Nintendo is back with its latest installment of the Super Smash Brothers series, and for the first time it's playable on the Nintendo 3DS. Super Smash Brothers 4, or SSB4, contains fifty-one of the veteran characters that you've come to love and adds twelve new characters including, Megaman, Wii Fit Trainer, Duck Hunt, and Little Mac. Though this new game follows the same aesthetic as it's predecessor, there are changes from the last iteration that make it its own separate game, visually and mechanically. Personally, I have not played this series since the Nintendo 64, so I didn't have a recent frame of reference to base the changes on. What I can say, is that this game is more addicting than I could have ever imagined and I've easily logged thirty plus hours playing the different game-modes already.
Let's get into right into it. I could talk all day about how much I love playing Samus in this game, or how much I hate the wide encompassing attacks of the characters like DK, but that's not really exciting. The new Mii Fighters are, however, awe-inspiring. Using Mii characters that you've already created on the 3DS, you can forge a line of fighters that rely on different tactics to fight for supremacy on the battlefield. There are three classes to choose from, Brawler, Gunner, or Swordfighter. My personal favorite is the Brawler, because it dishes out a flurry of uppercuts and kicks that damage the enemy incrementally, while keeping them occupied and unable to effectively attack you. The Gunner is a long range character that relies on projectiles fired from a blaster to send enemies flying. Lastly, the Swordfighter is a mid range melee character that uses, you guessed it, a sword to knock back opponents and power into them - causing considerable damage. The abilities of these custom characters are augmented by badges that increase the base stats of speed, attack, and defense. While the badges are nice, you have to be careful because each one subtracts points from another skill to add to its overall boost. These fighters would not be complete without customizable outfits that include headgear and armors that change the look of your Mii. These outfits include general items like plate armor, and specific unique items like the helmet that Samus wears.
Aside from new characters, SSB4 includes a new mode called "Smash Run" that I've found myself sinking the most time into. Smash Run gives players five minutes to traverse a large adventure course. During this time, the player collects hidden chests and fights enemies from Super Smash Brothers Brawl's, Subspace Emissary - as well as enemies pulled from other games that the Smash characters originate from. As you find chests and defeat these enemies, you are given power-ups that increase your skill in Speed, Jump, Attack, Special, Arms, and Defense. Depending on the size and difficulty of the enemy you kill, you will be rewarded with bigger drops and more skill points. It's easy to bite off more than you can chew, however, and getting KO'ed by an opposing enemy costs you a reset and the loss of some acquired skill points you've gathered during your run. There are also stat-boosts that have a clock on them, awarding the player with five-hundred points in a select skill for a limited time. These timed boosts allow for a distinct tactical advantage against the enemies that you are facing. In all, there are around 1000 points to increase for each skill, and points can be earned naturally by doing the actions that they correspond to (e.g. running to increase points in speed, or fighting to increase points in attack). In addition to the main adventure area, there are hidden doors that transport the character to a bonus stage where the player can complete a set goal for more loot and upgrades. Final Smash happens after five minutes have expired, and all of the stats of the participating Smash characters are tallied and compared. These stages vary, and you could find yourself in a running or jumping competition, rather than a traditional Smash fight. It's worth mentioning that chests and enemies also drop trophies and character customization items that are awarded after the conclusion of Final Smash.
Smash Run is definitely my favorite mode in the game, as it is the easiest to earn new trophies and character customizations from, but the other modes do deserve outlining. Let's take a look.
- CLASSIC - In Classic, players choose different paths as they proceed along a map and fight against CPU opponents. Each fight has a slot-machine style award that ranges from coins to trophies and custom parts, and is multiplied based on the difficulty of the fight. Before the start of Classic mode, you are able to wager gold to increase the overall hardness of the game and the loot distributed after you fight. At the end of this mode, you face off against the reigning boss of Super Smash Brothers - Master Hand. If that's not enough of a challenge for you, the path of increased difficulty includes Crazy Hand in the final fight as well.
- STADIUM - In Stadium, players choose between Multi-Man Smash, Home-Run Contest, and the new Target Blast mode.
- Multi-Man Smash is pretty self explanatory, you face anywhere from ten to infinite characters that you proceed to pummel into oblivion. At milestones, like fifty and one-hundred characters KOed, a larger or unique boss character joins the fight - adding additional value to this mode.
- Home-Run Contest was another time-sink for me in SSB4. In this mode, you wail on a sandbag target, inflicting the most damage you can before you blast it downfield with the power-smash from your baseball bat. Also, as the bag lands and slides across the plane of measurement, there are trophies and parts that can be earned.
- Target Blast is akin to an Angry Birds style mode. The player damages a bomb as much as they can before they power-smash it into an area of targets that are destroyed when the bomb explodes. There is some physics based damage, but the majority of the destruction is done by damaging and aiming the bomb correctly before launching it.
- ALL-STAR - Test your stamina with some of the biggest stars in the video game universe. In All-Star, you battle up to seven characters per stage, in order from when they first appeared in their respective series. This mode can be challenging, because your health does not regenerate in between rounds. Luckily, you're given the one time use of three healing items that, if used wisely, can help you work your way through the rosters of characters. In between rounds, you're free to use one of your heals and have the chance that a unique trophy will drop to add to your collection.
- STREET SMASH - This new mode takes advantage of the streetpass feature of the 3DS. As you come across other 3DS owners that play the game, they will be transported into your world to fight in an asynchronous, table-top Smash mini-game. Holding attack, you charge up, increasing the power and lengthening the area of your charge. Once released, the attack does damage to an enemy token, taking it from Green to Red - depending on the severity of the hit. The objective here is pretty straightforward, you want to knock your opponents piece from the table, while avoiding that fate yourself. You also have the ability to pop a bubble shield, which can be used to save yourself from hits or counter-attack as an opponent engages you.
- TROPHY RUSH - This new solo mode on the 3DS allows players to wager money to increase their time in a bonus stage that awards coins and custom parts. Trophy Rush can be hit or miss on your bank, as letting the boxes stack too high will cause the floor to fall out from under you ensuring a KO and shortening your time left in the instance. In addition, bombs, electrical balls, and fire boxes make the task more challenging by adding the threat of damage to your run. Getting KOed for any reason in this mode, reduces your time left by fifteen seconds. To offset this danger, a meter fills up as you destroy more and more of the crates on the stage. Once it fills up, your character gets a fever bonus and specialized blocks with random prizes start to fall from the sky. At the end of the mode, a score is awarded based on performance, and you're given trophies, custom moves, and other bonuses for your hard work.
- ONLINE SMASH - Online mode is split between two versions of play, For Fun and For Glory, each targeted toward two different types of Super Smash Brothers player. Online matches can be spectated and bet on with gold earned in game. Repeated winning bets allow for doubling up and the earning of bonus items for use with your characters.
- For Fun is a casual style mode that is non-ranked with a random level selected from all stages but Final Destination. All items will appear and only matches you win will be recorded in your stats.
- For Glory is a ranked match system that draws levels only from the Final Destination stages. All levels are flat and do not include items, wins and losses are recorded in this mode in addition to all battle stats in the match.
My only issue with this new Smash Brothers, lies in the technical limitations of the 3DS hardware in general. Allow me to elaborate. The pace of a Smash game can be reasonably frantic and the C-Stick on the 3DS isn't the most equipped to handle the punishment that long sessions can dish out. Take for example the Japanese players that have completely lost C-Sticks due to wailing on them in a particularly engaging battle. Though my frustration was mainly do to missed moves because of imprecise movements of the stick, I can see where someone could be worked up enough to break their console in a heated online match. A solution to this problem, also originating from Japan (go figure), is to mod your handheld to accept the input of a Gamecube controller - thus alleviating the problem altogether. Though I think this is an extremely ingenious modification of the hardware and cool to boot, we at Pixels Per Minute do not condone hacking your 3DS and voiding your warranty. That being said, this video from Youtube user dekuNukem outlines a list of parts and the source code necessary to make the operation a success. Of course, you could argue that I'm just a Smash noob and not familiar with the intricacies of the C-Stick, but repeated practice still does not yield marked changes in my performance. While I'm not faring terribly, there is certainly room for improvement in the power-move department on my end.
In all, SSB4 is an interesting foray into the handheld fighting market with a slew of new additions that'll keep old and new fans occupied. Though I'm the only one of my friends that currently has the game, I'm enjoying the extra practice before everyone comes to visit in November to get wrecked on the Wii-U. If you're reading this, and want to beat up on me a little bit - feel free to visit our contact page and send us a message with your friend code.
Did we miss anything? Which character is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.