From the very beginning, Nintendo and Sakurai stressed that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate would be, well, the ‘ultimate’ Smash Bros. experience. After spending a hefty amount of time with the game, I’m happy to say that this sentiment is true. And although unnecessary new additions attempt to bog down the experience, Smash Ultimate’s new fighters, over-the-top battles, and thoughtfully reconfigured fighting mechanics reign supreme.
(Disclaimer: review code provided by Nintendo for review purposes)
It’s party time
With over 70 playable fighters, 100+ stage variations, and tons of collectibles like music tracks, Mii outfits, and Spirits, this is a game offering plenty of bang for your buck. Not to mention that Nintendo plans to support the title for the foreseeable future with new characters, stages, and more. Of course, the DLC will be sold separately.
Firstly, I can’t go without mentioning just how beautiful this game is. While not a giant leap from Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, I was still constantly gawking at Smash Ultimate‘s enhanced character models, stages, and menus. All of which are bursting with colors and personality. Nintendo never fails to get the most out of its hardware, and that trend doesn’t end with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
The new fighters introduced in Smash Bros. Ultimate are a great addition to the series. Daisy, Ken, and Dark Samus offer subtle changes to characters we’ve grown accustomed to while simultaneously shaking things up. Then there are the new additions like the wrestling-based fighter Incineroar, the murdering menace that is Ridley, and the cute but deadly Isabelle (and more!). All bringing new attacks, strategies, and fighting styles to the Smash Bros. series. To me, it seems like the developer’s main goal with the Smash Ultimate roster was to diversify the selection of fighters as much as possible. In that sense, they succeed exceptionally well.
However, I personally would have preferred to see a handful of the assist trophies swapped with the new playable fighters. I’d take Sonic the Hedgehog‘s Knuckles and Golden Sun‘s Isaac over Daisy and Isabelle any day. Luckily though, some fan-favorite and veteran fighters returned to the brawl. Seeing Young Link, Toon Link, and Breath of the Wild’s Link duke it out is something special to behold. The fact that Nintendo went the whole nine yards to bring back third-party characters like Snake, Cloud, and Bayonetta shows just how much the creation of this ultimate Smash Bros. game meant to them. Not to mention the return of Pichu, the best Smash fighter of all- Ok, I’m just kidding.
Let’s get competitive
It’s no secret that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate offers more content than any game in the series before it. But some of you might be more interested in how the game holds up from a gameplay perspective. Well, I have good news. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate makes a handful of key changes that shake up the Smash formula in interesting and mostly better ways. Smash Bros. for Wii U was a patient game in terms of its shield/punish formula. Smash Ultimate’s meta is much more intricate. The game allows players to be more aggressive because shields are no longer as strong and perfect shields are no more. Smash Ultimate acts very similarly to most fighting games nowadays by implementing a shield parry. This may be a cause for concern for some fans of the series, but from what I’ve gathered, most hardcore Smash players are welcome to the change. I am eager to see how the competitive eSports scene adapts to this.
Air-dodging also works differently. You’ll have to be much more precise when timing your air-dodges because if you miss-time them, you’re left vulnerable for much longer compared to Smash Bros. for Wii U, giving your opponent the upper hand. The last thing I want to note is the movement buff. All characters can dash dance with ease compared to Smash Bros. for Wii U, allowing players to be more creative with their play-style.
World of ‘Alright’
If you’ve been following Smash Bros. Ultimate at all, then I’m sure you’ve heard about the single-player adventure mode, World of Light. This is Ultimate’s single-player equivalent to Brawl’s Subspace Emissary. However, it doesn’t include various cutscenes with funny scenarios — the highlight of Subspace Emissary. Instead, you’ll make your way through a boardgame-like overworld. You collect Spirits of video game characters and apply them to your fighter to buff your stats on the battlefield. In World of Light, you’ll fight in hazardous matches with different types of rules at play. Some enemies will turn metal mid-match, others will be prone to using one attack often, and many, many more variations. World of Light is a huge single-player adventure that took me over twenty hours to complete, sadly, it lost its appeal early on.
During my time with this mode, I constantly found myself wanting to go back and play versus, classic mode, or take it to the online space. Crazy hazards, item buffs, and collecting PNG photos of characters (Spirits) isn’t what makes Super Smash Bros. Ultimate great. The repetitive nature of battles in World of Light slightly hindered my overall experience with the game. And I can’t help but think it feels like a tacked on mode that Nintendo felt obligated to include in the package, due to previous entries including modes that are similar. It’s the only section of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that doesn’t feel like an extremely polished AAA fighter. Luckily, you’re not forced to play through it, as you can unlock all the fighters by playing a handful of different modes. At the very least, however, World of Light does offer funny match-ups that can lead to memorable battles. But the lack-luster over-world and tedious nature of buffing your character with Spirits left me underwhelmed in the end.
Casual players will likely love the new characters and modes, whereas the hardcore competitive players can have a blast learning all the little intricacies of the new fighters and gameplay. There’s something here for every type of Smash player, whether you’re wanting to party, play competitively, or dig deep into World of Light. It doesn’t get much more “ultimate” than this.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a great party game that has a beating heart of a really complex fighter within it. It’s faster, prettier, and jam-packed with content. While the single-player World of Light mode disappointed, every other aspect of the game is showered with tender love and care. Not only is it the best Smash Bros. game of all time, but it makes me ponder on how Nintendo will top this in future iterations. I suspect that this is a game most Switch owners will be keeping on their micro SD card for years to come.
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