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Super Smash Bros. (Wii U/3DS) Hands On Preview

Crazy Nintendo.

Right now in Japan, monsters are battling robots. Medieval dudes with long hair are fighting fitness trainers; people are running, panicked. Super Smash Bros. 3DS has made landfall.

Nintendo, for its part, has decided to play it cool with a mega-tease of a demo here in the US: only a handful of fighters are in it (Mario, Link, Pikachu and newcomers Villager and Mega Man), items are on and only on, and it's set to a 2-minute time limit on the Battlefield stage.

It makes it hard to gauge how the changes have evolved from Brawl, but here is what I (Matt R) could tell. Our resident fighting game extraordinaire JD Lewis recently spent some time with the Japanese version at a tournament and provides the in-depth second opinions seen below:

Mario has been the standard, average character since Super Mario Kart, but when you're just playing casually he can be fun to use in small doses. I didn't notice anything different about his moves. The Down+B, the FLUDD water pack, is useless as ever. It acts like a fire hose but it doesn't inflict any damage and you can't change directions without putting it away. The cape deflection move is slightly faster than before. Final Smash is the same. No one's buying this game for Mario.

Second Opinion:

Mario seems to be one of the stronger characters in the demo. One of the things that makes him so strong is the extremely minimal recovery lag on his aerial moves. This means that after preforming his air moves, he can act as soon as he touches the ground. His fireball has been nerfed slightly, meaning you can’t spam it to the extent of previous entries, but his overall movement and power give him an edge. Plus, he has high-damage combos off of his down throw which are essential.

Link is back and well-rounded as always. His boomerang knocks enemies back a little more forcefully than before. If you wait more than 3 seconds charging the spin move he'll go ahead and swing--ready or not. Dashing then pressing A will make him do a jump attack. This is a pretty powerful move, but the recovery can be a bit slow if you happen to miss, which is another reason I don't like his hookshot grab move. Final Smash is the same. I like Link, but there are lots of others I'd rather try.

Second Opinion: Link has been my main for many years. It’s been a tough road, since he is normally one of the worst characters. Things are looking up for Link in this iteration thankfully. Along with his aerials (aside from down-air) having minimal recovery lag, Link has a better recovery, and a good pool of killing blows. His down smash has interesting new properties – the front hit smashes the opponent up, but if they roll behind and get hit by the back part of the move, it sends them straight out horizontally. His Z-air (using the hookshot while aerial) is still lagless on landing, meaning it’s a great spacing tool. His new running attack is very powerful, but easy to predict. His up smash and forward smash also have killing potential. His boomerang is great for setting up offense, and lastly his down thrust now spikes with the right positioning. Link has tools to be a very good contender in this game.

Pikachu, that punk yellow rat is another relatively unchanged fighter. He's from Pokemon (Ever heard of it? It's this popular game where you collect and battle monsters and whatnot). The circle pad could make the spastic Up+B jump harder to control. Final Smash is the same. The smash and charge moves still pack a lot of punch.

The Villager, from the Animal Crossing series, is the wild card. He/she reminds me of the unpredictable Mr. Game & Watch from Melee and Brawl. Since the Villager is not really the fighting type, their specialty is having lots of pocket space: a bowling ball, punching gloves, umbrella, and slingshot can suddenly pop out of nowhere to give a good thrashing. One of the most absurd is the ability to plant a tree with Down+B, water it (Down+B again), then it juts up from the ground (like the Sim City Assist Trophy in Brawl). Finally, the Villager can chop it down or let it wither away and die. Totally bonkers! I could see it being a useful distraction and an extra-annoying thing to do on the ledges.

The Villager's Up+B jump is extremely generous; he/she takes advantage of a pair of balloons and helmet lifted from Balloon Fight on NES. Up+A is another powerful attack which blasts fireworks above the head; it's practically the same exact move with Mega Man. Running then hitting “A” will make the character trip and toss a flower pot forward as an attack. It's hilarious but leaves the player unnecessarily vulnerable. The Villager is definitely a lightweight, but worth it for all the shenanigans. You can switch between the male/female version on the player select screen, which is sure to please the feminists (for awhile).

Mega Man was one of my most anticipated players, but his projectiles are a little weak. The tiny arm canon shots do a mere 1% damage in bursts of three at a time and the sticky missiles don't have much of an oomph. The leaf shield will likely provide some useful “strategery” however.

The Up-B jump summons Rush (his robot dog) to spring him upward like Mr. Game and Watch; for the short moment that Rush stays on the screen, other players can also bounce off of him. That's kind of cool, but the jump is a little too quick and strictly vertical for my liking. One of his taunts makes him disappear and reappear in a flash; it will be interesting to see if that could be used as a dodge. His Final Smash brings up sends out a black hole that sucks in nearby players, then a few of his anime-looking friends show up to blast them.

Second Opinion:

Mega Man is interesting. His character stays true to the essence of Mega Man, which is the most important thing overall. Unfortunately, this gives him trouble in certain matchups. He plays a keep away game, but characters that close distances quickly easily get the drop on him. Other projectile characters (like Link) have ways to get in on him also. Though Mega Man does have some options to keep the space, like his slide attack and his dash attack, keeping that distance is difficult. His up-tilt uppercut is a solid kill move, but you have to hit the enemy just right for maximum knockback. Overall, his playstyle is intriguing, but he will probably be one of the tougher characters to figure out.

There are a few small general changes I noticed as well. On the positive side of the ledger, the menus now require a hold of the B button to go back. Very, very smart. If you ever wanted to tell right away whether a smash has delivered a fatal blow, there's now a flash of electricity around a character as a visual aid right before they go airborne. Being able to jump up from underneath a ledge and nab an item before landing is really handy. One thing I didn't like is that X and Y are again wasted as jump buttons, and at 7 seconds the shield bubble feels like it lasts an eternity. Oh well.

Second Opinion: This saying has been quite overused, but Smash 3DS walks a line between Melee and Brawl (or even closer, Brawl and the Project M mod). The ground game is much faster, and more suited for combos, though the air game is still a tad floaty. The reduction of landing lag is a big improvement since the L-cancel technique is gone, so it generally shouldn’t eaffect most players. The new ledge priority mechanics make it so ledge hogging is impossible, and new techniques have to be in placelearned to keep the enemy from coming back to the stage.

One big thing to note is that it takes a tad longer to kill enemies, as the kill boundary seems to be expanded from previous entries. While some characters can kill at lower percents, the average kill is at about 130% from my experience, which is pretty high in comparison to previous entries. That said, the game is still new, so the best kill moves probably have yet to be optimized.

Overall, there is a ton of potential in the new gameplay system and the vast roster. This preview barely scratches the surface of what's to come.

In terms of items, I couldn't believe some of the ones I saw.

Highlight to read possible spoilers

There's a jet pack, Tanooki leaf, a whip made of 8-bit flames, the Gust Jar from Twilight Princess (it's pure chaos when thrown), blue shell, a new powerful ray gun that requires 3 parts to be collected, among many others. There's a Chain Chomp Assist Trophy, Pong (that's not even Nintendo!), Mother Brain, and lots of recurring ones like Nintendogs. The Villager's Final Smash has to be my favorite addition I've seen thus far. If it's done correctly, three raccoons quickly build a house around an enemy fighter then the house explodes. It's the kind of thing that will make the next generation of Smash players (and watchers) whoop, holler, and cheer.

This game will be familiar to the hardcore, but far from a retread of the last few Smash Brothers. It's out in North America on October 3.




09/26/2014 at 06:02 PM

The main problem with the 3DS version is simply the 3DS controls--I almost need a GameCube controller to truly enjoy this game. But everything seems polished enough all the same, and Mario seems like he may be one of the better contenders this time around due to some subtle improvements. It'd be cool if he became like the Ryu of the Smash universe.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

09/27/2014 at 05:50 PM

6 days man!  6 days!

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