‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ Review: (Mostly) Smashing Good Fun

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To say anticipation has surrounded Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the understatement of the century. The acclaimed franchise takes the gaming world by storm with each and every entry, and this latest iteration aims to top its predecessors. “Everyone is here!” – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s battle cry bellows, rallying its scopious cast under one roof. From Mario to Mewtwo, Snake to Sonic, and Bayonetta to Bowser Jr. – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate dons all seventy-plus old and new characters, hence the ‘ultimate’ bit of its name.

So is it the best in class, or a hodgepodge of quantity over quality?

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a fighting fiesta of Nintendo’s all-stars, mingled with some guests for good measure (on that note, Joker from Persona 5 is on his way as DLC? How crazy-cool is that?!). Fighting is fast, weighty, and responsive, and smash attacks being hold-able for longer is a welcome alteration. Newcomers like Inkling and Ridley fit flawlessly, and the breadth of stages is satisfyingly staggering (over one hundred!). And speaking of stages, the new Stage Morph feature is a highlight, changing from one stage to another mid-battle. There is a lot to sink one’s teeth into, so kicking back with friends for some multiplayer won’t get boring.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s beating heart is its fighting.

Unfortunately, get ready to tell those friends “Hang on, let me sort these rules out”. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate makes drastic changes to menu mechanics, sacrificing simplicity in favor of clunky complexity. Rather than tweaking rules on the fly from the character selection screen, rulesets must be pre-customized and saved in advance. It’s convoluted, and results in something as straightforward as adding another stock being tedious.

(Also, selecting a stage prior to choosing a character just feels wrong, period.)

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Outside of standard smash, there’s an abundance of modes. Squad Strike, Tourney, Special Smash, Classic Mode, Training, Mob Smash, Mii Fighter customization, Adventure, Spirit Board, Collection, Sounds, Replays, Records, Challenges, Tips, Movies, Shop, Online… *pant* did I miss anything? Oh, there’s some amiibo stuff too. It’s mostly a blast, with Squad Strike serving up tremendous tag team fighting, and Classic Mode offering unique twists for each character, but the absence of fan favorites like Break the Targets and Home Run Contest doesn’t go unnoticed, and the loss of Stage Builder is disheartening due to its unrealized potential. Although underdeveloped in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, things could only get better had Stage Builder taken influence from Super Mario Maker’s huge scope and oodles of options.

Despite its successes, there’s something missing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s oddball secret weapon is its adventure mode: World of Light. In it, players peruse a massive map and fight opponents with quirky parameters at play. Earthquakes, reversed controls, uncontrollable speed – World of Light mirrors the variables of past titles’ Event Matches. Success nets players Spirits (of which there are many to collect), powering them up. It’s fun at first, but here’s the catch: it’s reeeaaallllllyyy long. However enjoyable Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is at its core, World of Light is spread too thinly. Unlike Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s Subspace Emissary, with its multifarious gameplay and dazzling cutscenes, World of Light is just battle after battle, an exercise in monotony, with only the rare boss offering respite from the repetition.

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Despite its successes, there’s something missing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Perhaps this is best explained with an analogy, so let’s imagine the Super Smash Bros. games are records from a band:

Super Smash Bros. 64 is the killer debut. It’s humble in scope, but lays strong foundations for the future.

Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl are superb follow-ups. They honour the band’s trademark sound, whilst simultaneously propelling said sound forward via successful experiments in songwriting.

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U is a respectable forth record, but it lacks the innovative ambition of its predecessors. It’s a great listen, but a bit forgettable.

Finally, we come to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It’s the long-awaited greatest hits compilation, and whilst it sounds just as good as ever, something’s off. Some of the band’s standout singles aren’t included, and track five, World of Light, is utterly disappointing.

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After listening, you write a review discussing your experience and perspective, conscious that the band’s fans will be livid at you for criticizing this acclaimed greatest hits compilation. But hold your horses and put down your pitchforks, because criticisms aside…

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s beating heart is its fighting, and in this category, it scores top marks. The gargantuan character and stage roster is mind-bogglingly magical, and there’re some awesome new modes and features like the aforementioned Squad Strike and Stage Morph. Yes, aspects of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate leave something to be desired (*cough* World of Light *cough*), and more innovation would’ve been welcome, but when all is said and done, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is unrivaled as a pickup and play beat ’em up. It’s the most fun one can have with friends, and a roaring celebration of all things Nintendo.

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7 comments

Alex Aldridge December 11, 2018 at 6:29 am

Although it can be incredibly frustrating, I really like the World of Light mode. Although more cutscenes are desperately needed. Worse still, I wish they could have written even just a little bit of lore for each spirit. I get that they didn’t want to make 3D models for everything, but I’d still like some kind of blurb for each spirit I unlock. On the mode itself, what would you want to see in future modes? Realistically, nothing in this game is ever going to deviate from the standard formula, so are you expecting different gameplay? The mode feels like they got a team to basically brainstorm as many possible variants on standard smash as possible, and the spirit-leveling is really fun IMO.

I wish I knew more people to play this with, as it’s only going to be a single player/online game for me, and I’m not sure how long that’ll last. It’s also impossible to play well in handheld mode, which is a real shame. Great review, dude.

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Harry Morris December 11, 2018 at 4:45 pm

I enjoyed World of Light at first, but it doesn’t take long to become too repetitive for its own good. I agree that Spirit blurbs would have been a good feature, along with added variation to World of Light (more boss battles, platforming stages, break the targets etc.) to mix things up, taking influence from Melee’s Adventure Mode and Brawl’s Subspace Emissary.

The single player mileage is limited unfortunately, but this is true with nearly all fighting games. I’m glad you liked my review, thanks so much! 😀

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