When Super Smash Bros appeared for the first time, some 20 years ago, the idea of crossover fighting games was already there, in a form of Marvel vs Capcom fighting games. However, this game revolutionized the idea of crossover by putting the characters which originated from non-fighting games against each other into the arena. The combination of accessibility, casual style and competitive multiplayer gained Super Smash Brothers avid popularity among the fans of the fighting games who are not so hardcore to learn frame data but still like to compete. Twenty years and five games later, Nintendo made the ultimate Smash game, appropriately named Super Smash Bros Ultimate.
During the last 20 years, this game evolved from the casual multiplayer game to the highly competitive one-on-one game, which even has slots in the fighting game tournaments. Some of you even remember the famous Wombo Combo, which is one of the most striking moments in the tournaments’ history. Ultimate took all those aspects of previous games and improved all of them. This game contains every single character and almost every single stage that appeared in the previous Smash games, which makes up for the huge roster, the exceptional variety of stages, and the whole range of possibilities to play the game in many different ways. Despite all of this, this game isn’t sparse and all that content does not distract the players from the core of this game, which is a strong battle system.
Speaking about the combat system, it’s still as simple as it has always been; there are two (or more) combatants in the arena doing damage to each other in order to knock their opponents off the stage. The controls are quite easy to catch on, there are two attack buttons, the block button, and directional movements. Nevertheless, this simple layout is enough to dish out some very impressive combos and special moves. There is also a plethora of power-up items you can use to deal some massive damage to your opponents unless you opt not too. To add some randomness to the scuffle, there are dynamic stages you can fight on, which are also optional. Once you learn the ropes about your favorite character’s movies and specials, you will start noticing fine details like positioning, tying up attacks into combos, finding out the best move for each situation and, most importantly, finding out the ways to outsmart your opponents. The biggest charm of Smash Ultimate is how quickly you arrive at that stage.
The source of the variety of techniques in this game is a massive roster of over 70 characters. It is safe to say that every fighter who has appeared in previous Smash games found their place in the lineup, together with some new faces. The sheer number and diversity of fighting styles you can learn how to use and how to fight against are staggering. Equally impressive is the fact that this game features characters from Mario Bros, Castlevania, Sonic The Hedgehog, Pac-Man, Metal Gear Solid, Pokemon, Final Fantasy, Fire Emblem, and Street Fighter, and that they are all fighting each other. We have never seen this in a licensed game (we won’t mention M.U.G.E.N. here).
Super Smash Bros Ultimate underwent some changes in the mechanics that made the game faster and more exciting. For example, in 1-on-1 matches, characters can take more damage, if you dodge all the time you’re more vulnerable, any ground-based attack can be performed from the run, including the smash moves, and short hop now can be done just by pressing two buttons at once. These alterations are not striking, but they redefine the core gameplay and continue the evolution of Smash combat system. There are some more visible changes that make the gaming experience of the Smash Ultimate a lot better. The user interface is much easier to read, there is a slow-motion zoom-in whenever a critical attack hits, match rules can be modified with a bunch of options and saved for the later use, and, the most interesting, stage selection comes before the character selection, so you can select your fighter to be adjusted to the stage.
One of the strongest sides of this game is the multitude of modes. Not only there is a built-in tournament bracket mode, Super Sudden Death returns, as well as Custom Match. Out of all those modes, the most pleasant surprise was Squad Strike, which is basically a tag team battle with squads of three or five combatants, in style of King of Fighters. Smashdown is another interesting mode, in which the characters that have already been used get disqualified, and players have to use characters there are not familiar with.
However, the biggest improvement of this game is the complete overhaul of single player content. A Classic Mode is here again, but the World of Light completely overshadows it. The World of Light is basically on RPG-style campaign in which Kirby embarks on the long journey over the huge world in order to save other fighters. The imprisoned characters are cloned and those clones are inhabited by the Spirits, entities from other video games who altered the cloned fighters in their images. There are over 1200 Spirits, and most of them have their own battle stages. This might sound like an exhausting task, but all those fights with Spirits are exceptionally fun. By defeating Spirits you will get the Spirit cards, which you can use to boost your abilities in combat, and you will also unlock new characters. Considering the size of the roster, that’s a lot of work.
All in all, Super Smash Bros Ultimate is a very versatile fighting game, with whole lotta modes and options, rich and diverse content and refined core mechanics. It still prioritizes pure and undiluted fun over the competitive values, but we loved it and played it just because of that.