Game Title: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Company: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital
Battery Life: 3 – 4 hours
Cloud Save Support: Yes
Download: 14 GB

Super Smash Bros has been a big Nintendo Phenomenon since the days of the Nintendo 64. I have many memories of going over to a friend’s house to play Smash and always using Kirby and falling for Fox’s reflective shield barrier.

Not owning any NIntendo home consoles since the 64 left me out of the Smash Community for a long time. I did play Smash 4 on my 3DS, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with the game mode offerings and the terrible online play. So I played it for maybe 6-8 hours before I was completely done with it.

Now that the Switch has the “definitive” version of the series, I decided to jump back in. Here is my review of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

smash 2 - story

For the first time since Brawl, SSB has a story again. The world of Smash Bros. is thrown into chaos when Galeem, God of Light, wants to wipe out all of the heroes and create a new world. They all fight but eventually succumb to the God’s power, being captured and endlessly copied into dark puppets.

Kirby, the sole survivor of Galeem’s onslaught, must travel across Galeem’s new world to free the other heroes and villains to come together and take down Galeem to reclaim their world.

The story of Smash Ultimate is pretty light, outside of some major cinematics, but what story is there sets the stage for a massive, godly conflict and all of the small peon fighters that are struggling against them to defend their world. It really has a great, epic feel to it from the start where you see everyone but Kirby get wiped out all the way until you get the ending.

Gameplay

smash 4 - gameplay

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a 2D Platform Fighter with RPG elements thrown into the mix. Like with past games, you are thrown into a 2D plane with up to 3 others and platform around as you fight each other with the goal of being the last man standing.

First of all, this game is called “Ultimate” for a reason. In terms of content, it has every playable character, stage, and music track the series has seen from the N64, Gamecube, Wii, Wii U, 3DS, and now the Switch. It’s everything the series has ever seen thrown together with a bundle of new fighters and stages to make the biggest cross-over fighting game pretty much ever with 74 characters, over 80 stages, and almost 1,000 music tracks.

With Game Modes, there are a ton. You’ve got your single player game modes in the Smash, Spirit, and Games menus that let you tackle different types of custom matches, tournaments, Story Mode, Classic Mode, and Training Mode, most of which have different variations within each individual menu.

smash 5 - game modes

Then you’ve got Online where you can battle or spectate with others around the world. Finally, you’ve got the Vault. This mode allows you to view or listen to challenges, movies, replays, and the game’s soundtrack.

The biggest part of this, though, is Spirits / Story Mode. This is an RPG-level adventure that takes you across massive world maps, pitting you against AI opponents in unique battle styles and battle conditions, constantly unlocking new characters to use as well as spirits to help you unlock new parts of the map and reach the main bosses.

Spirits are also a huge part of this game mode. Every battle win gets you a new spirit, which represents a character from a franchise that has had some kind of Nintendo release. This is where a lot of the series recognition comes from outside of the playable roster, from Dr. Wily from the Mega Man franchise to the magical Shantae from the Shantae franchise.

smash 6 - spirits

Spirits are used as equipment to help you in battle, raising your battle power as well as giving you unique effects, like protecting you from hazardous terrain, enhancing certain attacks, or making you a Giant version of yourself. All of these are also balanced into certain elemental types and they all have different slot usages, making it so the more OP spirits can’t be constantly stacked to take away the game’s difficulty.

Speaking of Difficulty, we should get into that. Smash may be a game geared towards people of all ages, but that doesn’t make it easy to tackle. A lot of the battles in Spirit Mode are geared towards high difficulty and extreme conditions. I’ll admit that a lot of the game is very easy to tackle once you learn how to play the game and have become competent with your character of choice. But many of these battles are very extreme and particular, even on the Easy Difficulty.

They are hard to an extreme that seems very unbalanced compared to the rest of the game. Whether it’s an Assist Trophy constantly around making it hard for you to move at all, let alone fight the other enemies to being pitted against an absurd number of super-powered enemies, some of these fights feel very unfair, even with good Spirit combinations geared towards the conditions of that battle.

smash 7 - combat

Now let’s get into battle. This is a 2D fighter where you’re placed on a stage with platforms that deals heavily on Weight. You have a few different types of attacks you can do, each with directional variations. The goal is to rack up enough damage to your opponent to make them light enough that your heavy attacks can launch them off the stage into the “Death” zones.

The balance here is that everyone handles attacks a little differently. Some have rapid-fire light attacks like Meta Knight and Zelda, while others have more powerful, slow attacks like Captain Falcon and Yoshi. You can still use basic strategy between characters on the AI, but everyone’s got their special quirks that makes you think differently when you play as different characters.

Now, let’s talk content. I was a bit disappointed in Smash 4 because of its lack of overall content and story mode. Ultimate more than makes up for that, though. The Story Mode took me around 21-22 hours to clear my first trek through and going through Classic Mode to unlock the rest of the characters easily filled up a good few more hours. While you might be able to rush Classic Mode over and over to unlock everyone, I wouldn’t expect you to have unlocked the whole roster without having played this game for at least 25-30 hours.

On top of that, there is a lot of equipment for the Mii fighters you can earn by sending the 70+ other characters through Classic Mode, pushing the amount of content and time to unlock everything up way higher than that 30 hours. In other words, there is an overwhelming amount of content here, even without considering DLC characters coming later on.

Controls

Controls haven’t changed a massive amount, but they remain pretty simplistic for the most part.

You move around and do directional attack inputs with the Left Analog Stick while the Right Analog Stick is used for “Smash/Heavy” attacks. The D-Pad / Arrow Buttons are used for taunts and menu navigation. The L and R triggers are used for throw attacks while the ZL and ZR triggers are used for blocking.

Then you’ve got the face buttons. A is used for light attacks and B for heavy attacks. X and Y are used for jumping (which you can also do with the Left Analog Stick).

There’s a lot you can do in the game, but the control scheme is remarkably simple.

Presentation

smash 3 - presy

Graphically, this game looks phenomenal in docked mode. The graphics look absolutely flawless, be it in CG cutscenes, or in the middle of battle. Everything looks perfect. In Handheld Mode, there are a fair number of jaggies around the characters, but overall, things still look quite good and polished.

Performance is the same. I never saw the frames drop as I played through the game. It is optimized amazingly-well, as expected of a First-Party Nintendo game like this.

Battery Life

With how great this game looks, I was expecting some Zelda-tier Battery Life. But here are my times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 48 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 06 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 41 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 01 minutes

Up to 4 hours of Battery Life is not what I was expecting. Bravo to the developers for optimizing it this well.

In conclusion, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a fun fighter that is arguably the largest fighting game in video game history. Some of the story mode battles are set up to an unfair degree even on Easy Mode, but outside of that is a fighting game filled with dozens of playable characters and hundreds of stages and music tracks for any series fan to enjoy for hours upon hours.

Final Score: 9.5/10