It’s finally here folks! The most pre-ordered game in both Switch and Smash history has landed for us all to join the fight. And a game of Ultimate status deserves an Ultimate review, so let’s dive straight in and see whether this game get’s the overall score most of you will be predicting it gets, or whether it surprises us and has shortcomings we didn’t expect.
Before we start can we just take a moment to appreciate the sheer amount of content that has been crammed onto the cartridge. Seventy eight fighters, over one hundred stages, fifty five Pokemon, fifty nine assist fighters, over nine hundred songs on the soundtrack (145 of which are completely new and total over ten hours of music), an entirely new single player mode, eight player battles, four player online battles, numerous modes and unlockables, a total of (wait for it) 1297 Spirits to collect (yes that is one thousand, two hundred and ninety seven Spirits). That’s coming to roughly 2150 unlockable elements as you play this game. And this is all before taking five DLC packs over the next 24 months into account! The amount is just mind-boggling, and that is also before you really start taking into account the complexities of all that content working together. Whether it’s the variations Kirby has to be able to form into when swallowing opponents, the number of new voiceovers Snake’s David Hayter has had to record when confronting every single opponent, the variations of fighter specific elements (Villager’s bag being used alongside Mac’s KO meter for example). Hell, even variations of character’s outfits have varied voice actors depending on what game used what costume/voice. The level of detail given to this iteration of Smash truly is astounding and lives up to the Ultimate moniker given to it. If this isn’t Masahiro Sakurai’s swan song from the Smash Bros series (like he originally intended the Wii U and 3DS titles to be), then I really don’t know what else his mind can personally throw at this title now.
The main part of the game’s single-player campaign is of course the World of Light story mode. Coming in at approximately 30 hours of gameplay alone, this is Nintendo at their darkest. Willingly “killing” their whole roster of fighters (barring Kirby, who is Sakurai’s original creation for those keeping track of nerd points) and their souls possessing duplicate “puppet” forms of their living selves in a post-apocalyptic environment… it’s bloody dark! We didn’t even see Parappa or Lara snuff it in All Stars Battle Royale (the less said about that game to be fair, the better), so to see Mario and Link killed off in Ultimate is a brave narrative choice for the “family friendly” entertainment company. From the onset, this feels more natural as a mode than the Subspace Emissary, which tried too hard to be an RPG style game as opposed to the beat em up the game should fall under. World of Light on the other hand is a beat em up firstly, with basic elements from strategy titles gently laid on top. Kirby and the fighters he slowly unlocks will obtain “Spirits” which are there in the visual form of a sticker. These stickers enable special abilities and should be used tactically when preparing for battles. As a result of the sheer number of Spirits (1297?!) the number of combinations you’ll find out on the battlefield is practically endless. Thankfully the game does include an auto-fill option where depending on the stage and fighter, the game finds what it feels is the three best Spirits you have to assign to them. You can also assign these unlockable Spirits to your Amiibo fighters, but more on Amiibo later. New Spirits will be slowly added to the game as well, as Nintendo has already confirmed several weeks into Ultimate’s release there will be Partner Pikachu and Eevee Spirits for those who have Let’s Go save files on their consoles.
Speaking of unlockables, the way in which your roster unfolds this time around is another indication of this being Sakurai’s final Smash outing. Starting with just the original eight fighters from the original N64 game, you unlock fighters in the order in which they debuted in other Smash titles. This is the case for stages you fight on also (unlocking stages relative to the fighter now accessible), along with subsequent music of course. I think features like this help fill the game full of quality, longevity and of course nostalgia for any of us who have been there since the beginning. Other nostalgic elements that have been thought out include clever variations of the games’ theme in the styles of previous Smash themes (the main menu theme for example is a nod to the menu theme for Brawl on the Wii). Things like this make Ultimate a real love letter for both the franchise as well as the fan base that have stuck with it through thick and thin.
One way you’ll enjoy the game with each character (if you’re a completionist like me), is finishing classic mode with every fighter. A mix of all former classic modes, the game draws most inspiration from the most recent Wii U and 3DS iterations, allowing you to gamble in-game currency by increasing the difficulty along the “mural” screen. The harder the setting, the more currency and unlockables you’ll be rewarded with. One new addition to classic mode, as a replacement to Break the Targets, is the side-scrolling collectathon. Smash momentarily becomes a platformer, and of course each character will have different ways of achieving scores in such an environment. While Sonic can dash his way through, a more clunky King K. Rool will struggle. It’s moments like this that help show the dynamic range the roster has to offer.
It’s not just the level of characters dynamics that give the game a varied range. One of Smash’s strengths has always been its ability to be both a pick up and play title for casual fans, but also an intricate stat based strategy fighter for die hard gamers. Ultimate is no exception. You can go into an eight fighter brawl with your friends and enjoy the chaos as multiple opponents are sent flying either off stage or into your screen. But you can also revel in the complexity of a one-on-one fight with custom rules and the need to 1-Up your opponent with mid air and ledge based counter strikes. It’s this range that makes the game as popular and accessible as it is, and Ultimate achieves that more than ever before.
My favourite new mode for when having friends or online opponents face you, is Smashdown. In Smashdown, all unlocked fighters are available, but only once. As you play round after round, characters become locked off, and as your choice becomes more and more limited, you essentially get left with the characters you’d normally choose to ignore. This pushes you to really understand and explore each fighter’s strengths so that if you get stuck with ROB the Robot (no offence ROB, but this ain’t no Gyromite!) you can still utilise him in ways to blast people off the stage.
There are various ways in which you can purchase Ultimate for your Switch. Whether it be the eShop download, the standard release, the Pro Controller bundle (complete with swanky new skinned controller), or what I was lucky enough to get my Master Hand like mittens on… the collector’s edition! (Ooooooo! Ahhhhhh!) The set consists of a lovely collectors box to keep it in which has the complete roster mural, a fancy jet black steelbook for the game to sit in (the inside of which is a foil covered shot of the Final Destination battlefield), and the bit of the set any true Smash gamer would want to own… a brand new GameCube Controller! Yup, it’s back, and it’s just as good as ever. To say this controller hasn’t changed a bit (barring the use of an Ultimate logo instead of a GameCube logo) is by no means a bad thing, for what is considered by many the greatest controller made to date. The USB adapter that comes in the box for said GameCube controller does work when plugged into a computer by the way. Just sayin…
Another physical form Smash introduced to the world is of course Amiibo. And now that every fighter has returned, every fighter will need an NFC rendered buddy alongside them. Twelve new additions to the Amiibo roster are already confirmed and available to preorder, three of which arrive on launch day. I was hoping Nintendo would have sorted out their stock of the new range, as many of us have yet to complete wave one of Smash Amiibos, and the cost of some of the now rarer units online is quite disgusting (I have seen Bayonetta and Cloud go on sale for over £80 each on Amazon). Sadly this doesn’t seem to be the case as the first three Amiibo releasing alongside the game itself are already sold out everywhere. Hopefully Nintendo will continue to make batches of them in order to stop the online monetising of them. (UPDATE: If you’re the owner of the Timmy & Tommy Animal Crossing Amiibo, try using it during the World of Light campaign. It’s quite the Easter Egg!)
So the question we now have to ask, is that come 2020 once this game is complete and all DLC is available… where does Smash go from here? If anywhere at all? Can Nintendo simply just throw everything and the kitchen sink on a cartridge each time now? Because they simply can’t make Ultimate, and then its successor only have half of the old roster present. Do Nintendo keep paying for Snake, Sonic and Ryu to show up, or are they brave/stupid enough to omit big 3rd party fighters next time around? Where does a story mode move when you’ve already gone to the ends of the universe and killed off all but one of your roster off? As much as I adore Smash Bros as a franchise, I feel like the successor to Switch should perhaps give the franchise a break before it potentially reboots with a new director and team on whatever comes after the next-gen Nintendo console.
When Marvel decided that Avengers: Infinity War would be the greatest crossover in media history, Sakurai turned to Disney and said: “hold my beer”. Easily the greatest crossover of any form of entertainment ever made is what Smash Bros Ultimate has turned out to be (with that music video by Peter Kay for Children in Need involving all the children’s TV characters coming a close second I’m sure you’ll agree). Not content with keeping to their word about “everyone” being there, several new characters and a bunch of DLC (including Piranha Plant, which should get an extra point on the overall score by itself just for teasing/mocking Waluigi fans when a pre-order exclusive was announced. Waluigi would technically be an Echo fighter anyway let’s be honest…) makes the effort made on this game just unbelievable. The Game Awards just announcing DLC 1 as Joker from Persona 5 really adding to the hold my beer logic of making this crossover heaven.
Is it the same game as before? No, it’s not. It’s the same as the four games that came before it, and then some. Many sites have referred to Ultimate as a museum for Smash Bros, which in my opinion is far from a bad thing. The comprehensive, definitive collection of Smash, available to play as both TV and handheld all in one. If someone bundled the entirety of Zelda upscaled and remastered into a single package for Switch (and please do Nintendo), it would be virtually impossible to not give it a perfect score despite it being previously available. It would be the level of effort and dedication put into such a collection that would make it special enough. Super Smash Bros Ultimate is no exception and is therefore my first perfect score for a game on TwoBeardGaming. If the website had allowed me that extra point for your pre-order exclusive, I’d have given it 11 in fact. Then this review for Smash truly would have been (*said in the Announcer’s voice*) ULTIMATE!
Beard Score: 10/10
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 07/12/18
No. of Players: 1
Category: Fighting, Action