At first thought yes, having Nintendo’s second most popular and successful franchise (second only to Mario Kart) on the 3DS is a brilliant idea. It will sell better and generate new audiences to the Smash Bros. brand. But what about in the long run?
Smash 4 will launch for the Wii U and 3DS simultaneously, giving buyers the option to purchase the game for a platform with a lower install base for $59.99 or purchase the same title for a much larger install base for only $39.99. With differences as minimal as a handful of exclusive assisst trophies and a few levels, consumers won’t exactly be persuaded to choose the more expensive route. Smash Bros. is one of those franchises that can move hardware, which the Wii U is in sore need of. Therefore by giving buyers the option to purchase the cheaper version of the same game will hurt the impact Smash should have on hardware sales.
Because of the different art styles and select levels and assists trophies it is unlikely the 3DS version will interact with the Wii U version, which I say gives the Wii U version hope yet. Since there is no cross-platform connectivity, the Wi iU can have things such as a larger character or bonus features like a replay system. These inclusions would definitely incentivise audiences to elect the more pricy version. Smash Bros. Brawl contained 37 playable characters so it’s safe to say the sequels will contain at least that many characters. As of now, 5 fighters new to the franchise have been revealed: Megaman, Wii Fit Trainer, Animal Crossing Villager and Rosalina and Luma (acting as one character) and Little Mac. That gives us 41 playable characters (assuming all characters from brawl will make it into the final roster). Imagine if the WiiU version contain 3 or 4 exclusive fighters. That alone is incentive to purchase the Wii U version. The many long-time Smash fans would flock to the more expensive version and will no doubt be willing to purchase a Wii U if necessary. Even something as trivial as extra costumes per character would be sufficient to boost the console versions sales, it’s the exclusivity that matters. Nintendo would be wise to provide some sort of incentive, otherwise they’re leaving the Wii U version to die.
It’s not all grim though, the Wii U version does have some hope. That hope arrives in the form of presentation and gameplay. The console does have the edge in some regards, such as better graphics, more control options more space on the disc for data. The 3DS version will sport a nice cell-shaded art style, personally I feel when the games gets hectic it will be a sort of mess. 4 characters, items and intricate stages with various gimmicks will no doubt be hard for the little 3DS screen to portray. On the contrast, the console version will have a crisp HD display more than capable of showing the game in all it’s frantic glory, the first Smash Bros. in HD will no doubt allow for more detailed stages and character models.
There is also controls to consider. The 3DS has its circle pad along with a D-pad, the 4 face buttons and left and right bumpers. Because of Smash’s simple controls this is more than enough to control our little fighters. Meanwhile the Wii U boasts the option of choosing a controller. The Wii U Pro Controller is the obvious first choice, with its dual analog sticks, patented Nintendo D-Pad, 4 face buttons and left and right bumpers and triggers the Pro Controller will provide the most comfortable solution. For those more akin to the simple Wii remote they will have that option as well. Smash Bros. Brawl introduced many people to the franchise for the first time, in doing so taught many to use the remote efficiently. The wildcard here is the GamePad, Nintendo has yet to say what functionality it will have. The opportunity to introduce something game changing is there, imagine if the GamePad user wasn’t controlling an actual fighter but rather the stage itself. Smash is (in?)famous for having crazy gimmicky stages that will adapt and change over the course of the fight more than once. If the fifth player was controlling that it would add another layer to the already complex mechanics. Or maybe they could simply add a fifth fighter mode to shake things up, the previous three installments allowed a max of 4 players but a fifth player could be the gateway to a multitude of new gameplay modes. The possibility is there, all that’s needing is the execution. The pros for the 3DS version are evident, a portable option is always a huge attraction. The 2 screens present an opportunity much like the GamePad. Although most people can only play in 3D mode for less than 10 minutes it does provide a possible mechanic for stages.
For the first time Nintendo is releasing the same game on both it’s flagship platforms. One of said platforms is flourishing while the other is struggling, is this a shot in the foot or a stroke of brilliance? Only time will tell.