Monday, 24 December 2018

First Impressions Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

A new challenger approaches! And it's... all of them? That's the first thing you'll notice about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate - just how much content there is.

Actually, that's a lie. Because you start with a mere eight characters (the original roster from the first Super Smash Bros.) the game appears to be much smaller than it actually is. But while it stopped me from insta-locking my previous main (Mr Backslash himself for those wondering), it also forced me to play as characters that I wouldn't normally, as well as encouraging me to at least attempt each character. And don't worry, you'll soon unlock all the characters; I was unlocking one every three battles or so. This unlock system also had the effect of a 'one-more-game' mentality, as I wanted to know what new character was waiting around the corner.

The next thing I noticed about SSB. Ultimate was how polished and well-made everything was. Each character feels complete and handles more or less uniquely. Of course Samus and Dark Samus are rather similar (but these use Ultimate's new character classification of Echo Characters which allow characters such as Daisy and Dark Samus to be in the game without Sakurai being accused of just cloning a previous character), but even these seem to differ enough (Dark Samus glides whereas Samus walks for example). With the Switch's HD Rumble each and every hit felt like it was connecting and a smash, especially when the game would zoom in on a finishing blow, felt like I was blasting through concrete. It's fantastic.

As for the modes, I've so far attempted Smash Mode, Classic Mode and Mob Smash Mode as well as a quick battle on local wireless against Satamer. Smash Mode is your normal mode used for battling AI opponents (or players using other Joy-Cons) and gives you the option between having a 'timed' victory condition and a 'stock' victory condition (where you win by getting the most KOs in a set time or by dealing a pre-set number of KOs while surviving yourself, respectively). However, rather than just changing the rules after every match like we're used to, Nintendo now makes you set up your ruleset before the game. And while I'm sure this will be quicker and more efficient in the long run, it is slightly annoying when I just want to change one detail and have to type in another name for the ruleset.

Classic Mode is what remains from the fighting game genre's arcade heritage and this one is a doozy. Gone are the repeated battles from Brawl, and the multiple paths/tournament versions from Fo(u)r, to be replaced by bespoke journeys for each character, relating in some way to the character's story or referencing an aspect of their games. For example, when playing as Link, you have to battle the various villain characters in Smash Bros. before finishing off with a fight against Ganon (Ganondorf's Final Smash). There are also other boss characters such as Marx from Kirby Super Star and Galleom Super Smash Bros. Brawl. These make for a much more exciting and climactic endings than just Crazy Hand and Master Hand (although they're still here don't worry). It also makes me much more excited for the World of Light Adventure Mode, especially as an old fan of Subspace Emissary,

Mob Mode returns, although there seems to only be 100-Man Smash (renamed to Century Smash), All-Star Smash (where the Mii Fighters are replaced by every playable character) and Cruel Smash (a masochistic display of AI cheating). I'm not sure if 10-Man Smash and the timed Smashes have returned but I seriously hope so. This is the same with Sandbag Mode (where you have to hit a Sandbag as far as possible) and Target-Smash Mode (where you have to hit as many of the targets in a stage as possible) which also seem to be missing. I know that these modes are really just for the 'party' aspect of the franchise, and not particularly fitting of the uber-serious fighting game some people want it to be, but I'll miss them if they're gone.

Finally, I had a go at local multiplayer with Satamer. The first battle was Inkling (me) vs Link (Satamer) where I was victorious (throwing ink bombs as Inkling and managing to juggle the enemy across the stage is great fun and very effective by the way). The rematch was Inkling (me) vs Zelda (Satamer) where I still can't believe that I lost. To be honest I think I got cocky and a well-timed smash attack from Satamer caught me when he was on about 140% and I was under 100%. The final match was Inciniroar (me) vs Falcon (Satamer) where I learnt the true meaning of no recovery. That's not to say that I don't like Inciniroar - clothes-lining an opponent is ridiculously satisfying, after all - but I'd need some more practice with him to consistently survive.

Since starting this First Impressions I've also had a quick look at Spirits Mode and I'm definitely intrigued. The Spirit Board part involves you having to win a Smash battle with certain conditions in order to win a Spirit and appears both enjoyable and challenging (and the constantly changing board encourages you to return often). And, as anyone who knows me will know, I'm a sucker for any mode that allows me to collect and level up characters (hence my small Pokémon and Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes addictions) so I'm a great fan of that. I do miss the trophies though but I understand the need for their removal if we wanted Ultimate released anytime before 2022 (and if we wanted Sakurai to survive past 2022 as well).

I haven't even touched World of Light Adventure Mode and there are lots of Smash modes that I've not attempted either (including online due to my lack of a Nintendo Online pass). I'm particularly looking forward to Tourney Mode, however, which looks very interesting. Of course, the ultimate test of Smash Bros is battling lots of people in a competition or a party, the latter of which I shall be endeavouring to organise as soon as possible. For the former I shall have to wait until my return to University and my gaming society's fortnightly Smash Bros. tournaments. These tournaments, and the fact that my Switch's R button isn't broken like my 3DS's, have finally encouraged me to attempt to learn to play properly (with shielding and dodging and everything - no I've never learnt before, I just depend on characters' counter attacks etc. And gotten pretty good at that, if I may say so).

Overall, I'm definitely pleased with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, even if the Ultimate title mainly seems to apply to the main fighting part of the game, rather than the party aspects. Also, a personal request: if we can get Piranha Plant and Persona 5's Joker as fighters, please can we get Kingdom Hearts' Sora? It'd probably add 5% to my personal review score (even if it doesn't to our, very professional, review score).

Anyway, I've spent way too long writing this, time that could have been much better spent having just one more round on Smash Bros.. So...

Goodbye for now, Harry 

And I'll see you on the battleground!

P.S. Definitely a good last minute Christmas present for any gamer with a Nintendo Switch!

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