Review: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate — A Smashing Good Time
by on December 25, 2018

I slept a total of ten hours playing Smash on the weekend of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s release, and it was amazing.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is finally here, and it was well worth the wait. “Ultimate” is an incredibly accurate title. While the newest installment in the Super Smash Bros. series is not without some flaws, Nintendo managed to score big with their “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to this game. Everyone is here. Everything (worth having) is here.

First off, I have to mention the characters. It’s what Nintendo has been pushing since E3, but, yes, absolutely every fighter who has ever appeared in the Smash Bros. series is playable in this game. From the staples of Mario and Link to the “who?” characters like Wii Fit Trainer and Mr. Game & Watch as well as the long-absent characters like Young Link and Pichu, we got them all back for another round of friendship-ending fun. On top of all of those, there are a plethora of newcomers, including Inkling from Splatoon, Simon Belmont from Castlevania, and Ridley from Metroid.

FULL DISCLOSURE
Nintendo Australia has graciously provided us with a review copy of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Really, everyone is back. All three versions of Link. Every Fire Emblem ever. Even Pichu.

Every character feels great, that’s the first thing I noticed as I messed around with them. The game in general just has a certain fast and intense feeling to it. Controlling characters is fun, and movement feels quick, precise, flexible, and most importantly fun. Ultimate took a lot of inspiration from the previous games, but there is an obvious attempt to take the fast-paced movement from Melee to the next level. Maybe not a higher level, but one with a healthy balance of complexity and accessibility.

In addition to all the characters, Ultimate delivers even more fanservice via the available stages and soundtracks.

There are over a hundred stages in this game, the majority of them being repeats from previous Smash games. Nintendo made a point to include as many of the old favorites as possible, such as Pokémon Stadium, Yoshi’s Island, and Temple. And though small in quantity, new stages, including New Donk City Hall and Moray Towers, are present as well. There’s also the option to play on three different versions of each stage. Each stage can take on its original form, or have a layout similar to Battlefield or Final Destination. So, if you want the visuals and music of a stage like Glacier, but don’t want to run the risk of being eaten by a giant fish, you can play on a more traditional version of the map.

The variety is my favorite thing about all the stage options. Depending on who I’m playing as or which friends I’m playing with, there is an appropriate stage to use. If I’m playing with my more serious friends, we can go to a smaller stage like Smashville. If there are three or more players and we want a little chaos, we can take it to a stage like Gamer. Mixing things up never becomes stale. Every match can be different, and if you add in some items — such as the Assist Trophies, Poké Balls, or Smash Ball — a stage can become home to the largest assortment of video game-themed insanity anyone has ever seen, which is honestly fantastic.

Smash Bros. Ultimate has a little something for everyone.

As for the music, there are over eight hundred music tracks in this game. I haven’t even unlocked them all yet. Included are popular and iconic songs from every series, songs a lot of people probably haven’t heard in years, and all-new compositions be listened to and played to your heart’s content. Just set which songs you want to hear for each stage and enjoy.

Single-player modes are back in Ultimate, and while they are not the best we have ever seen from the series, they offer a sizeable amount of fun and content.

Classic Mode returns and offers a mix of new and familiar. The progression is the generally the same from level to level, but each character has his or her or its own path to follow and fights a series of opponents that fit a certain theme. It’s a solid version of the long-standing staple of solo Smash and offers a good mix of fun and challenge.

The big draw from single player Smash is the new World of Light campaign. “Big” is definitely putting it mildly.

Like Breath of the Wild’s overworld, Smash Ultimate’s World of Light is very, very big.

The premise is fun and offers a ton of variety to the single-player experience. The upgrades, or Spirits as they are called, can make any match interesting. An equipped spirit might make your character or the opponent more powerful, or perhaps it will let them start the game with a certain item in hand. The spirits make each level in World of Light a fun gimmick.

The problem with World of Light is that tricky word I used earlier: big. This mode just seems to never end at times, and that can be a good or bad thing. There is a lot to this adventure mode, enough to make it feel like a whole game on its own and take the same amount of time as a typical one-player adventure. The issue is that despite all the variety between each level, they all have the same basic premise to play a game of smash with unique conditions. As I played, it would too often feel like I was playing a glorified hybrid of the Event Modes and Smash Tour from previous games. In that sense World of Light is fun, but it might be a good idea to take your time and space out your sessions with it.

The single-player is good, but the heart and soul of any Smash game will always be the multiplayer modes. As you might be guessing by now, there is a lot offered.

All the staple modes and customs rules return and are accompanied by some much-need additions. You can still choose basic options such as playing regular Smash mode or with stocks, but levels of detail can be adjusted as well, such as turning off stage hazards. You can mix things up to suit whatever kind of gaming mood you’re in. This is made better by the fact that custom rulesets can be saved in a list, so you can quickly change your settings without needing to manually change everything time and time again.

Ultimate also includes other multiplayer modes, such as the returning Tournament mode and the new addition Squad Strike, which is a type of team battle/gauntlet hybrid. These are more examples of the developers doing what they can to offer endless variety.

Lastly, the online modes are in many ways a step up from the online modes found in previous games, but they still leave a bit to be desired. Matchmaking is done by rank, to keep you in line with players of similar skill levels, but it gives limited control over who you play and under what rules. You can select what rules you would like to go by, but you may not get them depending on who you’re paired with. Multiple times I myself tried to find people for just one-on-one play, only to be put in match after match with three other players in a free-for-all. Still fun, but not what I was looking for.

To remedy this, you are allowed to join or create something called Battle Arenas, which are essentially miniature lobbies to give players greater options and matchmaking choices. This is great for when playing against friends, but joining an arena with random people is a gamble. It was fairly often that I would join a room with more people than those could play at a time, and so I was forced to wait for a game to finish before I could play. And many times, once I finally had my chance to play, either my connection would be lost or the other players would leave.

The online modes are good if you are not too worried about who or how you want to play and just want to get in some games of Smash. But if you want more control over things like rules and opponents, you’re going to want to keep the focus of your online experience primarily on your friends.

Aside from a few nitpicks, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate delivers what its name promises: the ultimate gaming experience. It really does offer everything a Smash fan, a Nintendo fan, or a gamer could want. Revamped game mechanics, surprisingly decent online options, and an almost ridiculous amount of game modes and features make this action-packed game a must-have for the Switch. Hours and hours of gameplay is there to be had in Ultimate. And with confirmed DLC content coming over the course of the next year, it’s almost a guarantee that the good times will keep rolling for a long time to come.

Score Similarity to other SMASHES
9/10 Super Smash Bros. (N64) – ★★☆☆☆
Super Smash Bros. Melee – ★★★★☆
Super Smash Bros. Brawl – ★★☆☆☆
Super Smash Bros. For Wii U and 3DS – ★★★☆☆
Zac Pricener
Just your typical Nintendo and Legend of Zelda fanatic.