Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Review
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate promised to be the biggest, best and most chaotic Smash instalment to date and it effortlessly delivers on those promises, and then some.
With over seventy fighters to experiment with (including a handful of never seen before newcomers) the roster has never been so huge. Every fighting style is catered for and new games in and outside of the Nintendo franchise are now represented. Along with new faces and new stages, there have been tweaks to shake up combat, and the addition of lots of crazy and dangerous items to keep gameplay feeling fresh. It may be a twenty-year-old franchise, but noticeable changes keep Smash feeling new and exciting.
Super Smash Bros. has always been a fighting game at its core but new modes in Ultimate are a welcome addition and even include something of an engaging story. Adventure mode “World of Light” is one of the fastest ways to build up your selection of fighters as it sees you travelling around a colourful illustrated map fighting different variants of the main cast over a selection of different stages. This after an army of master hands reduce your roster down to just Kirby in the opening, thoroughly entertaining cinematic.
Spirits (characters from a huge array of other video games that possess fighters) are the main change to the formula in adventure mode and, with over a thousand of them to beat and collect, the customisation options for each battle are endless. The vast range of spirits allows for more chance of victory when it comes to the more challenging stages in game. Facing a fight where the odds are stacked against you due to high winds? Equip the flying Latios and Latias spirit and their immunity to strong winds will be passed onto your fighter. With practically a spirit for every possible impediment, stage effects like earthquakes, poison, and lava can be easily overcome.
The world map is littered with matches to take on and fighting spirit-possessed enemies will reward you with a core spirit, skill spheres and snacks to level up your spirit collection. Occasionally you’ll come face to face with demonic puppet versions of Nintendo’s most loved characters and successfully defeating these opponents will add them to your roster. The ease of access that comes with a more diverse range of fighters helps with the more challenging fights as you match a particular fighter’s skills to each individual challenge.
The map itself is a spectacle to behold, with twisting paths, sections cordoned off into specific environments, and hidden underground tracks. It’s incredibly vast and exploring the world is one of the most addictive aspects of Ultimate. Certain areas of the map are separated by broken bridges, large expanses of water or boulders blocking cave openings. It’s here that spirits play another important role by acting as the key to accessing different parts of the map. Due to the multiple sprawling paths and bountiful fights these dead ends don’t leave you feeling exasperated, instead they push you to collect more spirits and open up the map fully.
As would be expected, fighting mechanics have been polished up for Ultimate. Now it seems that kicks hit harder and punches send opponents flying faster and further. Smash still encompasses the singular aim of racking up your opponent’s damage before knocking them off the stage, with a timed smash revolving around a countdown and stock smash giving the player three or more lives to fight to come out on top. A new feature has been added to Ultimate which levels out the playing field is the Final Smash Meter. Simply a weaker version of a character’s final smash, the meter fills as you are attacked, meaning that loosing fighters may still get a chance to perform a KO and turn the tables.
Action has been amplified but so has fluidity which makes every battle look crisp and run unbelievably smooth no matter how much is happening on screen. Stronger hits will send you rocketing into the sky followed by a plume of smoke, and the most powerful attacks receive freeze frames; slow motion zoom-ins with hilarious facial expressions and instant defeats. It’s perhaps strange to note how beautiful a fighting game is but Ultimate really is flawless in its execution.
If you fancy a string of competitive battles against an army of CPUs then Classic Mode (a staple since Smash 64) is still the perfect fit. Classic mode follows a set character and pits them against predetermined fighters, usually from that character’s franchise. You can choose the intensity of each campaign and with every win the difficulty will slightly increase. Die in classic mode and you’ll have to pay up to stay in the running, either that or lower the intensity and the rewards you can receive. Classic Mode is great for a mess around or for players who don’t have the time to dedicate to World of Light but still want a single player experience.
Perfecting the mechanics the franchise established way back in 1999, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a crazy, chaotic joy. With a gargantuan roster of fighters, an amazing adventure mode and more unlockables than would ever have seemed possible, this is a game that packs one heck of a punch.