Joint Review Effort by Solid Jack & Mike Scorpio
Developer: Nintendo / Sora Ltd. / BANDAI NAMCO Studios Inc
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Action, Fighting & Multiplayer
Release Date: December 7, 2018 (Worldwide)
Since its initial reveal at the end of the March 8, 2018 Nintendo Direct, there has been constant throughout this year, Smash is coming to Switch. No matter where you went, what you did or who you spoke to, Smash fever was well and truly in the air and there was no escaping it. With over 70 fighters, 100 stages and more items and assist trophies than you can shake a stick at. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate aims to be the Ultimate and only fighting game will ever need on Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo went well and truly out of their way to make sure everyone new Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was releasing this year and without a single delay, Smash released precisely when intended and it is certainly living up to its Ultimate namesake, but just how “Ultimate” is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? Well, to answer that, we need to go back to where it all began.
The history of Super Smash Bros. goes back to a secret project that Masahiro Sakurai shared with then President of HAL Laboratory, Satoru Iwata. Under the name Dragon King, the project was to be a battle royale type game that allowed 4 players to play and fight against each other. The characters we faceless nor did they have any real form other than a mixture of polygons to create a body, head and limbs. Wanting the characters to be highly distinguishable from one another, they used Nintendo’s most iconic characters without permission and demonstrated a demo of their game to Nintendo.
Nintendo loved the idea and Sakurai was given access to Nintendo’s characters along with environments and levels associated with each character. With the backing of Nintendo behind him, Sakurai was able to create something that would become a staple on every Nintendo home console starting with the Nintendo 64. In late January 1994, the very first Smash game was released in Japan. Although the game only consisted of twelve characters (four of whom needed to be unlocked,) and fifteen different stages (six that are one player exclusive and nine that can be used for multiplayer,) Super Smash Bros. went on to become such a hit, selling one million units. With its success in Japan, Nintendo saw fit to give it a worldwide release.
Though the Nintendo 64 version was a hit. Super Smash Bros. Melee on the Nintendo GameCube was where the series really took a competitive turn. Even to this day, there are tournaments dedicated to Super Smash Bros. Melee and the likes of Super Smash Bros Brawl and Super Smash Bros Wii U have never been able to top what professional competitive gamers consider the “Perfect” version of Super Smash Bros.
Since then, in the 19 years that have passed since Smash came to be, a game became a series and with every new instalment, Smash has just gotten bigger and bigger. Melee added new a ton of new characters, Brawl had Subspace Emissary and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS took a little bit of everything from the previous game and packaged them alongside with plenty of new additions to help make it the most content packed Smash game in the entire series.
Quite frankly, for all intents and purposes, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, was 2014’s answer to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but compared to the actual Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, even in all its glory, the last gen Smash game looks almost barren in comparison. Like the game that came before it, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate also takes something from the games that came before it, except this time, Ultimate did it on a far bigger scale. Anyone and everyone who has ever been available as a fighter in a Smash game has been included in a base roster that consists of 74 characters if you count the likes of echo fighters, Ivysaur, Charizard and Squirtle separately.
There might not be as many new fighters as we’re used to, but with the likes of two Belmonts (Castlevania,) Isabelle (Animal Crossing,) and Inklings (Splatoon,) Smash has become even more inclusive and it hasn’t stopped there. Aside from Piranha Plant in February, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is getting 5 more DLC characters and one of them is none other than Joker as part of a Persona 5 collaboration. Just in case 80 eventual fighters wasn’t enough, having added new stages and reusing stages from previous games, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has more than 100 stages coupled with more than 800 tracks, (including remixes) and of course, Spirits (I’ll talk more on Spirits later).
As regards to story, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: World of Light Adventure Mode focuses on the remaining survivor after escaping the onslaught from the guardian of light, Galeem. The Guardian of Light appeared from the heavens and began discharging beams of light to capture video game characters to turn them into spirits. The lone survivor that escaped Galeem’s onslaught is none other than Kirby. The Pink Puff Ball must navigate his way around a vast land, freeing Spirits of characters that were trapped by the beams of light administered by Galeem. At some points, you will come across fighters that you will be able to awaken and get them to join your team. This will also unlock them in game for you to use them in Smash Mode or Classic Mode. After rescuing enough of your captured comrades, it will be time for you to make your way to Galeem and give him what for.
To say that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is not a beautiful game to look at would be a lie. The HD visuals are truly stunning and put the Wii U version to shame. Each character is even more detailed than before and the stages really do look amazing. Even when playing in handheld mode, it is extremely difficult to find any fault and the game’s performance is superb. Exchanges between fighters is seamless and there are almost no drops in framerate, at least not when playing offline. Online battles can sometimes be quite laggy, but that may just be my shoddy internet connection but other people have said that they have experienced issues too so it can’t just be me.
As regards to music and audio, Wow! Just Wow! There is just soooo much choice. There are over 800 tracks of pure video game music gold. From Super Mario Bros., to Metal Gear Solid, Kirby to Xenoblade Chronicles and the option to create your own playlists that you can listen to on the go, This is a video game music aficionados dream come true. The slight downside is that you have to take your Switch with you where ever you go like an enormous iPod (any of you remember the iPod? It used to be a thing after the portable CD Player but before Smartphones could do the job just as easily). When customizing Smash battles, you can also choose the stage music that you wish to listen to, just like the other games in the Smash Bros. series. Only this time, you have even more choice!
So, the real moment you have been waiting for from this review, gameplay. I’ll be honest, there are so many games modes in Super Smash Bros Ultimate that I am not even sure I will be able to do them all justice but I am going to try. Super Smash Bros Ultimate is a fighting game first and foremost. The general idea is to choose any character that takes your fancy and do enough damage to the other players and launch them off the stage that floats in the air. You score points for successful KO’s but will lose points if you get KO’d or Self Destruct. This can be by getting caught in an explosion, failing to return to the stage and falling to your doom.
The many game modes all consist on you having to beat down other characters. From the home menu, you have multiple options: Smash, Spirits, Games & More, Vault and Online. In Smash, you will be play local multiplayer (or alone against CPU) There is Standard Smash, Special Smash, Squad Strike & Tourney. Standard Smash has players duke it out with basic rules: Free-for-all / Team Battle / Timed Battle, Stock Battle or Stamina Battle. Unlike previous games in the series, In SSB Ultimate you choose the stage first before choosing the character you would like to play as. This lets players choose their characters in respect to the stage they are about to fight on.
Special Smash has extra rules that let players choose to increase or decrease the size of the fighters, playing in metal form or bunny hood, permit the use of items as well as other things. Squad Strike is a whole new mode that has players team up for a tag team style battle in 3v3 or 5v5 fighters per team. Tourney allows up to 16 participants to duke it out in Free-for-all elimination battles until there is a single victor to be crowned champion. This is a very handy mode for those that want to practice for more competitive matches. I have no doubt that Tourney will be quite popular in future amateur and professional Smash Bros Tournaments.
Another game mode that has quite a lot of bulk to it is Spirits Mode. Here is where the World of Light adventure mode can be found, along with Spirit Board, Collection and Summon. Spirits have replaced the trophies as the main collectible in the game but they are much more than just an empty collectible, which I shall talk more about in a moment. Not all of us may be happy to see trophies go and be replaced by Spirits, but while I was originally put off by the concept when they were first revealed, it is a feature that has soon won me over. In a nutshell, Spirits are characters who have lost their body via disintegration due to Galeem’s beams of light, which practically wiped out anyone and anything in the reveal trailer for World of Light.
Just because they’re disembodied, it doesn’t mean Spirits are completely useless. On top of being a collectable replacement to stickers and trophies, when equipped, they can grant the player extra bonuses to give them a fighting chance. They might not be supported in every game mode Smash has to offer, but when playing through the game’s World of Light adventure mode, they are certainly a necessity. Should the likes of Fog Immunity not be enough and Support Spirits just aren’t cutting it, Primary Spirits can be levelled to 99, with some even having the option of being enhanced so that they could become an even more powerful Spirit and upgrade to the next rank (Novice, Advanced, Ace and Legend.)
There are also different types of Primary Spirits as well, as you also have Shield, Grab and Attack, with Shield being more effective against Attack, Attack having the edge over Grab and Grab being superior to Shield. Not limited to just three types however, there is also a fourth type (Neutral,) which has no weakness.I know the whole Spirits thing can sound a little complicated, but the more you familiarize yourself with them, the better your understanding will be, especially during World of Light, which is what we’re going to get into now.
Served up as an adventure mode and a possible worthy successor to Brawl’s Subspace Emissary, World of Light is essentially an RPG adventure, but without the story. Yes, we all saw that opening trailer where a lot of stuff went down, but that epic opening literally just throws you into a world where more than 600+ Spirit Battles can be fought, and one of three final confrontations must be endured before you can view another eye-catching cinematic scene.
In World of Light, Players have to navigate their way around a large land mass, fighting and freeing spirits that block their path. Once the Spirits are freed, you can use them to help make you stronger. A new type of Spirit can also be found in World of Light. These are known as Master Spirits. They can be shop owners, Gym owners / Dojo Owners or Explorers. The Gym allows you to train up your Spirits without having to use snacks and spirit points. The Dojo allows you to teach different styles to Spirits that sacrifices certain attributes in order to improve others. You can train up to four spirits at a time and if left in the Gym, they will level up even when you put the console to sleep and/or leave the World of light.
Shop Owners will have items that you can buy with Spirit Points. The items can be Spirits, Snacks or Skill orbs. Skill Orbs are used to unlock special attributes for all of your characters. Some skills can be bought for 30 orbs, whilst the stronger skills require many more orbs to unlock. The Explorer Master Spirits allow you to send spirits off to find gold, spirit points and other items. It takes time for your spirits to come back but though the rewards may not be huge, your spirits will level up as well.
With close to 1300 spirits to collect, you can guarantee you will spend a lot of time trying to get them all. You can check out how many you have in Collection. In Spirit Board, you will be given a choice of available spirits that you will have to fight an opponent for. If you succeed, you will then have to try an shoot the fighter with a special gun while half a barrier orbits the fighter. You can use special items to slow down the shield or make the barrier smaller. If you hit the barrier, you will be asked if you want to spend spirit points in order to try again. The higher level the Spirit, the more Spirit points you will have to fork out.
In Games and More Mode, you will find Classic, Mob Smash, Training, Mii Fighters and amiibo. A special icon will sometimes appear here after some time has passed if you failed to beat a challenger. Challenger’s Approach will allow you to rematch against the challenger again but you will be able to choose your fighter as well. Classic Mode lets you choose a character of your choice and play through six stages catered for each fighter, a bonus stage and a final boss as well. At the end you will be challenged to take on a fighter you have yet to unlock. If you beat them, you can unlock them. If you don’t play through Classic mode again a few times until the Challenger’s Approach appears.
Mob Smash pits a single player or two against hordes of enemies. If you can survive the waves, you will earn rewards like gold, snacks and spirit points. In Mii Fighter, you will be able to create a Fighter using your very own Miis. You can choose between three types of fighter; Swordfighter, Brawler or Shooter. You can customize their appearance with different outfits and hats including characters that are not available as fighters, like Skull Kid, Ray MK III, K.K. Slider, or even the Black Knight. Mii Fighters also have customizable special attacks so you can make each one more unique.
Training Mode allows players to practice using each character, you can spawn items and try out each and everyone to get a feel for them. The grid background helps players calculate launch distance in relation to damage inflicted. The CPU opponent can have their difficulty level increased or decreased to match your own skill set or so you can improve your skills by taking on tougher opponents. You can also go the other way and beat down on weaker opponents if it makes you feel any better after a particularly tough day at the lab.
The amiibo option allows you to scan your amiibo which you can either train up your own amiibo fighter or Figure Player to fight alongside you or against in Smash Mode. You can feed your Figure Player Spirits in order to level them up and make them stronger. They can also inherit up to three Special skills like being equipped with a beam sword at the start, be immune to poisoned floors, etc. If you scan in amiibo with previous Smash Bros. data from the Wii U or 3DS, you will have to make a choice on whether you want to use the amiibo and lose the previous game data. Depending on the level of your amiibo before, it will carry over some experience. For example, a Level 50 amiibo in Smash Bros Wii U will convert to a Level 12 amiibo fighter in Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Other amiibo that don’t have a fighter in Super Smash Bros Ultimate may unlock a spirit in relation to that character instead. Try scanning non Smash Bros. series amiibo and see what spirits you can unlock. Please note that if the amiibo has a fighter in Smash Bros. Ultimate, take Mario for example, If you use a Super Mario series Mario amiibo, it will recognize it as a figure player. If you use the Super Mario Wedding Suit amiibo, it will instead unlock a Super Mario (Wedding) Spirit. Not every single amiibo is compatible though. You will find that most of the Animal Crossing amiibo will most certainly unlock something but Monster Hunter amiibo will most likely not.
The Vault is the where you will find all of your music that you have unlocked as well as Records, Movies, Challenges, Tips, Shop and Replays. Replays allows you to rewatch your favourite battles that you have recorded, you can also edit them slightly by changing the angle or only focusing on a single fighter, etc. Records keeps a note of how many times you have played as each fighter, how many KO’s or SD’s you have accumulated, etc. Tip is where all the tips that you have be shown during your playthrough can be found in case you skipped through them before but now wished you paid more attention. The Shop allows you to purchase outfits, snacks, music and Spirits with the gold that you have accumulated.
The challenges option has 8 panels pertaining to different modes in the game, each with their own set of challenges. Completing challenges can earn you outfits, gold, music and other things as well. In the Movies section you can rewatch cut-scenes from the game. To be fair, there aren’t many cut-scenes but at least you can still watch the few that the game does have.
That is all of the offline stuff, now to tackle online. Yes, that’s right, Super Smash Bros. comes with an online mode as well. You can choose to participate or spectate. If you choose to participate, you can choose between quick play which allows you to get straight into battle. Arena Mode lets players set up their own rooms and invite players to join you. You can also alter preferences as to whether you only want to play stock battles or timed or both.
Online play is certainly interesting to say the least. You really don’t know what kind of opponent you are going to fight and when you do, Internet stability can really make things difficult at times as well. To the point you can be booted out for poor connectivity. This has happened to me a few times but only between matches. I did experience a fair bit of lag as well mixed with my own inexperience of being able to play like some kind of Pro Smash Bros player. You can also earn a fair bit of gold coin through online battles and if you beat your opponents, you can acquire their Smash tag and in a pinch, you can sell that too. Those music tracks and Mii Fighter outfits are not going to buy themselves.
Well, now that gameplay and game modes is hopefully covered, there is much more I could talk about but we are already over 3300 words into this review. I think it is time to start wrapping it up before it becomes an online encyclopedia for the game. So let’s talk about controls and there is actually a fair amount of options. Firstly you can play on almost any compatible controller for Super Smash Bros Ultimate. You can play with a single Joy-Con, dual Joy-Con, Pro Controller, Wired Pro Controller, a Nintendo Switch Gamecube Controller, even the original GameCube controller (plus GameCube Adapter Accessory) is even compatible. It’s safe to say that there is a controller option for almost anyone, except for those that want to play Smash Bros Ultimate with the Poké Ball Plus (Sorry Folks).
As for the buttons themselves, there is quite a lot to explain so let’s try to make it as simple as possible because it is relatively complicated enough. Left Joystick controls fighter movement. A is your typical attack, B is special attacks, A quick flick of the joystick and A executes Special attacks. X is to jump, ZR is to block, R is to grab, the D-Pad buttons enable your fighter to do taunts. Depending on the angle of the Joystick when you do an attack can execute different attacks. This applies to both Standard, Special and Smash attacks. There is a Rock, Paper, Scissors element as well. Block protects you from most attacks, Grab can penetrate Blocks and attacks can nullify grabs. It is important to know when you should block, grab or attack as it will certainly aid you in fights against trickier opponents later.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is no doubt, THE best fighting game on the Nintendo Switch. Why any of you haven’t bought it already before reading this review is beyond me. If you were waiting for Christmas to pick this up or to gift this to someone, I will take that as an acceptable answer. I apologize if this review was much much longer than you anticipated, but an Ultimate game like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, needs an Ultimate review.
It is not perfect, there are still some things that people will pick at and will disagree with. Unlocking fighters through a painstakingly long process or playing through every possible mode going for a random appearance, only for a fighter you may not necessarily have wanted. Issues with online matchmaking or connectivity issues also make it hard for us to give Super Smash Bros Ultimate the perfect score but it is of the still worthy of being added to any Switch game library and will most definitely be a game that players will keep coming back to over and over again.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
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This post was written by Mike Scorpio