It was only a matter of time until Super Smash Bros. came to the Nintendo Switch, but I don’t think anyone expected what form it would take. Every single fighter from every past Smash title, a plethora of stages, and brand new fighters to join the fray. It has everyone hyped; competitive players included who still fall back to Melee due to its mechanical prowess. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is Nintendo’s attempt to cater to all crowds, and to create the most definitive version of Smash Bros. yet.
It’s shocking how fast Ultimate moves compared to previous titles. While it doesn’t hit the speed of Melee, it’s much quicker than Smash 4 and Brawl. It sets a fast and frenetic pace right out of the gate, and the game hones in on this aspect as a core part of gameplay. Players can and will clash hits as they frantically dart around the battlefield and try to stay on the stage. It’s refreshingly exhilarating and shows that Nintendo has been listening to past criticisms.
Despite only being able to play five matches in total, the game felt very balanced. Not once did I feel like I was at a disadvantage or advantage against my opponent, so it feels like it all comes down to pure skill. The new characters in this playable build stand out among the rest of the cast with unique mechanics and new ideas. The Inklings have to maintain ink so special moves can be used, while Ridley is a large but very mobile character who can deal significant damage in a short time with his high-risk high-reward attacks. They feel like worthy additions to the roster and have me eager to see how some of the more recently announced characters handle in comparison.
The actual fighting hasn’t seen any significant revisions, but small additions and inclusions keep the pace and speed flowing. The ability to air dodge can get you out of tricky aerial situations, which sounds simple on paper, but opens up a plethora of options to deal with specific scenarios. It’s unclear how deep this mechanic can go, but I’m willing to bet that the pros will be doing some crazy stuff with it. The UI and HUD elements are much sleeker than before, with small adjustments keeping it more streamlined and stylish. Things like having a slow-motion zoom kick in on the final hit and a brilliantly animated victory screen keep Ultimate feeling fresh.
While Ultimate is only a small step up from 4 in graphical prowess, updated stages look great on current hardware, and the new ones set a new level scale among the rest. Multiple controller types are also on offer, and all of them are as responsive and tactile as you’d like them to be. The game runs very well on the Switch as a whole, but we’ve yet to see what it’s like in an eight-player smash with items on.
My time with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has left me feeling as if the game is what it wants and needs to be. A celebration of Smash Bros. games past and present, with characters from all franchises gathering to duke it out in glorious fashion. We’re still a little ways off from release, so new characters and stages are being revealed, but there’s no doubt that this a Smash game made for all fans in mind. Casual and competitive players are being accommodated for here, and if it keeps going the way it’s going, Ultimate will be a fitting word for the next entry in this legendary franchise.