Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is pure fun. The long awaited Switch sequel brings back characters from the previous Smash games and adds a handful of new brawlers that are really fun to learn (OP Isabelle and technical Inkling). Smash fans couldn’t ask for a more hefty Smash experience with Ultimate.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate brings some necessary quality of life changes such as having multiple rule sets that you can modify and save. It is a huge time saver to have stock battles, with unlimited time, and no items available without having to make rule modifications in each session, like you had to in previous games. Additionally, now you can select your stage before selecting your character, which comes in handy if you want to pick a character that better adapts to a specific stage. For example, selecting a character with a better jump recovery like Kirby on stages that move or have a lot of room for falling off.
The combat has improved in that it feels faster and less floaty. Even some subtle core mechanics seem enhanced such as being able to run and use a smash attack immediately after. My favorite combat feature, by far, is the flashy, zoom-in critical attacks, making criticals and KOs feel all the more exciting.
Full disclaimer, I always go into Smash trying to unlock the full roster as fast as possible. The purpose of this is to practice with new characters and to improve upon characters I’ve already played with. Moreover, I want my friends to come over and have a Smash gathering, where all available characters are ready to play with for everyone. Having access to the entire Smash roster has always been where the fun begins for me. To achieve this, I played mostly Smash mode with 3-stock and intermittently went into the “Games and More” menu, to face challengers hadn’t previously beat. Henceforth, I had a full roster unlocked during Smash Ultimate launch weekend and ready to face off online or on the couch with friends. This is exactly why I was personally turned off by World of Light.
Don’t get me wrong, I think World of Light is a meaty and optional single player addition to the Smash experience, but it just wasn’t what I was looking to get out of Smash. However, I fully acknowledge that this RPG sort of approach was pretty brilliant for players looking for more than just a PvP experience. You go through a very Mario + Rabidsesque map to rescue other characters and collect spirits. Spirits are characters from other games that aren’t part of the Smash roster. Once you unlock these spirits, you can equip them as a primary and support to your character, which essentially gives your character buffs and immunities. You can level your spirits up and mix and match them depending on the character, stage, and spirit combination you’re facing. This mode is long (roughly 25-30 hours completion; I know.. ridiculous) and implements an annoying mini game, that turned me off to it altogether. Especially considering that failing the mini game means you lose the spirit and have to wait for it to randomly show up again.
World of Light has potential to be amazing, but the difficulty is sort of a rollercoaster. One stage will feel too easy then the next will be unexpectedly difficult. The “story” mode — which only has 3 cutscenes, mind you — is an overall cool addition to the game, but not a good way to improve your skills or unlock characters. If improving PvP skills is the aim (like it is for me), jump online.
Although Smash online is the best way to “git gud”, it unfortunately suffers from a lot of lag, but I’m not sure if this is an issue with Nintendo’s online generally or something else. I also don’t recommend you play handheld online because it’s a lot harder to track your spacing and time your attacks. There seems to be significant lag in playing handheld mode, but I’m not 100% sure how accurate that observation is, since I mostly play docked. Another issue: rematches can only be done with the same character you initially chose, so there’s no option to bring out your big guns to the winner. Now that Smash Bros Ultimate online gives you the customized dog tag for the players you defeated, it is essential that players can chose a new character for a rematch. These player tags can be used as currency, but I personally just want to show off all of my fallen opponents. I am clearly more interested in collecting dog tags and characters than I am in collecting spirits.
Then there’s Classic mode, which is fun as each character has their own ladder of characters to face. Yet, the real charm of this game is it’s expansive library of video game music (860 songs, 28+ hours of tunes!!). My Switch is now an iPod.
Overall, this is the most expansive Smash game to date in terms of characters, stages, unlockables, collectables (RIP trophies), music, modes, and story content. It is approachable for players just looking to have fun, as its controls are simple. Yet Ultimate keeps the hardcore Smash community engaged with it’s customizable rules, fast combat, and option to unlock characters in any way you prefer. 4.5/5 Bibles.