Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Review – The Best Smash Ever
Super Smash Bros. UltimateDecember 7th, 2018
I used to love Super Smash Bros., as a Nintendo fan. On the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, I adored seeing characters I love fighting one another and acting so faithful to how I always knew they should. I was one of the Brawl detractors, though not because of any competitive leaning, it was just slow, and the Subspace Emissary I was so excited for didn't turn out to be all that. But then I did start getting competitive. I learned how to play and play well, using all of the tools the characters had at their disposal, and comboing to bring up damage instead of wildly using items and Smash attacks.
I played over 100 hours of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and another 500+ of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. So yeah, I've played an absurd amount of Smash Bros. Going into this review, I was afraid that what I was going to get was too familiar. A lot of the content and mechanics of the game felt like they were directly taken from the Wii U version of the game. And that's true. This has an absurd amount of content taken directly from a game that had an absurd amount of content.
But because of my experience with the last game, I see what has been changed. So many minute details, animations, hitboxes and much more have been tweaked and changed, making the entire game a more polished, faster and exciting experience. But it's not just the small changes that excite me - even though there are so many that do so - there's big, new things here too, not least of all, World of Light.
This is the exciting single player content that has been teased and is undoubtedly the most substantial new piece of content Super Smash Bros. Ultimate contains. You explore and uncover a large world map, taking set paths through, earning new fighters slowly, and unlocking spirits that will imbue you with abilities. There's so much to get through here, it will take dozens of hours to entirely complete, especially since there are multiple endings. Many of the spirits you find will simply be too strong for you to take on until you level up your own spirits.
This opens up a micro RPG system, that sees you leveling up and enhancing your spirits. It quickly becomes an exciting prospect, collecting new spirits and seeing what they enhance into, and even sending spirits into mission sections to earn currency and extra items. This will keep you busy for hours. Personally, I couldn't play it all day, as the short fights sometimes feel grueling and unending. Plus, it's best to just auto-equip your spirits so you can counter any of the enemy's abilities if there are any. Automatically equipping the spirits is the quickest way to do this, which is a shame, as it doesn't encourage you to really look over them.
The spirit fights are awesome though. Representing characters from across a massive variety of franchises, you fight against the existing Smash cast, plus assist trophies, Pokémon, items and stage conditions that suit the spirit you're fighting for. Revolver Ocelot has extra guns flying around, for example. It's fun to see how characters have been represented, and seeing an obscure character you recognise feels awesome, in that nostalgic, geeky way.
The creativity on display in the spirits battle carries over to the Classic mode too. Characters each have their own pre-determined set of fights, which represent something. Young Link fights other Zelda characters, Pikachu fights other Pokémon, while Samus hunts monsters and Yoshi goes against other reptiles. The small addition of a medal on characters you've completed Classic mode with also gives a completionist goal to work towards, and it feels good to earn them all. You can even play through Classic mode with a friend as a team.
When playing against friends or other players online though, the main changes in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are minor and mechanical, but add up to something much larger. Shield parries give players another option to be more offensive in their gameplay style while also raising the skill ceiling. Moves and character movement has been sped up, allowing characters to feel much zippier than before. All characters have had balance changes, and many tiny tweaks and changes have been made to animations - even Pichu is useful now instead of just being a joke character, thanks to a really high speed.
My usual character, Yoshi, is mostly unchanged in the way he plays, but his animations have been changed dramatically, making him appear more fluid and expressive. So many small animation tweaks have been implemented like Donkey Kong's charged punch slowly spinning faster when closer to full charge, or the way Ike swings his sword in his aerial moves. It's impossible to go over every minor change, but it all adds to making Super Smash Bros. Ultimate feel distinct compared to its predecessors - even Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.
Back to the online play for a moment - man, something really needs to be done about this netcode. Even the most stable games still feel annoyingly slow to control, even when 1v1. Of course, it's impossible to gather who is playing on Ethernet and who isn't, but it can still be incredibly frustrating. It's not broken, but it certainly needs improvement. Until it is improved, sitting next to someone will be the only reliable way to play.
But you might notice something in this review - a distinct lack of complaints. Well, much of the game is, of course, taken straight from Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, including characters, many animations and effects, but that's it. It has so much new and changed that it feels completely distinct from that game, and the handheld form factor is another fantastic plus. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate really does include everything Smash of the past has offered and more, but it needs, perhaps, more new stages and costumes. They certainly wouldn't go amiss.
Review code provided by the publisher.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is definitely the Ultimate rendition of a beloved series. It's still the most accessible and interesting fighting game out there, and it's now better than ever. A little familiar in places, but this is the best Smash has ever been. Another essential Nintendo Switch game.
- The best Smash has ever been
- So many characters!
- So much music!
- Excellent, accessible gameplay
- Can feel too similar to Smash Wii U at times