Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lives up to its name. Easily the biggest (and one of the only) reveals during Nintendo’s E3 conference, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate looked poised to be the definitive edition of Super Smash Bros.—the crossover fighter game series that started on the N64 back in 1999. It is the fifth game in the series, and it takes the Ultimate moniker seriously: jammed with features and modes, and featuring every fighter the series has ever seen, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has turned out to be a Switch essential. We’ve put this game through its paces over the last few weeks—here’s our full impression of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
For those unfamiliar: Super Smash Bros. has always been a fighting game about knocking your opponent out of the play area. Unlike most fighting games, where you reduce your opponents’ health to zero to win, fighters accumulate damage in Smash, making them easier to get knocked off the screen. Falling or getting caught outside of the play boundary for too long will have the same effect. Colorful characters from various Nintendo franchises face off to literally smash their opponents out of the “ring.” The stylized violence is almost whimsical, and along with its low skill barrier to entry, make the Smash series a staple in family living rooms—while its high skill ceiling has made it a go-to for video game competitions.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is chock full of game modes, with the marquee fighting mod, called just “Smash”, perhaps the most important. This up-to-eight player vs. mode is where you can set up games (with a myriad of options for rules) to play against local players or AI controlled opponents. There are three main win conditions that can be set for these matches: stock battle–where each player has a set number of “lives” before they’re eliminated; timed battles, where the winner is determined to be the player who has successfully knocked their opponent out of the play area the most times; and stamina, which features a more conventional, health-based fighting ruleset.
The “Smash” mode is usually chaotic—but this is dependent on the rules that you use. You can opt to include the full gamut of in-game pick-ups and power-ups that can be used against your opponents, or that your opponents can use against you. Of course, if you want to go for a cleaner match and make it just about player skill (and not lucky items) you can pare everything down to just fighters on a simple platform if you wish—great for tournaments and such.
Not only known for its roster of characters and smash-fighting, Super Smash Bros. has also been known for its crazy fighting arenas, and Ultimate is packed with them. There are over 100 different stages to battle in, and they run the gamut from locales across a number of different intellectual properties. Most stages offer unique obstacles, pitfalls, or other quirks to navigate around (or take advantage of). Some stages are static arenas, while others take place on moving vehicles, or will otherwise change while fighting in them. Some of these stages can get really hectic, especially with eight fighters and lots of items flying around.
As far as what characters are in Ultimate, well, everyone is here. All the fighters from previous Smash games have returned, with a few new fighters added to the roster. Though there are a few fighters that mirror others, most of the huge roster of Ultimate fighters is unique. This was always the case throughout the Smash series, but Ultimate seems to have taken it a step further, with small details that really make each character (even the mirror counterparts, called “echo fighters”) their own thing. There are 69 totally unique fighters, and seven echo fighters—last I counted. The fighters run the range from every Nintendo franchise you can think of—and beyond, with many other companies lending their characters. Not all of the characters are available at the start, though—they must be unlocked through playing the Smash versus mode, or any of the other many games modes Ultimate has.
If you want more than just a versus fighting game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has a range of single player options for you—whether it’s just training, or different ways to play and progress. Though most of these modes are some variation on Smash’s base fighting game premise, there is a good amount different. Each character gets their own mini adventure in Classic Mode that is thematically tuned to them. There is also a training mode where you can practice fighters to perfect their move set. Mod Smash also makes a return, where you have one character that faces off against a horde of enemies.
The marquee single player mode is the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: World of Light mode. You start off as Kirby and you must fight shadow opponents across a branching overworld. Defeating shadow opponents yields spirits, which are used to power up your fighter. Eventually you will be able to rescue fighters, and use them in to adventure across the map. This is a full-fledged game in itself, and perhaps the biggest, most involved single player experience Smash Bros. has had before. Instead of just endless fights, World of Light has a little bit more to it. The spirits you collect along the way will help you pass obstacles, and fight in certain stages you otherwise could not. It’s an interesting game mode that is entirely its own massive thing.
Super Smash Bros. has always been a series that is easy to pick up for new players, and Ultimate is no exception. Each fighter has a unique move set, but how those moves are performed are mostly the same between fighters (with a few exceptions). There isn’t a need to memorize complicated combos or other move sets between characters—each time you play a new character, you should have a pretty good idea of how to perform their moves.
Smash Bros. has always been a great game for parties, but the Nintendo Switch’s portable functionality makes Smash Ultimate awesome for playing on the go, too. Each Joy-Con can be used as its own controller, so you should always have an extra for anyone who wants to play a quick game, wherever you travel with your Switch.
Amiibo support returns with Ultimate, too. Train your amiibo fighters to be more powerful, and then pit them against other amiibo fighters. Once they fight enough, they will not only increase in skill, but they will develop unique “personalities” and ways of fighting.
The music also deserves an honorable mention. Not only are the Smash Bros. original tracks super catchy (as is Nintendo’s way) but many of the themes from the IPs that have made their way into Smash Bros. have songs that have been remade for the series.
The future for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate looks bright. Fighter pass is already available to purchase with DLC fighters becoming available as early as next month. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the ultimate version of Smash, and while it lives up to its namesake, I can’t help but wonder what Masahiro Sakurai could possible do to top it—I don’t know if it can be done.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is available now on Nintendo Switch.
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