title: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS
Bottom Line: Minor shortcomings and unbalanced series representation still don't outweigh the replay value and extremely solid gameplay that can found in possibly the best Smash Bros experiences ever crafted.
WARNING: This review assumes that you've seen EVERYTHING that Smash Bros 3DS has to offer. If you somehow were able to avert your eyes from every major leak up to this point and don't want to spoil the game for yourself, then turn back NOW.
It seemed foolish to think that just mere weeks ago we were cursing Sakurai for possibly "ruining" the Smash Bros series by giving the option to make custom fighters, adding Dark Pit as a playable character, and removing the Ice Climbers entirely. It's almost damnable to call SSB3DS a bad game, but to call it a terrible game just because Ridely isn't in it (Spoiler #1: BOOM!) or just because it's not on a home console is done right unacceptable. SSB3DS pushes the hardware limits to the extreme: delivering one of the most fluid and solid Smash Bros experiences ever, that you can, for the first time ever, take with you in your pocket for that matter. It may not be perfect, far from it, but is it the best Smash Bros game so far? More or less, yes, yes it is.
In some aspects, SSB3DS's gameplay could be compared with Brawl, albeit with some major design changes. For one, tripping is thankfully gone for good; no more must we submit to the frustration and slight disgust of tripping for no reason at the worst time possible. But that's not the only change to gameplay: probably the most shining achievement is the character balancing. Every fighter is fine tuned just so as to not be overly powerful (ex: Metaknight) or feel too sluggy (ex: Bowser), offering a near perfect battle experience every game. It takes a bit more powerful blows to send a fighter flying off screen as well, so items like Home-Run Bats and Golden Hammers feel a little more welcome on screen than being a cheap handicap item to give the user an uberly cheap advantage over the competition. In fact, the items players will most likely go for now are the new Galaga Ship and Beetle items, which drag opponents off stage indefinitely if they're at a certain damage percentage. All in all, I've never once experienced slowdown in my first week playing SSB3DS, no matter how much stuff was happening on screen at once. All in all the gameplay is absolutely fantastic, and only made better by the incredibly smooth local connection with multiple players. On-line connection, on the other hand, does have considerable lag, and the amount of error codes I got trying to play with players on my friend's list was astounding, but even then the game held up consistently even with four players on the screen at once.
If one thing is for sure, SSB3DS definitely has a larger assortment of fighters than Brawl. On first glance, the roster appears to be a ridiculous assortment of novelty fighters like Wii Fit Trainer and Dr. Mario, but personal tastes aside, every fighter plays just as powerful and unique as the next. Characters like Greninja and Little Mac provide a super fast and easy way to play Smash, perfect for novice players, while more complex characters like Villager and Duck Hunt that require careful set up time and placement are more catered to metagame pros. Zero Suit Samus and Sheik are separate fighters from their Samus and Zelda counterparts respectively this time around, but it actually was for the best in the long run: both Zelda and Sheik have their own much needed new unique down specials, and players can finally use Samus' Final Smash without being forced to play as Zero Suit Samus- so even if it means them taking up another character slot, both ZSS and Sheik feel more like new fighters than veterans, so it's a more welcome change and gives more series representation. Literally the only problem I have with the roster is Sakurai's favoritism for representing his own favorite characters. Granted, I don't care if Kid Icarus gets three reps (even if one is a Pit clone) or FOUR Fire Emblems reps, but the fact that DK only gets no new fighters, and Metroid technically having one is really unnerving. And judging by the alternate costumes, you can tell characters like Bowser Jr. with 7 Koopaling costumes each with their own individual voice overs, and Little Mac with 16 ALTERNATE COSTUMES (?!!?!) probably had a higher priority than fighters like Pac-Man, whose alternate costumes look practically the same. Nonetheless, even if some fan desires were undelivered, the roster is still flipping amazing, and no one can say that three measly clones (not counting returning clones) are overshadowing a beefy roster of 48 characters, plus Mii Fighters; allowing you to pit Morgan Freeman, Jay Leno, and Michael Cera in a brawling match to the death.
The stages, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. Some newcomer stages are amazing: including the chaotic Dr. Wily's Castle in which Yellow Devil comes down to wreck havoc on players, and the retro 8-bit Pac-Man stage with ghost stage hazards; while some are just okay like the awkwardly asymetrical Gaur Plains stage from Xenoblade Chronicles and the vertical Tomodachi Life Stage; while the rest are plain right out recycled stages from Brawl. No one really asked for Mushroomy Kingdom back, and to add insult to injury the ground portion has been removed, and the stage somehow looks even worse on the 3DS. Other lesser mentions are the Jungle Japes and Corneria Melee stages, which ended being the only stages to represent their respective series (again: favoritism). It almost feels like the Omega Forms for stages, ergo, Final Destination forms, were meant to compensate for the low stage quality- and while they do make some stages actually barable to play on, it's a somewhat boring and needless addition to tempt item banning fanboys into playing on other stages for a change.
Characters and stages aside, replay value and content are major factors for Smash Bros, and the 3DS version is no pushover. SSB3DS features an assortment of unique modes, including returning Classic and All-Star modes, an updated Stadium mode, and the brand new Smash Run mode. Out of the returning modes, Classic feels even better than before: giving the players the ability to choose their difficulty level and the enemies they encounter to reap the most rewards at the end. If you have the guts to try 7.0 difficulty or higher, you'll encounter the nefarious Master Core; a pants soilingly powerful final boss with five forms that will give any smash veteran a run for his/her money (or technically, coins). All-Stars on the other hand remains unchanged from Brawl, and for this reason feels slightly more tedious than the other modes; probably for the fact that this time you have to complete it with 20+ more fighters. Stadium mode however, has been improved, featuring more smaller cookie cut modes including 10-Man Smash and Rival Smash. Thankfully the grueling 15-Minute Smash is gone, hopefully for good this time. Target Blast, though trying to imitate Angry Birds' gimmick of destroying architecture, is only fun for about 2 minutes and won't hold your attention for long.
What should hold your attention, however, is SSB3DS' spotlight mode, Smash Run. This mode pits you in an enclosed area as you fight your way through randomly generated enemies from Nintendo game series for three minutes, receiving power ups that in theory should give you an advantage once you enter the 'Final Battle' with your opponents who also went through the same process. To boost your chances of success even further you can also outfit your fighters pre-game with powers, tweak their stats, and giving them alternate special attacks (that is, if you found them playing in other modes or in Smash Run). This mode is the best way to obtain more customization items for your fighters and is ideal when you need more coins to attempt Classic on a higher difficulty. However, after a few rounds of Smash Run it's easy to spot its Achille's heel right away: the Final Battle. The Final Battle can be anything from 'Run faster than anyone else' to 'Team Smash' or to the baffling '300% Smash' which gives everyone 300% damage at the start which made the effort of collecting power-ups seem utterly fruitless. You have no idea which of these 'Final Battles' will take place, and since some characters clearly have overall stat advantages for certain Final Battles even without the power-ups, you'll either end up owning the entire game or lose absolutely by the opponent A.I. To be fair, regardless of its obvious faults, Smash Run is best when played locally with others. It's clear that it was meant merely for a fun mode to play with others and to collect customization parts, though I do wish it was less random.
To conclude my lengthy review, SSB3DS is the semi-best Smash Bros ever made (Yes, I'm calling the Wii U Version the better version), and you can't tell me otherwise. Yes, Smash Run can be broken, Little Mac will no doubt be banned within a week from now, the stage selection could've been better, and any fan will look at the roster of 48 and come up with a list of at least 10 fighters that the game should've had, but these objections should not deter anyone from enjoying one of the most essential titles on the 3DS.
+Astounding production values and character roster
+Superb running speed keeps gameplay smooth at a constant framerate
+Great Replay Value
+On-line runs with few lagging issues (sometimes)
-Smash Run can be frustratingly random
-Returning stages are a ho-hum affair
-Uneven series representation
If you haven't already heard, during a Japanese 3DS Nintendo Direct this morning a new iteration of the 3DS model called the, I kid you not, 'New 3DS' is on the way, because if you hadn't realized it by now: Nintendo's console/game naming department is filled with cocaine addicts. This 'New' handheld features an upgraded CPU, a second analog stick that looks more like a zit, two additional ZR and ZL shoulder buttons, and a sleek new design that looks exactly like the previous 3DS(es)! It's literally the DSi of the 3DS generation, and if that console is any indication to the future of this 'New' handheld we're going to experience the whole "Which DS is which" scenario all over again, because...
I'm not one to immediately jump to conclusions as to which big company "wins" E3 every year, so that's probably why you're reading this three days after the Digital Event, but now I've had time to come to a consensus and from what I've seen this year, Nintendo really knocked it out of the park. While Microsoft and Sony were catering to the teenage angst of fan services, glorifying 60 fps and exclusive DLC like they were the raining holy mana bread of gaming, Nintendo took the Digital Event and Treehouse after party as a means to showcase what games are truly meant for: fun. Here are the main highlights from this week's Nintendo @ E3:
Months after its initial announcement trailer and just days after two extensive gameplay trailers were shown, it's safe to say that not everyone has really warmed up to the Wii U exclusive Sonic Boom and its steroid abominations that are supposedly the games' main heroes. Granted, any sane/insane person could find a million things wrong with this game before it's even released, most of which bring up questions like "Why does Knuckles look like a freaking jock?", "Why are they using Skrillex music in a video game?", and "Why the hell does Sonic have bandages on his shoes?"
Seems like an impractical way to prevent third degree scoff marks.
Thankfully, the redesigns are not permanent as Big Red Button Entertainment (the lead design team behind the game) assured everyone that the game will not replace the mainstream Sonic series, and is meant as a separate spin-off, not as a reboot. Unpredictably, Sonic fans are still not keen on the idea, and no one can blame them after the mixed reactions of Lost World, but remember this is exactly how they felt when Sonic Colors was announced after the puke-fest that was literally any Sonic game released before 2010. You still might call out "bullsh*t, it's still going to suck", but there are 3 relevant signs that we could all be wrong and that Sonic Boom could be the next best Sonic game since Generations.
Well, we're just a month away from Nintendo's big "E3" conference and I'm sure everyone is beginning to use their Jedi mind tricks to predict the outcome of the show, so they can complain afterwards that [some title] wasn't shown, yada, yada...yeah I'm not doing that. Sorry, no. What I will be doing, however, is discuss about Nintendo's latest surprise announcement last week: "Nintendo Figurine Platform" which is the company's answer to Skylanderss/Disney Infinitys' buy-expensive-toys-to-unlock-game-content gimmick. Many fans probably reacted to this news with a chorus of "ughhss" and "hell no"s, and rightly so, but note that we haven't seen any of these figurines in action and no tie-in games have been officially announced, so we can't be entirely pessimistic...yet. On one hand, the prospect of collecting video game figurines is enticing, but there is so many directions where this could go sour fast.
"It's-a-me! Your wallet's arch-nemesis!"
So I made it my goal in this blog to name specifically what Nintendo needs to do (and on any accounts, do not do) with the NFP.
Gamers are partly to blame for the major decisions the game industry makes. If we buy every FPS consisting of rainbow candy bullets and quantum breast physics then you can bet the marketing gods that we would get a sequel to that game every year until the universe implodes within itself. Though granted, the gaming market has the most power in what games we play, and possibly has less knowledge of what the heck gamers actually like, which is why sometimes a developer might say "Hey, you know that Shaq Fu/Final Fantasy game that no one liked the first time? Let's do it right this time." and more often say "Hey, you know that F-Zero game that everyone liked the first time? Well f*** them we cater to a niche group of gamers (Also please buy a Wii U)." The gaming industry isn't always cut and dry, and we occasionally get a real nice surprising treat once and while, which is why when we get something like the following it brings up the question if the gaming market even understands its audience anymore.
Well, Nintendo gave us a scare last month, with there being no Direct and the Wii U being eaten alive by analysts and all, but luckily they came through this month and delivered a fantastic Direct yesterday. Here are the highlights sand my impressions.
Title: Chibi Robo Photo Finder
Platform: 3DS eshop
Bottom Line: Slow at the get-go, and at times can be tediously punishing, but if you've got the patience, there's much to love about this new installment in an overlooked series.
In the looming shadows of big AAA titles and popular IPs, it's common to find a handful of original titles that just weren't popular enough to garner sequels. That's why it's extremely satisfying to see an overlooked series like Chibi-Robo to get another installment; a long overdue sequel made possible only on the Nintendo eShop.
In this new Chibi-Robo adventure, Photo Finder has Chibi-Robo helping Mr. Curator build a NostalJunk museum by using the 3DS camera to snap photos of various objects 'from the past' and converting them into museum exhibits. But in order to do this, Chibi-Robo must obtain Happy Points which he can get by cleaning up counter tops and garages or helping out the inhabitants (mostly toys and inanimate objects come alive) in various mini-games. Once you get enough Happy Points you can exchange them for silhouette film and finally take a picture of something in the real world that matches the shape of the silhouette of the film. And that's pretty much what Photo Finder has you doing through the whole game.
From the get-go, whether you've played a Chibi-Robo game in the past or not, it's obvious how painfully tedious this game is during the first 3 hours. Accepting work from the game's characters is your main source of Happy Points, but if you fail the challenges they give you even once (and mind you, most of these mini-games rely heavily on trial and error), you'll have to wait until you obtain a new NostalJunk and your job mail to reset before you can attempt them again. Your only other option to obtain Happy Points is to 'Explore' the set areas around the museum, which task you with cleaning up dust and picking up garbage. Of course, anyone who has played a Chibi-Robo game before should expect the game to limit you to 50 watts, the game's health points, which decrease over time whenever Chibi Robo walks or uses an item. The main problem with this early limitation is that it restricts how much exploration you can do at any given time. To put in perspective, it takes at least 10 watts to vacuum up dust patches, and even if you do manage to fill your dust bag to 100% don't expect to get a lot of Happy Points for your effort. Fortunately, the game picks up speed later on, though it's just too bad it has to be so darn slow to get going anywhere.
Probably the biggest problem the game faces is, sadly, what seemed to be the coolest gimmick: taking pictures. The low res 3DS camera is absolutely terrible at registering shapes, and in order to get at least 60% accuracy for the item to appear, don't be surprised if the game tells you again and again that the lighting is too dark. Even worse, you're only given 9 tries per silhouette film to get a shot right- if you can't get it within that duration then, well, it's back to farming Happy Points. And let's say you do get a picture just right: don't be surprised if it turns into a Nostaldud, the game's random insult to turn your hard work into a puzzle puzzle item that has no apparent point to the game until you collect all of them. And while it is sort of considered cheating, I did end up resorting to taking pics straight from Google Images, but i only did it to save myself the trouble of having to go track down an object again in real life because it turned into a Nostaldud. This is very unfortunate, because it's fun to see what object the silhouette actually turns out to be when you take a picture of something that's similar or (in most hilarious occasions) completely different in shape.
If there's one thing that's worth forking over $10 to buy this game, it's the undeniable Chibi-Robo charm the series is known for. The characters you meet in the game, including a bear shaped sponge, an anime TV robot, and a French Mustard and Ketchup bottle duo are all just as unique as the last, and their witty dialogue is as ridiculous as they are. Exploring every nook and cranny for goodies is what makes Chibi-Robo shine the brightest, and the areas to explore offer a good change of pace from working for the game's local toy folk (though it's dissappointing there's only 5 levels total in the game). The game looks really good all around too, boosting some impressive textures and details for a 3DS game.
To conclude, if you like Chibi-Robo, and you can overlook the game's constant tedium, then you can't go wrong for $10. On the other hand, if you're impatient and hate randomly generated shenanigans, then this is definitely not a game you'd want in your collection. While it's great that we finally got another Chibi-Robo, it's unfortunate it has so many shortcomings against it.
+Undeniable fun and witty dialogue and characters.
+Impressive graphics. No visuals hiccups.
+Some fun mini-games.
-Extremely tedious and restrictive at the beginning of the game.
2013 brought us a lot of fantastic games, most of which were triple AAA+ titles, making it one of the worst years to be a tree, a wallet, or a hungry stomach (kids eat too much anyway). In all the hustle and bustle of big budget titles, some awesome games promised to us fell out of the radar in a month and some were so vaguely teased we didn't know what to think. Here's 5 games that took their idle time in delays during 2013, and that developers wouldn't give me no matter how much money I threw at them: