What can I say about this series? It comes once a generation, and each one improves the formula in some way, though can oftentimes sacrifice other parts of said formula. This generation though, we have two Smash games - and for the first time on a handheld. The 3DS version handles the basics, but does it really have the power to handle the grunt?
First off, you'll notice the options. Smash, Smash Run, Online, Challenges, Streetpass, WiiU, Games and More. Smash is your usual go-to for regular matches. New mode Smash Run has you beating up enemies from a vast array of series to collect boosters which will help you come the final match. Online is where the serious multiplayer comes into effect. Challenges are the usual collection of hidden unlocks that trigger when you achieve that particular objective. Streetpass involves a new minigame called StreetSmash - a top down fight with character tokens. WiiU enables you to connect with Smash 4 WiiU, both to send your Mii Fighters to the console version and to use the 3DS as a controller. Games and More holds the usual single player games, as well as your collection of unlocks and the customisation options.
Characters are plenty, as are the stages. There are many returning faces, as well as new fighters. Obvious of which are the Mii Fighters, who are split into three groups. Brawler, Gunner, or Swordfighter. And this is where the customisation starts. Customisation is local or friend only, but can improve the moves and either increase attack, defence or speed at the cost of one of the other two. The customisation helps build a better fighter. If you feel a character is too slow, you can increase their speed, and possibly add a bonus onto them. These can either increase a certain stat when in need, or trade off one stat for another. They can also regenerate health under certain circumstances, so it really depends on what you want. Throughout the game you'll unlock costumes that you can apply to your Mii. Certain themes give your character a certain weapon aesthetic.
I feel classic and All-Star are as good as they have ever been, but the decision to trade Target Smash for Target Blast rubs off on me a bit, especially as they included it as a microgame in Smash Run. Half of the special options for normal Smash are also missing. While not the core Smash, the loss of Stamina Smash and Coin Battles, as well as tournaments, make this mode a little less inviting for those that just want some crazy fun. Smash Run offers Stamina Smash as one of its Final Battles, and the battle with Master Hand is a Stamina Battle the same as usual, so why it was cut from normal Smash makes me wonder why it just wasn't included. Smash Run itself is good fun, and the mode I have been playing the most. Battling enemies from a variety of series is great fun, though the Final Battles not so much.
Online and even local multiplayer seem to suffer some lag, though considering the 3DS is running at max capacity to run the game anyway, that's no wonder. Multiplayer itself is still good fun as always. Online is split into two categories. For Fun, or For Glory. For Fun is typical Smash. All items, normal stages, and a variety of rules to change things up. For Glory is more official tournament-esque. No items, only Omega stages [flat surface stages, all normal stages now have one], and no special rules. The matchmaking can be random at times, but everyone playing For Fun should at least have a chance of victory.
Now. Characters. There are indeed variety. Old faces like Mario, Captain Falcon, Fox, Yoshi and the like return. Sonic, Meta Knight and King Dedede make a comeback. And new faces Greninja, Duck Hunt Duo, Villager, Mega Man, and a variety more spice up the roster. Some characters come with alternate forms. Olimar's alt is Alph, from Pikmin 3. Bowser Jr. can alt all seven Koopalings. Wii Fit Trainer comes in male or female forms, as does the Villager. This range of characters are fun to use and fun to fight against. Though I would comment why we need five Pokémon now. Stages are new and old alike. The newer stages outweigh the returning stages, and most of the new ones are fun to play on. Rainbow Road takes us around the 3DS Mario Kart course. Spirit Train has us fighting on a train. Living Room is perhaps the cutest of the stages, with a dog in the background. Just beware of falling foam shapes.
But with all this - the characters, customisation, new modes, collectables - comes two major downsides. What possibly alludes more to the analogue nub than the game itself, attacks can sometimes be inputted wrong. As a Kirby player, I use the up-B move [the Wave Cutter] a lot. Sometimes during this game though, I'll get the side-B move [the Hammer Bash] instead. And it gets a lot more common to dash when you don't want to, due to the fact that the analogue nub feels too slippery on the thumb. The other problem is that the screens are a tad too small to give the details of the fight when the camera zooms itself out. When the action is on one particular place, the camera is in more, allowing you the ability to pinpoint where to attack more accurately. When zoomed fully out, it gets tricky to aim with much accuracy. There's also the fact that due to the smaller screen, when the camera is zoomed in, you can see what you are doing, but not a lot else. And because the fights are usually fast and furious, the camera zoom is compensating a lot for that, giving a slight disorientating effect.
The other things I can really say about this game. First, the music is still top tier, though there are only two tracks to every stage. The bigger roster means there is someone for anyone. Get used to the camera zoom and you should master everything else. If I had to say which in the series it was more like though, I would have to place it directly between Melee and Brawl. The characters are distinct and the physics are more tight. But there are also the improvements to stage handling and options for modes. And if Smash Run is the main single player element, it at least matches Subspace Emissary [the main single player element of Brawl] for how it is handled, even if it is a lot shorter by comparison.
To end off, I'd say if you are a fighting game fan, you'll get a lot out of this game. If you're a general Nintendo fan looking for a game that brings your favourite characters together in some way, this is the game to get. As for me, I'm saying the game is solid all-round, but if you want something bigger, it might be better waiting for Smash 4 WiiU.