REVIEW: Super Smash Brothers Ultimate


t’s been a couple of weeks since the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, one of the most anticipated games for the Switch this year. Is it living up to the hype? Let’s dive in.



RUNDOWN

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, at its core, is the same Smash we’ve all come to love. Up to eight players can take control of an enormous roster of video game all-stars to go head-to-head in frantic battles that range from item tossing scrambles to one-on-one death matches. With 74 different characters to choose from, including Nintendo’s greats and a few outsiders, and more stages than ever, the fight to knock your buddies out of the ring has never been so massive. Coupled with some unique single player options, Ultimate can keep you busy for days; for us, it certainly has!



LOOK

Ultimate may be the best looking Smash game, both in terms of graphics and art direction. Since Melee, the series has always seemed to attempt to capture the spirit of each character in their appearances while uniting them under a more mature, battle-ready aesthetic. Melee did this solidly, Brawl may have gone too far with its realism in places, For Wii U and 3DS dialed it back to a more cartoon inspired look, and Ultimate seems to hit the sweet spot between them all. Every character looks stunning and each of them represents their origin series to a T; we especially enjoy the more retro-inspired designs, particularly with Mega Man, Ryu, Ken, and the Belmonts. This also goes for the stages, which look clean and exciting whether you’re playing them on their Normal, Battlefield, or Omega forms—even if lesser stages like PAC-LAND and Hanenbow make their return amongst the greats.

The only place where the look feels a bit off is in the game’s adventure mode, World of Light. While beautifully illustrated, the map doesn’t feel particularly inspired by anything from Nintendo or otherwise other than maybe Brawl’s “Subspace Emissary.” We’ll get back to this point in a bit.




FEEL

With so many characters to choose from, chances are that there’s someone for everyone to play in Ultimate, even for newcomers. Since the game features every character that’s ever been in the series and then some, there’s also a great chance that veterans will be able to get right back into duking it out with their main once they’re unlocked.

Mechanics like directional air dodging, short hop attacks, and perfect shielding add a welcome layer of depth to the Smash formula, especially given their simple execution. Whether you’re a wavedashing, hitbox targeting master from Melee or a newbie who just got their first taste of the series with For Wii U and 3DS, this game feels like a nice middle ground for players of all skill levels to learn quickly and master gradually. Of course, players can just as easily ignore all this and have a great time throwing bombs and blasting each other with Final Smashes for a more “party game” experience.

All this being said, the controls are not perfect out of the box. Veterans may find Ultimate’s controls sticky at first compared to other entries in the series. We spent a good few hours wondering why jumping and tilt attacks felt so off before realizing that the control stick sensitivity can be adjusted in the Options menu. This option comes highly recommended; though it may not be the perfect incarnation of Smash’s control layout, this change can do the job for longtime fans who feel weighed down playing Ultimate.

 

VARIETY

Ultimate has modes on modes on modes. We’ve already touched on how many characters there are, and there’s a unique Classic mode path for every single one of them. We loved how these paths were inspired by their characters or abilities (Mitch lost it over Ness’ path, which mirrored the walk home at the end of EarthBound), and with a variety of unique bosses like Giga Bowser, Ganon, and even Monster Hunter’s Rathalos, Ultimate makes it easy to keep playing until everyone is unlocked.

There’s plenty of ways to play both alone and with friends here. As always, the traditional Smash mode is great for up to eight players to fight however they please, and the addition Tourneys, Squad Strike, and Special Smash add plenty of replayability. The Mob Smash modes and Training are also nice options to test your skills against computer players if you’re playing alone.

World of Light and the Spirit Board are interesting additions with about as many positives as negatives. On one hand, we are excited to have another chance to play an Adventure mode in Smash. World of Light offers unique challenges based on different video game properties through the inclusion of Spirits, which act as status buffs for characters; You might face off against a Little Mac with a Piston Hondo spirit and have to find a way to counter his huge size and punches, or run into Sonic with a Rayman spirit and be challenged to an Assist trophy fueled battle to the death. With the Spirit Board offering timed matches for new spirits, there’s plenty of opportunities to customize your fighter to face the slew of opponents that World of Light has to offer.

On the other hand, World of Light doesn’t feel quite as inspired as past Smash Adventure modes. Melee gave players the chance to platform and battle through Nintendo inspired worlds; the Subspace Emissary, while not perfect, had a serviceable plot, challenges based around using certain characters, and passable platforming stages. These modes felt like they showed what could be done with Smash outside of battles. World of Light, despite its unique array of challenges and lovely world map, is ultimately a slew of Smash battles one after the other, with success largely based on the player’s skill with what characters they’ve managed to unlock and Spirits that can negate the effects of each challenge. Don’t get us wrong: We’re so pleased to have another Adventure mode, but we can’t help but feel there’s some missed opportunities here.

Finally, Online play is back and ranges in its capabilities. At this point, it’s hard to expect Nintendo to provide top notch online play with any game, but it’s difficult to accept with Smash games when they’re so dependent on moment-to-moment action. Granted, we have been having a great time with little issue playing in Battle Arenas against one another and friends, but connectivity continues to waver in Quickplay. We also wish that some of the unique local Smash modes could have made their way online, like Smashdown or Strike Squad, though it’s understandable why these weren’t implemented.



CHALLENGE

One thing we love about Ultimate is it’s variety of options for setting your own difficulty. Classic Mode uses a system where players can set their own difficult at the beginning that will rise with skilled play or fall with each death. Earned gold can be used to keep playing on a lower difficulty or a Classic ticket can be used to maintain your difficulty after one death. It’s helpful that the penalty for dying in Classic is light, as the real challenge comes from unlocking every character; for us, we ended up beating every Classic route to unlock everyone, though there are other ways to go about it.
As we’ve said, World of Light gives players infinite continues on their quest and a variety of challenge levels throughout. Here, the only barriers to completion are the strength of your Spirits and your own ability to work with the characters you have. Luckily, many battles can be returned to later after you’ve powered up a little, making it all a bit more manageable.

With all of this, Milestones return, offering in-game achievements for completing certain challenges. These offer a wide range of challenges to complete, though we tended to forget that they were there until we stumbled upon one.



ULTIMATELY…

Here’s the bottom line: This game exists. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has flaws, just like every game in the series before it. It has points that we aren’t the biggest fans of and have even been frustrated by when playing for this review. But the team behind Ultimate was able to craft both one of the best entries in the franchise and a truly outstanding tribute to Nintendo and gaming history here. We’re going to be playing this for months, both for pleasure and to cover all the DLC, and we can’t wait.

Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for more Smash talk, check out our article on 10 Echo Fighters That Could Have Been! Or, if you’re into fighting games, take a look at our Soul Calibur VI review 

 


t’s been a couple of weeks since the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, one of the most anticipated games for the Switch this year. Is it living up to the hype? Let’s dive in.



RUNDOWN

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, at its core, is the same Smash we’ve all come to love. Up to eight players can take control of an enormous roster of video game all-stars to go head-to-head in frantic battles that range from item tossing scrambles to one-on-one death matches. With 74 different characters to choose from, including Nintendo’s greats and a few outsiders, and more stages than ever, the fight to knock your buddies out of the ring has never been so massive. Coupled with some unique single player options, Ultimate can keep you busy for days; for us, it certainly has!



LOOK

Ultimate may be the best looking Smash game, both in terms of graphics and art direction. Since Melee, the series has always seemed to attempt to capture the spirit of each character in their appearances while uniting them under a more mature, battle-ready aesthetic. Melee did this solidly, Brawl may have gone too far with its realism in places, For Wii U and 3DS dialed it back to a more cartoon inspired look, and Ultimate seems to hit the sweet spot between them all. Every character looks stunning and each of them represents their origin series to a T; we especially enjoy the more retro-inspired designs, particularly with Mega Man, Ryu, Ken, and the Belmonts. This also goes for the stages, which look clean and exciting whether you’re playing them on their Normal, Battlefield, or Omega forms—even if lesser stages like PAC-LAND and Hanenbow make their return amongst the greats.

The only place where the look feels a bit off is in the game’s adventure mode, World of Light. While beautifully illustrated, the map doesn’t feel particularly inspired by anything from Nintendo or otherwise other than maybe Brawl’s “Subspace Emissary.” We’ll get back to this point in a bit.



FEEL

With so many characters to choose from, chances are that there’s someone for everyone to play in Ultimate, even for newcomers. Since the game features every character that’s ever been in the series and then some, there’s also a great chance that veterans will be able to get right back into duking it out with their main once they’re unlocked.

Mechanics like directional air dodging, short hop attacks, and perfect shielding add a welcome layer of depth to the Smash formula, especially given their simple execution. Whether you’re a wavedashing, hitbox targeting master from Melee or a newbie who just got their first taste of the series with For Wii U and 3DS, this game feels like a nice middle ground for players of all skill levels to learn quickly and master gradually. Of course, players can just as easily ignore all this and have a great time throwing bombs and blasting each other with Final Smashes for a more “party game” experience.

All this being said, the controls are not perfect out of the box. Veterans may find Ultimate’s controls sticky at first compared to other entries in the series. We spent a good few hours wondering why jumping and tilt attacks felt so off before realizing that the control stick sensitivity can be adjusted in the Options menu. This option comes highly recommended; though it may not be the perfect incarnation of Smash’s control layout, this change can do the job for longtime fans who feel weighed down playing Ultimate.



VARIETY

Ultimate has modes on modes on modes. We’ve already touched on how many characters there are, and there’s a unique Classic mode path for every single one of them. We loved how these paths were inspired by their characters or abilities (Mitch lost it over Ness’ path, which mirrored the walk home at the end of EarthBound), and with a variety of unique bosses like Giga Bowser, Ganon, and even Monster Hunter’s Rathalos, Ultimate makes it easy to keep playing until everyone is unlocked.

There’s plenty of ways to play both alone and with friends here. As always, the traditional Smash mode is great for up to eight players to fight however they please, and the addition Tourneys, Squad Strike, and Special Smash add plenty of replayability. The Mob Smash modes and Training are also nice options to test your skills against computer players if you’re playing alone.

World of Light and the Spirit Board are interesting additions with about as many positives as negatives. On one hand, we are excited to have another chance to play an Adventure mode in Smash. World of Light offers unique challenges based on different video game properties through the inclusion of Spirits, which act as status buffs for characters; You might face off against a Little Mac with a Piston Hondo spirit and have to find a way to counter his huge size and punches, or run into Sonic with a Rayman spirit and be challenged to an Assist trophy fueled battle to the death. With the Spirit Board offering timed matches for new spirits, there’s plenty of opportunities to customize your fighter to face the slew of opponents that World of Light has to offer.

On the other hand, World of Light doesn’t feel quite as inspired as past Smash Adventure modes. Melee gave players the chance to platform and battle through Nintendo inspired worlds; the Subspace Emissary, while not perfect, had a serviceable plot, challenges based around using certain characters, and passable platforming stages. These modes felt like they showed what could be done with Smash outside of battles. World of Light, despite its unique array of challenges and lovely world map, is ultimately a slew of Smash battles one after the other, with success largely based on the player’s skill with what characters they’ve managed to unlock and Spirits that can negate the effects of each challenge. Don’t get us wrong: We’re so pleased to have another Adventure mode, but we can’t help but feel there’s some missed opportunities here.

Finally, Online play is back and ranges in its capabilities. At this point, it’s hard to expect Nintendo to provide top notch online play with any game, but it’s difficult to accept with Smash games when they’re so dependent on moment-to-moment action. Granted, we have been having a great time with little issue playing in Battle Arenas against one another and friends, but connectivity continues to waver in Quickplay. We also wish that some of the unique local Smash modes could have made their way online, like Smashdown or Strike Squad, though it’s understandable why these weren’t implemented.



CHALLENGE

One thing we love about Ultimate is it’s variety of options for setting your own difficulty. Classic Mode uses a system where players can set their own difficult at the beginning that will rise with skilled play or fall with each death. Earned gold can be used to keep playing on a lower difficulty or a Classic ticket can be used to maintain your difficulty after one death. It’s helpful that the penalty for dying in Classic is light, as the real challenge comes from unlocking every character; for us, we ended up beating every Classic route to unlock everyone, though there are other ways to go about it.
As we’ve said, World of Light gives players infinite continues on their quest and a variety of challenge levels throughout. Here, the only barriers to completion are the strength of your Spirits and your own ability to work with the characters you have. Luckily, many battles can be returned to later after you’ve powered up a little, making it all a bit more manageable.

With all of this, Milestones return, offering in-game achievements for completing certain challenges. These offer a wide range of challenges to complete, though we tended to forget that they were there until we stumbled upon one.



ULTIMATELY…

Here’s the bottom line: This game exists. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has flaws, just like every game in the series before it. It has points that we aren’t the biggest fans of and have even been frustrated by when playing for this review. But the team behind Ultimate was able to craft both one of the best entries in the franchise and a truly outstanding tribute to Nintendo and gaming history here. We’re going to be playing this for months, both for pleasure and to cover all the DLC, and we can’t wait.

Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for more Smash talk, check out our article on 10 Echo Fighters That Could Have Been! Or, if you’re into fighting games, take a look at our Soul Calibur VI review

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