So there's this thing Nintendo does. It takes games that have worked only on their home consoles, that are, in fact, so massive and so expansive that them working on a mobile device like a handheld is almost unthinkable, and then it somehow makes it happen - it makes them work on their handhelds. And it makes them work to such a ridiculous degree that it seems absurd that we never got them on handhelds before then. Of course Mario Kart's short race, modular cup progression lends itself perfectly to pick up and play handheld sessions! Of course an aimless, social life sim game like Animal Crossing is somehow more at home on a handheld than a console! Of course a massive, expansive open world game like Ocarina of Time somehow works perfectly well on a 3DS! Of course.

But Super Smash Bros. probably represents their biggest challenge yet in bringing a mainstay of their home consoles over to their handhelds. Over the course of its fifteen year history, Smash Bros. has so far remained exclusive to Nintendo's consoles, and once you think about this series, it becomes glaringly obvious as to why these games, that are so indelibly married to their home consoles, wouldn't work on a handheld. So when Nintendo announces that a new Smash Bros. game is coming to a handheld – and to the 3DS, no less, which, let's face it, is a pretty flawed piece of hardware – you start worrying. Will the series actually be able to make the transition? How much will be lost in the process? How can a series of fast paced, graphically intensive, frenetic fighting games, known for its local co-op play and its almost iconic reliance on Nintendo's Gamecube controller translate over to the 3DS? Will the 3DS game hold anything back from the Wii U game, with which it is aiming for parity?

The answer - the transition has been made, and it has been mostly smooth. Super Smash Bros. on the 3DS is not without its problems. It has a fair few number of them, actually. And as the recent Smash Direct dedicated to the Wii U version of the game shows, it is certainly not on par with the Wii U game in terms of content. But all that said, it's still Smash Bros., and as such, still addictive and fun, and still uniquely recommendable. It works surprisingly well on a handheld, and is pretty much a must have if you have a 3DS and are a fan of the series (and possibly, even if you are not).

That's actually the most surprising thing here - how well Smash Bros. works on the 3DS. Yes, there is a minor curve as far as the controls go, although to be honest, it took me two timed matches to get fully acclimatized, and then I was raring to go. The 3DS is known for its cramped layout and poor ergonomics, and you will indeed be inflicting abuse on your hands if you play Smash 3DS for extended periods of time (which, unfortunately, you almost certainly will be), but on the whole, the controls translate over surprisingly well, and what does not can be remapped to your liking.

There is one exception to this: the eponymous Smash attacks, which are by default mapped to the analog stick in each game, are mapped to the 3DS's analog slider, and cannot be mapped away to the D-Pad. Whereas a convincing argument can be made about the terrible quality of the 3DS's D-Pad precluding anyone from wanting to map anything to it in the first place, the fact remains that the 3DS's Circle Pad is hardly better. It is too inaccurate, too imprecise, to pull off and execute a maneuver that is central to the game. Keep in mind, Super Smash Bros. requires you to execute a Smash attack to be able to knock your opponents off stage and score a point – yes, 'Specials' and stage hazards may work too, but none of them are as reliable as a Smash attack. And the only way to pull off a Smash attack is to charge it up by pressing the analog stick (Circle Pad, in 3DS's case) in a direction while keeping your A button pressed. But the 3DS's Circle Pad frequently misinterprets inputs, meaning that your character, instead of pulling off a deadly Smash attack in the heat of the moment, just sort of shudders forward and is dealt damage and punishment by the other player for no real fault of your own. In the absence of a C-Stick solution – in other Smash games, the secondary analog stick can be used to pull of a 'quick Smash' attack without needing to charge it up or pressing another button in conjunction – this flaw is even more grating and grinding. The central mechanic of the game often feels compromised.

It doesn't happen too often, but it happens often enough that it can't be put down to isolated incidents. In Smash 3DS, more than in any other Smash Bros. game, you are at the mercy of forces not fully in your control. Except this time, one of those forces comes down to the hardware, not the software.

That aside, however, Smash lends itself to the 3DS amazingly well. Its entirely granular approach to customization, where everything about how you choose to play it can be changed and customized, means that it lends itself uniquely well to a pick up and play style of play. On a bus, waiting for your stop? You can probably sneak in a couple of Stock matches while you wait. In bed at night, but not yet quite asleep? A couple of Time matches, maybe, while you wait for sleep to come. Standing in a line? A one minute, one life match should do the trick.

It works great, especially when you realize that the game has not been in any way compromised or hampered by the hardware. This is still very much a Smash game. it comes with all the mechanical nuance and complexity of Smash (for those of you who are curious, the game is somewhere in between being a sped up Brawl and a slowed down Melee, tending more towards the former than latter), it comes with all the customization, it comes with all the items, all the chaos, all the hysterical multi-man action on screen. And, as with any other Smash game, it looks and sounds amazingly great. Graphically, the game runs in an unimpeded, uninterrupted 60 frames per second, even when 3D is enabled. Considering just how much is going on screen, the fact it is maintaining that steady 60 frames while looking as good as it does -–this is at least a better looking game than Melee, and in Brawl's league easily – is absolutely amazing.

As good as it looks, though, the real star of the show here might be the soundtrack. Of course, Super Smash Bros. has always taken the classic, well known pieces, as well as the not so well known pieces, from Nintendo's musical catalog, and wrought magic with them, and the 3DS game is no different. Some of its tracks are absolutely wonderful: of note are the tracks that play on Earthbound's Magicant stage, Pokemon's N's Castle stage, and Mario Kart's Rainbow Road Medley. To be clear, there are not as many tracks available in the 3DS game as there were in Brawl, and a lot of them appear to be recycled straight from Melee and Brawl. But in terms of overall musical content, the 3DS game seems to at least be on par with Melee, which, again, is enormously impressive.

Enormously impressive is an adjective that can be used for the game, and the sheer amount of content in it, in general - it has a staggering number of fighters (51, to be specific), over 600 Trophies to collect, nearly 30 stages (though be warned, a good number of them are recycled from Melee and Brawl), and an insane amount of customizations for your characters (these include equipment and special moves that you can use in friendly games and build up over time). It's got an obscene number of challenges, a whole lot of game modes, and generally speaking, just a whole lot of things to see and do.

Let's talk about those game modes for a bit here, though. Apart from the standard Smash mode, which is playable both single player and multiplayer, we have this version's signature Smash Run mode (which is basically a translation of Kirby Air Ride's City Run mode to Smash Bros., and honestly, not that well executed, owing to its completely random nature, and the fact that there is only one arena), the Classic Mode (now with a new twist, and a board game like progression, along with the Intensity Based risk/reward system from Kid Icarus: Uprising returning, and a unique twist to series baddie Master Hand), All Star Mode (pretty much what you would expect), Trophy Rush mode (better than the equivalent in Brawl, but still terrible), Target Blast mode (a change from Target Smash into something that is more like Angry Birds with a Smash Bros. twist ), Home Run mode (pretty much exactly what you would expect)... I would really love to talk more about all of these modes, to talk, in fact, extensively about them, but there's just so much to cover, and I think I've made my point. Smash Bros. 3DS is a massive game. It's not lacking in content. It's every bit as 'big' a package as all other Smash Bros. games, in spite of its 'smaller' handheld game status.

There is one mode of it, so to say, that I would like to talk about a bit more, and that's because of how central it is to the Smash Bros. experience. I am speaking, of course, of multiplayer. Smash Bros. has, over the last fifteen years, become a mainstay at college dorms because of how incredibly plug in co-op friendly it is. Being on a handheld, that level of co-op action cannot be expected, but it somehow works. Although instead of having one system, one copy of the game, and up to four controllers, you will now need up to four of the game and the system, on the whole, I can't say the experience is very compromised. In fact, having your own screen even helps, and it certainly seems to have no effect on all the trash talk and banter. Local play seems to be unaffected by any kind of wireless lag too, so basically, the spirit of Smash Bros. makes it through there pretty much intact.

The other aspect of multiplayer is online. Online has always been problematic for these games. The first two ones – Smash 64 and Melee – simply didn't support online play, and Brawl did it so terribly that it almost might have been better off not doing it at all. Smash 3DS looks to make amends. It actually comes with an impressively full featured suite of online modes. You can choose whether you want to play with friends or random matches. With friends, you get the chance to set up a custom match with all the options available to you during a single player or local multiplayer match. With strangers, you get a further two options, For Fun and For Glory, which essentially boil down to Unranked and Ranked respectively. For Fun keeps all items and stages enabled, and sees players face off in 2 minute time matches. For Glory disables all items, and has players face off on 'Omega' Final Destination variants of stages, leading to a more competitive Smash-friendly experience. No matter how you want to play, you will probably find something to your liking here. The online modes were a mess at launch, with tons of lag and lag spikes making the game nearly unplayable, but as of this writing, everything seems to have mostly settled down, and plays well. Yes, there will still be some unexpected lag sometimes, but on the whole, it works well enough.

There are other things to do online too- you can participate in 'Conquest,' which is when Nintendo holds worldwide competition between two or three characters (you just choose to play as that character in an online game, and your result will automatically count towards that character's tally). There is even a Spectator mode, where you just view other players going at it, and even get the chance to bet in game Gold currency over who will win or lose. There's a lot to do, a lot to lose your time in.

It is, on the whole, an impressive effort, and a surprisingly convincing case for Smash Bros. on a handheld. No, it is not as good as Smash Bros. on a console, either in terms of its mechanics (it loses out to Melee here) or its content (it loses out to Brawl here). But holistically viewed, it's a damn good game, and every bit a Smash Bros. game. If you are either a fan of the series, or an owner of the 3DS, this game is pretty much a must buy. It may be an appetizer to the main course that is the Wii U game, but it's a damn good appetizer. Good enough to be a full meal for a lot of people.


Final Score: 8/10

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