Released on: December 7 2018
Available Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Price: $79.99 CDN ($59.99 US) [Downloadable content is available]
Published by: Nintendo Developed by: Sora Ltd.
In 1999, nine-year-old Sergie was reading the newest issue of Nintendo Power. He’s taking in all of the cool pictures of games out at the time. Then, his mind gets blown. He reads about a game that has Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Pikachu, Fox, Samus, and Kirby all in one game! That was when video game enthusiast Sergie found out about the greatest crossover he had ever seen: Super Smash Bros. Ever since I’ve followed the Smash Bros. series, I developed a fascination for crossovers. Now, Twenty years later, little has changed. The announcement of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch was glorious. It promised more stages, more characters, and refined gameplay to make it the ultimate Smash Bros. game! It’s been a year and a half since Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s release, but I feel it’s still worth taking a look. Is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate truly ultimate?
When it comes to a story, the closest we get to any semblance of plot is with its “World of Light” mode. The mode begins with the full roster standing on the edge of a cliff, observing rifts opening up in the sky. The team steels itself, ready to fend off the oncoming threat. Sadly, the giant beams of light engulf the entire cast, except for Kirby, who escapes the luminescent onslaught with his warp star. Now, Kirby must make his way through the World of Light, to save the other fighters. While the opening cutscene is impressive, what with the entirety of the Smash Bros. Ultimate roster standing together, it provides little context to World of Light, not that there’s much to explain. As far as modes go, World of Light is ok. It is a good way to get spirits (more on that later) and is passible as a story mode, but it is repetitive and goes on for too long.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a gorgeous game. The love, care, and attention to detail that went into Smash Bros. Ultimate’s visuals are unfathomable. If I take Sonic the Hedgehog as an example, in Sonic the Hedgehog (for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive), if the player stays still, Sonic will turn to the player look at his wrist as if he had a watch and tap his foot impatiently. Sonic does the same in Smash Ultimate if they remain idle. Idle animations are just the tip of the iceberg. The characters are incredibly expressive when they get hit, attack, or are under specific effects (like after they eat the spicy curry item). The stages also follow this level of detail. The Kalos Pokemon League, for example, has hazards that affect the stage. Different Pokemon appear in the background, depending on what hazard is active. That is just scratching the surface, as entire videos exist that analyze all of Smash Ultimate’s details, and they are lengthy.
If someone asked me which game has the most robust soundtrack, I would tell them Smash Ultimate wins by a landslide. The game has over eight hundred different songs to choose from. One could spend an entire afternoon just looking up Smash Bros. music on Youtube, and still only discover half of it. What’s more, because of the characters featured in Smash Ultimate, the game includes some of those characters’ best tracks, along with brilliant remixes of old favorites.
As far as fighting games go, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is unique. On the surface, Smash Ultimate is simple to play. The goal of Smash Bros. is to knock the opponent off-stage. Fighters do not lose health when hit, but rather accumulate damage, which makes them easier to send flying. Each character has regular attacks and special attacks. Most characters can access their special attacks with the push of a button and a direction on the control stick. When I was younger, I thought traditional fighting games were complicated (not understanding how to perform special attacks), but Smash Bros. makes special attacks easy to use. Want Mario to throw a fireball? B button! Want Pikachu to call down a massive Thunderbolt from the sky? B and down on the control stick will do just that! If the player is sent off-stage, they can recover by using a mid-air jump (or multiple mid-air jumps depending on the character) and their Up B special. The idea is simple, but the mechanics behind Smash Ultimate are far more complicated than they might seem. So much so that Smash Ultimate’s competitive scene thrives on finding new techniques and efficient moves to use during their match. Smash Ultimate is such an exciting game to observe that seventy-per-cent of what I watch on Youtube is competitive Smash Ultimate videos, which goes to show how intricate Smash Bros. is at its core.
The most prominent selling feature of Smash Ultimate, other than its easy-to-learn hard-to-master gameplay, is how many characters there are. Without counting downloadable characters, there are a whopping seventy-five playable characters. Smash Bros. started as a crossover between different Nintendo characters. In Ultimate, there are characters from all kinds of other games, like Sonic the Hedgehog (mentioned earlier), Pac-Man, Mega Man, Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter, and even Bayonetta. Those are just the ones that aren’t from Nintendo games. There are so many other characters that I sometimes forget that some of them are in the game.
Even the greatest crossover of all time is not perfect, however…
For instance, capturing footage of Smash Ultimate is unusually complex. Almost every other Switch game, the player can press the Share button to take a screenshot of the game they are playing. If the player decides to hold the Share button, they capture the last thirty seconds of gameplay as a video. Smash Ultimate chooses to do its own thing by having the player save a replay of their match, then convert it into a video. I read online that this was done to increase the performance of the game, which I can understand somewhat. It’s still far from ideal when trying to get game footage.
The most prominent issue with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is its online play. This has been called out numerous times by other people that it even has its hashtag on twitter (#FixUltimateOnline). For some reason, Nintendo games always had difficulty when it came to playing online, and no other game exacerbates this problem more than Smash Ultimate. What makes online play worse is with Smash Ultimate’s buffering system. To explain what I mean: if I were to input a command, but the game decided to lag, as it often does, chances are the command I put in before the lag happened will supersede my current input. This doesn’t sound bad on paper, but when trying to recover, the player might try to perform a double jump, only to see themselves use their Up B too soon, making them powerless to do anything else. This can cause the player to lose a life, or even lose the game entirely. It’s such a shame too since Smash Ultimate with ideal online conditions would be a blast.
My final gripe is with Smash Ultimate’s spirits. The player can earn spirits by either winning them through the World of Light mode or by completing challenges in the Spirit Board. Where my issues lie with spirits is how easily ignorable they are as a whole. Often I’ll look at the main menu, realize there’s a “Spirits” mode, and then go: “Oh yeah! That’s a thing!” There is a little bit of an RPG mechanic with Spirits, but it’s only applicable in the “Spirits” mode, or battles that allow spirits, which most people disallow them by default. It might just be me, but I feel like there was a missed opportunity with Smash Ultimate’s spirits.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is amazing. So many characters, stages, songs, love, and care in one game; it almost seems unfair to every other game. I don’t feel like I need to recommend Smash Ultimate since chances are those who heard of it already have it. For those that don’t, I highly suggest playing a few casual games with a friend locally, as that is a good time waiting to happen. I would advise my readers to be wary of the online mode, however.