title: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS
Bottom Line: Minor shortcomings and unbalanced series representation still don't outweigh the replay value and extremely solid gameplay that can found in possibly the best Smash Bros experiences ever crafted.
WARNING: This review assumes that you've seen EVERYTHING that Smash Bros 3DS has to offer. If you somehow were able to avert your eyes from every major leak up to this point and don't want to spoil the game for yourself, then turn back NOW.
In some aspects, SSB3DS's gameplay could be compared with Brawl, albeit with some major design changes. For one, tripping is thankfully gone for good; no more must we submit to the frustration and slight disgust of tripping for no reason at the worst time possible. But that's not the only change to gameplay: probably the most shining achievement is the character balancing. Every fighter is fine tuned just so as to not be overly powerful (ex: Metaknight) or feel too sluggy (ex: Bowser), offering a near perfect battle experience every game. It takes a bit more powerful blows to send a fighter flying off screen as well, so items like Home-Run Bats and Golden Hammers feel a little more welcome on screen than being a cheap handicap item to give the user an uberly cheap advantage over the competition. In fact, the items players will most likely go for now are the new Galaga Ship and Beetle items, which drag opponents off stage indefinitely if they're at a certain damage percentage. All in all, I've never once experienced slowdown in my first week playing SSB3DS, no matter how much stuff was happening on screen at once. All in all the gameplay is absolutely fantastic, and only made better by the incredibly smooth local connection with multiple players. On-line connection, on the other hand, does have considerable lag, and the amount of error codes I got trying to play with players on my friend's list was astounding, but even then the game held up consistently even with four players on the screen at once.
If one thing is for sure, SSB3DS definitely has a larger assortment of fighters than Brawl. On first glance, the roster appears to be a ridiculous assortment of novelty fighters like Wii Fit Trainer and Dr. Mario, but personal tastes aside, every fighter plays just as powerful and unique as the next. Characters like Greninja and Little Mac provide a super fast and easy way to play Smash, perfect for novice players, while more complex characters like Villager and Duck Hunt that require careful set up time and placement are more catered to metagame pros. Zero Suit Samus and Sheik are separate fighters from their Samus and Zelda counterparts respectively this time around, but it actually was for the best in the long run: both Zelda and Sheik have their own much needed new unique down specials, and players can finally use Samus' Final Smash without being forced to play as Zero Suit Samus- so even if it means them taking up another character slot, both ZSS and Sheik feel more like new fighters than veterans, so it's a more welcome change and gives more series representation. Literally the only problem I have with the roster is Sakurai's favoritism for representing his own favorite characters. Granted, I don't care if Kid Icarus gets three reps (even if one is a Pit clone) or FOUR Fire Emblems reps, but the fact that DK only gets no new fighters, and Metroid technically having one is really unnerving. And judging by the alternate costumes, you can tell characters like Bowser Jr. with 7 Koopaling costumes each with their own individual voice overs, and Little Mac with 16 ALTERNATE COSTUMES (?!!?!) probably had a higher priority than fighters like Pac-Man, whose alternate costumes look practically the same. Nonetheless, even if some fan desires were undelivered, the roster is still flipping amazing, and no one can say that three measly clones (not counting returning clones) are overshadowing a beefy roster of 48 characters, plus Mii Fighters; allowing you to pit Morgan Freeman, Jay Leno, and Michael Cera in a brawling match to the death.
The stages, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. Some newcomer stages are amazing: including the chaotic Dr. Wily's Castle in which Yellow Devil comes down to wreck havoc on players, and the retro 8-bit Pac-Man stage with ghost stage hazards; while some are just okay like the awkwardly asymetrical Gaur Plains stage from Xenoblade Chronicles and the vertical Tomodachi Life Stage; while the rest are plain right out recycled stages from Brawl. No one really asked for Mushroomy Kingdom back, and to add insult to injury the ground portion has been removed, and the stage somehow looks even worse on the 3DS. Other lesser mentions are the Jungle Japes and Corneria Melee stages, which ended being the only stages to represent their respective series (again: favoritism). It almost feels like the Omega Forms for stages, ergo, Final Destination forms, were meant to compensate for the low stage quality- and while they do make some stages actually barable to play on, it's a somewhat boring and needless addition to tempt item banning fanboys into playing on other stages for a change.
Characters and stages aside, replay value and content are major factors for Smash Bros, and the 3DS version is no pushover. SSB3DS features an assortment of unique modes, including returning Classic and All-Star modes, an updated Stadium mode, and the brand new Smash Run mode. Out of the returning modes, Classic feels even better than before: giving the players the ability to choose their difficulty level and the enemies they encounter to reap the most rewards at the end. If you have the guts to try 7.0 difficulty or higher, you'll encounter the nefarious Master Core; a pants soilingly powerful final boss with five forms that will give any smash veteran a run for his/her money (or technically, coins). All-Stars on the other hand remains unchanged from Brawl, and for this reason feels slightly more tedious than the other modes; probably for the fact that this time you have to complete it with 20+ more fighters. Stadium mode however, has been improved, featuring more smaller cookie cut modes including 10-Man Smash and Rival Smash. Thankfully the grueling 15-Minute Smash is gone, hopefully for good this time. Target Blast, though trying to imitate Angry Birds' gimmick of destroying architecture, is only fun for about 2 minutes and won't hold your attention for long.
What should hold your attention, however, is SSB3DS' spotlight mode, Smash Run. This mode pits you in an enclosed area as you fight your way through randomly generated enemies from Nintendo game series for three minutes, receiving power ups that in theory should give you an advantage once you enter the 'Final Battle' with your opponents who also went through the same process. To boost your chances of success even further you can also outfit your fighters pre-game with powers, tweak their stats, and giving them alternate special attacks (that is, if you found them playing in other modes or in Smash Run). This mode is the best way to obtain more customization items for your fighters and is ideal when you need more coins to attempt Classic on a higher difficulty. However, after a few rounds of Smash Run it's easy to spot its Achille's heel right away: the Final Battle. The Final Battle can be anything from 'Run faster than anyone else' to 'Team Smash' or to the baffling '300% Smash' which gives everyone 300% damage at the start which made the effort of collecting power-ups seem utterly fruitless. You have no idea which of these 'Final Battles' will take place, and since some characters clearly have overall stat advantages for certain Final Battles even without the power-ups, you'll either end up owning the entire game or lose absolutely by the opponent A.I. To be fair, regardless of its obvious faults, Smash Run is best when played locally with others. It's clear that it was meant merely for a fun mode to play with others and to collect customization parts, though I do wish it was less random.
To conclude my lengthy review, SSB3DS is the semi-best Smash Bros ever made (Yes, I'm calling the Wii U Version the better version), and you can't tell me otherwise. Yes, Smash Run can be broken, Little Mac will no doubt be banned within a week from now, the stage selection could've been better, and any fan will look at the roster of 48 and come up with a list of at least 10 fighters that the game should've had, but these objections should not deter anyone from enjoying one of the most essential titles on the 3DS.
+Astounding production values and character roster
+Superb running speed keeps gameplay smooth at a constant framerate
+Great Replay Value
+On-line runs with few lagging issues (sometimes)
-Smash Run can be frustratingly random
-Returning stages are a ho-hum affair
-Uneven series representation