Smashing expectations

DUBUQUE — Since the series’ beginnings in 1999, Super Smash Brothers has become a household name in the Nintendo and arcade fighting genres respectively. With its all-star cast of iconic characters, the release of each game in the series has become a landmark event in the industry. Last Friday, Nintendo brought the next installment in the Smash Bros series straight to the Nintendo 3DS for the first time.

Super Smash Brothers for the 3DS is the first time the series has reached handheld gamers. The last installment, Super Smash Brothers Brawl for the Nintendo Wii, was over six years ago in the spring of 2008. Since then, the industry has picked up more than a few new recognizable faces, many of which appear in the game. Mega Man and Pac-Man make an appearance alongside more recent newcomers including Robin and Lucina from Fire Emblem, Villager from Animal Crossing, and even the Wii Fit Trainer him/herself. Longtime participants such as Mario, Link, Pikachu, and Kirby bring the roster up to 49 participants across 34 stages.

The premise of the series has remained largely unchanged in each installment. Up to four brawlers appear on-stage and proceed to fight using a wide palette of moves. With each hit, a player’s percentage increases; the higher the percentage, the easier it is to send them flying. Various items appear throughout the match, including swords, bombs, and food taken from different Nintendo games. Some stages remain static while others have odder behaviors, such as changing locations or scrolling across the screen as you fight. Each is a throwback to the legacy that Nintendo has built for itself over the years.

New to this iteration is a mini-game mode called Smash Run. Four players have five minutes to beat up baddies and collect power-ups. Once time is up, they compete in a random mini-game that use one or all of their collected abilities. The mode itself is enjoyable, but doesn’t quite fill the void left by the previous game’s story mode. Given the handheld nature of the game, it’s understandable that some cuts would need to be made to allow for other features, but its absence is felt.

Unlocking all of the game’s characters and stages also feels easy compared to previous versions, though whether or not this is bad is up to the gamer. Of the 49 characters, only 12 need to be unlocked, many of which are returning characters. A newcomer available from the beginning is the Mii—Nintendo’s customizable avatars—which can be taken straight from your system and suited up for battle. In the announcement for the Mii fighters, Nintendo featured Miis representing Abraham Lincoln, Ice-T, and Elijah Wood, to name a few. This customization adds some more depth to what some might see as a limited—though expansive—roster.

Even with its limitations as a handheld, Super Smash Brothers for 3DS feels like an incredibly deep game. The nature of the series is built for replay value, with no real story mode to “beat.” Collecting the game’s hundreds of trophies can take weeks of dedicated work, meaning there’s still plenty to do in the meantime. While those with larger hands may experience some discomfort during long play sessions, the game feels entirely natural on the 3DS. It’s no wonder that over 2.8 million copies of the game have been sold worldwide. Keep in mind that the game released in Japan mid-September and North America only last week.

Super Smash Brothers’ launch on a portable system was a striking success for Nintendo in a time when it was desperately needed. With a wide variety of Nintendo’s series represented (along with some others—hello, Mega Man!), fans everywhere are thrilled. The HD version of the game, Super Smash Brothers for Wii U, will be released on November 21, just in time for the holiday season.

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