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Review: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch)

Fighting
9.5

Amazing

Nintendo has never been ones to conform to rules. They’ll always go out of their way to make their games a little different to everyone else. Super Smash Bros. has for years now been their take on the fighting genre – you either get it or you don’t. If you’re in the latter camp you’re about to miss out on one of the biggest crossover experiences in existence… and possibly one of the best fighters of our time.

Ever dream about the day Mario would ignite Sonic with Fireballs? How about Bayonetta using witch time to trick Cloud into a wasted limit break use? It’s a world where Solid Snake can punch the cute Villager from Animal Crossing in his or her face or where Simon Belmont can whip one of the colourful Inklings in line. Whatever your dream might be, chances are good that you’ll find a fighter in this game that speaks to you. No fighter has the same style (though echo fighters come with some of the same move sets) and each comes with his, her or its own special abilities. As deep as the fighting system can get, it’s also the perfect entry point for newcomers to the fighting genre.

I’m greener than Yoshi, please explain

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is all about beating the hell out of your foes to have their percentage gauge increase. This game is predominantly based on the weight of a character. The lower the percentage, the heavier the character is. Grow that number to 100% (or up to the max of 300%) and it’s your cue to launch your rival off the screen, as at that point they’re as light as a feather. Each character gets a set of basic and special attacks that, while combined with shielding yourself or dodging attacks, will form the overall basis of your experience. Your number one priority is to remain on the stage and not get smashed out of it. Should you be smashed and find yourself still lingering on the outskirts of the level it’s up to you to combine jumps and special moves (normally in conjunction with pressing up) to make your way back to the platform for another go at it. The help menu has a comprehensive move list that’ll help you perfecting more advanced moves, like a smash meteor. Of course, it’s nowhere near as simple as that as you’ll have to contend with everything else each stage can throw at you, and oh boy, is there a lot this time.

The beauty about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is that it’s filled with so many options.

The beauty about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is that it’s filled with so many options. By default, you can take part in any event with numerous items falling from the heavens, such as rolling crates, food (to drop your percentage), a timer to slow time down, a POW Block and a Boomerang among many other items. The Rage Blaster, a weapon that is more powerful based on the damage you’ve taken, and the Black Hole, that pulls items and fighters into a central point for you to attack, are two of several new items in Ultimate, which all play a crucial role in making it a balanced game for all participants. However, it’s the new assist trophies and Poké Balls that pack the most punch. Should Mimikyu appear from one of your Poké Balls it’ll KO your opponent if their health exceeds 90% – the new Poké Ball creatures are ruthless. In turn, if you pick up an assist trophy it’ll do exactly what it says, it’ll assist you. Whether that’s offensively or defensively, that’s up to the random character that sprouts from it. Get Shovel Knight into the frame and he’ll dig up food to help you replenish your percentage down towards zero. If this is all too much for you to deal with, it can all be turned off – the decision is all yours.

An RPG adventure with spirit

After the absence in both the Wii U and 3DS version of a campaign mode, it feels as if the developers have made up for that lack of judgement in spades. World of Light is your new adventure mode in the game. It’s here where you are introduced to the biggest new addition of the series – spirits. Galeem, the lord of light, has trapped the spirits inside the puppet fighters and it’s up to Kirby, the lone standing fighter, to free the spirits as well as the fighters who are now under Galeem’s control. Events unfold on a virtual game board and will have Kirby (and the fighters you unlock on your travels) taking on various challenges. It starts off easy, but soon gets a tough as nails and it’s very important for you to attach spirits to your fighter of choice. The Primary spirit will raise or lower your attack and defence stats and can also be levelled up using snacks and cores that you’ll acquire throughout your journey. In total there are four types of Primary spirits – shield, attack, grab and neutral. Shield is powerful against attack, attack can demolish grab and grab can throw shield out of contention. It’s your typical chain-reaction scenario, though neutral, as it states, is neutral to all types. Some Primary spirits can all reach an enhanced form if you max it out at 99, as you might have experienced in a Pokémon game. This becomes important as you’ll challenge different levels of Spirits (up to a four-star Legendary status) attached to foes, which, if beaten, will become your spirit to use.

Support spirits come with special skills and can vary as there are many to collect. For example, a support spirit might come with wind immunity that, without, would have your fighter sliding off a level due to high winds or it could help you build your Smash Meter at a faster rate. That’s right, in this adventure mode you can build up your smash meter and do not have to wait for a smash ball to appear to unleash your final smash – though you best be careful, there is now a fake smash ball that’ll be the cause of you killing yourself. Spirits aren’t just earned through fights. If you possess the required spirits you can also summon stronger spirits that are otherwise hard to find. By chance, I had Vega, Sagat and Balrog’s spirit in my inventory and as a result I could summon M.Bison, who comes with impressive stats to take on the tougher boss fights. You’re basically playing an RPG fighting game.

It’s not quite the The Subspace Emissary from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but it’s a single-player campaign that’ll last you close to 30 hours

Adventure mode is filled with discovery and hidden paths. Unique spirits are often required to help you gain access to paths that might be locked or that have some sort of obstacle in your way. You also have a skill tree to upgrade using skill spheres, though it’s a slow process. These skills will permanently improve your stats. It’s not quite The Subspace Emissary from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but it’s a single-player campaign that’ll last you close to 30 hours. It’s the perfect place to understand how the spirit mechanic works and once done there is lots more to keep you coming back. Smash mode now comes with a comprehensive tournament mode, which I’m sure will be used at esport events to make things a little easier for the organisers. Traditional modes like classic mode, training and mob smash are there to enjoy as expected, but it’s a shame that home-run contest mode has not returned. Nothing stops the developers from adding it in at a later time, as it’s otherwise filled to the brim with content. The extras? Oh yes, there is plenty of that too.

A vault filled with treasures

Unlike Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U, they have dropped the various retro game demos as well as the trophies, which has now been replaced with real-world trophies in the form of amiibo. You can either scan the amiibo in to have the fighter fight alongside or against you in a game of Smash (in a figure player form) or you’ll gain a spirit – I’m yet to find an amiibo that had no use at all. Your old Super Smash data can be brought forward, though the max level (from what was originally 50) will drop to a maximum of 12. Yes, you have to build your amiibo combatants all over again. These amiibo can also be improved and levelled up using spirits, so be careful which spirits you attach. Where Ultimate goes to town is with the soundtrack. At the time of writing I now have just under 800 songs spanning over numerous franchises from The Legend of Zelda, though to Final Fantasy and Castlevania, that I have collected by either unlocking it in adventure mode or buying it using in-game credits in the shop. To make it even cooler, if you’re playing the Switch in portable mode, you can turn the screen off to listen to the music from a playlist you have created. Mii outfits, snacks, cores, support and primary spirits can also be bought in the shop, though I generally held on to my funds for the songs.

Up to eight players can take part in a brawl on one television and it is as downright bonkers as you might imagine it is. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the server is not yet live and I have no idea what the online service is like and I’ve not had the opportunity to try out the local wireless play. There is a ‘Get presents through special events’ tab that’s greyed out, which I assume will reward players with some unique and exclusive items for taking part in online events once the servers are live. At least there are still challenges to strive for that’ll reward you with items, spirits, songs and more.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate plays with the precision fans have come to expect. The versatility is prominent throughout each mode. You can take it and play it anywhere you please, play with up to eight players on the same TV, wirelessly hook up with friends, plug in your GameCube controller, choose from a massive number of fighters and stages, play a lengthy single-player game, train your amiibo or just sit back and enjoy the plethora of songs at your fingertips. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate isn’t just a fighting game, it’s a celebration of the video game industry in the most ultimate way.

Good

  • Adventure mode will last you a long time
  • A soundtrack so good you can buy the game just for that
  • The spirits inject a whole new strategic element
  • 74 fighters and over 100 stages to fight in

Bad

  • Home-run contest is gone
  • Hopefully online mode won't be as broken as other Smash games

Summary

There are so many modes, fighters, stages, a soundtrack to die for and, finally, an adventure mode that'll last you longer than most single-player games. It's not just the ultimate Super Smash Bros. game - it's the ultimate crossover fighter.
9.5

Amazing

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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