Fighting games generally aren’t a genre I find myself playing all too often due to my bad technical skills when it comes to using a controller. Smash has always been the exception to me however as not only am I fairly competent in my technical skill but I also enjoy the party-like vibe that happens whenever you play Smash. Ultimate is a contender for being what the name implies, the ultimate version of Smash Bros. With so much content in this game, the most amount of characters in the series and the largest single player mode the series has ever seen will this be the definitive game in the series? Let’s find out!
In terms of story Smash Ultimate has a brand new mode called the World of Light. This mode is tied directly into the new ‘Spirits’ system which replaces the trophies of the previous games. They act more like stickers with stats and abilities but it’s in the story mode where they come into their own. In this mode a god-like creature known as Galeem has easily defeated the entire Smash Bros cast (aside from Kirby of course, Sakurai playing favourites) and has effectively broken up the world into sections from everyone’s respective games. This means you will come across Bowser’s castle while also in other parts go through a Pac-Man stage. He has also converted a large amount of the defeated cast into puppet fighters who are filled with these spirits. It’s up to you as the only survivor to fight your way through the world, free the other fighters and defeat Galeem. It’s certainly no Subspace Emissary in terms of the storytelling as most of this mode is instead focused on gameplay however the cutscenes certainly look gorgeous and there are a couple of interesting twists that keep the story from being just a bland slog. There’s even multiple endings much to my surprise! Ultimately the story is just there to give you a reason to go through this mode and fight all these characters who depending on the spirit that is possessing them will reference whatever the controller is. For example the spirit of Metal Sonic will have you fighting a sonic with the metal box effect on him and he will also use a jetpack. These references are all extremely clever and I have to give the developers props for coming up with such a wide variety of different characters to mold each fight around. While I did find the mode to become more of a chore by the end of it I still enjoyed my time with the story and it also helped me to unlock all of the characters.
The presentation in this game is absolutely amazing. While it doesn’t have the graphical fidelity of other modern games on different systems due to being on the Switch what is on offer is beautifully made and amazingly all seems to blend together rather well. Characters from games with completely different art styles such as Mario and Solid Snake fighting against each other doesn’t feel too bizzare and is extremely charming in a way. The stages too are all well crafted and with a huge variety of ways to customise them such as just making them completely flat or turning off hazards. There is also so much gaming music in here that it might just be one of the best soundtracks available. You not only can choose whatever track you want to listen to on each stage but you can also use your switch as a pseudo music player by creating playlists or listening to certain tracks in the music menu. Alongside all of this every character, item and support character all sound and look exactly as they should with a huge attention to detail that helps to bring out the personality in some of the sillier fighters. This is by far the biggest and best looking Smash game which is lovely to say.
What can I truly say about the gameplay other than it being great? The action is a bit faster than previous games making the fighting more skill based and exciting. Many changes have been made to make things easier to read and more of a spectacle to watch such as improve UI with certain character abilities and camera zoom-ins on powerful hits. With the largest cast available in the history of this series (literally with Everyone Here, the tagline of this game) and even more on the way you won’t get bored with the lack of variety on characters and their playstyles. Setting up matches is easier and faster to do with specific rulesets able to be saved and repeatedly used. Menus are cleaner and easier to navigate including the new spirits mode which allows for such a wide variety of stat improving and gameplay changes that it can be considered a whole new mode in itself. Easier ways to set up tournaments and even just small things like the new fight versus screen which looks more energised than anything in the series. If you like fighting games and especially if you enjoy the previous entries in the series then you are absolutely going to love this one and all the changes they made. It’s even portable thanks to being on the Switch meaning that it’s easier than ever to play with friends or enjoy the fight wherever you go. There isn’t much more I can say about the gameplay other than it’s great, there is a huge variety of modes (though I do miss home run and target contest modes) and the fighting feels like the best in the series.
If I have to say something negative about the game however I must say that while all these gameplay improvements are incredible and provide a large amount of things to do the main issue I have with the game is that a lot of it is just variations on the core fighting mechanics. As I said I do miss the minigames of the previous entries and while I do enjoy all the fighting I wish there was something more to do with other types of gameplay such as races, a stage builder or something else. I also feel as though the online component is a bit weak due to not being able to force the rulesets you want to play against others instead you are given similar rules to your choice which can drastically change the style of game you are doing. However it has been noted that there have been some patches already that are working to fix these issues so hopefully the online will continue to get better and better as the months go on. I also hope that these patches will add back missing game modes however I know this is asking a lot and there already is plenty of things in the game. This is all drops in the water however to how good the game actually is and how good of a product for it is.
In the end I would say this very well could be the ultimate Smash game. With so much to do, so many characters and the most exciting gameplay and presentation the series has seen I would recommend this to all Switch owners as this very well could be the best game on the console. Now if you don’t mind I will be practicing my short hopping while sitting in bed, the wonders of portable gaming!