Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Developer: Nintendo | Video Game (Switch) | Release Date: Dec. 7 | Length: 60+ Hours | Rating: 5/5 Stars

I promised myself I would only hand out one five star rating this entire quarter — I was wrong. “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is the definitive version of the “Smash Bros.” experience.

Though any of the games in Masahiro Sakurai’s phenomenal series are achievements in and of themselves, the opinion of the fanbase isn’t quite unified. Fans of the series began to divide at the second installment in the series, claiming that the third game in the series was a step backward in progress. With the fourth game having not done anything in particular to change fanbase opinion one way or the other, there is a lot of pressure on the fifth installment. Like a pink puffball from the planet of Popstar, the game must rise to the occasion against overwhelming odds.

For those who don’t know, “Super Smash Bros.” began in 1999 and has been revamping the fighting game genre ever since. The rules of “SSB” are simple: hit your opponent and launch them off of the level. With every hit landed, your opponent’s percentage number will rise – both players start at zero percent. The higher the percentage, the more likely a character is to be launched off the level. There are items at play – ultimate attacks, wavedashing, edgeguarding and plenty of other jargon to distract players with. The game is rather complex beyond the most basic of mechanics, so those who have never played a “SSB” game before are better off just jumping right into the fray.

As previously discussed, “Smash Bros.” games are graded on a higher echelon than other games are. Fighting games are my favorite genre of video game, so it’s always nice to have an excuse to get back to one.

Fighting games tend to fall into two different categories: technical masterpieces that leave novices wary of participating in, and button-mashing fests that leave fighting game veterans shaking their heads. The best kind of fighting game manages to be an open-armed welcome for both veterans and new players alike. The list of fighting games that manage to do this is short, yet adding “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” to the top of that list is something I can do with ease.

The roster of “SSBU” is the largest it’s ever been, with 74 fighters and a DLC list of extras already in the works. New characters like Simon Belmont and Ridley are creatively-crafted and are fun additions for players to explore. Veteran characters like Link and Bowser feel like they were evaluated and improved upon to increase their versatility.

The music of “SSBU,” which has always been a wonderful part of the series, now sports a feature that lets the Nintendo Switch function as an oversized tablet that can play melodies that send me through a warp tunnel to my personal happy place.

After the fourth game’s lack of story mode, “SSBU” ups the ante with The World of Light. The World of Light is a gameboard-esque platform where players will walk around and take on challenges that reference the numerous titles the fighters come from. In the same day, I took on Dr. Wily and his army of robot masters and  Dr. Mario and eight Megaman fighters, as I infiltrated a government facility to free Solid Snake from the clutches of darkness.

The World of Light and the game as a whole are supported by the new Spirit system. Spirits are support characters that can customize and buff fighters, legitimately revamping the fighters altogether. The spirits themselves are recognizable characters from games as well known as “The Legend of Zelda” to games as under the radar as “Custom Robo.” There are over 1200 spirits to collect and they really scratch the completionist itch that Game Freak should have scratched in my last Nintendo game review.

The game modes are as creative and varied as ever. Classic mode is back, but it feels a lot more creative as the Master Hand isn’t at the end of every fighter’s journey. Now under the name of Mob Smash, the multi-man battle mode is also included. Players will face an onslaught of challengers without the option of recovery in-between bouts. Beyond that is the regular Smash option, which then breaks into a bunch of creative ways for friends to destroy each other. My personal new favorite mode is Smash Down. Friends battle it out normally in Smash Down, but characters that win the matches are no longer selectable in the mode — this forces players to be versatile and not stick to any single character.

Speaking of the characters, they feel a little heavier than before, yet also somehow floaty in their control. It’s odd. It’s not necessarily good or bad, just something I had to adjust to. I’m sure everyone was worried about the balancing for this game, as balancing in fighting games is always a problem. I’m not going to lie and say that “SSBU” is perfect in its balancing, but it surely feels as though everyone has a shot at being in the winner’s circle. I pride myself on being a versatile player and, though I do have my preferred characters, there’s no one that I’ve strayed away from using to take my friends out with.

All of my friends that I play with happen to not be in-state, so I had to utilize the online mode to fight them — this was terrifying. If game developers are savvy tech-users, Nintendo is your grandmother that still doesn’t know how to set the time on a VCR. Nintendo has always been infamous for their online functionality and how bad it normally is.

The Switch recently put out Nintendo Switch Online, its Nintendo-based equivalent to Xbox Live and Playstation Plus, and this made everyone question whether or not the new “Smash Bros.” would be good enough to warrant the $4 monthly payments the online mode would require. After several hours of whooping my friends up and down the floor of the Final Destination level, I can delightfully report that I only experienced lag once.

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is amazing. It’s so good that I dreaded the final exams coming out this week because instead of studying for Anthropology, I was studying Giga Bowser’s hit windows. It’s so good that I feel as though it needs very little review altogether. Instead I simply offer this: SW-7916-5919-0960.

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Steven Gonzalez
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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

by Steven Gonzalez time to read: 4 min