8 things you need to know about Super Smash Bros. for 3DS

We break down the essential facts of Nintendo's handheld brawler

No matter how tough things may get for Nintendo, it will always have the go-to franchises that guarantee the big bucks. Mario Kart, Zelda, Pokemon, and Super Smash Bros are arguably the biggest of those, which means that with Mario Kart 8 now out, the latest iteration of Nintendo's brawler could be the game that determines how high the Wii U will fly. If Mario Kart and Smash Bros can't sell a Nintendo console, nothing can.

We won't know that for a while longer, but the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros should be an indicator of just how good it will be. Now it's here, the embargo has lifted, and the review scores are in, we can finally talk about the first half of one of this year's most anticipated games.

So here's what you need to know...

1. Afraid that the game has been cut for handheld? Breathe easy

There was some concern among fans early on that the 3DS version of Smash Bros might be compressed and 'light' compared to its Wii U counterpart, but you can rest assured that's far, far from the case. There are over 40 characters, customisations (which I'll come onto) with a crazy amount of depth, and more stages than you can shake a Villager's umbrella at - although those stages are understandably smaller for the handheld. Weapons are also aplenty too. What's more, the action looks superb and miraculously manages to remain at 60fps all the while.

3DS

2. But you'll probably want a 3DS XL

Having played a lot of the game on a regular 3DS, we can tell you that the action can sometimes get a bit too intense for that small screen, especially with four brawlers in the ring to keep track of. We'd advise getting yourself an XL, unless you can wait until the "new" XL - although unless you're in Australia or Japan, you'll be waiting until 2015. Smash Bros was a game built for the big screen, and that's not changed.

3. It's more customisable than you probably think

Not only can you create new fighters from the Miis on your 3DS, but you can further alter their items, weapons, clothing and special moves. For example, you can add an item that makes Smash Balls gravitate towards that character, which could make all the difference in those vital final seconds.

3DS

But the customisation stretches to every other character too, meaning you can meddle with Luigi, Villager, Samus or anyone else you so wish, completely changing the way they handle. It gives the game a feeling of more depth than ever before, but if you fancy a simple, old-school scrap, custom characters can be switched off in a flash.

4. Characters feel balanced

There are a lot of characters, with many unlockable secrets that we're not allowed to talk about right now. But we're pleased to say that so far the characters feel carefully balanced; for every possible move it seems another character has a move to counter it. No one (at least yet) feels more powerful than anyone else, which means you'll spend even more time testing out each face to find the one that suits your style of play best.

3DS

5. Online play is much better this time around, but the jury's still out

It won't be long before you're ready to take the fight to the rest of the world, and Smash Bros' online functionality is much more evolved than Brawl's laggy, clunky attempt. But there's more than one way to do it, with two types of battle to pick from: 'For Glory' and 'For Fun'. You can probably guess who one is for the serious brawlers.

For Glory takes out all of the items and places you on the 'omega' version of each stage, with all the the extra fun bits cut out. As the game is yet to be released in the West, we've had little chance to explore how well the speeds hold up online. Going up against Japanese players there was quite a lot of lag, but Nintendo says that players will be put against geographically close opponents, so this shouldn't be a problem come the game's release. Fingers crossed.

6. Classic mode is back with a vengeance

Yup, the age old Classic mode makes a glorious return, putting you on a journey of battles against random CPUs with the promise of some tasty rewards. But most fights come with some unique twist - you might be up against an army of Miis, or a giant Donkey Kong - making for a decent quick-fire game when you're away from the Wi-Fi. You can also choose the intensity of your journey, with more demanding quests offering better loot.

3DS

Then there's Smash Run, a five-minute, side-scrolling adventure in which you collect power-ups to use in a final showdown. But it makes us long for Melee's Adventure mode more than anything else, if we're honest, and it's unlikely to be a mode you'll return to many times.

7. Miis from your 3DS will show in the background on the Tomodachi Life stage

It's a small detail, but a nice one. Miis saved on your 3DS will appear in the rooms on the Tomodachi Life stages, occasionally doing something a bit weird. My personal Mii was running around in women's underwear. If seeing a virtual version of yourself in some weird lingerie isn't an effective distraction, I don't know what is.

3DS

8. The reviews are pretty good so far

Unsurprisingly, Smash Bros 3DS is getting a lot of praise across the board.

CVG gave it a score of 9/10 and concluded: "Whether you enjoy it as a technical fighting game or an insane Nintendo block party, Smash Bros' handheld debut delivers big on all fronts."

GamesRadar was a bit more critical of the multiplayer features, landing on a 3/5 and summing up: "A highly polished iteration of Smash Bros. that plays great on its own. But when you're afflicted by latency problems in local multiplayer, you'll suddenly become painfully aware of the 3DS version's critical shortcomings."

CVG has rounded up the rest of the reviews from around the web, which you can see here.