While all of us here at Source Gaming are fans of a wide variety of Nintendo properties, Smash is still king around these parts. That’s why I consider myself extremely privileged to be amongst the first people to actually get to play the newly named Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Needless to say, I had a blast with my time with the game. Still, not all Smash games are created equal, so here are some of our general impressions with our hour or so of playtime with the newest Smash experience.
Not a Port
At first glance, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate bears more than a passing resemblance to its older brother on Wii U. Once you actually take a closer look, however, you begin to see just how different this game is. It is an undeniably faster game. You can see this on gameplay videos, but it is even more apparent with a Gamecube (or Switch Pro) controller in your hand. End lag on moves seems to have been reduced across the board and it makes certain characters, such as Ganondorf, much more fun to play as. The UI and presentation has been polished as well, with new touches such as the game displaying the stock count every time a player dies in a one on one match. Truly, the game seems to be trying to cater to both the competitive and casual fans. We heard before that Smash for Wii U and 3DS would try to find a balance between the playstyle of Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Years with Smash on the Wii U has made it apparent that the game is far more Brawl than Melee, and while this game seems to lean more towards that direction as well, it feels a whole lot more like a true midpoint.
During my playtime with the game I was able to play a few one versus one matches as well as several free for alls. The increased speed not only makes competitive play more exciting, it also makes casual play more hectic. This is helped out by the new items. I am especially fond of the “fake” Smash Balls. Sure, they are easy to tell apart from the real deal if you pay attention, but sometimes paying attention is harder than it sounds in a fast paced round. One interesting aspect of this game looking superficially like the last game is that I often forgot that we were dealing with new mechanics. This is especially true with the Melee style air dodge, although I am sure most players will acclimate after a few rounds. Speaking of that air dodge, no, you can not wave dash. I, and players much better than myself, have tried and were unable to. -Spazzy
For starters, it’s easily faster than Smash for Wii U, but it’s not as (what I would call) loose as Melee. And I’m comfortable saying this because I played Smash for Wii U the night before to give myself better context. Changes like launching you to the apex of a smash attack, reducing lag, and changing moves all make this game more fast-paced.
The one word I would use to describe Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, is fanservice, even more than usual. Nearly every change fans have asked for like directional air dodges to Ganondorf having a sword, or including Ridley have been implemented. Not to mention a lot of UI elements to keep track of character’s moves better, vector stock icons to make them clearer, and a slow-mo effect on finishing moves. There’s simply too many small but important changes that make it an overall better experience.
The concerns that it’s simply a “port” on any conventional level I think are unfounded. The changes are far too great and numerous to be considered minor “tweaks.” Virtually every character has been changed in some obvious way, whether through new animations or a completely new move. I do believe we will get roughly five to six newcomers and some new modes. The only reason that wasn’t a focus, was because every fighter returning and how they’ve changed is the biggest aspect to this game. That is what needed to be highlighted at the biggest gaming event of the year. When Smash For 3DS & Wii U was unveiled they only showed stages and characters, nothing to do with various modes. It will come; just sit tight. -Mango
— David Krane (@8bit_Spazzy) June 14, 2018
New Characters and Characters that feel New
To many fans, the most important aspect of Smash is the characters. Sakurai himself has told us to not expect too many newcomers, but the ones already in the game feel fantastic, and many of the veterans have received tweaks that make them feel like new experiences as well. Let’s start with the giant elephant, er, space dragon, in the room. Ridley is a lot of fun. He is indeed big, but his crouched down stance makes him roughly Bowser sized. If you really want to feel like the biggest dog in the fight you can use one of his taunts to stand completely straight and tower even over the Koopa King. He feels strong and heavy, but not clunky, and his three jumps and Fox style recovery make it so that he feels appropriate in the air as well. His specials are all fun to use, but my favorite has to be his side special. It’s going to be situational in any “serious” play, but it is a command grab that lead to Ridley lunging forward and plowing his oppenting face into the ground. It’s stupid fun and make you really feel like you are playing as Metroid’s most infamous pirate. Inklings are similarly fun… they feel very fast. Their run animation actually finds them turning into squids, and their side special (the splat roller) also find them zipping around the stage. A fun note is that their neutral special, the splatter shot, not only covers their opponents with ink but does damage while it does so. If Kirby steals the Inklings power his splattershot works the same way, ink coverage and all.
The changes to veterans was almost as exciting as the newcomers. Ganondorf in particular feels like a completely different character. He is back to his Ocarina of Time look and has some additional speed to accompany his lithe visage. Now, he is still a huge power house and while he won’t be outracing Captain Falcon anytime soon, he is more responsive then he has ever been. The most exciting change to Ganondorf, though, is undoubtedly the fact that all his Smash attacks have now been replaced with sword moves. These moves seem to be borrowed from Ike and Cloud, but they really make the Gerudo brawler feel like his own character. The Zelda series has seen quite a few revamps, with Zelda in her Link Between Worlds design and Link sporting his look from Breath of the Wild. Link’s new remote bombs take some getting used to but they provide quite a blast, and if you hadn’t heard yet, he now has a standard grab in place of his hook shot. Over all, most of the veteran characters I played as felt like they had quite a few changes, so it is easy for me to believe Sakurai when he says that the changes to existing characters number in the tens of thousands. -Spazzy
It’s hard to get a real grasp on all of the changes to veteran fighters in a four player match, but I will mention Link’s new remote bomb. If anyone is holding it, it can’t be detonated, and Link can’t conjure a new one. This extends to Villager’s pocket as well. So if you’re playing as Link, detonate it before anyone grabs it.
Now for the most important part, the new characters. Ridley is the biggest fighter, yet he oddly isn’t slow and moves well in the air. He’s strong, but he doesn’t seem overpowered. He feels great, and his side-special will probably become the new Thunder in terms of spammed moves. Not because it does massive damage, but because scrapping your opponents face against the ground will never not be satisfying. If you liked the idea of Charizard but found he was too heavy and slow, you will likely enjoy Ridley. He kind of plays as a more agile version of Charizard. Speaking of, Charizard retains Flare Blitz and drops Rock Smash.
Even though we knew they were coming, Inklings were shown off and playable for the first time. They’re quick on their feet and do moderate damage. We tried testing how much more damage moves do when you spray your opponent in ink. However it was difficult to get an accurate read in this environment to say either way. That (along with recharging your ink) is something players will have to get used to if they want to be good with them, as they’re more technical fighters. I didn’t quite get used to it myself, but my playtime with them was short in the grand scheme of things. Regardless, they’re still fun to play. I like that the Splat Roller doesn’t cancel after making contact. You can still move through someone even if they dodged it for a second chance, and that’s something not a lot of side specials can do. -Mango
As a Smash fan, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was the one game at E3 that I wanted to spend the most time with. I am happy to say that it did not disappoint. The game play is fast and fluid, and it was an absolute delight to see stages like Spirit Tracks and Princess Peach’s Castle reimagined in full HD. I am still floored that I was able to play a game as both Cloud and Solid Snake. Really, the worst thing about playing Ultimate is knowing that I won’t be able to play it again until December. -Spazzy
Although I would’ve liked to see more new content, the core of Smash is better than ever and always a blast. Even though I played Smash For 3DS, it really is nice to have those stages in HD as it had a lot of great ones. With all of the changes, including every fighter (and possibly every stage), Ultimate really is living up to its name. After hearing we’re getting fewer newcomers, I’m oddly more excited. This means only the best-of-the-best are likely to make it in, and probably the most requested characters if Ridley is anything to go by. -Mango