This may not be a popular opinion, but I’ve personally not been as invested in a fighting game in years.
Sure, I loved Streetfighter V. Soul Calibur VI + Tekken 7 were also pretty damn good, and Injustice 2 genuinely surprised me. But I burned out on each and every one of them relatively quickly.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a treat that keeps on giving, though. Rather than being overwhelmed with choice, I can take the time to adjust to each fighter and learn how to control them, one move at a time.
Despite offering the largest roster in the franchises’ history, your starting choices are slim pickings. Mario is there, of course. So is Link, and the immortal Kirby. But you’ll be waiting a while before you’re hacking through your enemies with a Cloud Strife or whipping up a storm with Simon Belmont.
Smash makes you fulfill certain conditions before you get the opportunity to battle a ‘mystery challenger’. Could be you have to win a local battle with a friend or go online to fight someone. Or perhaps you need to make some progress in World of Light. Whatever the case may be, you’ll see a shadowy outline at first, so it’s not always entirely clear who you have to fight. Though if you see lots of spikes and a wagging finger, you’ll probably have a pretty good idea.
You’re then transported to that characters’ stage with the last fighter you used and will need to beat them on their home turf in order to unlock them in your game. If you fail to knock them out of the game, though, you’ll have to wait to get another chance or use the game’s ‘replay fight’ option which becomes available later on. That way, you can also use whoever you want to take on the respective challenger.
And it’s honestly so refreshing to actually have to work for something in a fighter. When I unlock a character in Smash, I get a genuine sense of satisfaction, especially if it’s someone I really want to try. The best part of all, though, it actually encourages me to try fighters I would usually ignore.
Sure, Super Smash Bros Ultimate lacks some of the technical depth of Capcom’s flagship franchise or Bandai Namco’s heavy-hitters, but it replaces it with charm, polish, pandemonium, and an unmatched sense of style. There’s nothing quite like Smash on the market because each fighter has been so faithfully recreated in the game with a set of moves that make sense and reactions appropriate to the situation.
Stages make you feel as if you’re genuinely visiting that game world each time, and have been shown an incredible amount of respect, delivered to the player with the utmost care and devotion.
Basically, when I unlocked a new challenger and their stage in Smash, I had the same kind of giddy sensation I get from a Kingdom Hearts as I step into one of the new Disney worlds. I coo and caw, point at things I recognise, smile at the quirky references. It means I take the time to appreciate the art and wizardry powering this magnificent game as opposed to seeing maybe half of the content because it’s been given to me all at once.
And for someone who doesn’t really ‘do’ fighting games online, I’m going to feel a lot more confident using a wider range of fighters than ever before because I’ve had the chance to get to know them a little better. Hell, I might even pick random sometimes if I feel particularly adventurous.
It’s not a popular opinion. In some circles, it may not even be ‘the correct opinion’, but it’s mine. And I absolutely adore the kind of game that Super Smash Bros Ultimate is. Coming in, I don’t feel like the kid who got everything at Christmas and doesn’t know where to start. I have to work to get what I want and that’s perfectly fine with me.
And in turn, I’m probably going to spend much more time playing Smash than I do all the other fighters that have been catching dust on my shelf. It’s had a lasting impression on me and I keep wanting more.
Actually, you know what, I’m picking up my Switch right now. Samus needs to take a trip to Shadow Moses!
There will be much more Super Smash Bros. Ultimate content as we continue to play so keep checking back for more thoughts and impressions on the game.