Super Smash Bros. Preview – Hands on With The Japanese Retail Release

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We pick up the Japanese retail release of Super Smash Bros. 3DS to let you guys know just what to expect ahead of the US launch.

I live in Japan, which means occasionally I get to get my hands on some sweet, Japan-only goodies. This time, it was the sweetest of sweet, as the heavily anticipated Super Smash Bros. for 3DS launched over here in the land of the rising sun almost a full month ahead of the rest of the world. So naturally, myself and three friends headed down to our local electronics store for the midnight launch. Here’s my impressions after spending a bit of time with the game.

First up – and this was something pretty much all of my friends (especially those of us with the original 3DS models) also noticed – the screen is way too small. For two player games, it works okay, but as soon as you get four players, and items, and crazy stages that keep changing, it gets a bit too much for the tiny 3DS screen. There’s an option to “highlight” your character to make him easier to pick out, but I really wished that, since everyone has their own personal screen anyway, the game would zoom in on your character a bit.

Second, the controls certainly… take some getting used to. I never thought I would miss the c-stick so much, and it’s something that may actually make upgrading to the new 3DS worthwhile. Meanwhile, the circle pad is nowhere near as precise as an analogue stick, and it really makes hitting those clutch air-smashes very frustrating. Many times I would try to smash attack a player for a final K.O., only for it to whiff out on me.

But despite these two niggly little complaints, the game as a whole is really well put together. I wasn’t expecting much from a handheld fighting game, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover just how smooth the whole game ran. Even with the 3D turned on, it did not dip bellow 60 FPS at any time, and all the fighter’s movements felt fluid and with purpose. It didn’t feel like I was playing a watered-down port of the Wii U version, it felt like I was playing a game built for the 3DS’s hardware from the ground-up.

As for the characters, most veterans will easily be able to pick up their “mains” from Brawl, as the veteran fighters, aside from a few tweaks, remain more or less the same. The newcomers, despite some bizarre choices, all actually feel really unique. They aren’t just clones of existing characters (well, with the exception of Dark Pit), and all have distinct fighting styles. Little Mac, for example, is a best on the ground, but useless in the air, while The Villager has a three-part down special that can K.O. at low percentages if you can pull it off.

The 3DS features a handful of additional game modes, such as “Smash Road”, a sort of singleplayer campaign where players have to slog through a set of battles before fighting the game’s familiar boss: Master Hand, and “Field Smash”, where players beat their way through an onslaught of lesser enemies such as Goombas and Metroids. They are fun little distractions, but honestly, the main free-for-all mode is what everyone is going to be playing.

That said, the game’s online mode has taken a big, big step forward from the pitiful offering of Brawl. Matchmaking is fast and fair, and the two separate online modes (For Fun and For Glory) means that casual fans and hardcore purists all have something to enjoy.

Character customization is another new feature that is fun, but as it is turned off in the “For Glory” mode, am worried will simply fall to the wayside as another minor distraction.

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is far from perfect, and I would be lying if I said I preferred playing Smash Bros. on a handheld, but it is a solid enough game to tide fans over until the Wii U release.

Note: While this was a preview of the Japanese release of the game, I doubt it will change much (if at all) for its English release.

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