Smash Ultimate smashes expectations: Players love new characters and modes


courtesy of Jen Kullgren

Dana and Alex Kullgren face off on the “Mushroom Kingdom U” stage of Smash Ultimate.

by Dana Kullgren and Alex Kullgren

9.95/10 stars

How did a video game released in December sell over 3 million copies in less than two weeks and win Best Fighting Game of the Year and Best Game on the Nintendo Switch? Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the newest game in the Smash Bros. series, and it achieved all of the above due to its ingenuity, design, and incredible gameplay.

Super Smash Bros. is a series of games that allows players to fight as their favorite Nintendo characters on a variety of stages. Smash Ultimate has kept every character that has ever been in a previous Smash game (ex. Mario, Donkey Kong, Pikachu) and added a multitude of new characters. I love the additions, including Simon Belmont of the Castlevania series, Isabelle of the Animal Crossing series, and Ken from the Street Fighter series.

The concept of the Smash series is that each player attempts to attack the other characters, which slowly increases the defending character’s percent (damage taken). The more a character has been hit, the farther they’ll be launched. Smash Bros. took this approach to damage as opposed to the classic, life bar-depleting system of other fighting games. This one change created the subgenre of platform-fighters where players attempt to hit opponents as far from the stage as possible to defeat them. The gameplay flows, allowing for versatile movement mixed with satisfying blows.

Although the task of learning the game may seem daunting, Ultimate is easily accessible to newcomers, but still provides a fulfilling experience for veterans.The game has simple-to-learn controls, and if an experienced player is fighting against a less-experienced player, there is an option to lower the amount of damage a character does to make the game fun and fair for everyone.

My personal favorite character would have to be Donkey Kong, the surly ape who is surprisingly nimble. He’s fast, especially for a character of his size, but can still deal out a significant beating if his opponent gets too close.

Although the Switch may not have the best hardware (it is easily outclassed by the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4) the game is still impressively beautiful on a TV or in handheld mode. Not only are the graphics magnificent, but the UI (User Interface) is both simple and beautiful, taking heavy inspiration from Persona 5, a game known for its exquisite UI and select screens.

The game itself is undoubtedly one of the best games ever made. It takes everything beloved about the previous five entries in the series and adds even more content. The game includes 76 characters who were first introduced in games from anywhere between 1980 and 2017. It also has 103 different stages and more than 850 music tracks from other Nintendo games. At Gamescom 2018, the largest gaming-related event in the world, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was voted the best video game on the Switch, and from first-hand experience, I believe that Ultimate alone is reason enough to buy the console itself.

Ultimate also has three main game modes: “Smash,” “Spirits,” and “Online.”

Smash: Free-for-all

“Smash” allows up to eight players to battle each other in a free-for-all or team battle with easily customizable rulesets. Players can play with different items, different versions of stages, and different spirits.

Spirits: A new type of story mode

Spirits are the Ultimate’s way of including games from series that aren’t represented in the expansive roster of playable characters. To unlock a spirit, the player must first fight in a spirit battle against a fighter with a certain gimmick attached. This gimmick could be an electrified floor or heavy winds blowing the player away. One example of a spirit might be Buzz Buzz, a fly from the game Mario Paint. In this fight, the player will go up against a tiny Mr. Game and Watch (a character from a series of the same name) who is at 300% (meaning that any move will easily kill this character). Once a spirit is beaten, the player can equip them, adding to their character’s power. By equipping up to four different spirits at a time, players can gain some of the same gimmicks of the characters they fought.

Under the “Spirits” category, the game also includes World of Light, a type of story mode. The premise is that Galeem, the Lord of Light, has abducted every character in the game except for Kirby (from the series of the same name). Kirby must progress through the world, encountering more than 1000 spirit battles and slowly expanding the roster of fighters. When I played through World of Light, I beat 582 spirit battles and it took me just over 22 hours of gameplay to beat the main story.

Online: Up against the world

The final main game mode in Smash Ultimate is “Online.” “Online” allows players to play alone or with one other person and compete against others online. Players can also face off against their friends by inputting each other’s “Friend Codes.”

Although the game is almost perfect now, it has an even brighter future. Ultimate will add at least six more characters at a later date. Two of these six characters have already been announced. Piranha Plant of the Super Mario series and Joker from Persona 5 have been in development and Piranha Plant is already scheduled for a February release. For each of these characters, Nintendo will add a new stage and multiple music tracks.

Overall, this game deserves 9.95/10 stars. The only possible issue with this game is that, when Nintendo updates the game, they don’t specifically state the changes that have been made to different characters. Players are then forced to test out everything about a character to find what has been altered.

It was genuinely difficult to think of a single negative aspect of this game. This very small nitpick about the patch notes is the only detail keeping this game from a perfect 10/10.