Crossovers happen all the time in games, films, TV shows and just about every other form of media out there, but none of them can really be compared to Super Smash Bros.; no, not even that film that you’re thinking of. So it’s beyond a bold move to name the latest entry in a series ‘Ultimate’, thus raising expectations to dizzying levels, so can Super Smash Bros. Ultimate really live up to its name? That’s what we’re here to discuss, because this is a review of it.
The core idea of Smash hasn’t changed at all really; you’re still setting up characters from the world of Nintendo (and from other developers, too) to beat the living snot out of each other until one of them is so badly damaged or poorly controlled that they fly or fall out of the intangible boundaries that Sakurai and his team have imposed upon one of the 104 included stages. Special moves, items, supremely fanatical hardcore community – it’s all largely the same as it was. It’s chaotic, high-octane and an incredibly replayable lump of fun. However the devil, appropriately, is in the detail.
The most notable inclusion
The most notable inclusion here is the new Adventure Mode dubbed World of Light, and by extension the new Spirits mechanic. A strange entity known as Galeem is systematically destroying the world in which all the fighter characters reside, and picks them off one by one in order to create a newer, more perfect world; a World of Light. Being the director’s personal baby, the pink and orb-like Kirby is the only one left unaffected, and in a mysterious pop of colourful stars is transported to a strange new land living in the shadow of the supposedly evil Galeem – or at least the shadow it would have if it wasn’t kicking out its own light like a sun.
You traverse the land through paths on a beautiful watercolour backdrop battling the souls of other characters that aren’t necessarily fighters – such as Joan the turnip seller from Animal Crossing – that have inhabited empty copies of Mario, Link, King Dedede and the rest of the whopping 74 characters you can play as. They’re not without their own perks though, and each Spirit brings with it one or two things that mix up the way a fight plays out. For example, they might be giant, tiny, like to taunt constantly, or even favour one specific move above all others to name just a handful. The stages can also be affected by things such as electric floors, strong winds and reduced gravity.
The variety in these fights is staggering, and practically all of them are insanely good fun and a novel way to breathe additional life into battles without having to code and create 1,297 unique fighters – yep, that’s the total number of Spirits in the game at the time of writing, with more being added in the future. Not every battle is an absolute winner however, and some even spell it out for you in the fight description, simply calling it a ‘no-frills’ battle. This is a slight disappointment, but these truly are extremely few and far between, and given the colossal scale that the team were working with, we can happily accept that not every one of over a thousand Spirit encounters can be as memorable as others.
You can assign one primary Spirit
But once you’ve battled a Spirit, things don’t end there. You’ll acquire each Spirit you defeat in World of Light and the more straightforward Spirit Board, which is essentially a randomised rotating gallery of Spirits you can choose to battle without delving into World of Light. You can assign one primary Spirit and up to three support Spirits to help boost your fighter’s power and make the often one-sided battles in World of Light much more equal. You can freely overpower yourself making many contests a complete breeze, but this will result in fewer bonuses for your trouble – and if you intentionally underpower yourself, you’ll be raking in rewards like nobody’s business. It’s a system that essentially self-regulates itself, and the addition of a Skill Tree that boosts your power as well as pre-determined difficulty levels provides a staggering amount of flexibility in how you approach this particular mode.
The world itself is also absolutely massive, and what you initially see isn’t all you get, as there are a good number of hidden areas that house extra lovely stuff. Throughout it all you’ll be unlocking new fighters to play as, new Spirits to assign and beating seven shades out of special boss fights that we don’t want to spoil, but can confirm are absolutely fantastic, and manage to outdo even the finest bosses from Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s Subspace Emissary.