Super Smash Bros. for 3DS: Smash Run
Imagine for a second...a young man. Thirteen or fourteen years old. He's wearing baggy cargo pants, braces, a new pair of glasses, and enough acne on his face and back to utterly isolate him from any meaningful activity with the opposite sex for the next four years. This boy is sitting in front of a small television set in his parents' family room. Gamecube controller in hands, his eyes fixate on the passing colors and shapes zooming by on screen. Be it after school or at the wee hours of the night, this young man takes his respite from droning Catholic school regiments and tedious comic book drawing to engage in the one thing in his life that doesn't belittle, berate, or bemuse him...
I mean, this could be more easily said for F-Zero GX or Paper Mario: the Thousand Year Door. While Banjo-Kazooie may represent the entirety of my childhood, Kirby Air Ride may just as concisely represent my adolescence. Without a doubt, I spent more time roaming the Frozen Hillside than, say, my high school dances or student groups. You know why? Because a video game doesn't insult you. It doesn't stare at your zits when you're trying to talk. A video game doesn't take pot shots at your frail physique. It doesn't make rumors of your timid sexuality or slam your books to the floor when you're rushing to class. A video game is always there at the end of a long, arduous day, ready to embrace your tattered, pubescent soul. Because with games like Kirby Air Ride, there's always another adventure waiting for you and your friends. Especially in City Trial.
I may have never really expressed the (likely) hundreds of hours poured into Kirby Air Ride's City Trial between me and my friends. This mode WAS my social life at one point. I grew up within the Electric Lounge, the volcano, and on that weird UFO that descended every once in a while. I had the technique for defeating Dyna Blade down to a science. I knew every area above ground and under where Dragoon and Hydra parts would appear. I memorized the meteor patterns when the exploding meteor event would happen.
City Trial is as second nature to me as speaking English. Or drinking Dr. Pepper. It is indelibly etched into my brain. So imagine the sort of feeling I had when Masahiro Sakurai, the current head of the Smash Bros series, announces that a mode reminiscent of City Trial will be featured on the handheld version of Smash Bros 4.
City Trial was Sakurai's idea to begin with. I can't say I was that surprised. Just excited. Beyond words. I never shared these sentiments on Rare Gamer since I don't think anyone there had the same feelings for this mode as I did. Neither did my real life friends. And those friends who played City Trial with me in our heyday don't even play games anymore. I've kept my hype pent up inside me so long that it's started to back up. I have to unleash it. The world has to know my feelings.
Smash Run is alright. It's pretty cool, I guess. It's a straight translation of the mode from a 3D vehicle game to a 2D platforming romp. It plays the same in that players navigate through a big map, collecting power ups and exploring hidden areas. Occasionally, different challenges and enemies will appear to shake everything up. Players can attack each other to steal power-ups or totally K.O. someone else.
Then, at the end of every round, a special challenge is presented. In Kirby Air Ride, it was usually a race, an arena battle, or different tasks pertaining to the game's flying physics. In Smash Run, it's smash battles, foot races, or whatever. Between these two games, the mode in question is almost exactly the same. However, it's the details that get to me.
I have played several matches with friends in local wi-fi. I have yet to encounter anyone, even CPU's, on the map. I'm not even sure we're playing in the same place. When a map is so large and the spawn places are so far apart, it doesn't feel like you're playing with others. It feels like you're playing alone. And that's not fun.
It's really interesting seeing how different the Smash Run world feels when using different characters. Try playing with Bowser. Then try playing with Sonic. Yeah, you can feel the difference. I like that. Smash Run forces you to rethink how party/fighting game characters should be used in a platforming setting. Yet it does it in ways that Subspace Emissary couldn't dream of accomplishing.
What the heck is that thing? Is that another of Sakurai's beloved Kid Icarus beasts?
The inclusion of optional rooms for secondary challenges adds some good variety. Treasure chests, enemies from multiple game series, a camera that actually follows you? What's not to love?
Well, I mean...
Why doesn't the game tell you of the final challenge within the Run? How are you supposed to prepare? At that point, the final challenge is more of an afterthought than a competition worth working toward. Then why did I even gather all these power-ups? It wasn't to fight other players. I didn't even see them!
Not only do I feel alone (because I don't see my competitors), but I also feel lost in this big map of a world. In Kirby Air Ride, I could ascend to the top of building and mountains to get a look around. It's a 3D game like that. In Smash Run, I can only see what's immediately in my area. I cannot plan a trajectory of exploration. I can only wander and hope I find some Poppants.
When did Smash Bros become Castlevania?
I also haven't encountered any events that shake my world like City Trial's. Remember the hypercharged batteries? The incendiary rail stations? The bouncy items? The fog? Nothing in Smash Run seems so eventful as to pull me out of my zone and force me to play differently.
All in all, I'm a little disappointed in Smash Run. However, it hasn't bored me yet. I feel at some point it will. There isn't so much malleability and randomization to make every play though feel new. The areas themselves are not as eventful or as easy to explore, although they are diverse and interesting to go through individually, much like the Great Maze from Subspace Emissary (aside from the fact that it recycled the entire story mode before it). Come to think of it, the Great Maze should have been the entirety of Subspace Emissary. Nothing else. That would have been fresher and less clunky. What was I talking about? Smash Run?
Call it nostalgia of my socially formative years, but this new Smash Run doesn't quite hold a candle to City Trial. The art design is great. The areas themselves are as diverse and detailed as the roster you can use to explore them. That's probably what's saving it from being a total snooze-fest.
You were probably expecting a Super Smash Bros for 3DS review, right? Well, sorry. I don't see the point. The game kicks ass. You know it. I know it. Everyone is pretty up to speed on how excellent this game is. Instead of stating the obvious, I and other Rare Gamers will come up with other Smash Bros-related content for this game and the upcoming console release. Expect an in-depth characters analysis in the coming weeks.
Categories: Member Discussion, Nintendo 3DS, Reviews