Super Smash Bros Ultimate is an amazing game. With every character in the history of the series returning plus hundreds of stages, a lengthy single player adventure game and tons of modes to get your teeth into, it’s well worth a buy.
Go get it now, and we wish you a Merry Christmas.
Oh, you say you want an actual review? That a couple of lines isn’t enough to sum it up?
Ah well, if you insist. Here’s why Super Smash Bros Ultimate is a great game, as well as a bit of discussion in regards to the various small things it does screw up. So if you’ve ready, let’s begin!
Note: Given the game’s been out a while now, there will be spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Starting with the graphics. Yeah, they look as good as you’d expect them too. After all, it’s Super Smash Bros we’re talking about. The games have always pushed the system they’re on to the limits in this department.
And Ultimate is no exception. From the character models to the stages and items, there really isn’t much in this game that looks dodgy or awkwardly done. Hell, it’s even got some nice Subspace Emissary esque cutscenes for World of Light to boast of:
Well, with one exception. The one place the visuals don’t quite hold up is in regards to the Spirits and their activities.
That’s because in this game, they’re not like trophies with original models. They’re like stickers from Brawl, with artwork taken directly from previous games.
Which in turn means the Spirits list is a pretty incohesive mess of visual styles that looks even more awkward where activities are involved. Want to see what looks like cardboard cutouts ‘training’ in a dojo? Or going on adventures in a forest or cave?
If so, you’re in luck, since that’s exactly what these activities do look like. Static pictures of Nintendo characters (and items, and vehicles, etc) going on silly looking quests and doing activities. We get what they were going for here, and it’s not completely awful, but… these static images don’t look very good doing these activities, and the random choices of Spirits chosen just makes it look all the more ridiculous.
Still, the rest of Spirits mode looks super spiffy. Seriously, give special props to the map designers, those guys did an amazing job with the overworld maps, and those look like something out of an art gallery in their vividness and detail. Just look at the Dark Realm with its scenery gorn, or the lovingly recreated Kongo Jungle from Donkey Kong Country 1 in HD, or Dracula’s Castle with all its twisted rooms and corridors. It’s all absolutely superb, and makes us wish we could print them out and hang them on the wall or something.
So graphics wise, it’s mostly really good, Spirit activities non withstanding. But what about the music? How does that hold up?
About as well as you’d expect really. Again, this is Super Smash Bros we’re talking about. A fantastic soundtrack brimming with incredible remixes is only par for the course here.
And in that, Super Smash Bros Ultimate 100% delivers. Donkey Kong Country gets some of the best remixes it’s had in years:
Castlevania gets kickass new versions of songs like Vampire Killer:
Zelda and Pokémon see their latest instalments get a crap ton of new remixes (Pokémon Sun and Moon and Zelda Breath of the Wild feature heavily in this game’s soundtrack)
Hell, even the original music is amazing too. From the vocal theme Lifelight to the fantastic overworld map themes and boss themes, the game’s soundtrack is as good as it could ever be, and makes for a fantastic CD tracklist for any Nintendo fan in history.
Literally too. You can use the game as a CD player as a menu option, in case merely using the sound test normally wasn’t enough here.
Hence again, Smash Bros Ultimate delivers in the sound department. But let’s face it, none of that matters, the gameplay does. If Smash Bros Ultimate can’t deliver there, these fancy aesthetics would all be for nothing.
Fear not though, since as expected, Super Smash Bros Ultimate is indeed a fantastic game, and a worthy successor to its great series. This is made most apparent by just how much of the past the game brings back, and how it expands on just about everything the series has done well before. You’ve got over 70 unique characters to play as, over a hundred stages, numerous items and assist trophies, more modes than you can shake a stick at and enough Spirits related content to keep you playing for hours to come. It’s insane just how much they crammed into this game card, or how well it all fits together overall.
Especially given that (contrary to our expectations), this is not merely Smash 4 with a paint job. The gameplay and mechanics are much better than before, with battles being significantly faster and more enjoyable to play than previous instalments, and characters all being balanced well enough that no one completely dominates the roster, at least not as of yet. You won’t see any Meta Knight type outclassing in this one!
And the game knows it, given how well it encourages you to try playing with every fighter. From the initial unlocks to Classic Mode and World of Light, the game is designed to be experienced with everyone, and the mechanics push them home hard. Heck, Squad Strike even exists specifically for that, with players not being able to choose the same character for more than one battle.
Still, let’s talk a bit more about each of the modes and what they’re like, shall we? Starting with Spirits itself, which we sort of hinted at back in the graphics section of the review.
Put simply, it’s Subspace Emissary meets Event Matches meets some sort of Pokémon style RPG. You’re Kirby, the sole survivor after a monster called Galeem wiped out every other character in the game and rebuild the universe in its own image.
And your purpose is to fight the clones this creature has made to free your friends and take him down. It’s a simple setup, but it basically results in battles against clones controlled by Spirits of other Nintendo characters killed in the attack. These in turn add conditions you have to work around, like special floor surfaces, random damage boosts, temporary invincibility or metal/giant shifts at various times. It’s a neat system, and it really does make you feel like you’re fighting against the character in question.
It’s also where the meat of the experience lies for people without friends, since World of Light… is ridiculously long. Like seriously, there are hundreds of battles here, all with unique conditions and setups. Think it was around 600 the last time we counted.
That’s crazy, and it’s not even all of the mode in of itself. No, the mode isn’t just a set of battles.
It’s a full blown mini RPG experience complete with detailed maps to explore (with puzzles you need specific Spirits to solve), levelling up, Spirits ‘evolving’ into more powerful forms and Spirits giving your abilities and effects that can be used in battle. The level of depth is insane, especially given it’s all basically a side story in a fighting game.
But it doesn’t end there either. No, this is also where new bosses come in, with various opponents from games past returning as more challenging battles with unique attacks and patterns. These include Ganon, Dracula, Marx, Galleom (from Brawl’s Subspace Emissary) and Rathalos to name but a few, and they all make for really fun battles overall.
And neither Spirits nor the bosses are limited to this mode either. Nope, the bosses also make an appearance in the redone Classic Mode too.
That’s cause unlike every other game, Classic Mode isn’t just a few fights with random fighters plus a bonus game and Master Hand. No, each fighter has their own story, with their own set of characters to fight and their own final boss at the end. This means you could be set fighting characters from the same Smash game as you, characters based on foes in your own series… hell, even special setups where every match is a stamina battle (for the Street Fighter characters on the roster). It’s a huge step up in interestingness here, and gives Classic Mode far more replay value than any prior instalment ever did.
Meanwhile the Spirits can also be fought on the Spirits Board, where random foes appear and can be fought under the same sort of conditions as the World of Light versions. It’s not as detailed as the single player by any means, but the existence of items does add a bit of uniqueness here, and some Spirits will only ever show up in this mode too.
However, said mode has its flaws too. Like the whole shield setup being more of an annoyance than a challenge.
This is because (unlike what you may think), you don’t just have to beat the Spirit to unlock it. No, you also have to blast it out of the fighter its possessing afterwards, avoiding a rotating forcefield in the process. This doesn’t seem like a huge issue at first (and for weaker fighters it isn’t), but eventually the shield gets so fast and the gaps so small that it’s inevitable you’ll need to beat the same fight multiple times to get a real shot at getting it. It’s annoying, and with the randomness of the mode, means you could be spending a very long time trying to unlock those infuriating Legend class Spirits.
And this random element definitely pervades through a fair few sections of this game. From Mii outfit to music and Spirits, everything from the shops to the Spirit Board goes by this gacha type system that will inevitably make it rather annoying to reach 100% completion across the board.
Extra modes are a bit of a mixed bag too. On the one hand, as said, World of Light, Classic Mode and the standard Smash options are great. They’ve got tons of options, huge amounts of replay value and enough content to keep you going for months.
However, not every part of the game gets the same level of care. For example, you know how Stadium used to hold various mini games in past Smash titles?
Yeah, that’s not the case here. Now it’s only
Multi Man SmashMob Smash, since Home Run Contest, Break the Targets, Target Blast, etc have been scrapped altogether. There are a few upsides to this (like how Mob Smash now lets you play All Stars mode there, or how you can choose any stage’s Battlefield form to fight on there), but it still makes us long for a bit of sandbag hitting and target breaking none the less.
Other modes haven’t exactly escaped unscathed either. In addition to Stadium getting a major slim down, quite a few other series staples have hit the cutting room floor too. These include trophies (and their descriptions), stage builder, Nintendo’s history/collection, Boss Battles, Event Matches/Master Orders/Crazy Orders and a few other minor ones too. That’s disappointing if you ask us.
Especially when it comes to Boss Battles. Because as we said, World of Light and Classic Mode are full of them. The game literally has more bosses in it than Brawl did.
So it only seems logical there’d be a mode devoted to refighting them in a convenient way. Alas, that doesn’t happen, and even World of Light itself doesn’t let you rechallenge most bosses on a completed file itself. Disappointing, given the obvious potential that was there.
Why can’t we fight Dracula at any time?
Online is a bit of a mixed bag too. On the one hand, being able to create Arenas and fight in Elite Battles based on your global Smash ranking is a good thing, as is being able to collect tags from defeated opponents.
At the same time though, the way some of this is implemented isn’t exactly ideal. For instance, changing your character in an arena means being booted to the back of the queue for the next match, whereas actually watching as a spectator means basically opting out of the next fight altogether. It’s annoying, and holds back an otherwise decent option.
Same goes for Nintendo’s baffling online infrastructure decisions too. From what we can tell, it’s again done with a peer to peer system rather than dedicated servers, which means lag is heavily dependent on everyone’s connections. Stuck against a player on a terrible modem?
Check out this two minute video of less than 4 seconds of actual gameplay pic.twitter.com/1mj66wMh78
— Joe Merrick (@JoeMerrick) 21 December 2018
As Serebii.net’s Joe Merrick found out the hard way…
Yeah, enjoy your 10 frames per second slideshow. That’s annoying, especially given that Nintendo Switch Online (which you need to be subscribed to in order to play online here) actually costs money to use. Couldn’t some of that have been spent on server infrastructure Nintendo? Like, just a tiny bit of it?
Still, questionable online capabilities aside, it’s best to reiterate that Ultimate is 100% the best Smash Bros game in terms of basic fighting options and settings.
And that’s because virtually every single handy feature and quality of life improvement fans have ever wanted for the series is here and present. Want to set up special conditions like everyone being metal or giant? Go for it. Feel like Final Smashes should be based on a meter rather than item, akin to traditional fighting game charge attacks? Your choice.
Stage hazards, stage morphing, whether losers get damage boosts, if scores are shown, what stages and types of stages appear in random selections… virtually everything you can imagine is 100% customisable here. Oh, and can be saved afterwards, ready to be selected in one click for every future session. The level of control the game gives you is just incredible, and it makes Ultimate ideal for everyone from the most casual of gamers to tournaments and the eSports scene.
All in all, it’s a great game, and (online issues and minor niggles aside), definitely the best in the series for what it offers.
As for how long it lasts… well that depends exactly what kind of gamer you are and what your preferences are here.
For someone who likes World of Light, that will give you about 20-30 hours’ worth of entertainment, depending on how good you are and what difficulty level you choose. It was about 17 hours for us, if that provides a useful marker to go on.
Classic Mode will then add another 10 hours or so, if you play through every character’s campaign. Probably a tad more if you’re trying for challenges like beating 9.9 intensity.
Collecting all the Spirits… well that’s another thing entirely. Given they’re random and take a lot of grinding to level up, we’d say you could add another 20-30 hours there easily, especially if Lady Luck isn’t on your side very much.
And then the Stadium stuff would probably be good for another 5 hours too. Not as much as the others, but enough of a diversion for a rainy day.
So for a single player fan, there could be between 50 and 80 hours of gameplay in this thing, even if you never touch a normal vs match in your life.
But let’s face it, that would never happen. There’s no one on the planet who’d ever play a Smash game without playing any vs matches.
And that’s where the meat of your time will be spent. As we mentioned, the level of customisation here is off the charts, and online only adds more replay on top of that. You can easily get hundreds of hours of this game’s standard vs matches, and that will go up significantly based on your friends group, tournament interests, etc.
Add to this the increase in difficulty over the past games (even some of the challenger approaching battles are just brutal now), and you’ve got a game that’ll keep you playing for weeks or months to come.
What more do you want?
All in all, Super Smash Bros Ultimate is an amazing game, and one that’s well worth the buy if you’ve got a Nintendo Switch. It’s not perfect, and it could do with a few more single player modes, but with the largest set of characters and stages in series history, tons of single player content in World of Light and every form of customisation option you can imagine it’s a must have for anyone interested in Smash or Nintendo as a whole.