Super Smash Bros. 3DS: Demo Preview

Cast your mind back to late 2001. The Nintendo GameCube wouldn’t arrive in PAL territories for another five months, but future classic Super Smash Bros. Melee was already on its way to North American homes just in time for the holiday season. Despite being only 14 years old and practically broke at the time, I just couldn’t wait; I imported a Japanese Nintendo GameCube (fitted with a USA region switch) and proceeded to indulge in months of single-player Smash. Heck, I didn’t even own a second controller.

So, while I’ve never considered myself particularly good at it, it would be fair to call me a fan of Nintendo’s fantastical party game. Super Smash Bros. has always been a manic celebration of everything Nintendo, and for the first time since its inception, a version of the brawler is finally hitting their handhelds for Smash on the go. With the public release of the demo last Friday, I was excited to put it through its paces and see if it does its legacy justice.


It’s clear that the 3DS version of Smash 4 is no slouch.

Initial impressions are positive. Like others, I was sceptical that the frantic nature of Smash Bros. skirmishes would translate to the small screen, but even on an original model 3DS – which I’ve temporarily switched back to until the release of the ‘New’ XL – it remains surprisingly playable. Much of this is no doubt helped by the smooth (and mostly consistent) 60FPS framerate, rebindable controls, and a selection of smaller-sized stages (all themed around Nintendo’s handheld catalogue) which are exclusive to this version.

Sadly, only two-minute score matches are available here. The massive number of single and multiplayer modes teased in the demo menu – Trophy Rush, Smash Run, and the classic Home-Run Contest, to name a few – will have to wait until the release of the game on October 3rd. While I eagerly await the ‘true’ Wii U version for local play on the big screen, it’s clear that the 3DS version of Smash 4 is no slouch.

Even in its demo form, there are lots of nostalgic touches present for long-term fans. My favourite is probably the post-match results screen, which now features a remix of the N64’s original character selection music.

The otherwise-excellent Wii entry, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, is often criticised for feeling slow and ‘floaty’ compared to the blistering pace of Melee, but it’s immediately obvious that Smash 4 is closer to its GameCube cousin than Brawl. Even in this limited demo, characters feel much faster, with a particular emphasis on the ground game this time. Edge-hogging – wherein players attempt to prevent opponents from recovering after being knocked off a stage – has been fundamentally changed, and series veterans will be pleased to hear that the controversial ‘tripping’ mechanic from Brawl has also been severely nerfed. Additionally, skilled Smash pros have already discovered advanced movement techniques in the demo build, such as ‘pivot cancelling’ and the ‘Reverse Aerial Rush’, to navigate stages even faster.

Mario is ready to throw down! For many, Smash is serious business.
Mario is ready to throw down! For many, Smash is serious business.

It’s obvious that someone at Nintendo is finally starting to understand the hardcore appeal the series has developed.

If the last paragraph made almost no sense to you, don’t worry – you’re not alone. But it’s become increasingly apparent that since at least Melee, Super Smash Bros. has catered to two types of players: the casual fans who love the unique madness of the Smash party experience, with the controlled chaos that the animated stages and items frequently bring; and more traditional fighting fans, who generally favour arenas where pure skill (and advanced techniques like ‘wavedashing’) rule the day. The latter have become something of a joke in the fighting game community over the last decade, but recent exceptional performances by the dedicated – such as this final match between a skilled Pikachu player and the much ‘stronger’ Fox – are starting to turn preconceptions around.

Indeed, between Melee making an official appearance at this year’s coveted EVO fighting game tournament, and the advent of multiple pre-release public Smash Invitationals, it’s obvious that someone at Nintendo is finally starting to understand the hardcore appeal the series has developed (my bets are on long-time series director, Masahiro Sakurai). To this end, each level now features an additional ‘Omega’ version, an itemless, flat-paned variation of a standard stage ideal for Melee-style tournaments. It’s good to see that the old ‘No items, Fox only’ mantra will no longer be limited to Final Destination.

With a particular Bandai Namco superstar joining the fray (spoiler!), new Namco-themed items have been added to the inventory in Smash 4, including Boss Galagas! Ironically, Fox is its first victim…

Of course, for many readers, the most exciting feature of Smash 4 will be the gigantic roster, which reportedly totals over 51 fighters after progression unlocks. Although I only have access to five characters in this demo – three returning champs and two newcomers – I’ve already put a couple of hours into gauging their strengths and weaknesses. Here are my early thoughts:



After a hilarious E3 Trailer debut, the Villager from Animal Crossing quickly became the early fan-favourite for the newcomers to Smash 4. Despite its ‘casual’ origins, the Villager is a remarkably technical character, with a move-set that focuses on utility (combing items from Animal Crossing such as the umbrella and net). Additionally, the Villager also has an extremely powerful set of air-recoveries, with both an Up-B (balloons!) and a Side-B (Gyroid rocket!) special allowing them to return to the stage. With high combo potential, and a Final Smash (an item-only special) which calls upon the Tom Nook family to finish off opponents, it’s no wonder that Smash pros have already nicknamed this character ‘The Killager’.


Mega Man

Easily one of the most unique characters in a Smash title, Mega Man controls much like his NES incarnation. With a high number of weapon-based projectiles borrowed from other Robot Masters and a massively vertical Up-B move, he shares some similarity with Brawl’s Solid Snake. His side-smash, the Charge Shot, is particularly satisfying in speed and execution. Mega Man fans who have followed the blue bomber through the franchise will be especially pleased with his Final Smash, in which Mega Man combines his firepower with Mega Man X, Mega Man.exe, Mega Man Volnutt and Geo Stelar to launch other players off the stage.



I have (perhaps foolishly, given his generally average performance) ‘mained’ Mario since Melee, so I was particularly excited to see what sort of changes Smash 4 would bring to his move-set. Overall, this Mario feels more viable in both party and one-on-one play, with faster attacks reminiscent of the original N64 Mario, paired with harder smashes similar to Melee’s Dr. Mario. I’m still confused as to how to use his Down-B F.L.U.D.D. special effectively, though the lack of interrupt on fireballs could be useful for building up damage without opponents noticing.



While I was pleasantly surprised with the buffs Mario has received in Smash 4, I’m practically floored by Link’s increased strength and speed here. Although he’s always been a versatile character – with multiple projectile options, including his trademark bow and bombs – everything about this Link seems to hit harder and faster than before. In fact, his only real disadvantage seems to be in Sudden Death situations, where the delay before and after his Master Sword attacks make him particularly vulnerable to an instant 300% K.O. I may seriously have to consider playing as him once the full version of the game is released.



After its original ‘S-Tier’ form on the N64 was nerfed for Melee and Brawl, I abandoned Pikachu in general play. But here, Pikachu’s natural agility is bolstered by some very fast attacks, encouraging pokes (hah!) and chip damage, with special aerials that can seriously annoy opponents. Its Final Smash is particularly vexing, as it allows Pikachu to safely hover around the stage for a shocking (hah hah!) amount of time, damaging rivals.

Want to try out Super Smash Bros. 3DS for yourself? The demo is now available on both the European and American Nintendo eShop (no code required!), with the full game being released in western territories on Friday 3rd of October. Whether you plan to play ‘For Fun’ or ‘For Glory’, the two planned Nintendo WiFi modes in the final game, I’ll see you then!

Basically, this gives me nightmare flashbacks to "The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing".
Basically, this just gives me nightmarish flashbacks to “The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing”.


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