Updated: Jan 20, 2019
In what may come as a brief surprise, Super Smash Bros Ultimate marks the first entry in the franchise that I have ever played. Its iconic status has been impressed onto me through its praise as a spectator activity, dazzlingly obnoxious fights, and faithful recreation of the franchises it portrays. And with the release of 2018’s Super Smash Bros Ultimate, with what is reported to be the largest and most complete version of the franchise that can be found, the game fails to have compromise, always searching for the most complete way of accomplishing a task. From its ridiculously large roster to minor details regarding spirits, Ultimate never hesitates to put in the effort to pull off what is unquestionably the most ambitious fighting game of all time. Its worlds pop with radiant color, bursting onto every scene. Each moment of gameplay is seamless and fluid, with each move blending together in a flurry of manners. And yet for all its staying, calming elements, Ultimate is anything but, delivering a bombastic, delightfully obnoxious experience that melds many inventive franchises and characters into a seamless and fluid fighting title.
One of the most eye-catching details of Ultimate is its 79-character roster, starring highlighted franchises such as Nintendo’s in-house properties, namely Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, etc., and exciting third-party properties, with Snake from Metal Gear Solid easily taking the cake for me. And while each character never feels wholly unique from each other, the amount of effort that this roster affords is impeccable. Never before has a roster size in this franchise been so dense and dripping with content. It’s clear that Nintendo strived for the most “ultimate” version of this franchise, not saving a single punch for a roster that contains delightful newcomers such as King K. Rool and classic, nearly forgotten favorites such as Snake. It’s an outstanding collection of character that never ceases to amaze.
As a newcomer to the series, I was most curious about how the game would actually play. Thankfully, however, it plays masterfully, a true masterclass in family-friendly fighting action. And while I wish it would give beginning players more options, it’s definitely friendly to any familiar Smash player, retaining its heart and soul to a peak. Running at a smooth 60fps, fights are dense, smooth, and dripping with color.
However, at times, this excessive color palette gets in the way of some intense combat. Certain colors begin to merge together and obnoxious flashes of special effects cause characters to be difficult to see. At multiple times throughout the several hours I have put into the game, I wasn’t sure which character was which due to the almost shamelessly small icons above the characters. It’s easily the biggest flaw of the entire game, making certain matches more repetitive and randomized rather than rhythmic and calculated.
Where these matches take place is in the wide, diverse list of maps. Like the main roster, these maps are brilliant recreations of some of the most outstanding game franchises in history. Particular highlights include some outstanding recreations of the 2D Mario levels and New Donk City from 2017’s Super Mario Odyssey. While the number of maps didn’t have the same jaw-dropping effect as the roster, it’s difficult to fault it, given its wide array of locations and how each can be used strategically.
One of the most prominent additions to the game are spirits, which are essentially in-game attributes that help tailor a fighter. And in hindsight, their inclusion felt muddled at best. Even though it was capitalized with a rich campaign, full of RPG elements, but had frustrating elements, their inclusion was never practical and I often opted for their removal when facing other players. As for the single-player campaign, World of Light, it left me mixed as well. It features a fantastic opening cut scene, that was unfortunately revealed in a trailer, but has little narrative material outside of that. And what makes the absence even more noticeable is the fact that all spirits and fighters earned outside of the mode cannot be used in it. It’s notably frustrating and demoralizing to have to engage in a series of matches to unlock a character in World of Light that was already unlocked in other modes the moment the game was booted up.
But as a collective whole, Super Smash Bros Ultimate is a fitting recreation to one of the genre’s most prominent legacies. It’s hard to see how Nintendo could advance with the franchise in this direction, given that this entry has covered nearly everything. But even then, it doesn’t take away from what is an amazing, chockful fighting title. It easily clamps as the best game from the publisher this year and the best fighting game of the entire year at that as well.
Score: 8.9 out of 10