Capsule Review: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

A fighting game starring Nintendo mascots and a few other characters. True to its name, Ultimate is the best and most complete iteration of the series. It’s incredibly generous with its content, options, and customization and can be enjoyed by players of widely disparate skill levels.

As with earlier installments, the core gameplay is a fighting game based on ring outs: damage taken doesn’t deplete a health bar but rather increases the knockback distance of future attacks. On top of this, a great deal of tweaking is available. You can play with two to eight fighters, any of whom can be human-controlled, normal computer-controlled characters, or based on customized Amiibo. You can customize the rules of the match, decide which items and stages can appear, and set up tournaments or tag-team fights.

The game is deep but highly approachable. There are no button combos to memorize - every character has the same control scheme but applied in very different ways. Challenges can be faced on difficulty levels ranging from trivially-easy to inhumanly difficult. Every fighter and stage from every previous game and then some are included, and while not every single game mode makes a reappearance, the most iconic do along with some newcomers.

The most significant addition is the game’s adventure mode, which is essentially a full-on action RPG that’s also a playable video game museum. Characters who haven’t been fully adapted as playable fighters are represented using the game’s palette of characters, stages, items, and other effects - for example, there’s a fight against Dr. Wily accomplished by setting you against a series of eight Mega Man fighters representing the Robot Masters and then finally a Dr. Mario in place of Wily himself. Defeating these characters rewards their “spirit” - an equippable equivalent of the trophies found in previous games. These grant stat boosts and various special effects, allowing for different character builds to be used in the adventure mode and in special Spirit-enabled battles.

There’s so much here and it’s all lovingly crafted. It’s fun to play with friends or strangers online, and has the most robust and satisfying single-player content of the series yet. My Switch says I’ve put in 130 hours and I’m sure I’ll dip back in when the DLC fighters show up.

I Stopped Playing When: I completed Adventure Mode by clearing all 615 spaces and completing the skill tree, collected all 1303 unique spirits, and completed 122 out of the 124 challenges without using hammers (the only ones remaining are to play 100 and then 200 online quickplay matches).

Docprof's Rating:

Five Stars: Favorite. This is one of my all-time favorite games that made a significant impact on me or that I've returned to time and again.

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