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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – Hands-On Preview

Kyle Hanson on

The latest Smash game lives up to its name and the series.

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Nintendo dedicated a massive portion of their E3 2018 Nintendo Direct presentation to the reveal and breakdown of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the latest game in the series which hits Nintendo Switch on December 7th. The game could not be more highly anticipated, with fans champing at the bit to get their hands on the title. I was one of those fans, and just got done playing a ton of matches of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and now it’s time to try to express how awesome this game is.

Of course, the Smash formula was not broken and Nintendo has not tried to fix it. This isn’t Brawl, where massive changes to the core gameplay will cause a rift in the fandom. Smash Bros. Ultimate looks and feels like a step up from its predecessor on Wii U. The characters and stages look better, and as a casual player I was able to pick it up and play well on my first game. If you’ve played Smash Bros. before, this is gonna feel the same, but with improvements throughout that make for a more enjoyable game.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate feels exactly like its title suggests.

First off is the massive character roster, which includes new characters as well as every character featured in a previous Smash title. The roster was limited for this demo, which took place in LA, outside of E3 2018 before the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament. Most of my favorites were there though, including Link, Snake, Villager, and Cloud. Ridley, one of the new characters announced today, was also available, so I of course had to try him out.

There were two ways to play, on Pro Controllers, and with Gamecube controllers, which plug right in using the Wii U adapter, which will hopefully get a re-release as demand is about to rise sharply. Both felt great and natural, though returning to the Gamecube pad was like visiting home. The basics of the controls and combat remain unchanged. Characters have a basic and special attack, both of which are modified based on which way you are attacking, and your position on the stage. Link feels a bit faster than his Wii U counterpart, but without direct comparison it’s tough to say.

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Digging into the details is hard here, as it’s been awhile since I played Smash Bros. in any serious way. However, there were a bunch of pro Super Smash Bros. players at the event, including Mewtwo King, who I was able to ask questions, or just eavesdrop on. Wave dashing, shield dropping, and other moves the pros use seem to have been changed a bit, with many saying that wave dashing was tougher to pull off and less useful (some thought it was removed entirely due to how much it had changed). These smaller changes will have a big impact on the pro scene, but the vast majority of players at home won’t pick up on a lot of this unless they get really into the game.

Unexplored: Unlocked Edition about to hit the Switch

As for the new characters, Ridley felt great, playing like a bulky brawler with some real power behind his attacks. He had a great sliding grab maneuver that was used against me much more than I was able to pull it off. Many characters seem to have some smaller changes to their fighting, including new Final Smash attacks, such as with Sheik. Items were on by default, so it was also fun checking out the new elements there.

Final Smash balls, for instance, now spawn with a duplicate that is fake. Breaking it will not trigger your ultimate move, instead showing your opponents which one to attack. There were tons of new Pokemon in the game, such as Solgaleo and Lunala from the latest releases of Pokemon Sun and Moon. The Bomberman assist trophy seemed particularly powerful, securing me a few KOs that ultimately let me win the game.

It was interesting switching between the Pro Controller and Gamecube, as there was actually little discernible difference to my non-hardcore eyes. The pros all stuck near the Gamecube area though, so they seem to have made up their mind. I will say that after playing with both, I’ll likely be hooking up my Gamecube adapter once again for this title.

By far, the changes that prompted the most discussion among the people at the event were all based around presentation. Loading into and out of a match was awesome, with very cool transitions that featured the characters we’d chosen. Inside the match it was nice to see a minimap added that only appears when a player is flung off the screen. They can then use this to track their location and try to get back onto the stage.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate feels exactly like its title suggests. It’s the ultimate iteration of this legendary series. All the characters are in, plus a few extras. The stage selection is awesome, even in this truncated demo. The game feels and looks better than ever (though the pros will find tiny details that us plebs overlook). Everyone has been waiting for Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo Switch and the game is living up to the high expectations set by the fans. December 7th simply can’t come soon enough.

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