Initially, this review was a series of paragraphs totaling about 600 words before I scrapped it. I realized that I was comparing Smash Bros. 4 (3DS/Wii U) to its predecessors – much as a lot of people were. I had been comparing the things I didn’t like about Smash 4 to the things I liked about Smash64, Melee, Brawl, and even Project M. That goes against my entire philosophy about how to approach the game! Smash 4, stylized as Sm4sh, is an entirely new game. A new beginning, as it were.
Let go of everything you know about previous Smash Bros. games; the timing, the L-Cancelling, the short-hop double f-airs, and yes even the wavedashes. Most, if not all, of the old “tech” (advanced techniques) has been swept away. We’re left with a game that’s a bit faster paced than Brawl, but slower than Melee. Attacks, for the most part, don’t kill as easily. We have a new roster. We have new game modes. We even have wireless multiplayer, both locally and online! Nintendo has arguably provided more Smash Bros. than we’ve had previously.
Smash Run, one of the 3DS versions’ biggest unique selling points, was a pleasant surprise to me. The premise is similar to Brawl’s Subspace Emissary mode (ie. every Kirby game ever) in which you run around a 2D environment and defeat enemies while accumulating power-ups. At the end of 5-minutes, you will be pitted against 3 other players, CPU or human, in some form of contest – whether that’s a race to the finish, a team battle, a free for all, stamina battle, etc. It’s certainly a unique mode and a nice way to break from the monotony of standard matches, if that’s your thing.
Smash 4 is still a fighting game through and through, despite what it was initially designed to be. It borrows from its predecessors and a few other titles for its mini-games (Angry Birds, Kirby, etc.) while continuing to deliver that Nintendo charm. I spent about 5 hours goofing around in all of the different game modes before I started to get bored of it and wanted to get down to the competitive play that I’ve come to love in this last year.
Online mode is surprisingly decent. I’ve had nearly 100 “For Glory” 1-on-1 matches and there have barely been any matches where lag was an issue. When this happened, it didn’t seem to cost me the matches, rather the response time of the characters was just drastically cut down. It appeared that my opponent had to deal with it too, so it’s not as though I can shout “stupid lagger” to the skies in vain. I have heard that playing anything other than 1-on-1, however, can often result in serious lag.
The new roster is pretty solid; there’s a little bit of everything there. From Shulk to Shiek to Samus, from Greninja to Ganondorf, and Link to Lucina. Nintendo’s core franchises and even their fringe IPs are all relatively well-represented. I’m pretty impressed with the nearly 50-character roster, despite the fact that I use maybe 5-6 characters regularly. It isn’t that the new characters don’t interest me. I just don’t find many of them to be competitive for my style of play. Quick, aggressive, and risky.
I get the impression that the Smash 4 engine is tailored to ranged play. For casuals, at least. There are few moves that appear to “shield poke,” and many of the relatively decent moves will have a lot of landing-lag (or ending-lag) to them. While everybody has to learn these new, more conservative methods of playing, ranged characters seem to have a heavy advantage for now. With the exception of Little Mac, whom everybody appears to be playing like he’s going out of style! (Go get ’em, Mac!)
Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U will truly shine if Nintendo patches the mechanics and balances the game as deemed necessary by the core fans. To my knowledge, Nintendo has never had a competitive style of game like this wherein they can patch character-based mechanics, so I truly hope they do something with it. I wouldn’t hold my breath though; Nintendo isn’t known for their decisions to drastically patch anything post-launch unless it’s to add new content. Players are going to come up with new strategies and ways to play the game. While this has been initially frustrating for me, I’ve learned to embrace the challenge. We won’t be able to study the advanced techniques of our favorite Melee players and put them to use anymore. We’re in uncharted territory here.
Rob Purchased Smash Bros. 3DS through the Nintendo eShop at 12:01am EST on Oct 3. Clocking in at a hefty 21.5hrs of cumulative gametime since then, Rob has logged almost 100 online “For Glory” matches and dozens of online “friendlies” with players from all over the world. Classic, All-Star, and Smash Run modes were all thoroughly played. Every character was unlocked, and all of the first panel of “Challenges” were completed aside from unlocking 3 unique custom outfits. While Rob still can’t quite commit to that Rockman life, you can bet he’ll cheer any Mega Man player on in tournament or competitive play.