One of Nintendo’s biggest flagship titles has finally made its way onto Nintendo Switch, and it’s bringing everybody with it! This iterating, dubbed “Ultimate” has a lot to live up to with a name like that, but Nintendo manages to deliver for the most part. Ultimate stands more as a greatest hit, than a truly innovative instalment, but the past has never looked better.
The sixth entry in the Smash Bros. series has boasted the slogan “Everyone is Here!” since its reveal back at E3 earlier this year. This of course is in reference to the astonishingly large roster of characters in the game. With any party/fighter game the characters included are always important, and with 74 different fighters in the base package, it’s nothing short of incredible. All past Smash Bros. characters return, whether they were originally DLC or cut from a past game. This also includes the 11 new characters. Gaming icons from the entire history of the medium are only unified in one place, and it’s done with reverence for those characters. So many of these characters feel unique and fresh despite such a large amount in the cast.
Having many characters can be a great thing, but if you can’t do anything fun with them, then it’s pointless. Luckily, Ultimate delivers plenty of fun modes, even at the expense of some past modes not returning. Despite being called Ultimate, some series staple modes are gone from this iteration of the game. Trophies, Home Run Contest, and Break the Target, are all absent from the game. Trophies were a huge loss as they provided a great insight into many franchises represented in Smash, and their replacement, Spirits, isn’t as interesting as those. The other two won’t be as missed, but to not include them feels like something is missing. Classic Mode however, is the best it’s ever been, with unique sets of fights that relate to each character that ends with a boss fight. This rendition of Classic is the best it’s been in the franchise and a fun way to experience all the fighters. The usual “Mob Smash” modes like Century Smash, All-Star Smash, and Cruel Smash, all return and are mostly unchanged.
The main single-player attraction is the adventure mode dubbed “World of Light.” This mode sets up an adventure that begins with Kirby attempting to rescue the roster of characters from a mysterious new threat. There are hundreds of Spirit battles to go through in the beautifully illustrated map, with some very unique and interesting ideas and puzzles that bring the world of certain franchises to life. This mode last about 30 hours if you want to go for everything, but unfortunately after about half that, these Spirit battles run their course and can get very repetitive. Spirits as a whole is a fun distraction, but it doesn’t seem like it’s worth the investment that it’s asking for.
Everyone has their favorite way to play Smash, and now it’s never been easier to set the rules to your liking. Ultimate considers everyone’s playstyle and makes it incredibly easy to jump in. Rules that fit more competitive play are welcomed with Battlefield and Omega variants of every stage, and for the more party pleasing rules, additions like Stage Morph, Final Smash Meter, and the abundant number of new items and assist trophies are great way to cause some chaos. Speaking of stages, 103 are available from the start, with a few new, but mainly past stages that have gotten a major HD revamp. There’s never been more ways to play, and they all work to accommodate everyone.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the online functionality for the game, which leaves much to be desired. What seemed like a good replacement for prior online systems, the preferred rules system, in which you list exactly how you wish to play, isn’t prioritized. Since launch, Nintendo did release a patch in order to more strongly prioritize preferred rules, but it’s unfortunate when you still get placed in a game you don’t like, with no means of leaving it. Amongst other issues with online, the rematch option when finishing a match doesn’t allow you to switch characters, which is an incredibly odd design choice. Overall lag issues still occasionally plague online, but you’ll probably get more smooth matches most of the time. Hopefully as the game continues to get patches, the online can be made a desirable experience for the majority of the time it’s used.
Despite its online issues, Smash Bros. has always worked best as a party game you sit around with friends for. In that sense this truly is the ultimate Smash game, even if some omissions and online don’t live up to the name. The roster of characters, abundance of beautiful stages, some fun single player modes, and the customization provided are more than enough to satisfy any player, Smash veteran or not. Smash Ultimate is the ultimate celebration of gaming, and an incredibly satisfying gaming experience.