The hype is real. It’s finally here. Smash Bros. Ultimate has arrived on Nintendo Switch! Smash anywhere, anytime, and with anyone you want—what could be better? We asked Brian, Brandon, and Chris of Nintendeal for their thoughts on Smash Bros. Ultimate, and here’s what they had to say.
After about 10 hours of play, it’s clear that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a faster, snappier, and far better-looking experience from the game’s prior handheld iteration (Super Smash Bros. 3DS). Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is also a step up from the Wii U version, especially where UI is concerned. Although Ultimate’s layout might initially be confusing, general play is divided into Smash and Spirits categories. Smash revolves around everything multiplayer, while Spirits is concerned largely with the World of Light single player mode, as well as managing the new Spirit mechanic Ultimate brings to the series.
Sporting an absolutely massive roster of 74 fighters, Smash Bros. Ultimate has the perfect character for everyone. (At the time of this review, I am hovering between Link, Toon Link, Samus, Bowser, Simon Belmont, and Lucario, and I’ve still only unlocked 44 characters.) With such a wide selection of characters from some of gaming’s most iconic franchises (and more to come in DLC packs), Ultimate certainly lives up to the name, at least as far as playable characters are concerned.
In World of Light, Ultimate’s single player mode, players can unlock the entire roster by slowly fighting their way through a giant node-based map. Players begin with access to Kirby alone, but soon unlock Mario and either Sheik, Villager, or Marth. While World of Light battles can get repetitive, this mode does provide an excellent way to try new characters and find out which ones best suit your playstyle. Because it took hours for me to find Link and Samus, I was forced to use brand new characters, and I discovered I enjoy Lucas, Lucario, and Simon Belmont. Without restricting access to my favorite characters (and the ones I’ve played in every single Smash Bros. game since the franchise debuted on N64), I’m not sure I would have made this discovery.
Matchmaking with friends online is relatively easy, although lag in online matches can significantly hamper the experience, even in one-on-one games.
Although the World of Light single player mode can get repetitive, and the online infrastructure would greatly benefit from updates to reduce latency, Smash Bros. Ultimate lives up to its name by providing the most polished version of the fast-paced, chaos-filled brawler we’ve all come to love, all in a package you can play anywhere. With truly fantastic visuals in both handheld and docked modes, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is an essential addition to any Switch library, joining Mario Kart, Towerfall, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and the Jackbox Party Pack as one of the all-time great party games.
After playing this game for the majority of release weekend, there are something things I have taken away in reflection.
With a gigantic roster of fighters, one of two things needs to happen: more characters unlocked from the beginning, or an easier way to unlock characters. The days of needing to fight a certain number of matches before a character ‘challenges’ you need to be gone. I was incredibly frustrated that it took so long to unlock my main fighters, and while I completely understand the reason for this grind-like unlocking strategy, it lead to me taking too many breaks from this incredible game.
I’m not exactly sure how they were able to do it, but the balance and pace of the fights themselves is even better than the Wii U version. I’m firmly in the camp that the Wii U version of Super Smash Bros. was the best version of the game until the release of Ultimate this past weekend. The controls feel perfect with every available configuration (I’ve been rotating between that sweet new Gamecube controller and the limited edition Pro Controller that was released alongside the game), and this game feels much more like I’m getting back into the swing of things rather than learning an entirely different way to ride a bicycle.
The campaign has a very inconsistent pace and ultimately does not live up to the campaigns of the past games (especially the Subspace Emissary). This may be an unpopular take, but whatever; I seem to have plenty of those! From the layout of the map—which at times can be incredibly confusing to maneuver after you’ve unlocked too much of it—to the crazy difficulty spikes, I did not enjoy World of Light at all. The campaign wants you to swap out your primary spirit more often than should really be necessary, but never explicitly states that you should be doing that. I ended up feeling like someone who never plays video games after I leveled up the ‘wrong’ primary spirit and got to a point of the campaign where I just kept losing and losing and losing before spending my hard-earned snacks (which later became unnecessary thanks to a special Master Spirit) on leveling up other spirits that would be of more use to me. Additionally, as more of a ‘purist’ in regards to rules, I really disliked the variety of challenges presented. More often than not, a victory would be chalked up to a lucky bounce or hitting a bomb with another stray bomb to blow everything up and not necessarily the result of traditional skills. I really didn’t like this mode at all.
The soundtrack is amazing. I’m still a person who listens to the companion soundtrack to the Wii U and 3DS versions of this game. Filled to the brim with appropriate fighting tracks, I was always bobbing my head along with whatever tune was playing while I was fighting.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will always be a game best enjoyed with friends and foes alike. At the end of the day, the best way to play this game is with a group of people. Whether you prefer online play, 8-player smash, or simple 1 v 1 final destination no items matches, there is something to playing Super Smash Bros. with other people that will always be the core of what this franchise represents. I was in college when the Wii U edition came out, and I remember skipping class to play with my friends. We would sit around a crappy big screen TV for hours, even days, trying to unlock every last one of the characters, only for things to turn dark when a friend of mine used Jigglypuff in a match and rest-killed another one of my friends…who then proceeded to throw a brand new Yankee Candle across the room to shatter against the wall. Moments like these only happen when you’re playing Super Smash Bros., and overall, I’ve really enjoyed being able to experience this game again on the Nintendo Switch.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is everything I thought it would be, which is a great thing. There’s an abundance of content available, and apart from a couple of small complaints, this is about as perfect as I could hope for a Smash game to be. Here are my quick thoughts after roughly 30 hours with the game:
Basic Smash: The basic Smash mode, the mainstay of the franchise and what amounts to most people’s playtime, is better than ever. The most characters, stages, and songs yet in the series brings more replayability than ever before, and new game modes like Smashdown and Squad Strike are easy, streamlined ways to challenge yourself against a friend or the AI. The gameplay itself feels a step up from the 3DS/Wii U version, and a lot of battles feel more fast-paced as a result. I really appreciate a lot of the small changes and options they made available, like the choice of having stage hazards on or off, the Final Smash meter, and the way the game freezes for a moment and zooms in when you get the game-winning KO. The knockback changes felt really jarring at first, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get used to it, but the addition of a small map in the upper-right corner to show how close you are to losing a stock is a great addition that really helps me get a sense of where I am. And it’s been said by pretty much everyone, but the vastness of this game’s roster is amazing. Many of the new and returning characters look great in HD and are incredibly fun to play. The recent announcement of Joker from Persona 5 joining the cast as DLC has me even more excited to see who else will be joining the game in the future.
World of Light: I had a lot of hopes (and questions) when Nintendo first showed the trailer/opening cutscene for World of Light in their last Direct for the game back in November. While I can’t say World of Light was a great experience, I will say I’m glad Nintendo tried to do SOMETHING for a single-player mode again beyond the standard Classic or All-Star modes. The actual battles in World of Light started to get repetitive pretty quickly, and while I think the intention was for players to swap out characters and Spirits a fair amount to get the best matchup they can for each fight, I never ended up changing anything once I got my first 4-star Spirit (James McCloud) and a heavy character that I was good with (DK). There isn’t much of a story in World of Light, and what little there is isn’t really explained and just…happens. Getting to play as Master Hand and fight against a barrage of characters is easily the highlight for me.
A few other things: There’s a lot of other things to be enjoyed in Smash but I’ll condense my thoughts on it all as much as possible. The soundtrack is amazing, and I’m really glad that Ultimate serves as a grand collection of music from across gaming history. I love a lot of the new remixes as well, especially Gang-Plank Galleon, King Koopa (from Super Mario Bros. 3), Midna’s Lament, and Battle! (Lorekeeper Zinnia). I also can’t wait to hear Persona 5 music in this game. The biggest thing that got removed, in my opinion, was the Stage Builder mode. I really enjoyed this mode in Brawl (less so in Smash Wii U), so it’s a bit disappointing to see this mode removed entirely. I would also talk about the Online mode for Ultimate, but it seems like it’s become the norm to expect Nintendo to falter on the Online portions of their games so I won’t say much about this other than at this point I feel like Smash 3DS/Wii U’s For Fun/For Glory choices are better than what we have now.
I believe that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lives up to its name as the greatest version of Smash Bros. yet. I have no doubt that it will keep me coming back for years to come and there’s enough content in here that I will never get bored of playing it with my friends. I would ABSOLUTELY recommend this game to anyone who has enjoyed Smash Bros. in the past, and also to those who want to jump into a Smash game for the first time.