Smash 3DS is packed with content, and there's always something to do. As well as unlocking new fighters, there are Trophies to acquire, each with a summary of the character or item portrayed, as well as Achievement-style challenges with their own rewards, and a full character customization system. There's a feature that allows you to craft your own Mii fighter from one of three archetypes - Brawler, Swordfighter, and Gunner - and outfit it with costume pieces, specialized attacks, and dandy little hats. As you play through various game modes, you'll uncover more trophies and customization options, with harder difficulties obviously bringing cooler gear to the fore.
More Trophies can be bought at the shop (updated daily) and won in Trophy Rush, a mode where you smash boxes to stop them filling the screen. As always, there's a ton of them to collect, with fun writeups for each and every single one. Trophies. They're good!
There are 49 playable characters this time around, and as usual there are all-new brawlers to contend with. Little Mac, Bowser Jr., Greninja, Palutena and Dark Pit, as well as Lucina and Robin all make appearances, joined by some really quite inspired choices. Shulk from Xenoblade gets to alter his fighting style based on various sword arts, boosting stats and nerfing others to face a multitude of situations. The Animal Crossing Villager is simply adorable, especially when he hops onto a Gyroid rocket. There's also a Duck Hunt fighter, which apparently I can't talk about in detail even though we all know it's there. Joining Sonic the Hedgehog are two other third-party characters - Mega-Man, with a range of attacks based on his game series power-ups, and Pac-Man, one of my preferred characters. He flings fruit around, and drops fire hydrants to knock foes about with water bursts.
Sadly, we've lost a few characters along the way. It's hard to go from a game with Solid Snake in it to a game with no Snake at all, and the Ice Climbers have been benched due to the 3DS' hardware limitations. Other second-billing game characters, like Wolf and Lucas, are also gone from the roster, and with more Pokemon becoming playable, the Pokemon Trainer has hung up his cap. While there are doubtless some who will miss those leaving us, the new additions do a great job of making up for it.
Look, I may be in the minority here, but the inclusion of Wii Fit Trainer is a hilarious and inspired choice. She's a fun character to play with, using various stretches and poses to knock her enemies aside. Her inclusion is the exact sort of "why the hell not?" decision I've come to expect - and admire - from this series.
There are some lovely fresh stages to enjoy too. The Pac-Man stage is a delight, while the Xenoblade one looks beautiful and has a great backing track. One stage set in the Tomadachi Life apartment building has one's own Miis milling around, as players battle from room to room.
Visually, while this isn't going to look as good as its upcoming Wii U counterpart, Smash 3DS is still a pretty little game. The addition of a feature that lets you approximate cel-shaded graphics helps a tremendous amount, with a customizable black outline around characters giving them a bolder, more defined appearance. You can turn this feature off, but I recommend at least keeping it on its default settings. As ever, the soundtrack is taken from across the various source games, all delightfully presented here, along with a ton of nostalgic sound effects and voice samples.
I'm not a traditional fighting game player by any means, but I love Super Smash Bros. The magic of the series is that it really can appeal to everybody. I realize this review won't be very useful to those who are really into fighting games, and want to discuss L-canceling or the controversial status of tripping. It's awesome that Smash appeals to such people, and it's a perfectly valid way of enjoying the game. Likewise, it's also fine to enjoy the series just because you want to make Ganondorf lob Pokeballs at Princess Peach.
Thanks to Nintendo having never exhausted the series (it could've gotten away with releasing these games so much more frequently), the delightful surprise of the series has been preserved impressively across four games and fifteen years. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS may suffer from some laggy online, and the missing characters will cause concern, but it does enough new stuff, and works so well as a solo or local multiplayer experience, that it holds up its end superbly.
Bottom Line: While designed for your pocket, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS does not skimp on the features. A full-fledged Smash game, packed with stuff to discover, and boasting a roster of familiar and thoroughly inventive new characters, this is a beautiful fighting game than everyone can enjoy. Just a shame that the online isn't that hot.
Recommendation: Do you like Nintendo stuff? Do you have a 3DS? Then you already know you're getting it, don't you?