GRAPHIC BY CHRISTINA QUACH
By TIFFANY CHAN
It’s almost Christmas time, and what better way is there to spend time with family and friends than virtually pummeling each other’s faces with lovable, familiar video game characters?
On Dec. 7th, the highly anticipated game Super Smash Brothers Ultimate launched. Across the globe, many people excitedly lined up to receive their own copy. (Unless, of course, you were like me and bought the digital copy to play immediately). Even before it was released, the hype around this game was phenomenal. Almost immediately after the release of Super Smash Brothers Wii-U/3ds in December of 2015, the development for Ultimate began its first stages of planning and designing. With a loyal fanbase and highly regarded reputation, Masahiro Sakurai and his team faced a large task of truly bringing the “ultimate” game. Overall, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate doesn’t just live up to the name, but also brings new and exciting features that reinvigorate the series yet again in a masterful way.
Despite a few drawbacks, the game successfully topped most charts in sales across the globe, with Japan alone selling 1.3 million opening week! This does not even take into account the DLC fighter packs, which have been selling quite well despite the identities of the new additions being a mystery. Adding on to the excitement of the game, Nintendo had also just confirmed their first DLC character to be Akira (also known as The Joker) from Persona 5, the main character in the latest installment of the popular RPG series by Atlus.
While not everyone is into the heavy, competitive style of the Smash Bros. series, the game is so versatile, it provides an entertaining experience for anyone. For many, Smash Bros. is simply a necessity if you own a Nintendo console. In my case, the price was holding me back from making the purchase. However, once Nintendo released the Super Smash Brothers Ultimate Edition of the switch, my brother and I preordered it in a heartbeat out of our love for the game.
For those familiar with the game already, many of the fundamentals are still there. Of course the gameplay is the same, with some adjustments to make the game smoother and balance some of the characters. For example, they added a limit to an air dodge and fixed many character hitboxes. They have made some characters such as Zelda a little stronger with better movesets, or weakened other characters such as Bayonetta to make them more fair. While the only available fighters at the start are the original eight characters from the first Smash Brothers game, it adds more of a challenge for the completionist to “catch ‘em all.” Not to mention, that makes every new “aA new foe has appeared!” announcement all the more exciting, examining every detail of that silhouette to identify the character. The sirens in the background create urgency as the player prepares themselves to fight for a chance to fill in that next spot in their roster.
Now, when addressing the actual game modes, there is enough content to add hours of gameplay. Starting with Classic Smash, you can go up to 8 fighters in multiple styles, completely customizable to the individual player’s preference. Whether it is racking up Knock Outs in a limited amount of time, having a set amount of lives or playing it safe with a set amount of health, these play styles can also be edited from items and damage handicaps to how dangerous the stage is. There is also a new feature called Squad Strike, where it is essentially a tag team effort, or an elimination match containing players from 3v3 to 5v5.
Sakurai also brought back the Tourney system from the second installment, Super Smash Brothers Melee, which automatically pairs players together in a full-fledged tournament up to 32 participants. Of course, there is also the Special Smash feature for those who want an extra challenge for either themselves or a friend! My favorite mode of the three is Smashdown, where it forces the player to try characters they would typically avoid, since a character can only be played once. Custom Smash, which allows full customization of the match and its players, as well as Supper Sudden Death, where the smallest projectile can launch a character off, can be interesting as well.
Regardless, there are also many adjustments made to the game that set it aside from the others in the series. There is no more All-Star mode, where the player has to fight all the characters in the roster. Instead, there is now Classic Mode, where every single fighter has its own custom path to fight. It’s much shorter, but the uniqueness adds a fun twist to the old mode. It holds a plethora of inside jokes for the fans to find, and sends the player through a short journey about the fighter they chose. Although, the final boss was very disappointing since there was only one form, compared to the 3 stages in the last Smash Brothers game. Regardless, earning a piece of the beautiful mural signaling the difficulty of the battles, as well as witnessing a fun and lighthearted ending image is well worth the play.
There are still some issues, however, and the biggest gripe many players have with the game currently is the broken online system. Especially when online play is being charged by Nintendo, it is reasonable for the backlash. While having a matchmaking system where the player can specify what set of rules they prefer, it more often than not gets ignored in favor for whatever is the closest fit or simply available.
Matchmaking aside, the actual battling has a major problem as well. When playing an intense, quick reflexed game, the last thing anyone would want is the dreaded input lag. In my case, I was enjoying a couple of rounds online. The battle was going smoothly and seemed to be in my favor. Then it happens, and my screen begins skipping. My button commands are not going through in time. I watch as my fighter, Roy, is launched off the screen and the match is lost. This is just one round, mind you, and it is a common issue among most, if not all, players, regardless of how good the internet connection is.
Other issues are more like nitpicks, rather than real game-breaking problems. Personally, removing trophies in favor of “spirits”, a new feature, was disheartening. The spirit system is very fun, as the purpose is to add an interesting way to fight with bonuses and power-ups. However, for the competitive player, it’s possible that many will rarely utilize the feature. Observing all the trophies in Smash Bros. style was satisfying, as the player spends hours collecting them all. Also, while I love the new story mode The World of Light, navigation of the board can be frustrating, as there is no way to quick travel across the map or to remember what has been completed. In contrast to Super Smash Brothers Brawl’s story mode, which was a platforming style, Ultimate plays on a large map. Due to the layout, however, this results in aimless wandering in an attempt to find whatever I am missing. There is no marking on fighters or spirits that have been discovered, so it is purely guesswork as to where the world has or hasn’t been explored, as well as the locations of unaccomplished battles.
Ultimately, the game as a whole is a masterful recreation of the well known and beloved game. Successfully bringing back features players missed, as well as presenting new and fun ways to play, Sakurai and his team made an astounding game. As a Nintendo fan who has played every installment of the series, this game successfully delivered an unforgettable experience that brought life back into the franchise. Despite the shortcomings, Super Smash Bros Ultimate still took more steps forward than back. With or without friends to play with, the game modes provide hours of fun. In the end, what a game is supposed to do is provide enjoyment and that box is certainly checked. After all, there is something inherently enjoyable about watching the cute and gentle mayor’s assistant Isabelle, from Animal Crossing, annihilate her foes with a party popper.