Alright, maybe it’s a little premature to assume that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is going to be the best entry in the series yet. I mean, I did only have three hours of hands-on time with it and that’s hardly enough to gauge the depth of any title – let alone a quasi-party game with deep and compelling competitive elements. But I’m confident that if there ever was a Smash game that could usurp the long-reigning sovereign known as Melee then Ultimate is it.
There are a few reasons I say this. First and foremost, the roster is absolutely bonkers with everyone returning. Personally, I feel like the term “fever dream” is over utilized in the gaming landscape, but what else would you call the opportunity to watch Simon Belmont throttle Cloud Strife – with Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog waiting in the rafters to be subbed in, no less? It’s a freaking fever dream. Gamers are right to be excited.
Plus, after more than ten years of waiting, I’m finally getting a playable King K. Rool. So this shit is the bee’s knees forever in my heart of hearts. Sadly, during this preview session the King was not playable, but I digress.
We’ve seen the series stumble mechanically before with Brawl and my biggest fear was that Ultimate may do the same. It was an irrational fear, really. I’d seen hours upon hours of gameplay leading up to this VIP Smash event at Fan Expo so I knew what to expect, but it’s something that constantly lingered in the back of my mind.
These fears were quickly sent to the farm after playing, as the speed and fluidity of these gaming mascots crashing into one another finds a perfect middle ground between Wii U and the aforementioned Melee. The timing of a hit and the newfound explosiveness of every knock back feels rewarding and all too terrifying depending on which side of the blow you find yourself on. Each character present in the demo (which was an E3 2018 build of the game FYI) feels unique and adds something to the on-screen combat.
Returning favourites that missed out on the action in the Wii U/3DS iterations of the franchise (Ice Climbers, Snake and Pokémon Trainer) all feel familiar but refined for the new pace of Ultimate. Meanwhile, longstanding combatants like Ganondorf and Link are the most revised in the transition to this new title. G-Dorf, as the kids probably call him, in particular now has his sword implemented into his moveset which adds a little more reach and feels so, so satisfying to land. Link also has remote bombs which gives players more options whenever they decide to chuck an explosive at a foe. Both are refinements for the better that change the way gamers will pummel other fighters.
Then there were newcomers in Inkling and Ridley which each bring something very different to the table. The newly playable antagonist to Metroid‘s Samus, Ridley, in particular is slower moving and seems to be more well-equipped for air-based combat. Juggles and knock back will certainly be the name of the game for anyone willing to jump into the fray as this purple space dragon.
Inkling is a bit more tactical. I hate to recap specific character quirks that have already been spoken of to death amongst hardcore Smash fans, but I’m going to do that anyway: as the Splatoon heroine/hero drenches their opponent in ink, they’ll then deal more damage whenever they land an attack. It’s a simple gimmick in theory, but the execution is an entirely different can of worms. Still, the technical ideals behind this character design is inventive and could play huge to Inkling’s viability as a top-tier character. Only time will tell just how far they’ll go, however.
It should also be noted that I was lacking a Gamecube controller during the demo session, but was given a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. Truthfully, it felt just fine and I was still able to rack up a number of wins, so those that are less than keen to buy an adapter for their Switch (alongside a bevy of controllers that released for a console that was discontinued 11 years ago) will be just fine.
Get ready, Smash fans. This is gonna be good.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate arrives exclusively for Nintendo Switch on December 7, 2018.
You can find Riley on Twitter at @TheRileyLittle. He’s often tweeting about Smash, so if you have any questions about the game then he’ll probably try to answer you in far too much detail than Twitter’s character limit will allow.