'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' Review: The Most Complete Installment of the Series

9.5/10 (Switch)

Every Super Smash Bros. game in the series offers something great, while falling short in other aspects. 2001's Melee , for Gamecube, has the best fighting in the series but lacks content like a story mode. Meanwhile, Brawl, which came to the Wii in 2008, suffers from a backwards fighting system but offers a lot of content.

Smash Ultimate delivers the complete experience of the series' nearly 20-year history, bolstering some of the most flashy and fun gameplay to date while delivering hours and hours of enjoyment.

super smash bros cast
Nintendo

GAMEPLAY/FIGHTING

Smash Ultimate is the most fun experience of the entire franchise. A big part of that is the robust 74-character roster, which brings new and old favorites back to the fray. Each fighter feels unique and compels players to try out other characters they likely wouldn't otherwise.

That goes for the echo fighters as well. For instance, Dark Samus floats, making her speedier than normal Samus. Pichu is faster, but weaker and shorter than Pikachu. A host of small differences keep newfighters feeling unique and true to their own universe's lore. Whether its Inkling's dependence on ink, or Incineroar's wrestling-inspired moveset, the time and effort put into each detail shows.

incineroar gut checks shulk super smash bros ultimate
Nintendo

Even returning fighters have evolved from their Wii U days, for better or worse. And while some of my personal favorites are worse (RIP Kirby), others became a force to be reckoned with, like Yoshi.

The gameplay itself is faster and more chaotic in Ultimate , naturally giving players shorter matches to dive right into another round. Items have become more powerful than ever, especially assists, and Final Smashes are far more cinematic. Everything is flashier, from the explosions to the KO-dealing Smash that slows down time and zooms in on you for a split second. It's all done for the presentation, and it makes the experience of playing Smash Ultimate better than it's ever been.

It's not all good news, though: the online mode is a bit disappointing. At launch, the matchmaking was a nightmare, something Nintendo has since fixed, but there are connection problems still present. I've had sessions where there was no lag at all, and some matches are completely riddled with it. Paying for a sub-par online experience likely won't sit well with many players, and you really have to get lucky and find someone with a good connection, because the lag is detrimental to the entire experience.

GAME MODES/ADVENTURE MODE

There's a lot you can do in Smash Ultimate. Classic Mode returns for an arcade-style single-player experience using various characters. Each fighter's Classic Mode is different, with unique themes like fighting only larger characters or swordsmen. The bosses are different was well. Mob Smash is reminiscent of Survival mode from past Smash games. But the Adventure Mode is where most of your time will be spent.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl had the Emissary of Light story mode, and Ultimate brings the World of Light to fans. The story is a bit thin: a new enemy has appeared and taken the Smash fighters away and infused them with evil spirits. Players start as Kirby and make their way through a huge map, defeating enemies and collecting spirits along the way. Your objective is to save every Smash character and defeat the boss.

It sounds straightforward, but World of Light includes some RPG-like elements that make the experience more fulfilling than just fighting your way through opponents.

Spirits are the catalyst to the full Adventure Mode experience. They act like power0ups for your character. There are two types, primary and support, which offer boosted stats and immunity to certain stage hazards. There's a rock-paper-scissors aspect to the spirits, and each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.

kirby world of light smash ultimate
Kirby is the only survivor of the attack on the Smash Universe Nintendo

As you make your way through World of Light, you'll face fights with specific parameters. They can be timed, a stamina battle (reduce your life to zero), or a normal match. Your opponent can gain power-ups randomly throughout the battle or start with an item. Assist trophies may appear out of nowhere to assist your enemy, the floor can be poison, and so on. It's your job to equip your fighter before each fight with the appropriate spirit to help overcome these hazards and obstacles. It's a fun new layer of gameplay that makes for some decision making.

Mixing and matching spirits as you make your way through the map and story can really put you through your paces at times. Some battles will be too tough at first, requiring you to make your way around the other paths to gain more experience and obtain new spirits.

The brawling can get a bit repetitive after awhile, but the different battle types make it feel fresh. Also, I too many spirits have similar abilities or stats, and players will likely just lean on their favorites. A bit more variety in this aspect of the game would have gone a long way.

VERDICT

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a labor of love for the franchise. It gives fans a taste of everything great about past games, while offering a huge amount of variety in terms of the roster, stages and music.

The gameplay is quicker, flashier and more fun than previous offerings, and the hearty amount of single-player content overshadows the shortcomings of playing online. While slim on the story, the World of Light adventure mode and spirits mechanic are fantastic new additions.

Smash Ultimate isn't perfect—looking at you Online mode—but it's easily the most complete experience in the series.

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'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' Review: The Most Complete Installment of the Series | Gaming