Super Smash Bros is not Street Fighter with Mario and Pikachu.
It's not about remembering special combos or countering every attack. It's about juggling enemies, bouncing around the screen, evading laser beams, and running after ridiculous, game-changing items.
It's about biffing your opponents to raise their damage meter which causes them to fly off screen - and get knocked out - when struck with a powerful smash attack. And it's about tripping your rival up on a banana skin.It's-a me!
Some characters fight with swords or fists, but others battle in a truly absurd fashion. Olimar plucks Pikmin out of the ground to fight alongside him, and Diddy Kong shoots peanuts out of wooden pistols.
Everything moves at a fast, frantic pace, and this 3DS one feels closer to the lightning quick Super Smash Bros Melee than the notoriously sluggish Brawl.
I'm a casual Smash Bros player, so I can't go into the intricacies of what's changed for this fourth game, but it feels as fun and energetic as ever. And it's not hampered by being on a portable system.
It's surprisingly easy to keep track of everything on that screen (I am playing on the XL - your mileage may vary on the original model or 2DS), it runs at a slick 60 frames per second, and the Circle Pad handles wonderfully.Arc thunder!
So what mode do you choose to show off your new fighting skills? Well, when you first start Super Smash Bros, the choice can be utterly overwhelming.
Do you choose a simple brawl, or Smash Run mode with its five minute warm up, Classic mode with branching paths and 91 different difficulty settings, All-Star mode with a set procession of rivals, or one of six different types of Multi-Man Smash, or one of three mini-games?
When you finally choose a mode, there's an enormous roster of 37 fighters to pick from (with even more to unlock). And each plays completely differently, with their own set of moves.
So do you complete challenges, collect trophies, go online, train, customise characters, or play against people you've StreetPassed? At times there's almost too much to do.Pika pi!
You really have to set your own goals, and be happy to chase your own high scores. For example, you get trophies for finishing Classic and All-Star modes, but you'll earn them on the lowest difficulty settings so there's no huge incentive to go back in and challenge yourself against harder opponents.
That Classic mode, by the way, is a bit rubbish. It's short and pretty unexciting, with none of the exploration or cutscenes from the previous games. It feels like an after thought, and is a little unsatisfying for those who like to play Smash solo.
Of course, this game is supposed to be played in multiplayer. It's a blast to play with friends, and many modes - including Smash, Smash Run, All-Star, and Multi-Man Smash - can be played with others on wireless.
And there's online play, too, with friends and strangers. It works well and is friction free to get online, but the insane speed of the game means that you're at the mercy of Wi-Fi connections and lag.
For this early test I've mostly been playing against gamers in Japan and reviewers in the US, and everything's a bit herky jerky - even your own moves, which makes the game feel unresponsive and weird. We'll update when the game's out in Europe and we've fought some local foes.Falcon PUNCH!!
The Smash Bros games have always been about nostalgic fan service, and glorifying the history of Nintendo characters (with a few third party cameos, like Sonic and Mega Man).
It's no different here. Each fighter's moves and taunts are based on games, so Mario uses his Super Mario World cape to deflect bullets, Animal Crossing's Villager plants and chops down a tree, and Pac-Man drops a fire hydrant from Pac-Land.
And keen pocket gamers will notice that the stages and trophies have a distinct handheld flavour, down to playing inside a green-and-green Game Boy for one of Kirby's levels or collecting a trophy based on a Game and Watch.
Super Smash Bros simply has an unbelievable amount of content. I've been playing for over 13 hours and I still haven't played as every character. So there's loads to keep you going, as long as you enjoy the bouncy, hectic, messy fighting system.
You'll have more fun with friends than on your own thanks to a unstructured solo offering, but even those who prefer to play alone will find a generous helping of modes, characters, trophies, and special unlocks.
Want more? Check out our 48 other Super Smash Bros for 3DS articles!