Marvel’s Cinematic Universe may have been the most ambitious crossover once upon a time, but I believe Super Smash Bros. Ultimate now takes the title for itself. The popular party fighting game is back once again, and this time everyone is here!
Is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as strong as Incineroars ‘wrastling’, or as weak as Waluigi’s chances are to become a playable fighter? Find out in our review, after the break!
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Developed by Sora Ltd. and Bandai Namco
Published by Nintendo
Released: 7th December 2018
Review copy provided by Nintendo
I’ll admit, I’ve never really been a fan of fighting games all that much. Super Smash Bros. has aways been different though. There’s just something about laying with all my beloved Nintendo characters (as well as some I have never heard of at the time) in familiar locales that caught my attention. I still have plenty of memories getting pwned by my brother in the original Smash Bros. while he played as Kirby… who was totally OP back in the day.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate obviously aims to let players reminisce about beating the magikarp out of Nintendo’s finest as a little pink puffball! That’s just the tip of the iceberg however, as Ultimate also celebrates everything that Smash Bros. has been over the past twenty years. The game is packed full of great content, enough to keep you smashing, brawling, and meleeing (coined a new word there) for weeks, months, and maybe even years.
Every Smash Bros. game since Brawl has had to drop previous fighters which, understandably, disappointed some fans. Ultimate on the other hand includes every single fighter that has officially been playable in all previous Smash games. That’s 65 in total. In addition to this, there are also 11 brand new fighters, not including those coming later as DLC. The roster is absolutely huge with a varied ensemble of fighters.
There are some fighters that I never would’ve expected to join Smash, but I’m actually glad they did. I’ve really been digging playing as King K. Rool and Incineroar. Both seem very unique to me, and a right hoot to play as. It may be worth keeping an eye on Incineroar’s Alolan Whip, I can easily see that move getting spammed for cheep KOs.
When you start up Ultimate for your first game of Smash, you’ll only have access to eight fighters. This is a neat little throwback to the original roster. Unlocking new fighters is mostly a breeze. You’ll usually unlock a new fighter opportunity for every ten minutes play time, though there are other ways to unlock them too. This can still take a while however with a whopping roster of 70+ fighters!
Having to unlock fighters has definitely divided some fans. Some say that you shouldn’t have to spend ages to unlock characters, and how it’s not good for tournament play. Others however, feel that unlocking characters encourage them to play Ultimate more often and longer.
I agree from both perspectives. I had to unlock all fighters in a day for a tournament I was hosting the day after release. At the same time, I felt like I was missing out on some of the fun, taking my time unlocking fighters, and getting a nice surprise when seeing a new challenger approach. It would be nice if Nintendo could provide an update in the future that adds a mode similar to ARMS’ Tournament Mode. Enabling that option made it so that all arms would be unlocked in specific modes. That sort of option in Ultimate would really give players the best of both worlds.
Though Ultimate does not include every single stage from all the previous games, most of them are still there. This includes all the original N64 stages, apart from Planet Zebes and Sector Z (which both got remade in Melee), remastered in HD. They look absolutely wonderful and still have that nostalgic feel. Omega forms of stages also return, perfect for those who are into the more serious fighting experience. Stages also now have a battlefield form, similar to Omega forms but with three levitating platforms like you see in the Battlefield stage. Each stage can also be played with up to eight players too… I dare you to try that on The Great Plateau Tower!
With all these stages and characters, it’s obvious that you’ll likely want to actually use them, and there are plenty of modes to use them in too! Smash Ultimate has a decent offering of modes for both single player and multiplayer.
One of the new modes is Squad Strike, which is personally one of the more interesting ways to smash. Two players will choose a team of three or five fighters to create their ‘squad’. They will then go head to head in a showdown of sorts. In Tag Team, the next fighter will appear right after a KO in one long battle. Elimination is similar but done in multiple battles. Best of is best to three or five battles with both opponents changing in each one. This is a great way to entertain multiple people if you only have a limited number of controllers at hand.
I have a good recommendation fo you to try out at some point. Gather two teams of three or five and try out the Tag Team ruleset. Once a fighter has been KOed, quickly pass the controller to the next player. I tried this a few times at an event I hosted, and it ended up be a lot of fun, we even discussed some strategies!
Another unique mode is Smashdown. This mode favours players that are good with many different characters. Every fighter you use will get erased from the roster for the remainder of the session. It’s great if you want an excuse to use different characters than your regular main.
Plenty of other modes make a return too. These include Special Smash,Tournament mode, Multi-Man Smash, All-star Smash, and Classic Mode. Classic Mode now includes a scaling difficulty level that also increases/decreases depending on how well you are doing in a session. Just wish Home-Run contest and Break the Targets would make a return.
You know how it was always annoying to go through the process of setting up the rules for every new session of Smash? Ultimate solves that problem with saveable rulesets. You can now conveniently save any ruleset you use, including what type of game you’re playing, which items you’ve banned etc. This is especially useful for tournament play, you can just set up the rules a few days before a tournament, and you’re ready to go once that one player finally decides which costume Daisy should be in.
If you a bit of a lone wolf type of gamer, you’ll likely spend a whole lot of time in Ultimate’s adventure mode: World of Light. World of Light follows the adventure of Kirby, the sole survivor of Galeem’s attack on the world. Travel across a huge world to rescue the spirits of characters and awaken fighters under the control of Galeem.
World of Light is made up of plenty of different battles which have a bunch of unique conditions, similar to how event matches worked in the past. This is where spirits come into effect. Every battle has an assigned spirit which determines who you are fighting and what sort of conditions you’ll be facing. Playing against Buzz Buzz from Earthbound, for example, will pit you against a very tiny Mr Game and Watch who is at 300% damage. Though one hit will KO him quite easily, actually saying a finger on him is fairly difficult, especially since he tends to shy away from conflict.
Luckily, you’ll be collecting your own spirits to up your advantage. There are two main types of spirits: primary and support. Primary spirits increase your attack power, and depending on whether they are grab tip, attack type, or shield type will determine which fighter has the upper hand. Some also has a specific trait such as more powerful sword attacks or flame resistance.
Support spirits are assigned to primary spirits depending on the support cost and how many slots the primary spirit has. Support spirits give you special abilities, such as being able to start a match with a specific item, or making items gravitate around you. Being able to assign spirits is great if you are having a bit of difficulty, fantastic to get the upper hand.
Spirits as a whole celebrate Nintendo’s history too. Though they do replace the trophies from Melee onwards, there are a huge array of Spirits. When I first launched Ultimate, the collection screen stated that there are about 1200 different spirits, and it’s probably safe to say this will eventually grow with more updates.
There are some really obscure spirits too, even from games which haven’t received any attention for years. My only issue however is the fact that the collection screen doesn’t tell you much about the spirit other than what game it is from. Personally, I loved reading the bios to all the trophies in previous games.
If you want to obtain even more spirits quickly, then you may love the Spirit Board. This mode randomly presents a selection of spirits you can try to obtain in a spirit battle. If you are successful, you’ll need to shoot the fighter without hit that crazy rotating shield.
Online play has been a part of Smash Bros. every since Brawl. It hasn’t always been the best, but it was the best way to play against friends and foes from afar. Each generation seems to have improved the online experience, and Ultimate is no exception.
The biggest improvement to online in Ultimate is the brand new matchmaking. Matchmaking is now dependant on three different criteria: Global Smash Power (GSP), preferred rules, and locality. GSP is essentially a score that tells you how many other people you are better than. Preferred rules allow you to set what sort of online game you prefer to play (Time? Stamina? Stock? 1 vs 1? Team?). Locality is… well, your locality.
These matchmaking criteria aim to make sure that you are matched with equality matched players with your preferred rules and as stable of a connection you an get. Though this isn’t 100% guaranteed, I would definitely say that I have noticed the difference. The connection however can be a bit hit or miss however. As Ultimate uses a peer to peer connection, if one person’s signal isn’t that great, everyone else will likely see some issues too. I myself haven’t witnessed many issues while playing online.
Another improvement to the online experience involves online lobbies, which have been replaced by Smash Arenas. This open/private lobbies allow you to invite your friends to the fray online. Up to eight players can join an arena for four player battles. If you aren’t in a match, you can spectate a current match or even add yourself to a queue for the next match… you know how us British are brilliant at queueing! You can also choose to change the rules mid session too. Battle arenas also connect to the Nintendo Switch Online app, allowing for group voice chat.
Ultimate also allows local play between multiple consoles, though this is only limited to regular smash, custom smash, and super sudden death. I’m going to be completely honest, as it stands at the moment, this mode isn’t really up to par. I tried it a few times with some friends, and it was riddled with connectivity issues. There was so much lag and stalling. I’m really hoping that Nintendo sort this out soon. Perhaps this is a throwback to Brawl’s online experience.
Other than those connection issues, outside of local play, the game runs amazingly smooth and fairly quick too. Honestly, it’s never felt better to play a Super Smash Bros. game. Additionally, after Smash Bros. for Wii U, Ultimate probably offers the most versatile control schemes. You can play Ultimate with a single JoyCon, a pair of JoyCons, the Pro Controller, and GameCube controllers (both USB and original if you have the adapter).
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate truly is the ultimate Smash Bros. package. The title comes packed with an incredible roster, plenty of modes to play, and an extensive adventure mode that celebrates Nintendo’s gaming history. It’s never been a better time to play Super Smash Bros.
Final Rating – 5 out of 5
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is out now exclusively for Nintendo Switch!