When it comes to Smash Bros., a series with a long history, this Ultimate version packs a lot of the past into one game. By way of overview, when Smash came onto the scene in 1999, it was the first of its kind in the fighting genre. The original Smash Bros. offered a limited number of characters. Smash Bros. Melee in 2001 moved on to a larger cast of characters and a faster pace of game. Smash Bros. Brawl added an even larger cast, plus it was the first time we’d seen third-party characters involved. It also added a different version of the one-player mode featuring cutscenes known as Adventure Mode: Subspace Emissary. Smash Bros. Wii U and 3DS brought still more characters, though some others were removed. It also did away with a one-player mode. Now, Smash Bros. Ultimate looks to bring the best of all these variations into one Ultimate game. How well does it all come together?

This time around, the dedicated single-player mode has been restructured into what is known as Spirits Mode, more commonly known as Adventure Mode. It opens with a video clip showing all of the characters being captured and turned into evil versions of themselves – everyone except Kirby. The only way to rescue them is to defeat them. Players will also have to fight and collect spirits along the way. Spirits are enhanced versions of playable characters used to represent those not in the game. Some representations are placed randomly. Others are placed more strategically, such as Timmy and Tommy, who are placed outside of a shop. After defeating them, you’ll access to the shop. Be warned that by unlocking a character here they will be playable in all modes.

Within the menu options, you’ll find different ways to play. In Classic Mode you play classic gameplay from the original Smash Bros. The better you do here, the harder the challenge. As this challenge increases, so do the rewards for winning. There are even minigames to complete. These include fun yet disturbing activities – like racing to the end of the stage before getting sucked into a black hole.

Smash Mode starts with the fighters from the original game unlocked. The more you play, the more challenges from new characters. If you win, they are then playable. If you happen to lose, the character will reappear at some point for another chance at unlocking them. The music in this mode is simply a mass collection of famous scores from each game in the franchise. You can customize how often or not a song may play. There is also an ability to set your own playlist.  

Visually, the game looks amazing. I was highly impressed with the character models as well as the details in many stages. Kongo Falls, for instance, was extremely detailed, complete with a rainbow under the waterfall. As Klaptraps come tumbling down the river over the waterfall, it is always fun to watch them get caught in the Barrel Cannons and try to wiggle their way out. The remastered stages and characters also look brilliant. In handheld mode, the game plays just as smoothly and there were no problems with visuals.

Playing online was the only disappointing part of Smash Bros Ultimate. When it is smash or be smashed while playing online, smooth gameplay is needed. Unfortunately when connected, even with a wired connection, online play was not smooth. This was very disappointing, especially considering online services are now paid. With the recent patch online it’s a little more stable, but still, some lag remains.  

Like its predecessors, Ultimate has assist characters and items, including assist Pokemon. The assist characters seem to drop in more often than in prior games. In a timed battle of two and a half minutes, I have seen up to four drops during the fight, which seems like a bit much. Another disappointing thing with them is the uneven usage. With fifty-nine different ones accessible, many battles seem to have the same recurring five assist characters. Assist Pokemon seem to have the same issues, with the occasional Masterball. With the understanding that some are rarer than others, a little more variety would have been nice.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Smash Bros.Ultimate does a great job bringing together all of the characters from previous titles. It also does well at representing a vast history of gaming. Spirits Mode did a great job of including characters in the game and giving a solid feel like a tribute to gaming history. The ability to adjust and customize a game to one’s liking certainly is a standout feature. With so many characters, stages and game modes, Smash Bros. Ultimate is a fantastic experience whether it is your first time or you’re a series veteran.