We went hands-on with Smash Ultimate at E3; hear what we thought of it
by on June 22, 2018

E3 2018 may be over, but the hype that Nintendo generated for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate remains. Nintendo demoed the game for Smash fans in two different “modes”: For Glory and For Fun. In the more casual “For Fun” mode, four players would be matched up to play together for four rounds; this allowed players to experiment with new characters and try out characters they might not have experienced before. However, in the “For Glory” matchups, it was a three-tier knockout tournament to find the best players.

Several of us got to go hands-on with the game at E3, playing in both modes. Here are our thoughts about the game.

Joshua Lindquist, Content Director

Should I start with Ridley or how excited I am to see the return of non-Twilight Princess style Zelda characters? I played 16 matches during E3, and I spent most of them trying out Ridley and various Zelda characters. Ridley is incredibly fun to play! I love the Metroid series, and it has been truly mind-boggling that it took 19 years for the most iconic Metroid villain to become playable — or for Metroid to receive a second playable character at all. I am very pleased with the results. I am going to have a lot of fun playing Ridley when the game is released.

The return of the Ocarina of Time-style for Ganondorf and the use of the A Link Between Worlds-style for Zelda was a welcome surprise. Of course, we already knew that Link would be changed to his Breath of the Wild design. I had a chance to play all three, and my main takeaway is: Ganondorf finally uses a sword!

I also had a chance to play Inkling, Snake, and Ness, one of my personal favorites. Inkling is going to be difficult to master, but the ink management provides an interesting new play style. Snake seemed mostly the same, and that’s exactly what I wanted. And Ness is perfect; seeing the new Earthbound-inspired animations for his attacks made my day.

I could not be happier with the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate announcement and demo. The new characters and new stages are great, and the changes to existing characters are improvements. I can’t wait to have a chance to play Young Link again!

Shona Johnson, Operations/Special Projects

I went into E3 with the expectation that the next Super Smash Bros. game would be more of the same: something that would be a lot of fun but wouldn’t hold any major surprises bar the addition of a few new characters. It was something I would definitely buy and enjoy but wasn’t necessarily overly excited about. I came away feeling pleasantly surprised and excited by the way that the entire concept of Smash had been so well tuned and optimized, particularly for competitive play. And with the entire roster from Smash games past making a comeback, Ultimate truly seems to be a fitting title for this next installment.

The hands-on demo available on the show floor was far from a final version, with a limited character roster and options, but I could have played it for hours. I played six rounds, trying out some old favorite characters along with the new ones. Old characters immediately felt familiar, although there are of course some minor changes such as Link now using the remote bombs from Breath of the Wild. I had fun playing with new characters Ridley and Inkling, although a single, frantic match was far from enough time to get used to them!

I went in thinking Smash was something I would definitely buy but wasn’t overly excited about. But I could have played it for hours.

I was able to play with both the GameCube controller and the Switch Pro Controller, the latter being because I had no choice at one of the demo stations! The GameCube controller was instantly familiar, and I’m really glad that we still have the option to use them. The button layout on the Switch controller is different, so I found myself pressing the wrong buttons several times, leading to one or two unfortunate SDs, and I imagine I’d reconfigure them if I was going to use it as my primary controller (or simply continue to practice until I became used to it).

I haven’t been this excited about the franchise since Melee, which took everything about Smash Bros. at the time — a really neat concept on the N64 that didn’t realize its potential — and expanded it into something really special. I think Ultimate will be a major step up for the franchise. Nintendo appears to have taken major steps to shape this as a seriously competitive game, a direction that should be celebrated because at its heart the gameplay is pure fun. It’s something that more casual players can enjoy equally as well as those who want to play at a competitive level. Now let’s just hope the online play works well!

David Johnson, Features Editor

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate could very well become my favorite Smash game. Thus far, my absolute favorite in the franchise is Melee which I felt expertly balanced being an homage to Nintendo while also being a solid competitive fighting game. Whereas Brawl and, to a lesser extent, Wii U/3DS veered a little too much to the casual (or perhaps “fun”) side of the equation, Ultimate moves the series back into balance in order to restore the harmony between the competitive and casual fans.

First and foremost, the controls feel wonderfully. I played on both the GameCube controllers as well as the Switch Pro Controller. Having grown up with the series from its origins, I still love the GameCube controls and am lukewarm on the modified Pro Controller layout, though the ability to customize the controls will make that better. But overall control was smooth, and the gameplay felt extremely fluid. It was easy to tell that the game was running at 60 fps or at least thereabouts.

Each of the stages comes with the ability to turn their various traps off, which allows players the option of how to play. And having every character from the series available will make any Smash player happy. However, I do have to question how Pichu will differentiate itself from being an inferior Pikachu or how the Fox, Falco, and Wolf trio will prove to be non-clones of each other. Naturally, there will be a question of character balancing as well — something that has improved with Wii U/3DS with the capacity to patch balance updates, but a roster of 60+ characters will be a task to have any semblance of equality.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate could very well become my favorite Smash game.

Still, Smash Ultimate was incredibly fun to play, and there’s a lot of potential for it to be a game that will be adopted by eSports. I’m looking forward to it coming out this December, and I hope to see how well it performs online.

Amanda VanHiel, Assistant News Editor/Zelda News Host

Despite having not played Smash in over a year, I signed up to play the “For Glory” demo of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. While I have enjoyed all the Smash games since the series first began, I’m more of a casual fan of the series. When it came to character selection, I was initially going to play as Ridley, but I heard someone say his controls and fighting style are similar to Charizard, and I’m terrible with Charizard. Even though I went in feeling indifferent about the game, I didn’t want to get completely destroyed. So I made the safe choice and played as my main Pit. Using the wired GameCube controller, Pit’s moves felt comfortable and familiar, and all my thoughts and memories of the Smash series came flooding back. I had forgotten how much I loved those games! At that point, my competitive drive kicked in and I was determined to win, and I’m happy to I say I made it to the second round of the competition. Nintendo did a fantastic job at invoking those same feelings of excitement that were felt when Super Smash Bros. came out on the N64.

Elias Thompson, Twitch Director

Pokémon Let’s Go! Pikachu & Eevee play exactly as they’re marketed—a perfect set of game elements to transition Go players to core RPG players. It incorporates some of the intuitiveness and simplicity of Go, such as the skill-based capture method and the CP summary of a Pokémon to get an idea of how strong or weak it is, while also maintaining the mechanics that make the core RPG’s fun for the rest of us to play. I have some reservations about playing using the Poké Ball Plus, such as accidentally pressing a direction when trying to press A and not having all the buttons that a Joy-Con has (which seem to have usage in game), but it’ll still be nice for the collector types or anyone who finally wants a Mew that never got one back in the days of Pokémon Red/Blue. All in all, I think they’ll be unique and welcome additions to the franchise that I’ll be picking up and playing for myself.

… Oh, this was about Smash, wasn’t it? Uh … Ridley hype?

David Johnson
David Johnson, a.k.a. "The Missing Link," was once the webmaster of both Zelda: The Grand Adventures and ZeldaBlog. He works as a software engineer in the games industry. David also pontificates about Zelda, writes features and guides for ZU, and obsesses about CD-i.