Review of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: The ‘Ultimate’ Smash or Pass?

INTRODUCTION:

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The game’s start menu.

Super Smash Bros. is an ambitious cross-over fighting, party game that does its best to pay tribute toward gaming icons of the past and present. Like other titles in the franchise, your task is to knock your opponent out of the arena and brag about your skills when you defeat them (I’m kidding about that last note). You have the option to utilize items or other tools to help you achieve a victory over your opponent. On the other hand, you can do a round of Final Destination, no items, and Fox-only match-ups, if you prefer that hardcore-styled game-play. Though this title contains content from Super Smash Bros. for Wii U  and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, it adds new characters, modes, and soundtracks to make it distinguishable from previous titles in the series. Is this iteration of Super Smash Bros. worth the purchase? Does it deserve to be called the “ultimate” version of Super Smash Bros.?

GAME-PLAY: 

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There are many modes to choose from in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Most cater to multiplayer game-play while some focus on individual playtime sessions. Classic Mode’s simple, fast-paced format returns in this iteration of Super Smash Bros and this time, it doesn’t disappoint. No longer do I have to move a board piece on a large board or go down a random pathway to fight an enemy. Returning to the fast-paced aesthetic of the titles before Wii U and 3DS and adding new concepts to the Super Smash Bros. Classic Mode formula like unique titled-adventures and boss fights for specific characters is extraordinary, and often times, clever. For example, in Link’s Classic Mode, instead of facing Master Hand, you duke it out with the fearsome beast, Ganon. In Mario’s Classic Mode, you take on Giga Bowser, that not only pays homage to Mario’s final battles with Bowser in his original games, but also pays respect to Giga Bowser’s first appearance in Super Smash Bros. Melee. In the previous title, I had no desire to clear Classic Mode with every character because it seemed repetitive and boring. Yet, with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I have the urge to complete everyone’s’ run just to see what makes them different from the other fighters’ adventures.

Classic Mode aside, there are other modes in Ultimate that shouldn’t be slept on. Smashdown and Squad-Strike add a new level of depth and fun to this fighting-focused title. In Smashdown, you and your opponent are tasked with going through the roster of characters you have currently, and battling it out until your down to two characters. It forces players like me to play characters I would never choose to play as to “get good” with them. It makes for a great time at parties. In Squad-Strike, you and your opponent can play a three versus three or five versus five match-up. It pays homage to team-based fighting game mechanics seen in titles like Marvel Vs Capcom. It’s a great option for those who want to maintain a balance between regular smash battles or special smash match-ups. Both Smashdown and Squad-Strike provide players with more options, outside of the usual Tourney, Classic, and training modes, while maintaining standard differences to make them feel different from the established modes in the franchise.

With respect to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s World of Light adventure mode, I prefer it over the Subspace Emissary we obtained in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Shocking, I know, but hear me out on this. Though, it would’ve been magical to see characters like Cloud and Link interact with each other, I feel the focus on the game-play over story was a hit and a miss. What makes World of Light a hit is its intriguing spirit battles and world-maps. Though I was upset that trophies weren’t returning in this title, Masahiro Sakurai and his team’s utilization of jpegs or spirits in this mode made World of Light feel addictive and fun as I traversed through it. Although some battles were a bit cheap and seemed unfair (yes, I’m calling the weather condition and Dr. Wily-type spirit battles out), my consistent urge to replay every battle to obtain a character’s image, spoke to me. I felt I needed to get every spirit on the board, level them up, or purchase them at the available shops you unlock while defeating the spirits in World of Light or in the game’s regular shop. Although I would’ve loved more cut-scenes that fleshed out the adventure mode’s antagonists and showcased interactions unheard of in video-game history, I still prefer this extraordinarily fun adventure over a simple side-scrolling mode with flashy cut-scenes.

Thus, I believe this game’s single-player and multi-player content are handled well. Yet,  Break the Targets’s, Stage Builder’s, and Home-Run Contest’s disappearance was a bit odd. Many, including myself, were hoping the development team would revert Target Smash to its original Break the Targets formula and create a different route for all the characters as shown in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Stage Builder, though not a great mode, would’ve been interesting to see in Ultimate after countless discussions shared online on how the development team could improve upon it. Home-Run Contest’s disappearance has to be the toughest pill to swallow, as it’s a staple for the Super Smash Bros. franchise. Though I still love the modes implemented into this game, it would’ve been great to see these, alongside other previous modes like Smash Run, return for the “ultimate” version of Super Smash Bros. I’ve tampered with the online modes a couple of times, and ran into some issues people pointed out on social media. These concerns lean toward the game’s terrible matchmaking system and lag-infested match-ups. Yet, when utilizing an Nintendo Lan Adapter, the connection does improve. I suggest those who are having trouble with lag or input delays online–purchase the Nintendo Lan Adapter for their household to make sure their Super Smash Bros. matches run smoothly.

The game’s controls are great and functional. I never encountered a problem, outside of online-play, where the game’s controls were unresponsive. Ultimate isn’t as fast as Melee but it’s a bit faster than Super Smash Bros. For Wii U. The characters feel fluid when dodging an opponent’s attack, performing an attack themselves, or grabbing onto ledges. Adding subtle new and old techniques like attacking on a ladder, directional air dodges, perfect-shielding, and other tactics enforce gamers, like myself, to continue playing the game to improve one’s skills, or just to have a good time. This new quick-take on super-moves or final smashes, also helps speed up the matches a bit. Though some of the final smash swap decisions slightly bothered me, I still get goosebumps when I break the smash ball or now, fill-up my final smash meter to unleash a devastating finishing move on my opponent. From a game-play standpoint, the title falls flat with its lack of iconic single-player content and sub-par online stability, but slightly makes up for it with accurate, responsive game-play and unique modes.

THE DESIGN:

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate‘s menus far exceed that of its predecessor, Super Smash Bros. For Wii U in design and navigation. The modes are no longer scattered about through various sub-menus like in the previous installment. Though Ultimate borrows the “Games & More” menu from the Wii U version, it’s no longer cluttered when you’re taken to this menu’s content. Everything you care about is right there in front of you in different menu icons. This gives me the idea that the development team wanted to cater to design enthusiasts and went back to its glorious main menu layout from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Either way, the menus in this iteration are far more approachable than in the previous two Super Smash Bros. installments. Also, the ability to create a rule-set and choose a stage before picking a character–is genius! It heightens Super Smash Bros.’s underlying strategical aspect and places it at the forefront. Now players can plan how they want their matches set-up, whether for practicing for a huge tournament, or for family time in the living room. Players receive more control this time around which makes the game even more fun. The character roster menu is okay for what it’s going for, but it would be wonderful for players to have the option to sort the menu to their leisure considering how they have the power to separate echo fighters from their counterparts.

On the topic of characters, this transition from Wii U to Switch, is defined in the way these characters look on-screen and in-battle. The graphical character pieces we receive in Ultimate far exceed that of the previous title. Yet, this is a common trend, as with each Super Smash Bros. game, the graphics tend to increase and look better than the previous installment. Thus, Ultimate’s character design is no laughing matter. Many of the designs of the Anime-esque and realistic-based characters like Marth, Roy, Pit, Cloud, Ryu, and Ken are stunning to look at from the human eye. Zelda’s new design fits her character better than her Twilight Princess appearance based on the amount of fan-art that’s online now. Even small changes to the UI during battle, like finding out what the Villager and now, Isabelle, hold in their arsenal to finding out how much magic Robin has left, is helpful and fantastic. Mr. Game & Watch’s new character animations are a perfect example when supporting the argument about how much passion and time went into making these characters feel new and improved, despite fans knowing of their existence in prior Super Smash Bros. titles.

From a graphical perspective, I prefer playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on TV and in hand-held mode. On the television I haven’t noticed any dips in quality or frame-rate. I only spotted a few frame-drops when exploring certain stages and in eight-player smash battles. These “certain” stages preferably were large stages like Great Cave Offensive and Palutena’s Temple. The game dropped a few frames when I played on these stages, but it never dropped to the point where I wanted to place my Nintendo Switch back on the dock. On that note, with how small the Nintendo Switch screen is in hand-held mode, it was difficult to track-down where my characters were on these large stages or in World of Light’s over-world maps themselves. I’d have to make sure the screen was inches away from my face, or else I’d lose track where my character is during the match or game. Implementing a mechanism as shown in the Nintendo 3DS version of Super Smash Bros.’ like the black outlines would’ve been helpful for players who want to play from farther, exceptional distances while in handheld mode. Also there’s been points where characters would sink through the stage–causing them to lose the match because of the game’s technical problems. From a player’s perspective of someone who wants to play elite smash battles with certain characters, this can be bothersome to them. Despite the minuscule frame drops, discomfort I had when playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in handheld mode, and the weird technical problems, this game looks and runs marvelously well.

SOUNDTRACK:

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The most important element to any video-game is its soundtrack and the way it’s used. Ultimate delivers over 900 sound pieces which is a worthy number for a game claiming to the be the “ultimate” version of its respected franchise. I can happily say that quantity and quality reflect each other when it comes to the soundtrack this game holds. In every Super Smash Bros. match, I’d have the urge to limit the sound effects and character voices–just to hone in on the musical compositions this game has. The option to listen to a stage’s whole musical library from the franchise it represents over listening to themes only-accustomed to that stage, has to be the greatest decision Sakurai and his development team made when developing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I no longer have to sync a song from another technological device to listen to the music I want to hear on the Mario stage. If I want to listen to Delfino Plaza’s theme while on the Peach’s Castle stage, I can simply select the song on the menu before the battle begins using the “Y” button. This works hand-in-hand with the other stages in Ultimate too which gives this simple function an A+ in my book.

Even though some of the music is a bit lighthearted and not battle enthusing to the ear, they’re a great listen for times when you need to cool off and listen to something calm and pleasant. Just make sure you’re not accidentally listening to Ultimate’s main menu theme consistently because its mixture of instruments and niche chorus numbers will give you a hyperactive rock concert sensation. Some of the voice acting in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is questionable. Some of the voice-work is okay while others have me shaking my head. Preferably the voice-work done for Roy, maybe Marth, and Viridi. Roy’s voice feels a bit too manly for his teenage body while Marth’s might be odd considering how he’s been perceived as a strictly Japanese-only spoken character since his introduction in Super Smash Bros. Melee. As For Viridi’s new voice in the Palutena’s Guidance Easter Eggs for the Palutena’s Temple stage, I prefer her previous voice over this high-pitched one we receive in Ultimate. Otherwise, I love the musical compositions and specific sound effects used in Ultimate (the sudden death and critical hit sounds–specifically).

FINAL VERDICT:

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The Final Results portrait for level 9.0 intensity.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was fun and exciting in many ways. From March to December, I rode the fictitious hype train with the rest of its fan-base in anticipation for this game’s launch. Once I opened my package, placed the cartridge in my Nintendo Switch system, and started playing, my world was rocked. Its replay value knows no bounds as I expect to put in many hours into the title–honing my skills with Duck Hunt and taking down many challengers who dare cross my path. The single-player and multi-player content in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is best summed up as a playground with numerous swings, slides, and structures for people to explore in. Though I have my gripes with the title in terms of its subtle frame drops, lack of unique single-player content, voice-work, online functionality, and minor technical issues, I believe it lives up to its title of ultimate and is worth your time, money, and energy.

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You can digitally purchase Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch’s eShop now. However, if you want a physical copy of the game, you can head over to any local or online retailer such as Walmart, GameStop, Best Buy, or Amazon to purchase it there. It’s currently $59.99 USD at all factions. For other information about the title, click here to be transported to the game’s official website.

Thank you for taking your time to read our review of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. What do you think about the game? Were your expectations met or did something about the title feel flat to you? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter, and follow us for more gaming reviews, news, lists, and opinion articles!