Available On: Switch
What started out as a goofy mashup of a handful of Nintendo characters having a What-If throw-down has spent the last two decades transforming into one of the most beloved, consistently excellent series on every Nintendo console since the Nintendo 64.
As the fifth game in the series Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is well deserving of its Ultimate title, featuring every fighter and stage from previous games while providing a solid balance of new and classic gameplay modes, though it’s still a series built for, and best enjoyed locally rather than online.
Gotta Fight ‘Em All
With every single fighter from each Super Smash Bros. iteration – plus several choice newcomers, the full roster has ballooned to over 70. There really is something for everyone here, whether you prefer the zippy speed of Mario, Sonic, and Pikachu, the long-range prowess of Simon and Samus, or clobbering with lumbering heavyweights like Bowser and Gannondorf.
The newcomers all fit fantastically, especially the Inkling from Splatoon whose speed, range, and unique ink-ammo makes her (or him) a great all-arounder with a neat bit of technical skill.
While the final roster is enormous, Ultimate makes the rather bold choice of only starting with the original eight from the first Smash game. New fighters are unlocked in a steady stream of play time, whether you’re adventuring through the World of Light or battling friends or bots in classic multiplayer Smash.
This extreme character unlock can be frustrating for fans of certain characters who have to grind through hours of playtime (or use our handy guide), but it does allow the massive roster to be properly digested, and each fighter can be explored before you’re overwhelmed with options.
The standard multiplayer Smash mode is mostly unchanged, letting you select from over 100 stages with various parameters for handicaps, items, AI, and time limits as players deal more and more damage to knock their opponents off-screen.
Classic Mode returns as a standard single or co-op adventure through six unique matchups for each fighter. Most fighters are treated to memorably gigantic final boss fights ripped right from their respective series, such as The Legend of Zelda and Castlevania.
The Smash series has dabbled in various single player campaigns over the years; Ultimate’s World of Light is one of the series’ strongest offerings. It features a large adventure-style map with battles against spirits pulled from dozens of game series inhabiting the fighters. These spirits vastly alter the dynamics of a fight, such as introducing environmental hazards, or making the enemy extra large, or metal, or constantly spewing fire.
You’ll earn your own Spirits to equip, level up, and customize for each threat. It’s a rewarding system that doesn’t feel too fiddly or confusing, offering just the right amount of extra tactical complexity and planning before each fight. World of Light is a meaty adventure worth tackling, and the Spirit system can be further explored in the one-off Spirit Battles mode.
Sadly where Super Smash Bros. Ultimate suffers the most is in its online capabilities. Nintendo has always felt a solid generation behind when it comes to online functionality. Where the offline and local modes are hugely customizable, including tournaments, Smashdown, Squad Strike and more, the online components are limited to basic Smash mode (sans bots), and it’s needlessly obtrusive to edit the settings or even change fighters. Without dedicated servers latency is at the mercy of everyone’s internet connection, and matchmaking can still result in matches you don’t want.
It’s doubly a shame as this is the first Smash game requiring a paid Nintendo Online subscription. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate easily has the potential to be one of the best online multiplayer offerings if Nintendo can improve these issues. But for now Smash remains catered to local multiplayer.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is rated E10+ for Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief, and Suggestive Themes. Smash Bros is famous for being a very family-friendly fighting series with intuitive, easy-to-grasp controls for younger kids. The action isn’t any more violent than what you’d normally find in an action-packed cartoon. The Suggestive Themes mostly point to certain female characters in skin-tight outfits, such as Bayonetta and Zero-Suit Samus.
For local multiplayer mayhem you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more complete package than Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The amount of game modes, fighters, stages, and unlockables is staggering, and the Spirit Battles and World of Light adventure are fantastic new additions. The enormous roster ensures endless replayability – it will probably take you about 20 hours of normal gameplay just to unlock everyone.
The limited online gameplay is hugely disappointing, however, and it’s inexcusable for such a multiplayer-friendly title in 2018. Hopefully the online experience can be smoothed and expanded, as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate should be one of the marquee gaming experiences on the Nintendo Switch.