I really enjoyed the new Smash Bros for 3DS. It gives fans something they’ve been wanting for years—portable Smash—but I could tell that even now the game stretches the limits of the handheld arena. The game runs smoothly on the aging 3DS hardware, which is quite an achievement, but it locks out Miiverse and internet access during play and quitting the game forces the 3DS to reboot. It’s clear that the current 3DS model is nearly bursting at the seams trying to contain Smash Bros, and as a result the game has some tradeoffs.
Although a swifter and tighter experience than the 2008 Wii version, Smash Bros 3DS feels like a refined version of Brawl with some new features and a few others swapped out for something different. It’s an accomplishment to be sure, but Smash 3DS just doesn’t feel like the next-gen experience I’ve been waiting for. Luckily, we’ll all be getting that in about three weeks.
After going one-on-one with Smash Bros for Wii U, I can comfortably say that this version is the evolution of the series. While the 3DS version felt somewhat stymied by a limited stage selection and the small screen inherent to a handheld, the Wii U version appears to be walking a fine line between balance and chaos. The total number of fighters on screen has been doubled from four to eight—eight!—which makes for some incredibly frenetic battles. The logistics of such a mode initially escaped me, but considering the wide array of controller types that the Wii U supports, it shouldn’t be hard to arrange such a setup. The Wii U can even support two—yes, two—of the new USB adaptors for up to eight GameCube controllers at once.
And yes, playing Smash with the Cube controller felt like coming home. The 3DS’s setup works admirably, but that circle pad and SNES-style button cluster just can’t compare to the sublime perfection that is the GameCube pad. Playing like that again, the new Smash just clicked. This is the biggest the series has ever been, but it doesn’t feel disorderly. Brawl certainly seemed big, but not exactly in all the right ways. It sacrificed Melee’s perfect balance and speed in favor of throwing gobs and gobs of fanservice at the screen. The result was undeniably colorful and attention-grabbing, and I wish they hadn’t axed the gigantic story mode, but in the end Brawl just wasn’t as fun to play as its predecessors.