Since Smash Bros. debuted on the N64, it’s been heralded as one of the greatest brawlers in the genre. With consistently solid sequels spanning the majority of Nintendo’s consoles, Smash has remained a core pillar within the Nintendo family. So how does Super Smash Bros. Ultimate stand up against its predecessors?
The short answer is that the newest installment far exceeds expectations, but this title is far more than just a collection of every Smash character ever introduced. Put simply this is easily the “ultimate package” for any Smash fan, with a surprising amount of content, unlockables, and more, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate delivers on pretty much every front, while it’s minor stumblings do little to hold it back from being a truly impressive iteration into the Smash Bros. franchise.
The word “Ultimate” is a great adjective for the newest addition to the Smash Bros. Universe. Aside from assembling every Smash character ever into one title, the shear scope of this game can be daunting, especially for a brawler. The World Of Light Mode alone, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate single player campaign, takes anywhere from 30-40 hours to finish, especially if you’re trying to collect every spirit, but we’ll dive into that a bit later.
Smash Classic mode returns and lets you take a character of your choosing through a specific themed run against enemies from their franchise. This is by far the fastest way to unlock characters. After 10-15 minutes a new challenger approaches. Beating them rewards you with their spirit and lets you use them everywhere but the World Of Light Mode. What is interesting is that while you can’t earn them to play with in World Of Light Mode, unlocking a character through World Of Light Mode unlocks them for all other modes in the game.
Tournament mode is still here as well, and it lets you pit up to 32 players or CPU characters against each other, each fighting to become number one. To make things even more interesting, Tourney mode comes with four different bracket types, and every format can be completely tailored to your preferred setup.
Squad Strike is a 3v3 or 5v5 match that comes in three variants. Tag Team essentially turns Super Smash Bros. Ultimate into something any Marvel vs Capcom fan will recognize. You fight with your primary character until they are knocked out and then your next character is thrown in. Unfortunately, there is no option to tag in other team members, but hopefully, they’ll recognize the potential for that in the future.
Elimination is essentially the same as Tag Team with one difference; once a character is beat, a new stage is selected before fighting the next one and lastly, Best Of sees your entire team going up against an opponent from the order you choose to fight them in, and whoever wins three out of the five rounds is named the victor.
Custom Smash mode delivers a truly crazy twist to brawls. Modifiers rule this mode, with the ability to implement some wild adjustments that will make for some interesting showdowns. In Custom Smash you can alter things like overall character size (giant or mini), head modifiers, body styles (metal, invisible, back shields etc.), statuses (i.e. Curry), character weight, speed, and camera angles. If a regular 4 or 8 person smash match wasn’t crazy enough for you, Custom Smash is where you’ll get your fix.
Smashdown is a very interesting version that doesn’t let you recycle characters after they’ve been used. You work your way through the roster, once a character is used (by you or the computer) they can’t be used again. You can alter the number of battles, the style of the fight (stock or timed), and even implement a “Mercy Rule” which ends the fight when a comeback is impossible. Smashdown is a fantastic “trial by fire” mode that is great for experimenting with characters outside of your comfort zone. How far can you get through the roster?
Super Sudden Death returns to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as well. Every player starts at 300% and all out hell breaks loose from there. Smash attacks being spammed, players rocketing off screen, avoid attacks and be the last one standing, this mode never gets old.
Training Mode is still here, but with a few welcome adjustments. Not only can you take any character in here to learn their move-sets, but certain variations can be turned on for those looking to get the most out of practicing with their favorites. You can bring in as many or as few opponents as you like and control their levels and how often (if at all) they attack you, if you feel like practicing shielding or perfect blocks. Training mode is the perfect place to hone your skills with unfamiliar characters. Gauges on the side of the screen show you how much damage a specific attack does, how much a combo does, and a total damage output is there for good measure.
My favorite tweak to training mode though is the ability to see how high and how far you can launch enemy players. While this might seem unnecessarily specific for some, the hardcore competitive players will absolutely utilize this tool.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate also brings in a Mob Smash mode that has three variations to it as well. Century Smash pits you against 100 enemies and keeps track of the time it takes you to take them out. All-Star Smash returns for Ultimate as well and tests how far you can make it through the games entire roster before your inevitable demise. Lastly, Cruel Smash is exactly what the title implies. Cruel Smash is Century Smash on steroids and it takes those 100 fighters and maxes out their levels, the result? An unrelenting punishment that will truly test your skills as a Smash player.
The real gem of this entire game though, in my opinion anyway, is Adventure Mode. As stated above, Adventure Mode, or “World of Light”, is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate single player campaign mode, that delivers over 30 hours of content. As seen in the cinematic released prior to the game’s launch, Kirby is the only surviving character from Galeem’s beams of light. Starting as Kirby, you must fight your way through hundreds of spirits that have possessed shells of your former comrades. As you defeat spirits you gain them to help you in your fight against Galeem.
World of Light sees you exploring a humongous map that contains hundreds of spirits from any and every Nintendo game ever made. These spirits can be utilized to upgrade your character and increase their power. There are four types of spirits, three of which form a triangle of sorts, in regards to weaknesses and strengths. Red is strength, blue is shield, green is grapple and it falls on you to decide which to use to overcome your adversaries. Red is strong against green but weak to blue, blue is strong against red, but weak to green, and green is strong against blue but weak to red. The fourth variant is a neutral element, with power that can rival the other three, this class just doesn’t have any weaknesses or strengths and serves as a flat increase in power.
On top of that, spirits themselves can be enhanced in a number of ways. Each spirit starts at level 1 and can be increased to level 99. While most spirits max out here, some spirits can be “evolved” or enhanced. Enhancing these spirits is a no-brainer, and while it leaves them back at level one, their base power is exponentially higher than their pre-evolved counterpart. Leveling these enhanced spirits up to their max will make a huge difference when taking on World of Light’s tougher opponents.
Adding to this customization is another group of spirits that can be used to enhance the power of your main spirits. We’ll refer to these as “sub-spirits” for the sake of clarity and confusion. While initially these sub-spirits can be used to simply increase the power of your main spirits, they have a higher purpose.
Throughout your time in World of Light, you will encounter enemies that have a multitude of modifiers and de-buffs that inevitably make the ensuing match more difficult. These can range anywhere from the floor being lava to your opponent having increased health, strength, defense, etc. This is where the sub-spirits come in. While some plainly increase the primary spirit’s power, others have modifiers that counter the de-buffs of a match. About to fight an enemy in a stage covered by fog? Equip Snorlax to clear the stage. Can your adversary launch you more easily than normal? No worries! Equip either Regigigas, Walhart, or Polar Bear and you’ll never have to worry about being launched off a stage again. The caveat here is that while you are extremely hard to make flinch or be launched off, your movement speed is extremely reduced, but trust me, it’s worth it.
This leads to another point (or two). Most spirits in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate can help you, but some come with a price. Generally, the better the spirit the better the odds that while it will help you, it also might hinder you in some way. On top of this, as I just mentioned, there can be multiple spirits that grant the same perks. While this might seem redundant, there is a purpose behind it. In order to get some truly powerful spirits, the only way to get them is by summoning them.
In order to summon, something must be sacrificed, and in case you aren’t picking up what I’m putting down, that means a sub-spirit. Specific sub-spirits can be combined to create more powerful spirits that can seriously alter the tide of a fight. The aforementioned Polar Bear is one of these summon-able spirits. While you can simply go into the summoning screen and start sacrificing spirits at your leisure, you can also dismiss them to gain their orbs, which in turn serve the same purpose. Honestly, the dismiss option feels like an unnecessary extra step, but nevertheless, the result is the same.
The size and time it takes to complete World of Light will certainly turn some players off. Personally, having grown up with “grindy” games like Final Fantasy and Pokemon, the grind of working your way through a map stuffed with enemies to fight and new characters to earn is something I’ve come to miss in video games today. While attaining all 72 characters is certainly time-consuming, the feeling of accomplishment is euphoric.
That being said, the encounters in between these character battles absolutely could have been trimmed down. They could have given us half of the spirit battles on the map and the campaign still would have felt dense. You aren’t required to fight every spirit, and the map sometimes gives you less congested, alternate routes, but there will absolutely be areas that just feel like there is too much standing between you and that next unlockable fighter.
Within this gigantic world map are dungeons that house special characters, items, and, the coolest part of the campaign, bosses. At the end of a dungeon is a special fight that sees you go up against some fantastic Nintendo characters in a one on one, no holds barred fight to the death. These fights are stamina fights requiring you to take your opponents HP to zero before they can do the same to you. The fights retain the structure of the classic Master/Crazy Hand fights from past entries but are by far much more difficult. For the sake of spoilers I won’t reveal who these bosses are, but if you’re a fan of Nintendo games, you’ll absolutely recognize at least a couple.
The wildest part is the sheer size of this mode. Again, for the sake of spoilers I won’t reveal much, but what I will say is this. Just when you think you’re done, you’re thrown a curve ball, and well, the story continues. Again, World of Light will most likely have some players that just get bored with it, or feel overwhelmed by its size. To be fair, that is completely understandable, however, World of Light delivers a rewarding, worthwhile experience that should not be passed up, even if you don’t finish it.
In addition, for those feeling like it’s unfair in terms of having to fight your way to your favorite characters, World of Light is just one way to unlock them. For those wishing to get their hands on everyone, I recommend Classic Mode, as it’s the fastest way to earn characters. Not to mention, the only place you can’t use those unlocked fighters is in World of Light, worst case, you end up unlocking them twice.
Each character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has a set route in which you fight a specific order of characters. Playing with each character lets you unlock others, and playing the unlocked characters unlocks even more, and so on. What’s nice is that even if you’re playing through Classic Mode with a character you’re not too familiar with, going into the fight and losing doesn’t mean they’re gone forever. If you go into the “Games and More” tab, after losing to a new challenger, there is a small double doors icon in the bottom right corner that will let you fight that new challenger again, and this time you can choose a fighter you’re more comfortable with.
The biggest issue with the game comes from the multiplayer aspect. For whatever reason, the online issues with matchmaking continue to plague the game, but it does little to hinder your experience. Another minor issue is when playing in handheld mode, sometimes it is hard to see where your character is. With everything going on on screen, between multiple fighters, particle effects, and so on, characters can sometimes be hard to track. It didn’t happen often, but basically, some stages are more camera-friendly than others.
Lastly, while the game offers over 100 stages to fight across, only a handful of them are new to the series. Having said that, seeing classic N64 or Gamecube stages re-imagined for current generation hardware will absolutely leave you feeling nostalgic. It just would’ve been nice to see a few more fresh ideas implemented here.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is exactly what the name implies; it is the “ultimate package” for any and every Smash Bros. fan. While the World of Light mode offers enough content itself, there is plenty here to keep players busy long after that is done. While smaller modes like timed target-breaking trials didn’t make it into this version, there are countless other ways to spend your time here, be it with friends or by yourself. Nintendo is going to have big shoes to fill with the next Smash Bros, because this title has everything a fan could ever want, and then some.