Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Hands-On Preview

August 20, 2018

There’s no doubt that Super Smash Bros. has become one of Nintendo’s largest IPs since its inception on the Nintendo 64, but it’s also one of their most predictable. With every console generation we’re sure to receive a new entry into the series, but beyond the odd character addition, each iteration is largely the same. With Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Nintendo is promising their largest Smash Bros. game to date and that definitely looks to be the case, based on the hands-on time that I recently had with the game.

As part of my time with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I had the chance to try out a selection of the game’s characters, including Ridley, Ice Climbers, Inkling, and maps such as the new Breath of the Wild stage and more. Ridley is all you would expect from the flying Pteranodon-like enemy of Samus, with a range of attacks that allow for easy recovery from stage falls, as well as heavy hitting attacks that can stun enemies and cause large damage. For someone that always had trouble keeping myself on the stage during my time with Smash, Ridley felt like the natural character to make up for my own shortcomings.

Inkling felt similarly new, with their paint mechanics proving to be difficult for other players to avoid. Laying down ink to slow opponents was both fun and effective and the character was also quick and manoeuvrable, allowing for a quick hit and run game-style that proved effective across the matches I played and observed. From there, every character I tried felt just as I remembered them from my time with earlier Smash games, with that familiarity being somewhat of a trend through my time with the game.

Stages faired in a similar fashion, with most feeling exactly how you would remember them from previous games. The Spirit Tracks train was just as frantic as ever, Green Hill Zone still had sections drop away randomly and the boss in Wiley’s Castle still presents just as much of a hindrance as ever. Of the new stages, Splatoon’s Moray Towers’ verticality requires a different strategy from other stages. The stage’s height allows for easy recovery from falls above the base platform, requiring you to concentrate on dealing damage early and focusing on big hits. On the other hand, Breath of the Wild’s Great Plateau Tower focuses on a single, relatively narrow, platform and ceiling that allows for easy falls. In fact, I found myself easily falling off the stage early on when using Pokemon Trainer and Ridley, as their sweeping moves would easily put me over the edge. Both stages bring something a little different to the game, but the incredible simplicity of Great Plateau Towers was disappointing given the game it was inspired by.

Throughout all of this, I was once again reminded of how meticulous Nintendo and Masahiro Sakurai are when developing Super Smash Bros. games. As I played, every character was incredibly responsive to my button presses and not once did the game lag or suffer any performance issues. While difficult to pull off, perfect guards occurred when and how you expected them to, and combined with the responsive feel to movement and attacks, pointed towards a relatively low latency from controller to screen. Unfortunately, all Pro controllers and GameCube controllers were wired to the systems at the event, so I didn’t get a chance to see or feel what a wireless connection would do to that responsiveness.

While it was only a relatively small and limited experience with the game, with less than a quarter of the game’s stages and characters available over the two hour session I had with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it gave me a good view of just how much content there is. Despite that full two hours being devoted to playing and watching others play the demo, I still didn’t come close to seeing every character and stage the demo had to offer. Everything contained within the demo was also incredibly polished, with character and stages all looking fantastic and no visual glitches being apparent. With almost 4 months still left before release, it was impressive to see and feel just how great everything looked and ran.

Overall, my time with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate convinced me of a few things I had anticipated before going hands-on. If you have played a Smash Bros. game before, you’ll instantly feel at home and the amount of content included truly does look to be ‘ultimate’. If you’ve not played a Smash Bros. game and have been looking for a great jumping in point, then you might want to keep an eye out in the lead up to release as this seems like it could be the perfect jumping in point. However, if Smash Bros. has never been your jam, then I don’t expect Ultimate will be the game to change your mind.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate releases on December 7th, 2018 exclusively on Nintendo Switch.