Come on, admit it, we have all wanted to belt Pikachu into orbit with a baseball bat at one time or another. No? Really? Just me then.
Smash Bros, the beloved fighting game series that sees Nintendo’s most iconic characters duke it out in crazy free-for-alls, has finally and triumphantly comes to the Switch with Super Smash Bros Ultimate.
The original smash Bros was released in 1999 for Nintendo 64 and has since become a staple of the Nintendo consoles with each generation. Each iteration has added more characters and features, with the last game being on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.
Unlike most beat ’em ups, the goal in Smash Bros to knock your opponents out of the arena. Enemies don’t have heath but rather a percentage chance of being knocked further. So a powerful attack to someone with 100% could knock them out but a person with 10% won’t move as far.
Each of Super Smash Bros Ultimate’s 103 stages features hazards and obstacles that you can use to your advantage, as well as items and weapons. Such as a mushroom that increases your size and damage, or the Pokéball that summons a Pokémon to fight alongside you.
The stylised graphics are cartoony yet detailed, with all 74 playable characters looking accurate to their respective games. Characters, textures, shading and lighting have all received a welcome upgrade from the Wii U. making this firework display for the eyes the best looking Smash game yet by far. I was expecting my frame rates to take a hit with some much wonderful carnage on screen but it never happened.
All of this is accompanied by a brilliant soundtrack made up of classic tunes from Nintendo’s history. There’s even the option to simply listen to the music and SFX by themselves, which harks back an earlier era of gaming when this sort of option was common. In fact, if if you really dig the can turn the switch screen off and continue playing the music.
There are many modes within Super Smash Bros Ultimate and even if you are playing solo there plenty of options.
The best of these is the single player adventure mode called World of Light. After a mysterious new threat called Galeem wipes out a bunch of heroes, you play as Kirby and must traverse a beautifully painted overworld to rescue the other characters by fighting their souls, which have been enslaved by disembodied Spirits.
Each hero has different Spirits attached to them, making them have altered abilities such as increased damage or enhanced speed. This means each fight has different variables, presenting a fairly unique challenge.
Things aren’t one-sided however, as you are also able to equip one prime Spirit and up to 3 support Spirits that you have purchased or unlocked by defeating enemies, adding a tactical aspect that lets you tailor your fighter to your playstyle.
As well as the story campaign, you’ll also find the arcade-style Classic Smash mode, a Tournament mode, Squad Strike for 3 vs 3 or 5 vs 5 brawls, and Special Smash that lets you tweak modifiers like damage output or character weight.
Of course, no instalment of Smash – or indeed any fighting game – would be worth anything without multiplayer. Admittedly the online matches I played were a little awkward due to some noticeable lag, but this is something that will hpefully be rectified in a patch.
Playing the game locally with friends is incredibly fun and challenging, with Ultimate supporting up to 8 players on one console. With so many players and so much mayhem on screen can be very hard to track what’s going on, but such chaos is part of what makes the Smash Bros games so compelling.
Still, for bigger brawls things are much better with the Switch docked into a TV. You can customise match in an amazing multitude of ways, like having the arena change mid-match or disabling particular items. For more competitive-minded players these custom set-ups can be saved.
In terms of controls, using the Joy-Cons to play is perfectly manageable, but just the whole thing feels more comfortable when using something like the Nintendo Pro controller or the excellent 8 Bit DO SF30 Pro pad.
Outside of fighting, the game is full of fan service, with easter eggs and references to Nintendo games old and new.
One great feature is the ability to watch replays of past matches to rub your victory in your friends’ faces or make videos of your most epic battles. You can even pause the action and move the camera around for screen captures, with optional effects and frames to make your battles look even more dramatic.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate plays to the switch’s strengths of quick pick up and play multiplayer battles with friends, but there’s enough on offer to keep single players busy too. While it does share a lot of DNA with its predecessors, Super Smash Bros Ultimate is a more evolved and polished version of the franchise and one of the best titles on the Nintendo Switch.
The game feels a lot more balanced and considered, but without losing any of the fun. With a dizzying array of customisation, modes, characters and levels, if you’re a Smash lover and beat ’em up fan you owe it to yourself to get this game.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate is available in stores and on the Nintendo E-shop from £49.99 from December 7th