You may have seen several students inside and outside of school bringing their newly opened Nintendo Switch into school to play together from time to time. Whether that be in study hall or in lunch, there is no denying that the Switch’s ability to become a gaming handheld AND be a home console makes the device very popular. And in my school, there is no other game exemplifying that more than with Nintendo’s latest fighting game - “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.”
The game, since coming out in the United Kingdom and United States on December 7th, has been topping the charts throughout the entirety of the month into the new year, and has over 80,000 people playing PER DAY. And as a result of popular streamers live-streaming the game on platforms like Twitch, it has not only been a huge money-maker for Nintendo, but a ground-breaking success with a long shelf life.
But what about the actual game? What IS Super Smash Bros? Why is everyone playing it?
Well, as with any game, there is always a developmental history. Let’s go back to around 1999, when director of the “Kirby” franchise, Masahiro Sakurai, wanted to develop a fighting game for the Nintendo 64. Already, the console has been massively successful with such hits as “Super Mario 64” and “The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time”, but this was a title that would have started a revolution to the current fighting-game genre.
Sakurai as well as game design veteran Satoru Iwata started development on a simple polygonal fighting game called “Dragon King: The Fighting Game”. The objective in every match was to hit your opponent enough times to build up their percentage on the bottom of their screen. The more the percentage went up, the more it was easier to launch you off the stage. However, the game hit a snag when Sakurai wanted the title to have its own identity.
After convincing some of the higher-ups, Nintendo icons became playable fighters for this title. Players can choose between staple characters, such as Mario, Link, and more. There were 8 fighters unlocked from the start, and you had to battle to unlock the rest. “Super Smash Bros.” was released on January 21st to widespread critical claim.
Since then, the series became even more popular with the release of “Super Smash Bros. Melee” for the Nintendo GameCube, “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” for the Nintendo Wii, and “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS” for the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS respectively. The series cemented the name of Sakurai as a gaming legend, and for his gudegra and final farewell of the “Smash Brothers” series, he released “Ultimate” on December 7th, 2018.
So how is this entry in the series different from the rest? Well, let’s start with the main selling point of “Ultimate” - the fighters.
What sets “Ultimate” apart from every other Smash game is that, for the first time ever, EVERY character from the past installments was coming back for an INSANE amount of fighting combinations!
Previous Smash games had characters completely omitted as a result of certain characters being clones of other characters, balance issues, or simply not enough people caring about their inclusion. That is not the case, here: every fighter, from the Nintendo 64 original and onwards, is here and accounted for. There are over 76 playable characters in the game TOTAL, and some fighters even had a kit upgrade since their original game!
Speaking of the Nintendo 64, another big difference this time around is that the amount of characters you start off with is PITIFUL - you only have the original 8 fighters from the first game to start off with, and the main goal when you first get it is to unlock every character. And the game sure did make you work for the fighters; the A.I. in the game has been cranked up significantly! The A.I. was so good that Nintendo sent out a patch to adjust the character’s difficulty.
In terms of stages to choose from, there are OVER 100 stages in the entire game, unlocked right from the start. Not to mention, there are well over 900 tracks for sound effects, musical compositions and remixes to fan-favorites. To put this in comparison, previous smash games had around 50-55 stages MAX to choose from, DLC included, and around 500 musical tracks. But here, stages that fans requested most are here, with some being introduced for this game.
In terms of content for fighting with your friends, “Ultimate” has copious amounts of gamemodes and fanservice that will keep you and your friends entertained for hours upon hours. However, to be a bit nitpicky for the moment, a lot of the charm of the game comes from multiplayer, because single-player kind of leaves the loner little to do.
What IS there is not terrible, but it does feel a tad underwhelming. Classic Mode has been brought back, which allows you to choose a fighter and go through stages and enemies that relate to that particular character. For instance, Mario could go through several stages from games like “Super Mario World” and face off against Bowser, Princess Peach, his brother Luigi, and so on. You can also do Classic Mode with a friend, which is helpful if you want to earn more rewards.
The rest of the mini-games under the tab “Games and More” are more of a distraction than full-out mods. There are three modes where you have to knock out as many opponents as you can:
- Mob Smash, where you knock out 100 fighters as fast as you can.
- “All Star” mode, where you have to knock out the fighters from their respective era (1980s, 90s, so on and so forth) on one stage AND on one life.
- Cruel Smash, where the A.I. become RIDICULOUSLY hard. You’ll exit this mode in no time.
If you are someone who’s been playing with “Smash” for a while (Melee, Brawl, etc.), you’ll be sad to know that other mini-games like “Break the Targets” or the “Home Run Contest” are no longer here; not even those Wii U/3DS modes of “Smash Run” or “Smash Tour” are brought back.
I get WHY they have omitted all of these features, however; to bring in the newest edition of the “Smash Bros.” franchise - Spirits.
From “Melee” to “Wii U/3DS”, the series introduced unlockable trophies as a reward for completing single-player modes and so forth. They added nothing to the game and were only collectibles; most of the community enjoyed them as a feature. Because of how LONG it took for the development team to make trophies, however, Sakurai removed any and all trophies and instead brought in Spirits to make up for them.
Spirits are collectible pictures you can collect that act as status buffs to your character. These can be standard attack power and defense, but some Spirits also add hazardous obstacles within your matches. Whether that be a dense fog, poisonous or sleepy floor, Spirits can help you even the odds and cancel out those stipulations. This adds some strategy to your matches.
I will give credit where credit is due - when playing alone, Spirits are a very nice distraction when none of my friends don’t have the time to play. The matches against the A.I. are very intense sometimes, and the true purpose of unlocking spirits is to use it in this game’s adventure mode titled “World of Light”.
HOWEVER… while I think fighting Spirits are a fun time, when going into the adventure mode for a long period of time or constantly fighting spirits? That is when they start to wear out their welcome. Fighting Spirits are a nice time, but space out matches in between so you don’t become frustrated.
Would I consider “Ultimate” to be worth your time and money? I absolutely think so. Sakurai and his team wanted this to be one of the “end all, be all” Smash Brothers game, and it shows. Now is the perfect time to get into the Smashing festivities; if you have a Nintendo Switch, and want to battle locally or online and see the long history of video games and how far they’ve come, “Ultimate” is most definitely for you.