There has never been a crossover fighting game series quite like Super Smash Bros., and there may never be another one like it. Coming from this, it’s understandable that the stakes are high with Nintendo’s latest in the mascot brawling franchise, and that expectations are equally as high. While the core formula has remained mostly the same over the years, small changes and additions have been made in the hopes of pleasing both the hardcore and the casual players. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate turns everything up to eleven and is bursting at the seams in terms of content. Does this entry hold up? Can longtime fans expect a worthwhile amount of content? Read on to find out how seriously impressive this game really is.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Developer: Bandai Namco, Sora Ltd.
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
Release Date: December 7th, 2018
Players: 1-8 Players
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate looks better than any of its predecessors, and the overall visual feel of the game is massively improved. All of the included characters, levels, effects, items, and so on are styled just right so that all of the wildly different franchises all somehow fit together thematically. It’s a technical marvel that is seriously astonishing, even moreso than before.
In my time playing the game through all of its available modes and in all of the different playstyles for the Switch itself, the game kept humming along regardless of how much was going on in game. The game runs like a dream, and everything has just the right amount of polish to really shine and stand out, even amidst the mayhem and explosions.
I was particularly happy with how good the brief zoom in and cut in effects feel when you land a powerful attack on a heavily damaged foe. This, combined with the spectacular visuals, really adds another layer of satisfaction to a game where practically anyone has a favorite character, and naturally wants their character to shine the most.
While the Super Smash Bros. franchise has existed in an odd middle-ground between hardcore professional tournament mechanics and casual, couch co-op fun, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate really has changed things up. I’d say the game is still just as easy to get into, however, there is a noticeable shift to make the game more competitive-level ready.
Maneuverability and overall mechanics in Ultimate feel greatly refined and snappier. This is noticed in the reduction or elimination of arbitrary lag, the adding of dash canceling and reverse dash canceling, enabling players to instantly use a technique from a full dash, and so on. Characters move and fight better and more responsively than ever before, and that’s wonderful.
One of the worst and one of the few bad design mechanics from Super Smash Bros., tripping, thankfully isn’t in this game. You can also now easily do quick bunny hops and even combine them with a short foxtrot like attack. Directional air dodging is also back, however it does have a bit of a penalty lag. All in all, this feels like the best-playing Super Smash Bros. since SSB Melee.
There have been improvements to overall housekeeping in matches as well, like final smash techniques being shorter and less obnoxious – as well as more indicators like total KO’s from a particular character when they’re knocked out. Timed matches will even highlight the player(s) with the most KO’s. Characters with consumable abilities even have indicators shown.
All of the included characters have their own quirks and benefits, and it’s a genuinely rewarding experience to unlock all of the characters. There’s a sense of real accomplishment with grabbing all of the unlockables in this game, and experimenting with each fighter. A game like this shouldn’t be possible, but it defies any doubts I had. There’s too much to mention in one sitting.
Ultimate comes with a massive story mode called the “World of Light.” This new mode has you unraveling the mysteries behind a new existential threat, unlock trapped fighters and spirits, and continually level up or swap out fighter spirits for different bonuses. It’s a robust and fun alternative to classic mode, which also returns, and regular old matches. I did have some gripes, though.
Some of the matches in World of Light are downright silly and had me raging at the random factor Super Smash Bros. is known for. Each match in World of Light has modifiers, and some of them require some really corny playstyle, or a lot of luck. Some matches have AI endlessly puking fire or explosions, or both, combined with environmental hazards.
Online play is also included, and it changes things up quite a bit as well. The previous Super Smash Bros. gave you options to search either competitive or casual matches – Ultimate has you searching with filters to find your ideal match. These filters don’t really work right now unfortunately, and it’s quite frustrating. If you just want a free-for-all brawl, then it’s totally okay.
Netcode tends to be a mixed bag, with users running on a really slow connection dragging the entire match down. If you hop into quickplay for a regular free-for-all, queuing tends to not take too long. Applying those filters though, and you might be waiting minutes. Also, there seems to be no easy way to partner up with friends online, which is a real bummer.
As you beat other players online, you’ll increase your Global Smash Power, and that number is tied to each particular character. I think the lack of robust online features with the Switch itself, coupled with the online issues for Ultimate, can hold back this game from truly being a modern and online competitive fighter. Hopefully these issues get resolved sooner rather than later.
The soundtrack in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is as overwhelmingly massive as the character roster itself. As with previous games in the series, Nintendo, Sora, and Bandai Namco have compiled an amazing assortment of tracks from a ton of games. Arrangements to music tracks are lovely, and I really enjoyed my time experimenting with different levels and hearing various tracks.
Character voices, various attacks and effects, all of the iconic noises and voices you remember from the multitude of franchises included all sound great. There really is a ton of audio here to unpack, and all of it just compliments the action so well. I will add that it’s kind of hilarious Xander Mobus, the new announcer, is voicing Persona 5’s Joker, who is coming as DLC.
While no one really expects a massive story with the Super Smash Bros. franchise, the games have had fun and robust single-player story modes. The new World of Light mode in Ultimate has you rescuing all the various characters from an unknown threat. There isn’t much to it, but exploring that big map and battling through all those scenarios is pretty fun.
I may have gripes with the current performance of the online component, but that will presumably be resolved quickly. The rest of the game modes, characters, items, unlockables, everything provides a monstrous amount of content to delve into. This is such a love-letter to fans of fighters, and all of the included franchises, and I really can’t get enough of it all.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a landmark entry for the series, and has surpassed my expectations as a longtime fan. There is so much content packed into this absolutely massive party fighter, and there will be years upon years of enjoyment to be had out of Ultimate. I really can’t believe a game like this exists in this day and age, and yet here we are. This is a must have game.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review copy provided by Nintendo. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s reviews/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 10
- Stylish and excellent visuals, locked performance
- Rewarding and refined mechanics
- Bigger character roster than ever before
- Crazy amount of content to unlock and collect
- Netcode suffers quite a bit with laggy users
- Online mode filters are wonky, unreliable