Mario, Inkling, and Ridley, oh my! Masahiro Sakurai is back at it again with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and we couldn’t be more excited to dive into the fray. Following the game’s reveal in March, we’ve seen hype-driven announcement reels, spoilers and leaks, and speculation leading up the game’s release. The series found a way to get its fans involved, but is the hype the only great part about the game?
Cloud, fighting Inkling, on a stage that transitions between Metal Gear Solid’s Shadow Moses Island & Paper Mario is reality built from a gamer’s dream. There were a few moments in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that I had to stop what I was doing and appreciate the number of franchises truly represented in this game. It really is a mash of colorful characters from within the industry—with six more downloadable characters launching in the following months. As I finished a play session, I noticed a dumb smile on my face every time I turned my Nintendo Switch off. Something was clear to me—this game is truly magical.
One of the questions asked in our review code email was “Which Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fighter will you choose first?”. As I gaze mindlessly into the roster of 76 characters, I contemplate picking one character before I see another one that interests me. I will pick Incineroar first, no, wait, I want Falco. Maybe I’ll be Villager or Mr. Game & Watch. Nope, I have to pick my main Jigglypuff. The question is impossible to provide an immediate response. The reason for this is that this is truly the “Ultimate” package, including everything, and the kitchen sink.
A controversial decision for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was the return of an unlockable roster. You only start with eight characters, and have to unlock every character from scratch. With 74 fighters, it will take some time to unlock every fighter, but the player receives a wonderful sense of accomplishment as you unlock each and every character.
Everyone returns for the fight from the previous titles, including Kojima’s Snake, Pokemon’s Pichu, and Star Fox’s Wolf. They even managed to rework a lot of the character’s respective balancing, meaning Meta Knight, Bayonetta, and Fox aren’t the unbeatable forces as there were in previous titles. Some may be concerned the impressive roster with characters that blend into each other, doesn’t deliver in diverse movesets—which is partially true. While the newcomers like Inkling, King K. Rool & Simon Belmont have their own crisp, slick moves, most of the Fire Emblem characters, among a couple others, feel very akin to each other. Granted, they offer moves that make each of them unique, there are a few characters that feel like damn near clones of each other—and no, I’m not talking about the echo fighters. Pikachu and Pichu are roughly similar, with Pichu slightly faster and causing damage to itself with every move. Dr. Mario and Mario are almost the exact same, with the only distinguishing factor being the cape and the fireball.
The single-player solution for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is World of Light, a campaign where the player works on recovering video game characters captured by the mighty god—I mean Gleam. This figure, which presents itself as the god of this world creates a portrait of itself as this undefeatable being, leaving the player feel helpless in its power. It gives the player a sense of helplessness when you start your adventure, as Kirby is the last man standing in this scenario. As you transition through the game, you start to unlock the game’s roster, further increasing your power to once you finally meet god, err… Gleam, at the end game. The story gives a sense of purpose, but it gets lost in the repetitive battles leading up to the final fight.
I was about five hours into World of Light when I started losing focus on what I was actually doing. Each fight represents a spirit of another fighter in video games, celebrating the world of gaming with each and every fight. That said, the celebration feels like a party where you’ve overstayed your visit, as it slowly blends together into one giant mess. No longer was I interested in obtaining spirits as it just resulted in a result that meant fighting another fighter from the Smash Bros. roster, with a different colour, and perhaps, a different elemental effect. Eventually, you can just coast through the several hundred battles using pointless smash attacks. It was tedious endeavor.
“If you are looking for a perfect multiplayer experience, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate takes the cake, cherry, icing, and the table it’s sitting on”
What kept my interest was the hundreds of in-game references presented in the World of Light game mode. Avoiding spoilers, complete universes are encapsulated within World of Light’s landscape, with our favorite being the homage to Street Fighter II. Just like the Street Fighter titles, each stop around the globe contains a location a character from Street Fighter represents. The game contains many more throwbacks to various titles, including Castlevania, The Legend of Zelda, and Mario, but we will leave that up to you to discover. Really, but the end of World of Light, I trekked through hundreds of challenges, but I was overcome with joy as I traversed through each land. It was tedious, yes, but it was a journey worth experiencing.
Classic mode makes a return, this time featuring a unique campaign of fights for each character. Amazingly enough, I feel the Classic mode outweighs the effort put into World of Light due to its scale able difficulty and unique challenges, but perhaps I’m saying that due to nostalgia. The mode has been included with every copy of Super Smash Bros., dating back to the game’s original release on the Nintendo 64—But that is what I like about this game. A weird “Run through boxes” mode replaced the usual Break the Targets and Race to the Finish modes, but they aren’t deal-breakers to the overall experience. At the end of each character’s classic mode run, the player earns the fighter’s spirit to use in World of Light and coins to purchase music tracks and additional spirits.
This is what confuses me. The bosses represented in World of Light mirror the bosses in Classic mode, potentially spoiling some of the intense encounters throughout the single-player adventure. Should you choose to dive into Classic mode first, you will already know what to expect when you do your long 20+ hour grind into World of Light. With that mentioned, Classic mode rewards you with your fighter’s spirit upon completion, allowing you to use it within World of Light and to aid you in your adventure. So, what mode do you begin first? The single-player experiences don’t end up complimenting each other and that feels weird. I see what they are doing, throwing these epic boss fights into Classic mode to make it more exhilarating, but it feels more like an in-game spoiler for the other single-player mode if you experience the bosses before hand. It’s weird.
I’m critical about Super Smash Bros. because I have a deep love for this game. It has always celebrated gaming in a way that is near and dear to my heart, but even with my complaints about the game’s single-player cop-outs, I have to credit where it is due: Multiplayer.
There is no skimping on the game’s multiplayer, at all. If you are looking for a perfect multiplayer experience, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate takes the cake, cherry, icing, and the table it’s sitting on. Over 70 fighters join the fray, some joining from a completely different series such as Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, Bayonetta from the self-titled series, and Simon Belmont from Castlevania. Usually, with this many fighters, balance becomes a near-impossible task for development as you have so many different variables to work with, but the team managed to find a way to find a healthy balance of power between the roster. Each character feels hearty, with seemingly weaker characters like Pichu and Jigglypuff packing a powerful punch in the right hands. At no point in our 1v1 or 8-player free-for-all battles did we feel like someone was shafted from an experience. The power of each character belongs to the player playing them, and the end experience was something that gamers play games for: fun.
If fruit punch contained every fruit known to man, then Ultimate takes otherworldly fruits and adds them to the mix. It is true that we have never seen a video game that celebrates gaming like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. If the World of Light mode was richer in content and not as repetitive, I would say it is a perfect game as the multiplayer portion overtakes anything I’ve played in my gaming career.
Giving new context to “Smashing” your friends, this version of Super Smash Bros. is a convivial fan service that we never want to end.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is available for the Nintendo Switch.
Thanks to Nintendo for providing us with a review copy of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch.