Nintendo’s first party titles are like cars. Some people love Mario Kart, others love the Pokémon series, and some are insane for The Legend of Zelda. But since 1999 on the Nintendo 64, there’s been one title that brings everyone together, and answers the question – could my car beat your car…
I mean, could my game beat yours? Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is now available for Nintendo Switch, but how does this entry in the franchise hold up?
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the latest release in the franchise that dates way back to 1999 on the Nintendo 64. The original Super Smash Bros. had 12 characters and nine stages, forever changing party and fighting games. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is available now and has a roster of 69 characters (with the first DLC character already announced as Piranha Plant) and over 100 maps! If you’ve never played Super Smash Bros. before, you’re in for a treat. Each character and level comes from a preexisting franchise, such as Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Street Fighter and more!
Super Smash Bros. is a chaotic and addictive party brawler. Unlike standard fighting games like Mortal Kombat, Injustice or Street Fighter, the camera is set further away from the fighters (allowing a greater view of the arena) and can have 8 players at one time. Players decide how they’ll play (either a time limit mode or depleting your opponent’s respawns), pick their character/stage and SMASH. The goal of Super Smash Bros. is to deal damage to your opponent, and knock them out of the arena. Rather than having traditional health bars, players have a damage counter. Starting at 0% damage, each hit they receive the damage counter goes up. The higher % of damage you’ve received, the easier it is to SMASH you out of the stage. Each stage and character plays differently, and has different effects. The Pokémon Stadium map transforms while you’re fighting with burning houses or treadmills appearing to further damage/knock players off the map, while The Legend of Zelda’s Hyrule Castle map is a standard map that doesn’t change/alter during the fight. Each character/fighter is also different, with some being quicker and harder to attack, but a land a solid hit on them and they’ll fly off the side of the map (Link for example). Some bigger characters can absorb more damage and are harder to knock, yet because they’re big they may not have the ability to quickly jump upwards in case they fall off the side of the map (Bowser). What also helps balance out the fights are items. As you and your opponent Smash (I’m sorry) each other around the stage, randomised items will drop. These items can be anything from swords, guns, the giant classic Mario hammer or even Pokéballs (with a large variety of Pokémon inside the Pokéballs; every time it lands on the field, I race to pick it up and use it to find out who’s inside).
Playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with a couch full of friends is insane! Super Smash Bros. Ultimate allows up to eight players at one time, and the framerate, hit detection and graphics are as smooth as Kirby’s body (or head? What is Kirby?!). The controls for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are optimised for casual players, with one base attack button, one special attack button, block/grab buttons and two jump buttons (when you fall of the stage, you tend to spam every button to assist jumping back up). With these simple controls, it takes moments to learn the layout. Though if you’re a veteran of the Smash Bros. series (you know who you are), these controls can be combined to make outstanding combos. if you’re new to the series, just remember the 5 S’s of Smash Bros! Smash, Shield, Slide, Slash and… Smash.
But Super Smash Bros. Ultimate isn’t just a multiplayer party game, it also has a single player campaign called World of Light. If you’ve seen the heart-breaking Infinity War inspired cinematic you’ll notice that Kirby is the sole survivor (I’m not crying, you’re crying) and it’s up to you to rescue your friends (and by doing this, you unlock the character to play as in Smash mode). Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has taken a page out of the Mario Tennis Aces book, introducing a fun and challenging single player mode to give the game a different change of pace. The single player mode uses the iconic map style of the Super Mario Brothers games, moving your character from fight to fight on a giant world map. When you start the campaign, you’ll start off as Kirby (after you stop crying that is!) and you’ll come across clones/puppets of other fighters. Defeating the fighter, you’ll unlock one of two things, the fighter themselves (allowing you to change characters in the campaign, and also unlocking them in Smash mode) or spirits. Spirits is something new, which thankfully is easy to understand. Each fighter can get enhancements from spirits, whether it’s increased defence, attack, or spiritual, and some even give you a weapon when you start the round. If you’re going up against Captain Falcon who has an attack spirit which buffs his damage by 10,000, then using a defensive spirit will counter his advantage. If you’re bummed that one of your favourite characters aren’t a fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, they’ll most likely be a spirit.
For returning fans of the series, you may notice something that may sour your experience for the first couple of hours with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. If you’re looking at picking up the game for party play (and that’s why we’ve all bought the game previously), when you go into smash mode only a handful of characters are available from the start. In the first entry to the series (1999 Super Smash Bros) you started with 8 out of the 12 characters, and unlocked additional characters as you kept playing. This time around you have the same original 8 characters you had in the original Super Smash Bros, and must unlock 61 additional characters. Though some players may like this, as it’s a nod to the original Super Smash Bros, other players who just want to pick up and instantly play as Cloud from Final Fantasy 7 might not like having to wait. There is, however, another way to unlock characters in smash mode rather than having to go into the single player campaign. After each fight or two in Smash mode you’ll get a challenger fight (similar to other fighters like Tekken or Mortal Kombat), and defeating this character unlocks the fighter in smash mode. However, if you want to play as that particular character in single player, you’ll need to unlock them again in the single player campaign.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate runs at a stunning 1080p at 60fps (frames per second) when the Switch is in its docked mode. Pausing the game and looking at the attention to detail on the characters is stunning (there is a photo mode in the pause menu). Being able to see Samus under her body armour when she is electrocuted is still an outstanding easter egg. When playing on the go, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate drops to 720p and still runs at 60 fps, and is still visually stunning! (I need to learn to stop playing my switch on the train, as I keep missing my stop!). Also, as the Nintendo Switch comes with two controllers, sliding out the Joy-Cons and going from single player to versus on the go is a breeze.
If you’re new to Super Smash Bros and want to know who would win in a fight, Pikachu or Link, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will not only answer that question, it’ll then have you returning to find out who would win in a fight between Donkey Kong and Ryu. With its iconic and entertaining gameplay, this next entry in the chaotic party brawler is not only a hit, it’s a Smash!
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is available now exclusively for Switch.