Thoughts and Reflections on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
By Vishaal Bedi
After months of anticipation, the Smash Bros. community is rejoicing – we finally have the latest entry in this popular, long-standing fighter series!
I remember when Nintendo first announced Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Excitement was ripe, and it brought hope of an announcement for a Smash Bros. Deluxe game. The Deluxe product would have essentially been the Wii U version, with all characters, maps and DLC included. However, as the months went by, no announcement surfaced.
After such a busy 2017, with heavy-hitting releases like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, it seemed to make sense that Nintendo would hold off on Smash until the new year.
Smash and Me
Then came that fateful January 2018 Nintendo Direct. All I need to say is that the image of the Smash Bros. logo burning in the eyes of the Inkling is still etched permanently in my mind. If you look up YouTube reaction videos from that day, you’ll see Smash Bros. fans screaming in joy as if they had just won the lottery.
Here’s where it gets tricky – the logo for the game didn’t include the ‘Deluxe’ branding similar to Mario Kart 8’s port from the Wii U to the Switch. So, there was intense debate as to whether this version of Smash would be a port or a completely new game. We now know what came of that, and it’s safe to say it was worth the wait!
My love of Smash Bros. has admittedly been a little up and down. As a kid, I rented the original Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64, but I never really got into it. I tried playing several matches and some of the single player campaign, but I just couldn’t connect with the game. After my 2-3 day rental, I returned it and never thought about purchasing it. Maybe it’s because I never had much chance to play multiplayer battles - to me, the multiplayer always seemed to be the true joy of a Smash Bros. game.
It was only after buying a used Wii that I felt the urge to try Smash Bros. again. Fortunately, the local EB Games still had new copies of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, so I decided to give it a shot. I must have only played it 2 or 3 times before it retired to the collection. I didn’t find it too fun playing a fighting game using the Wiimote and Nunchuk either.
It wasn’t until Super Smash Bros. for Wii U that I got genuinely excited by the series. I had been playing Mario Kart 8 quite a bit over that year, and I was ready to give Smash another chance to win my heart. With the tight mechanics and superb roster, it did precisely that.
But, enough about my ‘how I fell in love with Smash’ story – let’s jump into my thoughts on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Being a user experience practitioner, one thing that really stood out to me is that the UI is much more intuitive. It’s a smoother and cleaner looking interface from its predecessor. For example, the previous arrangement of choosing your character before the stage always bugged me. As a player, I want to know which stage has been chosen so I can decide my character based on the environment they’ll be fighting in. No point choosing Little Mac if the stage requires a lot of jumping around. This has been thankfully flipped in Ultimate. These small changes may not seem important, but they do have an impact on the game’s overall user experience.
As much as I like to imagine that I have great skill and technique, I’m a very average Smash Bros. player – I go back and forth between basic competency and button mashing. So, having the fighter roster starting with the original 8 characters from Smash Bros. 64 was not only a nice nod to the series’ origins, but it also helped me experiment with a limited selection of fighters. This new staggered approach to unlocking new characters let me play each to see what works best for me.
When I first started playing Smash Bros. for Wii U, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of fighters up front. As a result, I never played them all, because I only chose a few and ended up sticking with them - I still remember one friend having to tell me to, “stop picking Cloud!”
With each new Smash Bros. game, we tend to talk about how the experienced players will find the game, and whether or not it will meet their expectations. What gets forgotten sometimes, is how we bring the next generation of Smash players on board. I feel that having this staggered approach to character selection solves the issue, and is less likely to turn a potential player away when they see a screen of 73 fighters at the start.
One mode I’ve been playing a lot over the past few days has been Squad Strike (both 3v3 and 5v5). This multiplayer mode reminds me of games such as Marvel vs. Capcom and works well in the Smash arena. Smashdown mode offered a ton of fun during my holiday get-togethers too.
Nintendo really does seem to be catering to both casual and hardcore players with these new multiplayer modes and, so far, the title of Ultimate is very much deserved. I’m looking forward to getting more multiplayer battles in over the next few weeks.
Now, if I can just get my hands on a Banjo-Kazooie, Goku and Ryo Hazuki fighter... We all have to dream big sometimes, I guess!
What are your thoughts on the new Smash Bros? What modes have you been playing the most? Let us know in the comments below!
Vishaal has a background in engineering, advocating for users through design research and storytelling. The Nintendo 64 was his first Nintendo console and he’s been a Nintendo kid at heart ever since. His favourite Nintendo game is Super Mario Galaxy 2.