Super Smash Bros Ultimate Review

Super Smash Bros Ultimate is just as the name suggests, the Ultimate Smash experience. All the characters and stages have returned. A better balance across all 74 playable characters. Returning single player game modes as well as a whole new story mode th

Published: December 23, 2018 1:00 PM /

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super smash bros ultimate review

Smash Bros is the premier fighting game on any Nintendo console. It's always the one that gets pulled out at parties and pretty much everyone has played it at one point in time. For those who really love it, the competitive scene is already flourishing. Super Smash Bros Ultimate seeks to be the definitive release for the franchise. Once more improving upon past iterations of the game by including every character and stage that has been in previous Smash Bros titles.

smash bros ultimate character select
Build the set or random fight you want in regular Smash mode

Starting from the top we have Smash Mode, which lets you immediately hop into battle. Two to eight players can participate in these with any mix of human, CPU, or Amiibo. Tournament mode returns from Melee allowing for an easy to set up an autogenerating bracket. Also returning is Special Smash, which lets you layer on modifiers like high speed or giant characters that persist through a whole match.

The first of the new game modes is Squad Strike. Here you can create a team of 3 or 5 characters and go head to head in stock battles. When one of your characters has lost their lives your next one spawns in. This game type will allow Super Smash Bros Ultimate players to really show off their skills with a variety of different characters. While selecting your strongest fighters you can also create a strategy against the opposing team. Whether you're playing with a friend or on your own it's easier than ever to get started.

smash bros ultimate poor sonic
So many stages even Sonic is getting worn out...

The first big change is that you select the stage before selecting your fighter. This serves a dual purpose, one of which that many players will notice right away. If someone picks a stage with a lot of platforming, you might not want to pick a ground fighter like Little Mac. If someone picks Hanenbow, you might even just want to put down the controller. Secondly, while players pick their fighters, Super Smash Bros Ultimate loads up the level, effectively removing loading screens entirely. As with Smash Bros for Wii U, every stage also comes in a Battlefield and Omega variant. If you don't want the custom terrain but enjoy the scenery each level has to offer Battlefield stages are flat with three floating platforms, and Omega stages are simply flat. This removes some of the random elements of stages with hazards or uneven geometry.

Another big change is the ability to save custom rulesets. If you're a purist who only wants to play 4-stock, Omega stages only, with no items, you can create your rule type for that. Beyond that standard approach, there are a wealth of possibilities. A Pokemon themed ruleset based around Pokeballs and Pokemon stages or high Smash Ball spawn rates giving players faster access to their ultimate moves. For those who want to go crazy and make up all kinds of gauntlets to put their friends through this gives them a chance to remember them all.

smash bros ultimate world of light
So much to explore!!!

For players wanting a single player experience that isn't just normal smash matches, Super Smash Bros Ultimate has plenty. From the main menu, you can find both World of Light and the Spirit Board. World of Light tells the story of the deadly Galeem appearing in the sky. After unleashing a devastating attack that takes out everyone but Kirby, it's up to you to rescue other fighters and face off against this new foe. You begin World of Light with one path, expanding the world further as you clear challenges. The fights you participate in not only have wild power fluctuations but a variety of different modifiers. They can include starting items, a fighter's size and speed, and even electrifying stage hazards. Once you collect some spirits, you can go into battles overpowered and breeze through, but you can also set yourself up for a real challenge.

Each fight is themed after different Spirits you can collect. These spirits, in turn, power up your fighters. Each Spirit match pits you against a fighter that has been themed towards the Spirit that they represent. For the colored viruses from Dr. Mario, you face three colored Kirby, for Sigma it's a purple and green Ganondorf. To help Ganondorf represent Sigma not only is he a different color but he wields a beam sword. Each World of Light battle not only gives you a fresh twist but thematically works incredibly well. As you move through the world you'll get more characters and more spirits. This creates an RPG feel around Super Smash Bros Ultimate that probably fits it better than it has any right to.

smash bros ultimate spirit board
Find a challenge you want and go for it!

If you're having difficulties and want to add a bit more oomph to your collection, you can go to the Spirit Board. Here, you get a random assortment of the same kinds of challenges that you see in World of Light. You can see what spirit you'll earn, how difficult they'll be and the recommended spirit power you should have before facing them. As in World of Light if you want to create more of a challenge you're able to make yourself stronger or weaker as you please.

After the battle, you then get the chance to recruit the Spirit. A revolving shield protects the spirit, so you'll need to time your shot. If you hit the Spirit, it's yours. If you hit the shield, you'll destroy that portion. The broken shield persists through multiple battles so next time you defeat it you'll have a better shot to obtaining it. If you don't have someone to play against and want new and interesting challenges, the developers have done an amazing job with World of Light and the Spirit Board.

It isn't all new game modes. Classic Mode, All-Star, Cruel Smash, and Endless Smash have all returned. All-Star lets you fight every character in the game, Cruel Smash adds another level of difficulty, and Endless Smash has you fighting till you can't fight anymore. Classic Mode has kept the difficulty slider from Smash for 3DS/WiiU while also adding new set paths for each fighter. While many characters will end up facing Master Hand, some square up with more appropriate bosses. Link faces the beastly Ganon, Mario tackles Giga Bowser, and Yoshi fights... Rathalos? As well as unlocking characters, this mode should keep players returning to try to discover every unique boss.

smash bros ultimate team smash
Experience as many fighters as you can!

In each of these modes, you're able to play as the wide range of characters available, but not right from the start. When you first load up Ultimate, you'll only have access to the eight characters from the original game. As you play and complete objectives, you unlock more and more characters. Some of these unlock methods include saving characters in World of Light, completing classic mode with certain characters, or even playing couch co-op with friends. As long as the activity you're doing only includes one Switch, you will be able to unlock characters. By the time you unlock everyone, the roster will hit 74 playable fighters with more already on the way. The mentality of "everyone is here" allows people who have a history with Smash to pick up and play.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate is still a new game and has also been updated during the course of this review, so the competitive scene is still new, fresh, and changing. At the moment most pros are putting out their thoughts on the characters and creating their own tier lists but everything changes day to day. From previous titles, there haven't been too many shakeups in the character's performance. What is immediately noticeable is that the space between these characters has been brought closer together. With less of a gap between the top and bottom fighters characters that wouldn't be viable in Smash for Wii U now have a better chance of being competitive in Super Smash Bros Ultimate.

smash bros ultimate chaos
With 74 characters you can pick who you want or invest and learn

I'm a Pikachu and Link main. These are characters I've been playing and learning since the N64 days. There's not too much of a change to Pikachu ensuring that he has remained viable in competitive play. Link used to be just a slower version of Young/Toon Link but he now has some additional tricks. Mainly, the remote bombs he gained in Breath of the Wild. Looking across the roster you can see that the characters that were working haven't had as much rework where many others have been brought up to a certain standard.

One of the biggest examples of this is Samus. You would have rarely seen her played competitively before, but the tweaks to her moveset place her high on the tier list this time around. You'll still see a spread of characters over the tier lists, but the difference between the high and low tiers is tighter than ever. This makes Super Smash Bros Ultimate the most balanced Smash title. It's an incredible feat for a game with so many characters.

If you're not into single player or trash talking your friends locally, you'll duke it out online. You'll get to select your character and rule preferences and be matched with another player across the world. As you complete matches, you'll gain ranking based on your performance. These rankings tie into your individual character and not just your profile. This means you don't get thrown into the deep end while trying out a new character. This ranking means that you'll always be paired up with an opponent fairly. It's a Nintendo title so needless to say there are some really big issues. At launch even if you selected 1v1 as a preference you'd almost always get matched into free for all battles. Playing online there is also noticeable lag, it's even recommended by Nintendo that Switch owners purchase USB to LAN adapters.

smash bros ultimate online Super Smash Bros Ultimate
The timer may show one thing, but my screen has been frozen for 10 seconds...

While future updates may help some of this issue it's not likely the issue will ever be solved. It seems even on the Nintendo Switch local multiplayer on one console is the best way to do it. Testing with one Switch docked into a TV and one person playing in handheld mode there was a noticeable lag. This kind of issue may even cause an issue with people bringing their own Switch consoles to events or tournaments.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate Review | Final Thoughts

Super Smash Bros Ultimate gives players every character and stage, a rewarding single player and the robust Spirits system. For fans of all skill levels, there truly is something for everyone. The design choices in both the balance and the attention to detail reveal a focus on fun for all. With the exception of predictable performance issues online, Smash Ultimate stands out in every aspect.

TechRaptor reviewed Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by the publisher.

Review Summary

Super Smash Bros Ultimate is just as the name suggests, the Ultimate Smash experience. All the characters and stages have returned. A better balance across all 74 playable characters. Returning single player game modes as well as a whole new story mode that merges Super Smash with RPG elements. This is a game that you'll want to play with friends on the big screen, or on your own anywhere. (Review Policy)


  • Everyone Is Here
  • Balanced Roster
  • Returning Single Player Modes
  • World of Light
  • Quality of Life Improvements


  • Online Connectivity

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More Info About This Game
Learn More About Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Nintendo Switch
Release Date
December 7, 2018 (Calendar)
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