GAME REVIEW: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

written by David Steffen

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Super Smash Bros is the fifth entry in a multi/single player fighting game starring famous characters from Nintendo games and games by other companies, this one for the Nintendo Switch. In typical fashion, only a limited number of characters is available from the beginning, the twelve playable characters from the original Super Smash Bros. But this game includes all playable characters from all previous Super Smash Bros games, and with additional playable characters, for a total of 76 playable characters that can be unlocked. This is not including DLC, which will add additional characters, the first couple of which have already been announced: the Piranha Plant from Mario games, and Joker from the Persona series.

Many of the characters are ones you’d expect from a Nintendo cross-game mixup, like Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Peach, Link, Zelda, Samus Aran. There are also quite a few characters from the Pokemon franchise, including Pikachu, Mewtwo, Lucario, and the Pokemon Trainer who can cycle between Charizard, Ivysaur, and Squirtle within the same fight. The cast includes Solid Snake from the Metal Gear series with various explosives, Ken and Ryu from Street Fighter games, a bunch of characters from the Fire Emblem series, as well as quite a few oddball references like Mr Game & Watch and R.O.B. and the Wii Fit Trainer.

The series has a huge following, you can find anything you could want to know out there by searching, profiles of all the fighters including how to best use their special moves and what specific games individual special moves reference, videos of gameplay, tournaments, lots of gameplay tips.

The controls are easy enough to pick up that someone can become basically competent pretty quickly–movement with the joystick, jump with the joystick or jump buttons. Basic attacks are a single button which can be modified by tilting, holding, or “smashing” the joystick in one of the major directions or by performing attacks in mid-air (these tend to be punches/kickes of various kinds). Special attacks are a different button and tend to be more varied and have to do with this particular character’s abilities, like Bowser’s fire breath or Solid Snake’s land mines, or Pikachu’s lightning bolts, which have variations based on holding the joystick in different directions. Then there is dodging and blocking (which beginners tend not to use, in my experience).

To be an expert, there is a lot to learn about what moves are superior to other moves, what moves will pack extra punch if timed or spaced just perfectly, how to time dodges and blocks to become a very elusive target. I am not an expert, and I doubt I will ever be, a lot of these details are incredibly hard to master. But there is a lot of middle ground between being easy to pick up and extremely hard to master, and if you think a brawling game with famous video game characters sounds fine, give it a try if you haven’t tried the series yet! If you have tried the series, it is a solid entry with the major benefit of having ALL of the previous characters (some characters were in one game but not in the next, so if you’d missed that one game you’d missed that character entirely, but this one is all-inclusive).

It’s as challenging as you want it to be, as you can set the challenge level. As far as, like, historical street fighter type games go, it’s easier to pick up the controls, because you don’t have to memorize special move key combinations for each character. But there are complexities to which moves can work against which other moves, the timing of hits and the timing of dodging or shields, that to become an expert at the game you would have to spend a lot of time learning and honing your reflexes.

There is a story mode, but story is certainly the weakest point of any Smash Bros game, more or less just an excuse for a series of battles but without being particularly interesting or compelling on its own.

Session Time
Most battles will take a maximum of a few minutes win or lose, and in certain modes you can even put a strict time limit on it if you want to be done more quickly, so it’s a very easy game to pick up and set down.

With a total of 78 playable characters in the game, not including DLC, there is a lot of variety just in variations of moves and play styles. Combine that in the various single player modes, and then multiple player modes, and there is a lot of potential for replay.

The first Super Smash Bros was very original, I hadn’t seen a cross-game-universe fighting game on that scale before. At this point it’s the fifth entry in the franchise, and working from a proven formula, always increasing the scale and tweaking the rules, though I wouldn’t say this entry is any more original.

As much or as little as you want, really. If you want to unlock all of the playable characters and you want to unlock all of the achievements, you could spend a long, long time at it.

I have been a fan of this franchise since its launch on the Nintendo 64 in 1999, and they would have to seriously screw it up to not get my recommendation. The controls are easier to pick up than a lot of fighting games and it is just fun and goofy to face favorites by Nintendo against each other, like Bowser vs Samus Aran or Pikachu vs Ganandorf or King K. Rool against Ryu from Street Fighter. You can buy it digitally directly from Nintendo, or buy it on a cartridge from various retailers for $60.

Published by

David Steffen

David Steffen is an editor, publisher, and writer. If you like what he does you can visit the Support page or buy him a coffee! He is probably best known for being co-founder and administrator of The Submission Grinder, a donation-supported tool to help writers track their submissions and find publishers for their work . David is also the editor-in-chief here at Diabolical Plots. He is also the editor and publisher of The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List series. David also (sometimes) writes fiction, and you can follow on BlueSky for updates on cross-stitch projects and occasionally other things.

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