Hey, every single other fighting game, do you want to see why Super Smash Brothers Ultimate is going to outsell you 10 or 20 to 1? The same reasons as Melee, Brawl, and the Wii U and 3DS landings that brought us to this point. Allow me to demonstrate.
There are the pros playing Super Smash Brothers:
Now me – somewhere between the other two:
Now here’s a random person just walking by:
Even before it was the video game equivalent of the Lego Movie franchise, Super Smash Brothers was The Avengers of Nintendo. It rumbles across an increasing number of gaming landscapes and has already conquered the spectrum of “getting gud” to “fite me”. For years and years has this been the case and with Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, there does legitimately seem like nowhere else to go from here.
The roster is almost comprehensive of Nintendo’s highlighted library of first and second party games, which is staggering to consider. Once everything is said and done, there will be 75 fighters to experiment with in a genre that has become more notorious for squeezing content through a smaller drip hole. There is no other roster this side of Suikoden II that can compete with what Bandai Namco and the charismatic Masahiro Sakurai have accomplished here as far as a collective history of most of gaming’s most iconic characters.
Even if I walk down the pier built by those that aren’t impressed with that number on face value alone, I can only walk so far. A common complaint revolves around Fire Emblem and Pokemon together taking up a fifth of the roster and that those slots could go to other series. The missing link in that argument is the fact that there are emotional connections to each of these separate iterations, not to mention how their skill sets vary from user to user. There’s also just never going to be the roster that makes everyone everywhere happy. That’s just a pill everyone should swallow together, and then be happy about it, damn you!
Of that total number, 15 are (or will be) brand spanking new with the rest comprising every character that’s ever graced Smash. The new faces are all welcome with differing approaches, including some drastically-needed midrange pressure from the likes of Simon and Richter. Inkling and Ken bring some fun speed-and-sprint style while Ridley and King K-Rool offer subtle changes on the big-boy game. What’s interesting amongst the abundant tweaks is that the previously undervalued heavy category has become a force. There’s less lag in their big punches and kicks and their shields can keep prey in front of them, creating troublesome grab combos.
I don’t know if the overall balance has really shifted to that side of pendulum for everyone, but Super Smash Brothers Ultimate does undoubtedly feel like a more even playing field for all. Sakurai has often seemed to over-tool balancing that buried characters like Fox and Meta Knight for a time. While that should encourage users like me to transfer talents to another fighter and expand horizons, I ain’t got time for that sh*t. My approach has always been to master a single fighter and with my drying eyes and terrible reflexes, that becomes more of an issue every day. Especially if I don’t have my vita-gummies.
Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, as a result, has my utmost appreciation for having the smoothest landing in terms of balance so far.
My only waffle has to do with Incineroar and his insanely wide range of potential damage. His side-A attack, I kid you not, can go from about 8 percent to over 60 in damage given. He’s a sloth in nearly every aspect, so in some respects, this move saves him from the cellar, but he’s a one-trick inclusion. I’d prefer more of an Ganondorf approach with a more devastating set of moves instead of just one insanely powerful, short-burst attack.
Content overfloweth elsewhere with over 10 modes to give into. Classic Mode is back with individual, contextually-imaginative stories. Luigi’s path through could be a vision of terror as he faces dinosaurs and any tangentially spectral enemies, including an original boss of Dracula himself. Fox, meanwhile, is tasked with taking on space-faring foes that end in a familiar duo of evil hands. This is a surprising highlight for how much effort went into considering the strongest thread of each and every character’s journey. Sakurai and his team, you get the sense, could feel the fatigue of this mode. Yet, here they are proving again that imagination and care still rule the day.
Spirit Mode and Spirits in general serve as a whole new set of unlockable characters in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. There are over 1200 character spirits in 2D sticker form that encompass the majority of series that have every freaking existed. Every face and shape grants your character some sort of power level or boost as a primary or secondary helper. Their strength is dependant upon level and engrained ability. That means that your level one Sky Guy that gives you a mushroom at the start of a match isn’t going to be a mainstay. Then again, a Ganondorf primary that powers-up considerably at level 99 certainly could be. Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, as a result, feels like the deepest smash of them all.
World of Light piggybacks off that mechanic inside of a massive, 30+ hour hunt to conquer and collect. As you travel and collect more spirits and roster candidates, you’ll face situations where your favorite primary spirit is at a disadvantage. That triangle involves Attack, Defense, and Grab with the next one stumping the previous. Even with a huge power boost, it can be daunting to enter a fight with that seesaw tilted. You’ll simply want to keep your eyes open for opportunities to switch out and nullify certain effects…like all of the effects.
Some matches are tilted towards the impossible because of those effects. The Dr. Wily spirit, I seeringly remember, involves 8 metal Mega Man fighters and a Dr. Mario that always runs. Your mission? Kill the doctor. There are some very specific spirits that counter both conditions, but the first try against this and others will surely feel disheartening. Of course, this encourages not only exploration for spirits but your main character as well so any loss of spirit (teehee) always felt temporary.
As you may have perceived in that example, Sakurai and crew have used that vaunted imagination in World of Light as well. The inherent flexibility and inclusiveness of Super Smash Brothers Ultimate gives the team a massive toolset. Fighting for a Metal Gear Ray Spirit might see you facing down a gray Ridley with metal powers as a facsimile. As far as toeing the design line goes, this entire concept is a masterwork of nostalgia and engaging audience intelligence that is wholly unique to this entry.
Online is not only bass-ackwards but not quite as feature-filled as the standard game. For the first time, Nintendo has online capabilities behind a paywall. That can inject a lot of righteous indignation into those that are paying over $100 for their online Smash experience to work perfectly. I’ve not been dropped from matches but hiccups and lag have been crippling on more than one occasion. It also has to be said that the online suite feels needlessly complicated to invite friends into a fray, not unlike…jesus, any Nintendo online game. You have to create an Arena, privatize it, send the friend a code – and for what? To just do things the Nintendo way, I suppose.
I’m also not a fan of how the Elite Mode is locked without a clear bar of how to get inside. Nintendo has said that your GSP has to be really high in order to receive an invite, but the bar seems to be continually moving. It wouldn’t bother me if I was the worst Smash player that’s ever smashed. It certainly does bother me that I have no way of knowing how I rank at all or where the bar to unlock a hidden mode is teasing me from.
To be a Fair Freddy, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate does make it feel pretty simple to navigate custom rules for both online and offline play. You can basically make the match however you want to make it with any stages and any music you want to hear. No Pokeballs on Pokemon Stadium Omega? Done, simple. You can even save them for easy pickings later, including in tournament format if you’re nasty. This is the most customizable fighting game I’ve ever seen, which it sort of had to be given how many crowds Bandai is attempting to please at once.
This is very likely to go down as one of the best multiplayer series of all time. Super Smash brothers Ultimate, for now, sits at the top of the spear as emperor of entertainment for the entry-level and postgraduate smasher alike. Nintendo has helped make this a game where the formula may never feel old, even as the generations come and go. So much about Super Smash Brothers Ultimate already feels timeless, even as the contextual blips drag it down for the time being.
I wouldn’t fret too much through. I have a feeling Sakurai will keep this good will train rolling straight into the unknown future.
Super Smash Brothers Ultimate Score: