Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – Hands-On Preview
We got an old build with no Ridley in it. 0/10 do not buy this game.
Ok, fine, I’ll do a ‘professional’ preview I guess.
The release of a Smash Bros game is a part of the religious calendar for every Nintendo fan. All the biggest franchises from Nintendo (and now other publishers!) come together in a frantic fighting game that’s simple enough for anyone to pick up and have fun with. I’ve been especially excited for the upcoming Switch installment of the series, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, because it’s brought back every character from past Smash Bros games and added a bunch of exciting new characters and features I’ve been asking for for a while. Unfortunately, the build we got hands-on with this week was quite an old one and didn’t have a lot of these things on show. It’s a testament to how packed with content this game is, though, that this limited slice of the full game had enough fighters and stages to be a complete fighting game in its own right.
It was immediately apparent from my first match how different this game is to Smash 4. Everything’s snappier and less floaty, which took some adjusting to – characters don’t stay in the air as long and there generally seems to be less landing lag and recovery on a lot of attacks. It also took some time to adjust to the new dodge system – you can only dodge once in the air, but you can aim the direction of your dodge. Both air and ground dodges appear to leave you invulnerable to attacks for less time. All these changes make Ultimate feel more aggressive than the last couple of games – not Melee fast, but more exciting than Brawl and 4.
There’s a lot of noticeable changes made to past characters as well, especially those who we haven’t seen since Brawl. I was so glad to see Snake and Pokemon Trainer back because I loved playing as them, and they definitely didn’t disappoint upon their return. Snake’s explosive special attacks felt weaker than I remember them being in Brawl, but his missile launcher was faster and easier to control. His Smash attacks were just as satisfying to land as they were before, though – his rocket launcher attack is the best. Pokemon Trainer was amazing – his Pokemon don’t get tired anymore and switching Pokemon happens pretty much instantly now; you can even switch in the air. Charizard brings back his powerful moves from Smash 4 and Squirtle has been given some major overhauls to be more effective than he was in Brawl, with a really good aerial game and some strong Smash attacks. Ivysaur is there too.
There wasn’t a huge amount of new stuff due to getting an old build, but one of my most wanted characters was playable – the Inklings from Splatoon. Unfortunately they didn’t really click with me, but I think that’s because their gimmick doesn’t work very well in a four player free-for-all setting. Some of their attacks cover enemies with ink, which makes them take more damage from the Inkling’s attacks. You needed to really focus your attacks on a character to ink them up though, which was hard to do when I had three opponents jumping around and getting in the way. Inkling’s attacks were really lacking in killpower on uninked enemies, so they look like a character who will be much better suited to 1v1 matches.There was a great number of stages to select from, with a lot of returning stages from across the series as well as two new ones – the Great Plateau Tower from Breath of the Wild, and Moray Towers from Splatoon. It was great seeing stages that have been absent for a while, like Saffron City which is one of my favourite in the series. Stages from the N64 Smash game like Saffron City have been touched up graphically while still keeping some of the janky old-school feel in some ways, like the Pokemon that appear on Saffron still being heavily pixelated sprites. Other stages have had more radical graphical improvements, and look absolutely gorgeous. The most improved ones are those taken from the 3DS Smash game like the Spirit Train from Spirit Tracks, which benefit greatly from the move to HD.
Of the two new stages, I preferred the Great Plateau Tower. It was a simple stage with no major gimmicks that keeps the focus on the fighting. The main platform of the tower is totally flat, but it’s partially covered by the roof of the tower, making it hard to get upwards KOs from the covered section. But you can also get up on top of the roof and fight up there, which makes you more vulnerable. I wasn’t as big a fan of Moray Towers. It also doesn’t have any hazards getting in the way, but the layout of the stage got in the way of the fight. It consists of a number of sloped ramps connecting a few small platforms, and is a really tall stage; it’s a very close resemblance to the actual Splatoon stage! Unfortunately though, the slopes make it difficult to fight on because you’re all at different angles and levels, and it’s also hard to navigate between them all because you won’t always end up running along the platforms you want. This, combined with the massive vertical size of the level means that it’s bothersome to hunt down opponents and land hits on them. This was a common sentiment shared by the other people I was playing with as well.
Between the mechanical changes and the character choices, Super Smash Bros Ultimate is pushing all the right buttons for me. It’s faster than the last few games and so many characters I was playing as felt more viable than they have in the past. Now we just have to hope that when the game releases in December it’s got some meaty modes to keep the attention of solo players.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate launches December 7th for the Nintendo Switch, alongside some new amiibo figures.