There’s a certain beauty to Super Smash Bros., a beauty that has sustained itself over 19 years and five games, a beauty that transcends the fighting game genre, a beauty that weaves its way into every facet of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is, as its name suggests, the ultimate expression of Super Smash Bros., bringing together every single character, item, and stage from games past into a single, spectacular title that simultaneously embraces everything that has come before it and throws in just enough new additions to make it fresh.
Super Smash Bros. is a celebration of Nintendo, its video games, and dozens of other iconic games that have made their way onto various Nintendo platforms over the years. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a celebration of that celebration.
And what a celebration it is.
At a press preview event for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in New York City, about three weeks before Ultimate‘s release date, I played the game for the first time. I jumped in with a group of other members of the press, only one of whom I was familiar with, and immediately sunk right in.
There’s something about Super Smash Bros. that can bring people together
Part of the fun of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is that anyone has a chance of winning a standard game. With anywhere between two and eight players dashing around a single stage and items dropping in to mix things up left and right, the tides of battle can change at a moment’s notice, regardless of how much experience any single player has in Smash.
Over several matches, I came in first, second, third, and fourth playing with a handful of strangers and acquaintances, but the entire time I was playing I never stopped having fun.
At one point I approached one of the various Smash setups in the room and asked if I could jump in with the two players who were battling each other. Above their characters were the custom names “Nairo” and “alf,” names of competitive Smash players. Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada is one of the best Super Smash Bros. 4 players in the world.
I played a handful of matches with them (never taking first place) and had a blast even though they were leagues better than I could ever hope to be.
There’s something about Super Smash Bros. that can bring people together. Its blend of simple, and approachable mechanics, colorful cast of characters, and competitive nature is absolutely magnetic.
It’s the kind of series that can build friendships. It can bring strangers together. It can inspire people to come together after months of not seeing each other.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate continues this tradition.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate brings enough new touches to make everything feel fresh but not overburdened.
There are the new characters, of course, with fighters like King K. Rool from Donkey Kong, Ridley from Metroid, Inklings from Splatoon, and Simon from Castlevania making their first appearances. Many of the new characters are completely novel experiences in the series with unique moves that shake up the meta.
And then there are the echo fighters, like Daisy and Dark Samus, which pretty much work the same mechanically as their counterparts (Peach and Samus, respectively) but with a different character design.
New stages are a given in Smash as well, and the collection of new stages in Ultimate have all the life and color that we’ve come to expect. A couple of highlights are Dracula’s Castle from Castlevania and New Donk City Hall from Super Mario Odyssey that climbs up and down the Empire State-like city hall.
It doesn’t do anything to take away from the formula
Nintendo also saw fit to include hundreds of songs from the various games represented in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, including tons of new remixes of classic tunes. When selecting your stage, you can choose the music that plays in the background, or even just peruse the library and make your own playlists of songs to listen to while the Switch screen is off.
One of the biggest additions is the single player adventure, World of Light, which is a fun shake-up for Smash that takes the usual battles players are used to and adds different elements to them like floors covered in fire, enemies that are extra large, or other changes. The more you play, the more spirits you get, which augment your fighter with things like increased attack power, extra jumps, and starting with particular items.
The ultimate Smash
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is another Smash game. It doesn’t do anything to take away from the formula like Brawl did when it added a feature that made characters occasionally trip. It doesn’t add anything crazy that makes it feel like a completely new game.
But that’s not really what anyone is looking for. Smash fans want to play Smash, and when a new one comes out, they don’t want a bunch of extra bells and whistles or a reinvention of the game they already love.
In that sense, because Super Smash Bros. Ultimate doesn’t stray wildly from the formula, but simply gives Smash a visual upgrade and a few new fighters and stages and modes, it’s perfect.
It has your favorite stage because it has every stage. It has your favorite fighter because it has every fighter. It is the ultimate expression of Nintendo’s delightful take on the fighting game genre because it doesn’t muck up what makes the best parts of the series so great.
From what I’ve played over a couple dozen hours, the game seems airtight. No bugs. No annoyances. No character that seems wildly overpowered. Of course, I’m not a professional Smash player so I can’t look at it from that critical lens, but it feels good to me.
In my experience as a casual-yet-passionate player, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is exceptional in every way.