E3 2018: Hands-on – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

The first thing I thought when seeing that enormous Super Smash Bros. Ultimate reveal in the E3 Nintendo Direct was – how on Earth am I going to play this game using the silly Joy-cons? Yes, I’m really not a fan of those tiny buttons and iffy analogue sticks. You see, Super Smash players will be well aware that the game requires pinpoint accuracy, but to my surprise it played a bit better than I had imagined.

At E3 we had 30 characters on offer. All the classics including Mario, Donkey Kong, Bowser, Kirby, Nes and Link could be used, but I was more curious about what the newcomers were capable of – the Inklings and Ridley. Whenever I saw Ridley appearing in a game of Metroid it would be enormous and was wondering how that would translate to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I would say that Ridley comes in at roughly the size of what you expect Bowser to be on-screen. He’s a bit bigger than most the other characters, but it’s not like his extra size is going to make him an easier target.

Ridley can use his claws to swipe at foes and also makes good use of his deadly scorpion-like tail to stab enemies. In terms of his special moves he’ll be using his fire breath that bounces on the surface towards competitors, unlike Bowser that just blasts away a big blaze of fire. His upwards special move has him flying into various directions to avoid falling to his death. Overall he’s quite a cool character to use, though he’s not overly powerful as some might imagine. Where things got a little complicated was with the Inklings.

The moveset is based around the ink in their tanks, as it would be in the game. As I had very limited time with them I’m not sure whether you get to choose your weapon (brush, roller or splatter), but each one came with its own advantage and I found that painting the stage in your colour would run the tank dry very quickly. Pressing down and B would refill the tanks, but it wasn’t instantly refilled. While refilling the tank it seemed it left me open to attack, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the pro players go about being strategic using the Inklings. To get to specific areas at a faster rate the Inklings can also morph into squids – something that is going to make competitive battles very interesting. I also had a go at using Snake and the Ice Climbers.

These classic players from Melee and Brawl feel right at home, but it’s quite cool playing as them in stages they’ve never been involved with before. There were a good number of stages on offer, but I was keen to give the two new levels a go. The Breath of the Wild stage, Great Plateau Tower, reminded me very much of the classic Battlefield stage in Smash Bros. It’s very simple and because of that, it makes for competitive matches. The Moray Towers level is way more complicated as it’s much smaller than you might think. There is barely enough space to breathe and having to deal with various levels can be the cause of a quick death.

One of the new features in the game was having two Smash balls appearing on stage at the same time, with one being a fake and another being the real thing. It might seem simple when viewing it in the reveal video, but when having to decide which one is real and which one is fake when in the middle of a battle isn’t as easy as it might look. I found it tough to tell the difference and it’s definitely going to make battles a little more interesting. My biggest surprise were the Joy-Cons. The buttons and analogue sticks weren’t as twitchy as I imagined it would be, but I ended up moving to the pro controller which was by far the better option. Obviously it’s not as good as the GameCube controller, but it’s the next best thing. If you plan to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate I highly recommend you consider the Pro controller.

With 30 characters and 23 levels on offer there was too much to squeeze into 15 minutes, but what I played reminded me very much of Super Smash Bros. Wii U, along with revealed improvements. It’s going to be one massive game on the Switch.

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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