E3 2018: Hands-On with Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate

Twenty years ago, a small fighting game came to my house after a trip to Toys’R’Us. It was this small, yet cool fighting video game that was a blast to play and unlike anything I had seen before. Instead of two players fighting one-on-one, four players could be fighting in a deathmatch. The characters were from established Nintendo franchises, and the levels were filled with surprises.  That game was Super Smash brothers.

I wouldn’t know it yet, but this simple fighting game on the Nintendo 64 would turn into a fiery global sensation in the years to come. Many decades later, the newest iteration of Super Smash Brothers is now on its way to the Nintendo Switch. As one of the most eagerly awaited games this year, and unmistakably, the most anticipated title on Nintendo’s juggernaut system, I had the opportunity to check the game out for myself. While brief, make no mistake that Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate is no port but an entirely new game.

I began my demo facing off against Stack-Up CEO Stephen Machuga, who was Pikachu. I began as Snake and another player was Lucario. our first stage was inside a building, inspired by a classic Nintendo Game. I wasn’t able to grab exactly form what game, as it reminded me of Donkey Kong, but it was a tight arena. As the match began, the same tried-and-true fighting mechanics of Smash returned, though it felt as if the mechanics were refined with much more weight and physicality.

I chose Solid Snake, as I have a strong fondness for the Metal Gear Solid franchise. I noticed he seemed to have more weight in his movement. His traditional attacks from 2008’s Super Smash Brothers: Brawl was there, and pulling them off was a delight, but he wasn’t quite as nimble or fidgety as I remember, which was a good thing.  The action seemed much more kinetic, with flowing momentum amongst the characters and moves.  Pikachu and Lucario seemed more nimble than I, which makes sense given they are pokemon and not human soldiers. The great action returned, with us attempting to absolutely annihilate each other in the match. Pikachu’s electric attacks, in particular, were vibrant. Before I knew it, that match was over and I had received 1st place.

In another match, we played at the top of one of the watchtowers from the Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. As we used the same characters, there wasn ‘t anything terribly different from our last round, except we had a more open area to fight. There was, however, a neat new discovery to the infamous Smash Ball. For those unfamiliar with Super Smash, the smash ball is a glowing ball that floats around a stage. Whoever smashes that ball first unlocks a new devastating attack that absolutely annihilates their opponents. Some of these attacks focus on a single target, while others clear the entire screen.

The smash ball appeared, but instead of floating, it fell like a rock, staying stuck on the ground until someone smashed it hard enough. I managed to smash the ball and witnessed Snake’s Final Smash. Snake left the screen, locked onto all the fighters, and launched a volley of homing missiles towards my opponents. It was a satisfying moment during the match. After the fight, Captain Machuga turned out victorious, a complete surprise for me and the other player.

In the next round, we played the familiar Battlefield stage from Super Smash Bros for the Wii U. I chose to be the newest character, Ridley, which was announced as a brand-new character at E3. Ridley is a gargoyle-inspired space pirate from the Metroid franchise, known for his menacing appearance and sheer aggression when attacking. I decided to use him in a battle with Sheik.

Ridley was significantly more challenging to use, as I noticed that he controlled rather well, but his attacks had different hitboxes. There was the traditional tail attack, which was somewhat long-range, but his short range attacks were harder to use.   Granted, my opponent was Sheik, who has ninja-like agility. She attempted to do a final smash attack on me, but I avoided the attack through quick thinking and evasive maneuvers. Using Ridley was like using a floating tank. he took some getting used to, but it was also quite exciting being a different character. I tried other moves and noticed that Ridley uses his claws as well as his tail, but I want unable to find any projectile-based attacks. However, Ridley was effective enough for me to win the match.

Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate truly is a new game. it felt like one and looked like, completely dismissing fears that the game was a remaster or port. The characters appeared much more realized, and the gameplay felt more refined and polished than its predecessor. The plethora of levels looked incredibly diverse and filled with possibility, while also feeling familiar for veteran players. Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate has a big ambition to deliver, but based on what I played, I am extremely confident in Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate will meet and exceed expectations.

Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate Launches on December 8th, 2018 exclusively for Nintendo Switch.