Let's Talk About Smash Run
by, 10-15-2014 at 01:27 AM (50607 Views)
Smash Bros. for 3DS has been out for about a week and a half now here in North America and after a solid 50 hours I'm finally ready to set the game aside for a bit. In a surprise to no one, it is fantastic. Visually impressive running at 60 fps on a 3DS, a gargantuan and extremely varied roster, a ridiculous amount of trophies to collect with witty entertaining descriptions penned by the acclaimed writer of the Earthbound series, the introduction of custom moves adding some interesting variety to an already absurdly varied cast of characters, what more could you ask for from simply the inferior version of a game that will be obsolete in little more than a month. I could sit here and praise Smash all day, but I'd like to talk about one aspect of the game that soured the experience for me slightly and that would be Smash Run.
Being the achievement whore that I am I couldn't let even some of the most monotonous challenge panels get away from me. One of which being clear Smash Run with every character. Now before I go any further I'd like to say that I don't think Smash Run is objectively bad, I just had a very frustrating time with it. If you happened to enjoy the mode then I am 100% happy for you. Also, this is just one side mode in an otherwise flawless game, so everything I am about to say is a very minor nitpick, okay, with that out of the way here we go.
Smash Run is at it's core the remnants of Subspace Emissary from Brawl. This time instead of getting to the end of the level being your objective it's become a game of collecting stat drops from your enemies to power up your fighter for a random type of smash challenge at the end of 5 minutes. In theory it sounds like a fun waste of time mini-game, but in practice it felt like I was constantly being punished for situations I could not possibly get out of. This mode is also skewed in favor of fighters who are A) fast and B) have a quick hard hitting side smash or dash attack. Any fighter with out both of those skills naturally is at an automatic disadvantage. While there is the option to buff your skills in defense, speed or attack before jumping in, I found in every case accept for Sonic needing to spend 100% of that buff on speed to get off to a reasonable start. Especially factoring in the weight of any equipment you want to bring along slowing you down.
Enemies from pretty much every Nintendo franchise are represented here in some fashion or another and the variety of their attack patterns is a labor of love that I must say is impressive, so impressive in fact that they are almost a little too good. First of all, EVERY enemy in this mode has way too much HP. One of the easiest enemies, the Koopa Troopa for example, requires the average fighter to deliver 3 to 5 hits to take one out. Compare that to a Polar Bear on the beefier end of the spectrum easily laughing off 20 or more hits. That may not sound like much until you factor the environment into this equation. Enemies spawn randomly to offer a more diverse experience every time you play the game. The problem here is two fold, 1) there are far too many enemies coming at you at one time, 2) there is no distinction in power level when they spawn. Getting mobbed is the most annoying experience this mode has to offer. You will constantly be put in a situation where seven to ten enemies will come at you all at once. Their stamina is so high that getting rid of a few without taking severe damage becomes more groan inducing chore than enticing challenge. In most cases where you feel overwhelmed, running away to a less chaotic area of the map is the most sensible course of action. However when the mob gets too big as it often does, even escaping becomes a chore. No matter how much you shield and roll, you will often find yourself caught in the crossfire which culminates in the enemy horde playing volley ball with your still breathing corps due to a lack of any substantive frames of invincibility after taking a hit. I cannot tell you the amount of times I got stuck in a closed quarters area going from less than 50% to 300 or 400 without having any chance to get out of a group of enemies moshing all over me like it was a Korn concert. As I mentioned above there is no distinction in the power level of enemies grouped in the same area. Clobber Skulls, Bulborbs, Darknuts, etc. can all occupy the same screen and taking just one hit from just one of them is devastating. In a game where designers don't have any say where enemies are placed, a system of weighted power levels per spawn would have gone a long way to balance the game. Another issue with powerful enemies is those that deal the most absurd amounts of damage and deliver the most devastating knock back do not in turn flinch, or receive any knock back of their own. It's very difficult to take out a Redead who will not flinch or be knocked back when not only do you have to worry about it's scream paralyzing you, but a few Cryogonal are floating over head loosing Ice Beams left and right while you watch helplessly as a Banzai Bill slowly approaches from the right side of the screen sealing your inevitable doom. Don't forget the seven Mites nipping at your heals as all of this chaos ensues and throw in a Tac to make off with some of your hard earned boosts to rub some salt in that wound.
Death results in heavy loses to all of the stats you have picked up along the way. In general this is actually a good design choice. Death has consequences, die once and you will be at a clear disadvantage when the five minutes are up. The more time runs out, the more conservative you have to play because death near the end of a match carries the added sting of not having enough time to recoup your losses. Had the enemies been more balance, I'd feel this much punishment was warranted, however Smash Run is a free for all in which death comes for even the most conservative players. One unlucky enemy spawn and it's lights out.
I don't necessarily think Smash Run terrible, collecting those boosts and slowly watching as you become more and more powerful by smashing through waves of enemies from all of Nintendo's history was actually a great concept and huge improvement over the purposeless slog that was Subspace Emissary. That being said the lack of enemy balance and spending more time as the ball in a tennis match between Starman and a Stalfos than actually crushing through waves of enemies like you should be really puts a damper on the experience. Again, it's just one optional mode in an otherwise amazing game, but man, it had so much potential.