'Super Smash Bros' Nintendo 3DS Review: Smash 'N' Grab

'Super Smash Bros' is out on Nintendo 3DS on 3rd October 2014.

Key Features

  • Dozens of fighters and locations from across retro gaming history
  • Full online mode and various single-player options
  • Fast-paced, precise and engaging gameplay

The Verdict:

'Super Smash Bros' is a beat-em-up game with Mario, Sonic The Hedgehog, the woman from 'Wii Fit', Pac Man, several versions of Link from 'Zelda' and the creepy villager from 'Animal Crossing', and dozens of other video game favourites, fighting on similarly diverse and classic-themed 2D stages, in a glorious melee of combos, special moves and brutality.

It is very confusing at first. In fact, it's borderline inexplicable.

If you have never played a Smash Bros game, you might not even understand that the aim here is to knock your opponents off the screen by first weakening them with different moves, and not just pummelling them into submission. Leaving aside the complexities of how to pull off special moves, combos and time your defensive and offensive strategies to perfection, you might just not get what is happening. The game makes no obvious attempt, beyond totally missable hints on the loading screen, to teach you how to play, what to do to win, or why any of this is supposed to be fun. You pretty much have to pick it up yourself.

But ONCE YOU DO (big breath) this game is unbelievable. It combines everything that is great about Nintendo - deceptively simple gaming mechanics, bright and colourful graphics, fantastic design and a subtle sense of irony and humour - and produces something with the depth of the best hardcore fighters on the market, and the variety of the entire Nintendo eShop.

The core of this handheld version of the long-running series is (ever) its straightforward controls and its surprisingly rich combat system. With as many characters on show as there are here (there are dozens, many still under embargo) there is an obvious wealth of special moves to be found. Some characters are huge and slow, others nimble and equipped with distance weapons. You can even build your own based on your Mii.

Each of these moves and variations on a theme is subtle, playing differently each time based on your precise timing and decision making. The fighting stages too are not just dumb platforms, they all change and modify over time, in interesting and often unique ways. It adds up to a frenetic but captivating game that is constantly challenging and undermining how you thought you should play it.

It's also full to the brim with other content, from Smash Run (a 3DS exclusive) which sets you up on a madcap quest for upgrades through armies of AI monsters, and Target Blast (reminiscent of Angry Birds). It's incredibly varied, entertaining and perfect for the 3DS. As long as you can work out how to play it - and get good enough to enjoy it - it will establish itself as a total classic in the system's line-up for years to come. Roll on the Wii U version later this year.