Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a massive game. It’s a game that there’s simply so much of that it’s easy to be entirely overwhelmed. You’ve heard the numbers by now: there are over 70 fighters, including every single one to ever appear in the series’ history, plus new ones; there are 100 stages (more, if you count each of their variants); there are over 900 songs, and over 1,000 Spirits, in-game representations of popular gaming characters, events, levels, and more that grant you buffs and perks; there are even over half a dozen game modes, dozens of in-game items, and a dizzying array of options and settings, all of which can be tweaked to your heart’s content.
All of this is to say that this is a massive game. There’s a ridiculous amount of game here, and it can be hard to know where to begin. Do you talk about the gameplay, or the mechanics, or the content, or the polish, or the graphics, or the music? All of that is excellent. Do you talk about what the game doesn’t do well? Mostly it’s the same as previous Smash games on that front. What do you say? Where do you begin? It’s Smash Bros., just more of it.
And that is really what it comes down to. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is very literally exactly what the name says it is: the ultimate Super Smash Bros. game. It’s basically everything you love (and hate) about Smash Bros., amplified to gigantic proportions. It’s polished to pitch perfection, has the best gameplay and mechanics in the series, and a ridiculous amount of content to consume. If you didn’t like it, well, I don’t see much here that should change your mind (unless what gets you excited is just content, in which case this will probably be your favorite game ever).
"Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is very literally exactly what the name says it is: the ultimate Super Smash Bros. game."
As is always the case with Smash, there’s everything here for you to customize the game to your heart’s content: you can play games against CPUs or other players, online or offline, with items to add to the chaos, or with them off to have a serious game, with Timed matches, or more traditional stock battles, with stage hazards on or off, with just about every single controller the Switch supports, plus the GameCube controller, with fully remappable controls- literally anything that you can think of can be tweaked to your liking. No one will dislike this game for its plethora of options (though it is easy to be overwhelmed and have choice paralysis).
The game’s true strength, however, is not in the options or sheer ridiculous amount of content it offers. It’s in the core gameplay. It plays like Smash Bros. always does, but polished and tweaked to be better than either Brawl or Smash 4. Instead, it’s closer to Melee than any other Smash game has ever been- fast, technical, requiring quick input and speedy reflexes, with sharp controls and blazing fast response times. It’s accessible and easy, but the skill ceiling is absurdly high, and the competitive community will enjoy the potentials for tech here for years.
Then there’s the sheer novelty of seeing Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid fight Incineroar from Pokemon alongside Ryu from Street Fighter and Kirby from the Kirby series, on a Final Fantasy themed stage. You’d think it would get old, but it never does. In all the best ways possible, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate feels like a who’s who of gaming, the ultimate (heh) celebration of video gaming as a medium, its history, its accomplishments, and all that it has achieved.
"Then there’s the sheer novelty of seeing Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid fight Incineroar from Pokemon alongside Ryu from Street Fighter and Kirby from the Kirby series, on a Final Fantasy themed stage. You’d think it would get old, but it never does."
There’s the sheer attention to detail here, from how lovingly every character has been recreated for Smash while being true to their original games in every way possible, to how fantastic the stages look, to thoughtful quality of life improvements over previous games in the series, from persistent score keeping to cinematic camera angle panning and zooming. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is on the Nintendo Switch, but it looks every bit as accomplished as fighters on more powerful platforms. The strong art, married to the fantastic tech at work here, work wonders, and the game maintains a steady 60 FPS at a full 1080p.
There’s the soundtrack—oh, the soundtrack. Nearly a thousand songs, from every game and series represented (and more!), some in their original form, some remixed, some orchestrated for the very first time. A few songs, to me, don’t seem to land (I personally don’t enjoy the remix of either Snake Eater or the Breath of the Wild main theme), but on the whole, this is a treasure trove of fantastic game music, and that music has been dealt the same loving and reverent hand as everything else in the game has. Even if literally everything else in the game sucked, which it truly does not, it would be worth considering a purchase for the music alone.
There’s World of Light, the single player RPG style adventure mode, which sees you traipsing across a full overworld, exploring dungeons, and fighting in “event” style matches with special rules and conditions in play, all of which serve to ensure you take full advantage of your characters’ movesets, and the Spirits you have been collecting, which are in-game versions of games, characters, mechanics, and more, and give you unique perks and advantages.
"Even if literally everything else in the game sucked, which it truly does not, it would be worth considering a purchase for the music alone. "
I haven’t even gotten to so many of the other modes yet—Smashdown is a very interesting take on the “battle royale” concept, and the quickest way to learn multiple characters; Smash Strike is like a Marvel vs Capcom infused tag team take on Smash Bros., which is arguably the best addition to the series in years. Spirits Board lets you play around with Spirits without the whole World of Light setup, while Tourney mode lets you set up a tournament to play for up to 32 players. 8 Man Smash returns to bring the chaos of eight players fighting on screen at once, Training Mode lets you experiment with your character in safety, Mob Smash sees you take on a gauntlet of multiple enemies without a break, and Classic Mode returns as well, better than ever, with unique “stories” and bosses for each character.
Flaws? Oh yes, there are a fair few. The game’s online modes are very lacking—while you get a full suite with friends with little to no complaints (short of some oversights, such as being unable to change a lobby’s rules without disbanding and reforming the lobby in question), for random battles, it’s the luck of the draw. Gone is the For Fun and For Glory division for unranked and ranked battles that separated competitive from casual play. Instead, everyone is pushed into the same pool of players, and matchmaking seems to be utterly useless, meaning there is no guarantee that a competitive player won’t get matched with a free for all timed battle with items on, or a casual one in a fierce 1V1, battle with items off and only Omega forms of stages allowed. There’s no recourse for this problem either, and it’s baffling that where in every other way Ultimate is so beyond any previous game in the series, in this hugely important area, it’s a step back from Smash 4.
"Through all of its flaws, Ultimate is sublime, and it works in every way that it sets out to. A consolidation of every previous Smash game in one package, with its own additions, means that it is a celebration of video gaming as a medium like never before."
As has always been the case, Ultimate is terrible with tutorializing things, and a new player is simply thrown into the deep end, with little to no explanations for what to do, and a daunting list of options and rules to work their way through. Sadly, Ultimate also has very few new stages (less than a half dozen), and most stages are returning ones—though, given how many there are, this is a bit more forgivable.
Through all of its flaws, however, Ultimate is sublime, and it works in every way that it sets out to. A consolidation of every previous Smash game in one package, with its own additions, means that it is a celebration of video gaming as a medium like never before. Joyous, riotous, festive, chaotic, celebratory, overwhelming, beautiful, and scattershot all at once, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate epitomizes Nintendo at their very best, and serves as the perfect entry point, and the perfect coda, to the series, and to video games, and all that they have achieved until now, in one neat package.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
An absurd amount of content—seriously, there’s enough here for years; looks great; amazing soundtrack; fantastically well playing; the roster is a dream come true; an insane amount of modes, single and multiplayer.
Online functionality is lacking (again); not a lot of new stages; not very good at tutorializing