The fighting game crossover of the century? You better believe it!
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Crossover platform fighting game
The Super Smash Bros. series is a fighting game made for non-fighting gamers. That’s good and bad in a way. Newbies who like fighting games but aren’t mechanically adept will find solace in the game’s controls and cast. Hardcore 2D and 3D fighting game players will find it hard to adjust to the platforming and “floaty” controls.
So is Nintendo’s kitchen sink approach a worthy sequel to the franchise? Undoubtedly so, because it’s completely fine-tuned to brawl gaming perfection. Will it change your mind if you’re a huge fighting game nerd knee-deep in your Street Fighters and Mortal Kombats? Probably, because the huge cast here will at least cater to your specific preferences.
Ultimate Showdown Of Ultimate Destiny
The premise is simple: push your opponent(s) out of the stage’s platform through the simple art of the beatdown using one of the 76 Nintendo characters in the roster like Mario, Yoshi, and Captain Falcon. Either you can do 1v1 or even have an 8-player free-for-all, either by getting the most eliminations or depleting an opponent’s limited stock of lives.
Said 76 characters can do spectacular feats like shoot fireballs and lasers out of their hands/weapons, jump leaps and bounds, and pull off their trademark moves from the games they were on. Plus, the game shoots out items like Fire Flowers, laser swords, and Pokéballs with random Pokémon to even the playing field. Or straight up make it more chaotic than it should be. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate really lays it on with the variety here.
If you’re new to SSBU, just play all-rounders like Kirby, Mario, and Fox McCloud. Like Fire Emblem and its waifus/husbandos? You have Marth, Ike, and Corrin each with their trademark sword and/or dragon-shifting attacks. Do you want to play someone as flexible as Devil May Cry‘s Dante? You have Bayonetta, Wicked Weave and all. Still want to use an old-school fighting game character with the 2D style of facing your lone opponent? Street Fighter‘s Ryu and Ken are selectable here. All in all, there’s something for everyone here in the roster.
For veterans, the new additions help diversify the roster. Metroid‘s space pirate Ridley is imposing but fights with speed and ferocity; perfect for players who want to pick up a rushdown-style flight-savvy character. Donkey Kong Country‘s King K.Rool is a tank who can propel himself to great heights, has a decent ranged option that can also suck foes in for launching, and counter enemies with his rotund figure.
Castlevania‘s Simon/Richter have zoning attacks down pat at the cost of slightly weak close-ranged options, so you need to plan when and where to use his patented Cross, Holy Water, and Axe. Pokémon‘s Incineroar is your heavy wrestler fighting game stereotype: hits hard and fast but full of risks/rewards. And you’ll pay dearly if you miss and mess up your timing. Animal Crossing‘s Isabelle feels more fan-servicey with her cute and clumsy attacks, but perhaps there’s potential to be found in her style later in the coming months.
Arguably the most unique fighter is Splatoon‘s Inkling; she needs to constantly recharge her ink when she’s out, but that’s where her most versatile moves come from. With her roller and paint attacks, and damage-over-time/debuff potential since enemies with paint get more damage from attacks, she’s definitely a choice picks for expert Smash players and fighting game fans who want a unique character experience.
The only thing that sours the experience is the fact you have to unlock them all from the get-go. When you start SSBU, you only have 8 characters. You have to either play the game’s various modes (which I’ll touch upon) and even resort to some off-the-cuff tactics to get all 76 characters.
And even then it’s not that simple; after 10 minutes or so of faffing about, you’ll get a “Challenger’s Approach” prompt where you have to beat the new fighter to put him/her into the roster. Depending on the last character you’re using and who you’re fighting, it can either be a cakewalk or an arduous task. Luckily, you can still replay those fights via the Challenger Door under the Games & More option.
Good Guys, Bad Guys, & Explosions…
While this game uses the same engine and backdrop as the Wii U Super Smash Bros., there’s a lot of significant add-ons and touches that enhance the experience that it might as well be an entirely new game. Serious players will find a lot has changed for the better; no one so far outweighs the other in terms of balance and tournament-level tweaks as far as everyone’s concerned.
You can parry enemy attacks like in Street Fighter III with the “perfect shield” mechanic, meaning that if you time it just right you can take no shield damage and be at an advantage. Players will also get to decide the stage the fight in before picking their fighters so that they can pick the best character to use to counteract the stage’s hazard and layout. The game’s camera also zooms in to see who gets the last hit that ends the game, kinda like the slo-mo zoom-in shot during a Tekken 7 bout. It’s a cosmetic addition, but one that helps enhance the spectacle for audiences among other things.
At the same time, SSBU is the perfect party game. If you want to switch from competitive to friendly matches, turn on free-for-all and amp up item frequency, expand the player count, and set up stages with ridiculous conditions, taking a shot of alcohol if you lose. SSBU’s beauty is that it caters to both the hardcore and the casual with its diverse play options, plethora of stages and characters, and its improved fighting.
The simple-yet-welcome changes like the stage-then-characters selection process to stage segmentation (from “Normal” to “Battlefield”) means that Nintendo, Bandai Namco, and Sora Ltd. listened to its vocal and hardcore fanbase and gave them what they wanted: a complete Smash experience.
Apart from the ginormous cast that’s been balanced for tournament play, there are new modes like Squad Strike, Mob Smash, Classic Mode, and the single player-centric World Of Light. Squad Strike is basically a 3v3 or 5v5 mode where players organize their own teams in a secret line-up and then switch the fighting order around when one player loses a stock.
Mob Smashes are my personal favourite since you fight against a 100 Miiverse fighting game clones or against the entire roster like a beat-em-up, and I do love me some old-school beat-em-up scenarios. Classic Mode is your standard Arcade Mode in fighting games; you fight eight stages with different fight conditions, be it a simple 1v1 bout to even fighting tag-teams from different Nintendo franchises. The last stage is usually a giant boss you have to fight, ranging from Legend of Zelda‘s Ganon (from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time right down to the same weak point) to Monster Hunter‘s Rathalos. It’s pretty fun, and you can dial up the challenge via mural slider to increase the intensity of the bouts if you need a decent AI-driven challenge.
Which pains me to say that the single-player World of Light comes off a bit short. Basically you have to make your way to the Lord of Light Galeem -some giant multi-winged light orb thingamajig- by unlocking and recruiting fighters and equipping spirits you find along the way to power up your team. Fighters can equip primary spirits to bolster their attacks and properties (like immunity to fire attacks or to lava floors), and then equip support spirits onto primary ones like items and equipment that dish out extra abilities.
Unlocking spirits, be it primary and support, is just a matter of playing World of Light and beating up opponents in pre-set conditions, completing in-game challenges, or by dissolving your existing spirits into cores, which can be used to summon new spirits. It’s a lot of complex busywork and can get tough if you don’t equip the right spirits or don’t pay attention to the stage conditions. Yet at the same time, it becomes sort of a zen-like grind if you really want to get all the spirits.
Unlike modes like Soulcalibur VI‘s Libra of Souls which features an overarching story and Dragon Ball FighterZ that has a ton of anime fanservice bits, there’s really nothing here narrative and context-wise to grab my attention in World of Light apart from the supposed nostalgia-baiting bits with the spirits. Sure, you get to see icons like the Xenoblade heroes and the Metal Gear folks, but it’s just concept art turned into a sticker for fighters to slap onto themselves.
If there’s a bit more effort put into this mode, like maybe better production values and special cutscenes to keep me entertained, then maybe World of Light is worth the addition. As it stands, I might as well just play Classic Mode to get my short-term jollies. I don’t need any mode that reminds me of work, especially one as haphazard as World of Light.
The other major elephant in the room is online play. Simply put; it’s not good. There are reports out there that there aren’t lag-free matches, and even then it’s unbearable in a fast-paced game like SSBU. For myself, I did manage to play against a lot of Japanese players and even with a full Wi-Fi bar, the game still lags.
Even worse, players who want to play in Elite battles can sometimes be forced to play free-for-all and team battles if their connection isn’t up to par during the online search matching bits. It’s rather perplexing why Nintendo chose to remove the “For Fun/For Glory” from the last Smash game in favour of…this.
If you want a LAN experience, you’ll have to fork out money for a wired LAN adaptor specifically for the Switch. Let’s also not forget the Nintendo Online subscription fee too. So that’s US$36 for the adaptor and US$19.99 for the yearly subscription; that’s quite an investment for players for a service to a game that’s currently borked.
A Smashing Good Time?
Even with those niggles and faults, you can’t deny the fact that the developers have brought in their A-game when it comes to delivering the best Super Smash Bros. experience. With a heckaton of modes, a plethora of fighters and playstyles, and a few decent modes and customization options, it’s hard not to recommend this casual-slash-hardcore-balanced platform fighting game to anyone who owns a Switch. And I haven’t even mentioned my personal favourite non-fighting bit in the game: the Vault and the music player that comes with it. I really dig the new and old remixes of past game tunes like Mega Man’s Cut Man theme and Castlevania’s rockin’ Bloodlines theme.
Just keep it offline and within the couch, and you’ll have a helluva time getting Smashed.
-Best fighting game roster of the year.
-Great modes for multiplayer that caters to all skill levels.
-World of Light is fun to play.
-The non-fighting content is ginormous, especially the music player.
-Character unlocks are time-consuming.
-Online is still subpar.
FINAL RATING: 80/100