Very few companies can say that they are as efficient at making the most of their franchises like Nintendo. For years the Japanese company has been carefully nurturing new and existing franchises by releasing new entries on a regular basis. One such franchise is the much beloved Super Smash Bros, which sees characters from various Nintendo franchises and even some from third party publishers/developers, participate in battles to see who is the ultimate fighter. With the resounding success of the Nintendo Switch, it was only a matter of time before a new entry in the franchise was released for it in the form of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
With Super Smash Bros Brawl on the Nintendo Wii Nintendo accomplished what can only be described as a true labour of love. Not only did it include a vast cast of characters from as many franchises, but it also managed to include a lot of content. Although Super Smash Bros games are traditionally thought of as the go to games for fighting enthusiasts on Nintendo systems, the release of Brawl also made it possible to open it up to a wider audience. The key to this was the inclusion of modes that made clever use of the fighting mechanics, such as one focused entirely in a proper Story mode that included as many characters as possible.
Although the next instalments on Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo 3DS focused more on the pure fighting aspect of the franchise, Ultimate took inspiration from Brawl with the inclusion of the World of Light Story mode. In this new adventure players initially make use of a limited set of characters that eventually free more playable characters as they win fights. The amount of detail put into this Adventure mode is remarkable. There are support characters known as spirits that can be used to gain certain abilities to help in battles and each of the fights tends to have a set of conditions that makes it more challenging in its own unique way. Those that wish to do so can go further down the rabbit hole by making use of features, such as a gym to train support characters, but even just taking on the battles is enough to burn through hours of play time.
What is truly remarkable is how this mode works so well in ensuring that players don’t just give up from being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of available content. This also relates to other content, such as the engaging Classic mode, where unlocked characters go through their own scenarios, as players attempt to get a high score and rating. Even its basic fighting modes contain a serious amount of options for those who wish to make every battle a very personal one. What links all of this content together and keeps players entertained is the way content is unlocked in a natural manner. For example, by merely playing the game players will regularly get prompted to fight new characters to unlock them in the battle modes.
Just about every new piece of content is earned and it makes it that much more interesting to be awarded – even if it’s just for having a good time. There are shops in the Adventure/Story mode and outside of it that sell different resources and those keen on listening to music from games will be thrilled with the amount that is available in Ultimate. Nintendo puts so much effort into making every bit of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate memorable that it’s difficult to not feel curious about what obscure trivia it has dug up for a lesser known character, or how it has managed to create iconic scenes from various games using only a stage and some specific battle conditions.
The fighting itself is still just as chaotic as it’s been in other entries. Each character’s damage is represented by a number (increases with damage received) that will make it easier to launch them off the screen. The franchise has definitely benefited with transition into the HD era with the Nintendo Wii U/3DS titles. It makes it a lot easier to know what is going on whilst fighting and to see the various details that are added to each of the many stages. Each of the character has a very unique set of abilities and this means that each player will no doubt get attached to playing with one or more of them. It’s difficult to find improvements when the formula being used is already excellent, but Nintendo is still able to do so with some refinements that will make veteran players of the franchise very happy. As usual, the addition of even more items players can pick up and make use of in battles comes in handy to provide fun and occasionally give a better chance of survival for the less skilled among us.
What doesn’t always work so well are some of the control schemes. It can feel like characters walk rather slowly when making use of the analog stick whilst playing with one or both Joy-Con controllers. Obviously, there are far better ways of playing the game for those keen on getting the most out of the game – there’s even a GameCube controller so skilled players can use what they consider to be the best control scheme.
In this day and era, it makes sense for Ultimate to include an Online mode. Although it provides players with a stable internet connection, the means to battle others worldwide, it still feels like a bare bones attempt at including such a feature. It’s surprising that there are barely any modes to choose from online, when compared to what is available in single-player and the local wireless mode. It’s made all the more apparent due to Nintendo’s decision to finally start charging players a somewhat reasonable amount to make use of its online service.
There is no doubt that this new entry in the franchise is another winner for Nintendo. Even with some minor shortcomings, there is plenty of content to keep players coming back for more. The inclusion of a section where spirits can be obtained by winning fights is also a clever one. It makes it possible for Nintendo to hold themed events on a regular basis, where exclusive spirits can be obtained, potentially giving players a reason to keep playing for months. Not that it’s that hard to lose hours at a time on a regular basis without even noticing it. Such is the pull of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and its seemingly endless amount of content just waiting to be unlocked.