Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Review: Smashing

If Super Smash Bros. Ultimate were the last Smash Bros. game in the series, I wouldn’t be upset. Overall, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a nostalgic throwback through all of Nintendo’s properties while also diligently handling third party characters with the love and care you’d expect from this series.

Let’s start with the good stuff before we tackle what irked me after launch.

Roster

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the deepest Smash Bros. roster to date with 74 characters joining the battle. Every character that has ever appeared as a playable character in a Super Smash Bros. game is included as well as 11 new fighters to the series. The new characters are a wonderful mix of Nintendo’s newer IPs, older games and third party series. Your new characters are:

  • Inklings from Splatoon (Pressing L or R at the character select screen will change the sex of the Inkling as well as their clothing/colors)
  • King K. Rool from Donkey Kong Country
  • Princess Daisy from the Mario Bros. series
  • Simon Belmont from the Castlevania series
  • Richter Belmont from the Castlevania series
  • Ridley from the Metroid series
  • Dark Samus from the Metroid series
  • Ken from the Street Fighter series
  • Chrom from Fire Emblem: Awakening
  • Isabelle from Animal Crossing series
  • Incineroar from Pokemon Sun and Moon

While this list is impressive, there are a number of “Echo Fighters” in the game. Echo Fighters are characters that have the same move set as a different playable character. Simon and Richter Belmont are echo fighters. Ken and Ryu are also echo fighters. Some do have variances, as Daisy as a ever-so-slightly difference from Peach’s moveset, but overall is an echo fighter.

Like in previous Super Smash Bros. games, you’re tasked with unlocking characters to turn them into playable characters. Unlike previous Super Smash Bros. games, you don’t need to jump through hoops to do it. Super Smash Bros. 4 on Wii U tasked you with things like “playing 100 smash matches” to unlock Duck Hunt. This is no longer a thing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Unlocking characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is set on a timer. Every 10 minutes or so, you’ll get the famous “A new foe has appeared” splash screen and you’ll take on the fighter whose silhouette is shown.

A new mechanic that I am grateful for is the “Challenger Approach’s” arena that is new to the Super Smash Bros. series. In previous games, if you were unable to defeat your new challenger, you had to wait until they “came back” after a certain amount of time. In this new game, you don’t have to do that. While you do have to wait a certain amount of time (I believe it is 5 minutes or so), you can go to the Challenger Approach’s arena and take on all of the fighters you didn’t defeat. Defeating them will unlock them, but if they defeat you, you’ll just have to wait a little bit and the brightly colored arena door icon should be on the screen.

Unlocking the full roster will take some time. In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, you will start out with the original 8 fighters from Smash Bros. (Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus, Yoshi, Kirby, Fox and Pikachu) and through playing, you’ll eventually unlock everyone.

This brings your playtime to around 10 hours to unlock every fighter if you were to do it the first time and only play Smash mode. If you were to play World of Light or play online, your time could be extended as the game will not bring forth a new challenger until you meet the time requirement and leave the mode.

This means you could play 30 minutes of World of Light and once you exit, you will face a new challenger.

Stages

Much like the roster, every single Super Smash Bros. stage is here. To make that statement, even more, juicier, every single Super Smash Bros. Ultimate stage has three different versions of itself.

Normal stages are what you’d expect from 2-4 player Smash mode matches. They have various hazards and are smaller in size compared to their battlefield or omega versions.

The battlefield version removes most of the hazards and keeps three platforms on the stage for some verticality. These three platforms will be in the air above the center stage platform.

The omega version is more of the “Final Destination” version that removes all platforms and hazards. This gives the stage a more arena deathmatch feel to it as there is no verticality or change of being hit by something other than your opponent.

In total Super Smash Bros. Ultimate boasts 103 stages with most of them coming from previous Smash Bros. games. There are some new stages as well including Super Mario Odyssey’s New Donk City and Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Great Plateau Tower.

Every stage from previous games has been visually enhanced and come with some fun Easter Eggs. In the New Donk City stage, you can collect Pauline and her band and they’ll play a wonderful rendition of “Jump of Superstar”. Depending on the various members you collect has a direct correlation to which instruments you hear. In Breath of the Wild’s Great Plateau Tower, the Old Man you meet at the beginning of the game can be seen paragliding off of the tower in the background.

When selecting your stage, you have the option of also picking the music for that stage. The music in this game is some of the best music I’ve ever heard. One would think that opening up New Donk City would give you a couple of tracks to choose from, but there is a seemingly limitless amount of tracks from the Mario Series you can choose from.

The amount of tracks in this game is insane

In total, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate boasts more than 800 music tracks from various Nintendo and third property games. It is incredibly exciting to go into Sonic’s Green Hills Zone stage and be able to select music from other Sonic stages, boss battle, main themes and more. It’s a wonderful inclusion to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and ever-so-slightly changes the makeup of the matchup that each time it feels different and fresh.

In the “My Music” section, you’re able to use your Switch as a music player. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has the ability to save and play your curated playlists without the screen being on. Aside from that, you’re also able to change the frequency in which songs are played for various stages. Sick of hearing Splatoon 2’s “Ink or Sink” song during Moray Towers? Turn the slider down (or off completely) and you won’t have to hear it.

Let’s Get Smashing

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate comes with a plethora of modes that will allow you multiple ways to get your smash on. Let’s start with the newest mode to the Smash Bros. universe: World of Light.

World of Light is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s adventure mode offering and it’s just okay. The background here is an unknown entity named Galeem has come to the Smash Bros. universe and completely annihilated it. Through his beam of lights, Galeem has captured all of Super Smash Bros. heroes and turned them into spirits or, in the case of the playable cast, turned them into molds for evil puppets.

While most did not survive the takeover, one hero did: Kirby. As Kirby, it is your job to defeat these puppet fighters and release the spirit playing puppeteer. Let’s talk about spirits.

Spirits

Spirits are a wonderful nod to characters in other games’ series that were not able to make it to the playable roster. Defeating a puppet fighter and freeing the spirit will allow that spirit to be used in all game modes. There are two types of spirits: primary and support.

Primary spirits come in four different types: attack, shield, grab and neutral. Each type of spirit is a direct counter-attack to another. It is akin to playing a game like rock, paper, scissors. Sheild spirits will have more power over attack spirits which will have more power over grab spirits which have more power over shield spirits.

Collecting spirits is one of the major points of World of Light. Throughout your adventure, you’ll collect hundreds upon hundreds of spirits. These spirits embody the puppet fighter. An example is early in the game you’ll come across a guardian spirit from Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The puppet fighter will be Rob the Robot. High-level spirits could alter the fight, giving your opponent a final smash or a weapon that you won’t have access to.

The biggest issue I’ve found with World of Light is how repetitive the gameplay is. While the smash battles are fun, you’ll go through hundreds upon hundreds of these things for spirits you may not even care about.

There doesn’t seem to be any redeeming reward at the end of World of Light and I say that without finishing the mode. While you can unlock characters through World of Light, I feel that it’s more of a chore than something I look forward to playing. It’s not something I’ll want to sink hours and hours into when I have modes like Classic Mode and Smash Mode made available to me.

The Smashing

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s gameplay is pure and perfect Smash Bros. If you’re looking for an experience that’s a little more fast-paced than Super Smash Bros. Wii U, you’re going to find it here. Speed has been tweaked and in large battles there is a chance for you to lose your character.

The main goal is to knock your opponent off of the platform. How you do that is up to you. You could use the items that fall from the sky like the hammer from the original Donkey Kong or a pokeball filled with a random Pokemon. You could also hit the “Smash Ball” that comes floating across the screen at random times. This will give you a “Final Smash” which is basically a character’s finishing move that has a high chance to smash your opponent off the screen.

All of the modes you want are here. There’s classic mode that will take you through your character’s journey of fighting character’s relevant to their story (or game series in some cases) and will end with a boss fight. The boss may be Crazy Hand, Master Hand, both hands or something completely different. As Link, I fought Ganondorff who then mutated into Ganon’s original form meaning I had to fight two bosses.

I’ve been sinking hours and hours into Smash Bros and I am incredibly happy with the package that Nintendo has delivered. If you’re a fan of Smash or looking to get into the series for the first time, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the title you’ll want to pick up.

If I had to pick one word to describe this game it is….smashing.

  • Gameplay
  • Game Modes
  • Presentation
  • Longevity

Summary

I’ve been sinking hours and hours into Smash Bros and I am incredibly happy with the package that Nintendo has delivered. If you’re a fan of Smash or looking to get into the series for the first time, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the title you’ll want to pick up.

If I had to pick one word to describe this game it is….smashing.

Overall
4.5