By Alec Moylan
November 11, 2018
Will there be a story mode? Is the roster finalized? How will online play change? The developers of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are successfully testing our patience.
With each Nintendo Direct we receive, the curtain is pulled back a little more. However, a few major questions remained unanswered.
Fans speculated, and rumors swirled, but in the final Smash Bros. Nintendo Direct before release, Director Masahiro Sakurai made a few major announcements and put the rumors to bed.
When Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was originally announced, everyone was excited for the confirmation that every fighter from the Smash Bros. franchise would be returning. With over 60 fighters, surely the roster had reached max capacity, right? Wrong!
Since Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was first announced, the development team has been churning out new characters such as Castlevania’s Simon Belmont, Splatoon’s Inkling, Donkey Kong’s King K. Rool, and Metroid’s Ridley. The game also introduced a number of echo fighters — separate clone characters that vary in appearance along with certain moves and attributes — like Dark Samus (Samus), Daisy (Peach), and Richter (Simon Belmont).
At a previous tally of 72 playable characters, the roster was already the largest of all time. Nobody would have been mad if Sakurai settled at this number, but not only did he just announce even more fighters, but he’s announced an additional five characters are coming after launch.
If you’ve played Street Fighter, you know Ken as the rival of the current Smash Bros. character Ryu. Ken is Ryu’s echo character but has been altered to match to contain some of his attacks from Street Fighter. His movement speed is also a tick faster than Ryu’s, which likely means he’ll deal less damage. The addition of Ken isn’t Nintendo’s most ambitious move, but he’s iconic to say the least.
If you’re like me, you’re probably tired of seeing new Pokémon added to the Smash Bros. franchise. However, Pokémon is one of Nintendo’s crown jewels so Incineroar joins the party representing Pokémon’s seventh generation. Thankfully, footage so far shows a Pokémon that looks and plays differently from the rest.
Incineroar is a fiery feline that uses pro-wrestling moves to thrash opponents. He even boasts and beats his chest after every hit. Incineroar has the slowest walking seed in the game but makes up for it with powerful, launching attacks. The character has such a unique style that it’s hard to tell its association with the Pokémon games, which is refreshing considering all the Pokémon on the roster.
You read that right. Piranha Plant enters the fight as the first available DLC character in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. This is undoubtedly one of the most surprising additions as Piranha Plant is a generic Mario enemy and has never been a playable character in any game.
It’s hard to get excited about Piranha Plant, but save your judgment until after you watch some gameplay. This fighter is one of the funkiest players in the game in terms of attacks and movement. Its smash attacks generally involve biting, head-butting, and swinging its pot at enemies. However, its special attacks showcase some of the Piranha Plants’ famous attacks from hurling spike balls to spitting a cloud of purple haze.
Piranha Plant is as unconventional as it gets and for better or for worse will go down as one of Sakurai’s strangest additions.
Due to the enormity of this roster, it seemed there might not be any DLC at all. We’re already spoiled, but Nintendo wants us to be spoiled rotten.
Sakurai announced five DLC packs: each with 1 new fighter, 1 new stage, and a ton of new music tracks. Players will have the option of purchasing a Fighters Pass that includes all future DLC for $24.99 or each DLC pack for $5.99 each. DLC will be released periodically until February 2020.
Smash Bros. doesn’t have the best reputation for online play due to a history of unreliable connectivity and match matching. However, optimism is in the air as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate switches over to a new console and an entirely new online service.
Furthermore, the game’s development team has designed a matchmaking system that prioritizes connectivity and improves the competitive landscape. Matches will now be arranged based on three factors: proximity, rule selection, and your Global Smash Power Ranking.
To reduce lag and create a smoother online experience, matchmaking on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will depend first and foremost on proximity. The system will favor regional over out of country matchups in hopes of creating a more reliable connection between parties. After weighing connectivity, the system proceeds to filter opponents by a user’s rule preference.
The last Smash Bros. game forced players to choose between two options: For Fun, which allowed for all stages and items, and For Glory, which limited players to flat stages with no access to items. Those no longer exist in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as players set their own rules and are matched with those with similar preferences. Then the system automatically picks one player’s rule sets for the coming battle. Because the game prioritizes proximity over rules, players may be stuck playing with rules they don’t prefer in favor of a more stable connection.
Matchmaking in the previous games confused me to the point where it seemed random. Super Smash Bros Ultimate introduces the idea of Global Smash Power — a ranking system that positions you against the total number of players in the world. For example, if your GSP is 48,000, that means you rank above 48,000 players.
You will be matched with others that are relatively close in GSP. However, your GSP changes with each fighter, depending on how often you use them and your win rate using that character.
Those with sufficiently high GSPs will be invited to Elite Battles. These are essentially VIP matchups featuring the game’s most serious competitors. The game’s developers will closely monitor these matches, gathering data that will be used to continually balance the game.
Also, we no longer have to compete by ourselves as the game introduces a new co-op mode. Now, two players sharing a console can face off against other two-player teams. Not much is known about co-op mode or how it will impact your GSP, but it’s fair to say fans have been asking for this for a long time.
If the current expectations are met, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will provide the smoothest and the most competitive online experience of any game in the series.
If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, you should go watch it. The new story mode, called World of Light, is something most of us never saw coming. After seeing the trailer, I can’t wait to give it a try.
While much is still unknown about the new story mode, we do know a few important details.
For one, it’s not going to be anything like the Subspace Emissary from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. World of Light operates like a massive board game. As you move throughout the map, certain spaces thrust you’re into battles that can be anything from 1V1 battles, group battles, boss battles, and specialty battles. Each victory rewards you with items called Spirits.
Do you want to know why you haven’t heard much about the trophy collectibles from previous games? That’s because trophies have been replaced with Spirits. Spirits come in many kinds and provide a variety of functions. Some boost stats or grant you new attack. Others unlock characters or items. As you progress through the story mode, Spirits are needed to open late-game areas and provide assistance on more challenging levels.
As I mentioned earlier, we don’t know a lot about the World of Light story mode other than what we saw in the trailer. I have no idea what to expect, but that’s what makes it so intriguing.
I focused primarily on the biggest announcements, but there were plenty more revealed during the last Nintendo Direct. Sakurai answered many of the community’s most pressing questions, but he hinted that more will be discovered once players get their hands on the game.
With so many new fighters, a new online matchmaking system, and a new story mode — Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has a lot in store for us.
December 7th can’t come soon enough.