After three titles and 15 years of epic gameplay, the Super Smash Brothers series is one that needs no introduction. So, when Nintendo announced that the latest title would be released on the Nintendo 3DS, many fans feared that the series simply wouldn’t translate well to a handheld title. Thankfully, I’m happy to say that these worries are unfounded, as the latest installment proves that Smash is a series that is as flexible as it is fun.

Offering a staggering 51 playable characters, and more modes to choose from than ever before, Super Smash Bros. 3DS undoubtedly lives up to the high standards set by the titles before it. What makes the game so compelling is the clever feedback loop the game employs. The more you play, the more characters you unlock and the more characters you unlock, the more stages and items are made available. This give-and-take system of play keeps players coming back again and again. More so than any other title, Smash 3DS offers the most replayability and variety of any title before it.

This is seen in the many ways Smash 3DS allows you to play. For example, classic mode is back with the added twist of allowing players the ability to choose between several battle options, allowing players enough freedom to make the experience feel fresh. Alongside this, the ability to create custom characters – based on one’s Mii avatar – pushes players to keep playing, as there are a variety of moves and abilities for the player to unlock along the way.

Gameplay wise, the success of Smash 3DS depends on how you are approaching the game. Fans looking for a pick up and play party game will be happy to find that Smash 3DS offers a wide variety of new characters, and items that will make it easy to enjoy each and every match you play. However, if you are a fan of the competitive Smash scene, you might be a little disappointed.

Amongst competitive players Super Smash Bros. Melee is often seen as the kind of gold standard for competitive play. The combination of speed, advanced techniques, and ever-evolving strategy options make Melee nearly unmatched in quality. With this in mind, Smash 3DS simply cannot compete with the high skill ceiling that Melee offers. This isn’t to say that Smash 3DS can’t be played competitively, but various changes to the physics engine still make it the inferior choice.

Still, the game is a huge improvement over the previous title Smash Brawl. By speeding up gameplay and removing the horror that was randomized tripping, Smash 3DS offers a more exciting fighting experience.

Unfortunately, the game makes few unfortunate changes that hinder it from becoming the next best competitive title. Specifically, the decision to remove “edge-hogging” single-handedly wiped out an entire aspect of the game that made Super Smash Bros. so exciting. While some may be happy to see this strategy removed, fans looking for a competitive title will definitely be disappointed.

What holds back Smash 3DS the most is the quality of online play. I can’t explain how frustrating it is to still have issues regarding lag, matchmaking, and other aspects of online play in 2014. Too often I found myself playing against an opponent with unbelievable amounts of latency, making me wonder why I was ever matched with them in the first place. While the system is certainly an improvement over past efforts – particularly in the variety of modes it offers – it’s disappointing to see Nintendo continue to struggle to keep up with a system many consoles perfected age ago.

Despite these flaws, Smash 3DS is still incredibly enjoyable, offering more than enough content to keep a player coming back for more time and time again.

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