Smashing on the go

Has it really been six years since the last <em>Smash Bros</em> title came out? I feel old.Every new Nintendo console brings the desire for the newest entry into many people&rsquo;s favourite brawling game. But the newest twist was that we could finally play the latest entry on a portable device, and, while it&rsquo;s ultimately some good smashing fun, it&rsquo;s not the ideal version of the game.

<em>Smash Bros for 3DS</em> (yes, that&rsquo;s the name. No fancy synonym for fighting this time.) has its work cut out for it just by virtue of not being on console. The hardcore of the fighting game scene are people who desire the most ideal controls, insisting on large arcade fightsticks, or in <em>Smash Bros.</em>, the long beloved GameCube controller.

<em>Smash</em> developer and troll of the denizens of the internet, Masahiro Sakurai has done his bit to cram the fast-paced brawl of <em>Smash Bros</em> into the smaller space of the 3DS&rsquo; dual screens. They&rsquo;ve managed to get the gameplay to run at an uncanny 60fps, and the graphics are remarkably good for the portable. While it does not have the same level of content as <em>Melee</em> or even <em>Brawl,</em> there&rsquo;s a fair few distractions from the main fighting to keep you entertained. I just hope the WiiU version gives us even more, it feels a little thin compared to the previous console offerings.

Still, the mark of a portable port of a console game tends to be being held back by limitations. The analog thumbpad on the 3DS does its best, but it&rsquo;s just not responsive enough for the more demanding player, with people reporting the thumbpad being damaged during play. Moreover, <em>Smash</em> arenas can be big places. The 3DS has a fairly low resolution, and I&rsquo;ve seen situations where, when the screen zooms out, your character becomes an incomprehensible arrangement of a few pixels.

Despite this, the fighting system is actually really great, even on portables. Gone is the much-hated slowness and tripping mechanics of <em>Brawl</em>, and <em>3DS</em> manages to find a good balance between that and <em>Melee</em>&rsquo;s caffeine-high quickness. With this version&rsquo;s ability to provide more simplistic &ldquo;Omega form&rdquo; versions of stages without stage hazards or moving bits, it allows for more competitive matches. While I like four-man matches with all items on while dodging stage hazards, fighting hard CPUs and other players one-on-one is an experience that really tests your skill and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The connection problems have been more troubling. It&rsquo;s an incredibly inconsistent problem, but at its worst, I&rsquo;ve seen local and online battles stutter or even stop completely, even if the 3DSes are in the same room or have an ideal internet connection. I&rsquo;ve also seen reports from the other side, with some having connections that are just fine. Hopefully it gets patched though, not being able to play with others in any fighting game is a bit of a big deal.

Honestly, many of us picking up this title are essentially getting a fancy portable demo of the &ldquo;full&rdquo; WiiU game. It&rsquo;s not ideal, but it gives us a great view of the new characters that <em>Smash</em> has given us and the way they play. It&rsquo;s unreal to play a game where you can have a match between Mario, Sonic, Mega Man, and Pac Man. And having the Duck Hunt dog kicking ass is a dream character I never thought I would have.

All of this said, this is still a fantastic game. It&rsquo;s not going to be the hallmark of any fighting game tournament, but I&rsquo;m hard-pressed to find a better way to pass time on the bus than with a good <em>Smash Bros </em>match. Most of the flaws the 3DS version has are just inherent in its portable nature; it was never going to be an ideal way to play the game. It&rsquo;s a good game for the <em>Smash</em> faithful who want to get every version they can in their hands on, or for more casual 3DS owners who don&rsquo;t want to get a WiiU. But it&rsquo;s hard to fight that niggling feeling that a superior version will be coming in November.


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