just for fun. It probably would have been more interesting to send customized fighters out there to battle against them, similar to the Shadow Links from A Link Between Worlds, which was a really well-done StreetPass utilization.

Speaking of, there's nothing from A Link Between Worlds in this game. No stage, no trophies, no music, nothing. It feels like Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS came out at the end of 2013, because the year 2014 is pretty much non-existent in its library.


Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS doesn't really offer many new things, especially for fans of the Zelda series. The Nintendo 3DS also doesn't seem like the best platform for such a game – the screen is too small, the Circle Pad not sturdy enough and the online mode is lagging. And other than the Smash Run mode, there aren't many interesting single-player activities.

Still, this offers the typical gaming fun and quality of a Smash Bros. title, where this is for everyone who wants to play Smash on the go or who doesn't own a Wii U. But for everyone else it's probably best to wait for the upcoming console version.

The Good:
  • Smash Bros. on the go
  • Good gameplay in 60FPS
  • Lots of characters
  • Nice new Mii Fighters and customizations
The Neutral:
  • Omega forms of stages, but no Alpha forms
  • StreetSmash is fun, but very simple
The Bad:
  • No new Zelda fighters!
  • Not perfectly suited for Nintendo 3DS
  • No major single-player mode
  • No Stage Builder
  • No Stickers
  • Online mode lags

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