A few days after Nintendo officially revealed Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I got the following, jealousy-inducing message from my friend and former colleague, Xavier Harding.
“Just played the new Smash,” he wrote in a Twitter DM. “It’s a dream.”
Xavier and I have been playing Super Smash Bros. for years and we’re pretty evenly matched. But I’m a little worried that thanks to this early preview, he may have a slight advantage when Ultimate official comes out later this year. So to close the gap, I decided to read every hands-on impressions piece I could find.
Here’s what I learned about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which everyone seems to agree is the best version of the long-running series yet.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate may look a lot like the previous Wii U version on the surface, but there’s a ton of small changes that really add up. When I asked Xavier, he explained that the new game just feels more like a spectator sport. Each match begins by showing portraits of all the included fighters, and in 1-on-1 battles certain special attacks will trigger a cinematic slow-motion effect.
This makes it more fun to play, and, perhaps more importantly, more fun to watch as well. That really does matter, especially if Nintendo wants Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to become an esport that can compete with Overwatch and Fortnite.
When it comes to the fighting mechanics this game might not be a huge overhaul, but there’s still some significant changes. Blocking at the right moment will give you the opportunity to counter, and spamming the dodge button with result in a penalty. The game also feels “less floaty than Brawl,” according to Ars Technica.
Nintendo Life notes, “We were able to pull off dodges and play on the edge of the arena much easier than we had been in the past, likely thanks to some of the mechanical tweaks that have been made. “ And Venture Beat adds that, “Even small adjustments to mechanics and the presentation could make this the best Smash Bros. yet.”
Oh, and Nintendo is finally letting you pick the stage first before you selected your character. So you won’t get stuck with a heavy fighter who’s at a disadvantage on one of those moving stages where you constantly need to jump to a new platform.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate only adds two legitimately new characters (sorry, Daisy as a carbon copy of Peach doesn’t count), but they both sound pretty exciting.
The first is Ridley, the evil purple dragon from the Metroid series. According to Wired, he’s “absolute beast”. Ridley also gets some powerful B move attacks, including the ability to breath fire, and his in-air A attacks are particularly deadly. Plus, he can fly, which is a pretty big advantage in a game where falling off the stage is the easiest way to die.
The other new addition are the Inklings (male and female versions of the same fighter). They borrow some interesting mechanics from Nintendo’s online paint-based shooter, including the fact that you can quickly swim around in painted areas and the need to refill your ammo periodically. The Inklings sounds like fun, but it may take some time to get used to juggling their various abilities and requirements.
New Updates for Old Characters
Nintendo also made a bunch of tweaks to its returning lineup. For example, Link’s bombs are now remote detonated in a nod to Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Ganondorf pulls out a sword for his smash moves (instead of just kicking and punching).
Nintendo’s current demo only features two new levels: one from Zelda: Breath of the Wild and one from Splatoon. Luckily, they both sound like a ton of fun to play.
The Splatoon level is a multi-tiered vertical stage with stairs and ladders to help you quickly climb up and down, giving it an interesting new feel. The Zelda level, meanwhile, is a small stage with a destructible top. So each match starts in a confined space that opens up once you’ve done enough damage to the structure (before eventually reforming).
Just like with its characters, Nintendo is also bringing back some old stages. That includes Saffron City, the classic Pokémon-themed level that debuted back in the original Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64.
Overall, it sounds like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is set to offer the perfect combination of nostalgia and new features that should make everyone from competitive players to casual Nintendo fans happy. Now if they would just add a few more new characters…