It’s hard to believe it’s been one whole year since the release of “Super Smash Brothers Ultimate”, the fifth and latest rendition of the popular platform fighter franchise. It was certainly an interesting journey, filled with excitement and anticipation. From the very day it was announced back in March of 2018, to the E3 showcase in which introduced the motto of the game: “Everyone is here”. Taking time and scrolling through all the old trailers, the character predictions, the reactions to new announcements is certainly a trip down memory lane, and it was not even that long ago.
There are a multitude of reasons as to why “Smash Ultimate” is so influential. The game is a celebration of not only Nintendo’s history, but as well as Gaming in general. The franchise acts as a hall of fame, showcasing the best the industry has to offer, going as far back as Pac-Man and Mr. Game & Watch to more modern characters such as the Inklings and Joker from “Persona 5.”
A major improvement from previous titles is how accessible the game is. Every single thing has been streamlined and made so you can hop in and out of battles quickly and seamlessly. One of my peeves with any previous “Smash” game was that you can’t make preset rules, instead having to do it manually every time you boot up the game. In Ultimate, it’s literally click the “Smash” menu, choose your preset rules, choose your stage and characters and in you go.
The game truly has infinite possibilities in how you can customize your game. Whether you are a hardcore “Melee” Fox main who swears by ‘No Items, Final Destination,’ or just like playing Kirby because he’s cute, you can set up games to however you like. With over 100 unique stages, all with their own gimmicks, as well as many options with items and other things that can drastically change how you approach the game, you can spend over 400 hours in a year and still not feeling as if you’ve truly experienced everything. This is exactly what I’ve done, and I feel I have barely even scratched the surface on how much you can actually do in this game. It speaks volumes to how simple a game may seem, but has so much underneath the surface.
No matter how you talk about “Smash,” there really is no point you can go without bringing up the roster. It has become a badge of honor for any character to be added to the game in some form, whether it be a playable fighter, a spirit or an assist trophy. It’s crazy to think how we started with only 12. Now we have over 75. Each new character is celebrated and welcomed. Long time “Metroid” fans were ecstatic when main villain Ridley was added after over a decade of requests. Even beyond release, more characters were announced, such as fan favorites Banjo & Kazooie, who haven’t been seen on a Nintendo console since being bought by Microsoft. Perhaps the most memorable would be Joker from “Persona 5” stealing the show at the 2018 Game Awards to announce his spot as the game’s first DLC character post launch. Even Independent games have seen representation in the form of Shovel Knight as an assist trophy as well as even Sans from “Undertale” as a costume for the Mii Gunner.
This does not mean the game is perfect. The online system is notoriously flawed with one of the most glaring issues being unable to guarantee you’ll play with the ruleset that you want. You may queue up with wanting 1 on 1 battles in mind, but end up in a four person free-for-all. This happened fairly frequently upon launch of the game, but was quickly patched to more heavily prefer the player’s chosen ruleset. Although, that still means you might end up in a game with unwanted rules, but overall, it’s pretty rare. The connection largely depends on your internet speed as well as the opponent’s, which ranges anywhere from pretty good to almost unplayable. However, the more I play the game, the more I realise that the online isn’t really the way Ultimate is meant to be played. With the portability of the Nintendo Switch, you can take it wherever you like and play it whenever you like. This game is made to be taken with you, sit down with a couple of friends and play with them side by side. And the game works without an issue to speak of in undocked mode compared to the docked mode of the game. The two JoyCon controllers that come with the Switch, whilst not exactly built for a game like “Smash,” offer a decent experience, although Pro Controllers quickly remedy this minor gripe.
Just recently, “Smash Ultimate” overtook “Street Fighter II” as the highest selling fighting game, which is no mistake. It’s no secret how much more accessible “Smash” is as a franchise as opposed to other fighting games like “Street Fighter” and “Tekken.” The game’s universal button layout makes it easy for beginners to get into the game, yet leaves more complex techniques for the more seasoned players. Couple that with the amount of easily recognizable characters as well as all the changes mentioned prior further streamline the game, and make it so you can sit down and play within seconds. With promise for even more DLC after the conclusion of the current Fighter Pass, it looks like fans of the series will have plenty more to look forward to in the future.