The announcement of a new Super Smash Bros game is always going to set people off and for good reason, they are well crafted and the best at fan-service. But does the Ultimate version of the game live up to its name?
As many players have heard over the months leading up to the games release, every character that has been released in games past is here now, meaning that you can relive some classic matches from years gone by. While the game starts you out with only the original 8, you can unlock most characters quite easily, by competing in one of the many modes that the game offers and given the sheer number of characters available, you unlock them pretty consistently. The main modes can be broken into one of four, Smash, for those that just want to fight, Spirits, the games single player experience, Online, for those that want to go online and Classic, perfect for those looking for a more structured experience.
Smash is where I went first, because it is the best way to just play the game, the menu event selects it as the default choice and getting into a match is simple, you select your stage and then fighter of choice. While the developers have insisted that the swap to this way of doing things, means you can pick the best fighter for the stage, as I only ever really use one or two fighters, I saw nothing that made me think It was better. Just different. Selecting your character is the same, you drop your token on the picture of the one you want, adding CPU fighters is easy and same deal if you want to select a character for them and once done, it was time to fight. Perhaps the actual biggest change to the game here, is that you can select from a few rule pre-sets or make your own, before the stage selection, meaning that you can craft your own blend of favourites, before you even begin to select the stage.
Those looking for a new experience can jump into World of Light, which is the games single player adventure and after watching that amazing cutscene again, it was time to begin. The map that you get to explore is covered in dense fog, with only your immediate surroundings visible, the quest to save everyone begins with a simple fight, however things don’t remain that way for long. The big draw to this mode is how the game simulates fights with characters from across many Nintendo games and more, by assigning a spirit to a fighter. The spirit will have an effect, how it plays out depends on the spirits, some of them favour spamming out down specials, others have their health heal over time, looking at you Sakura/Isabel. Because the spirit effects are constantly changing, you also need to adapt your attack, which is you’re your spirit squad comes in.
Before you enter a fight, you are given the chance to change up your main spirit, as well as any secondary that can fit, changing to suit the upcoming battle is something you must do, unless you want a real challenge. The game will let you know, should your currently set squad, not meet expectations of a fair fight, giving you a chance to adjust your choices, if you want, you can ignore it and fight on anyway. Even making sure your square and are on even ground with what the game is throwing at you, is sometimes not enough and while some battles are quite tame, others require a lot of patience in order to complete. Some will have the ground covered in a sticky substance, which just slows you down, if you happen to land in it, where as others with constantly increase the gravity, which reduces your jumping height each time. As you play through though, and unlock more Spirits, your team will grow more and more, hit on the right squad and you can cancel out a bad effect, making the fight far more even, but be warned, if you are too strong for a battle, the game will hold back on the rewards.
As you complete a battle, you will get a host of rewards, usually including the spirit you just fought, as well as items you can use to upgrade your spirit or yourself. There is where the micro game comes in, learning where to best spend your hard-earned goods, in order to make yourself as powerful as you can. Some upgrades you can get for yourself offer a reduced count in air hang time or something else and while I did not get to invested in it, there is a lot of potential for people to lose themselves in just how deep it is. Your spirits though, are another matter, because you are constantly needing to swap main spirits at, you will always be levelling them up and unless you want to use a specific spirit the whole way through, spending time levelling up just one is a little pointless.
There are a few issues here though, the first is the game is a little unbalanced, there are some fights, when the game makes you readjust your squad, only to knock the enemy out of the fight within seconds and others take countless attempts. There were times that I spent ages, getting the right squad for a fight, only to be defeated, over and over and then just randomly the enemy fell to their deaths, which made me rage. Another issue is the dungeons and gym, giving you a chance to level up your spirits, without you doing a lot of anything, for dungeons, you send a group of up to 4 spirits on a journey and taking inspiration from mobile games, it takes a set number of real-world hours to complete. While neither are issues are too annoying, it just reeks of cheap design and weakens the impact that Spirits offer.
If World of Light is a little to in-depth for you, then you can head to the games and more section and just enjoy the games classic mode, where you pick a character and them select your challenge level. If you start out easy and begin to dominate the game, the difficulty will ramp up considerably, if you lose, it lowers, so picking a level that will challenge you, but not destroy you is important. What is nice is that each character has their own themed path to follow, if you take Link as your character, the final battle will have you fight Ganon, where as Mario will face off against Bowser. As each character has their own path, playing through as each character is something you should attempt to do, not only will it give you a cool theme, but it will give you the chance to play as a character you might not normally use.
Online, for lack of a better word is just Smash, but with someone not in the room with you, there are a host of options, that let you select your rule preference and such, which will help you find like-minded players, but about the same. Tourney, is all about taking the fight online, to see who the better fighter is around, I hope that this mode is used a lot more in the future, but for now, I was not able to find one I wanted to compete in. Playing a regular match though, was super easy, simply joining a lobby, it took only seconds to find other people to play with and while I was winning as much as I was losing, it was fast, lag-free and just as fun as local Smash. The other mode that I found to be fun, was Smashdown, requiring you to pick a new fighter each round, until they were all gone, the more fighters you have unlocked, the longer the mode can go for, it was something different that I quite enjoyed.
Once aspect about the game that I had a hard time faulting was the presentation, I spent most of my time playing in handheld mode, which was perfect for me, the upside to this is that I could Smash wherever I was and while I was prepared to take a hit on performance for that, but I was left waiting as the game ran smooth the entire time. There is no denying that the game is gorgeous, I was a little worried coming in, that it would be nothing more than a slightly better-looking Wii U game, but I was wrong, there are more details in one single stage than in multiple in the previous game. The characters themselves look amazing, the amount of detail on the overalls that Mario wears is a good indicator for just how much better the game looks, but its not just that, the menu is much more organised this time around, the stages look great as well, it just shines with so much polish on it.
The audio is perhaps the only part that exceeds the visuals, it is amazing just how much audio is packed into this game, not only do we get to listen to the tracks we have come to know from the included series, but there is so much more. Being able to customise a soundtrack for your listening pleasure is great and all, but it’s the attention that I love, not only do we get the original tracks, but for a lot of them, we get remixes that sound incredible. There is something about hearing both versions of the tracks, to help remind us how games have evolved over the years and if you want something a little crazy, you can jump in and play around with noises, including the announcer voice.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate is by its very name the ultimate version of the game, its roster is stacked already, and we have six more fighters to come, and of course the stages and music to match. The amount of modes will cover every player combination, with World of Light offering up dozens upon dozens of hours for those who want to invest in the game like nothing else. Smash is still great, but with custom rules that can be applied with ease, means that getting into a match is easier than ever.