Penguin’s Review of Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Everyone is here.  

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the fifth (technically sixth, but we’re not litigating that today) installment in Nintendo’s flagship fighting game franchise where all its most famous characters give up fighting evil and/or good to beat the shit out of each other. It’s basically the perfect game and if you don’t already think so, nothing I say is going to change your mind.  

Smash isn’t really a game with spoilers in it (though I guess I will briefly talk about the game’s story mode?), so let’s not worry about that and instead I’ll start with the full disclosure that this franchise is extremely important to me personally, which obviously colours my review of it. But since when has any review of anything ever been objective? Fuck objectivity.  

Announced in March of 2018 and released in December of that year (the third anniversary was two weeks ago today), Smash Ultimate was only just “finished’ recently, with the last DLC coming out in October. The March 2018 announcement was a shock to everyone; even though the Switch had just come out nobody really expected a new Smash so fast after Smash 4. Then there was nothing until E3 of that year, when the first trailer for the game came out and announced the game’s tagline: Everyone Is Here.  

I need to pause here and admit something embarrassing. Not only did I burst into tears when I saw that in June of 2018, but I’m tearing up now as I write the sentence. Everyone Is Here means that every fighter who has ever appeared in the Smash franchise has returned for this game. Fighters who were cut in the transition from Melee to Brawl, including fan favourites (and Smash 4 DLC) Mewtwo and Roy, clones Pichu, Dr. Mario and Young Link (mostly cut because their relevance had faded outside of Smash), are back. Solid Snake of Metal Gear fame is back after his creator and Smash’s settled their beef that prevented him from appearing in Smash 4. It’s the most complete, expansive version of Smash to date, and even the game’s creator and director, Masahiro Sakurai, says that if there are future installments, they probably won’t be as complete as this one. 

Aside from all the returning characters, there’s also an additional twenty fighters or so from a range of games, some first-party Nintendo properties and some famous characters from other games, bringing the total roster up to eighty-two fighters. The size and diversity of the roster isn’t the only thing that matters, but in a fighting game it’s a major thing, and of course it’s the main thing people were interested in as the game released and as the DLC rolled out. If you existed on the internet at all in the last three years you probably saw people intermittently speculating about what characters were going to appear, talking about who they wanted to appear and then getting mad when their favourite character wasn’t selected for inclusion. There was a lot of drama about this mostly because the Smash fandom is really toxic and entitled and thinks that it should be allowed to harass people for liking different things from them. And I get it: I was gutted when my main Lucas was cut from Smash 4. He eventually returned as DLC so it was fine, but him being in the game was and still is really important to me (his appearance in the Everyone Is Here trailer was when I started crying, and also when I start crying literally every time I watch it), and I totally get why other people got upset when their own favourite wasn’t represented. It’s also why I completely don’t get people getting pissed when they don’t like a character who shows up in the game. Like, I don’t personally care about Steve from Minecraft or some of the Fire Emblem characters, but people getting mad about things that make other people happy is just stupid and mean. There’s a lot of that in the fandom, and a lot of people harassing and bothering Mr. Sakurai, and it’s embarrassing, to be honest.  

But let’s not talk about the fan community because it sucks and the game is good. Smash Ultimate has a ton of levels and items, many new and some returning, to make your battles more varied than just the standard fighting game. Honestly the depth is staggering; especially now that they’ve expanded the game’s eight-player function so that every battle can potentially be an eight-player smash. I’ve always really liked the eight-player function, it makes the unmitigated chaos of the game more fun by a factor of a lot. I have a big family and I can play Smash Ultimate with most of them at the same time and that’s brilliant as far as I’m concerned.  

Smash is a really important franchise to my family. We have a range of ages and interests and we play a variety of video games, and this is one of the only ones we genuinely all have in common. I have a weekly game with two of my siblings and even though I’ve moved four times and one of us now lives overseas, we still play every week and it’s something that keeps us together. Smash is a family game at heart and one thing I love about Ultimate is that the studio understands that. Even though people do play it competitively and they do accommodate that, they’re not interested in only appealing to that audience for the game, because they’re not the target audience, families and children are and they’re not ashamed of that, and I appreciate that.  

Okay, enough about what the game means to me. Smash Ultimate has a story mode called World of Light, in which you take control of the roster of characters to fight an angelic figure called Galeem and a demonic figure called Dharkon. It’s really just an excuse for a lot of sequential battles using the game’s new Spirit function, which is a way of integrating hundreds of other characters to modify the player’s stats and abilities, which once again adds so much more depth to the fighting. It’s really fun and very challenging in a lot of good ways, so I like it a lot. Most importantly to me, it’s clearly a direct sequel to Brawl’s Subspace Emissary story mode. 

Subspace Emissary is my favourite thing in the entire history of the Smash franchise. It’s a hilarious story in which various characters team up to fight an otherworldly being named Tabuu as he attempts to suck the whole world of Smash into “subspace,” whatever that is. The closing scenes of Subspace Emissary are the opening scenes of World of Light (albeit with new characters added), implying that the world in which this game is set is an ever-evolving nexus of different worlds that’s constantly threatened by extradimensional forces. Several of the game’s trailers also imply this, and what’s really interesting in all that is that some of them (and specifically Sephiroth’s reveal trailer) appear to retcon the events of World of Light, until the final reveal trailer for Sora goes back to the initial reveal and suggests that once Everyone Is Here, the nexus realm is safe.  

But my fan theories don’t necessarily have a place in a review of the game. The thing is, there’s nothing I can say that will convince you to play Smash Ultimate if you aren’t already planning to do so, just like there’s nothing you could say that would convince me that it was flawed in any significant way. It’s a fighting game with a great deal of depth and complexity for people who are into that, but which is easy to pick up and play for people who aren’t. It’s fun, anyone can play it, it works in any scenario. It has a variety of game modes and you can customize almost everything. It’s a perfect game. 

I went into this review wanting to write something epically long, a doorstopper of a review for my favourite thing to show off how much it means to me by just saying words about it until we all dropped. But honestly, I’ve said all I need to say. Smash Ultimate is my favourite video game. It has everything that I could possibly want in it. There’s not one single thing about it that makes me unhappy or frustrates me. Its existence means a great deal to me personally and talking about it makes me emotional and that’s really all there is to it. It’s a masterpiece. And that’s all I can really think to say about it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s