After pouring over 70 hours into the game, I think it’s safe to say that I love Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Ultimate is probably the first Smash Bros. game that I would argue has stellar single player content which really jives with the way I like to play games, even if it doesn’t have a Subspace Emissary mode ala Smash Bros. Brawl.
Subspace Emissary offered a healthy mix of story-driven character interactions, platforming-based overworld sections, Smash fighter duels and big boss encounters to bring something to the table for everyone.
It even had secret characters hidden within the platforming sections who could only be unlocked via finding them. That’s a super cool reward for putting time into the game!
Plus it had couch co-op for anyone playing with a friend.
But for all the positivity Brawl offered for solo players, Subspace Emissary did shine brightest when playing it cooperatively. Also beyond that mode, it mostly survived among my friend group because of how fun it was to do regular Smash battles on custom-made stages.
What Smash Ultimate lacks in a story as character-driven as Subspace Emissary, it more than makes up for with the amount of care poured into the details of World of Light’s adventure and individualized Classic Mode routes.
I figure I’ll dive into each individually, making room for my change pertaining to Classic specifically.
World of Light
World of Light has a vague overarcing plot. Kirby must set out to save every other Smash fighter, as they have been captured by Galeem, the lord of light, and replicated for nefarious purposes.
In terms of interactions between characters, World of Light is lacking.
Instead it centers around Spirits, over 1,000 characters curated from just about any Nintendo (and third party) title that have taken over the mindless puppet fighters.
These Spirits are battled across a world map chock full of references. For instance, there’s an entire town made up of Nintendo consoles just underneath Lumiose City from Pokémon X & Y, and it can be revealed that the entire town is powered by a facility utilizing the electricity of Zapfish from Splatoon.
Each of the battles with Smash Ultimate’s Spirits also have great care put into how their source material is referenced.
One of my favorites is the Legendary Dogs from Pokémon:
But there’s a whole lot more to love, from a Dr. Wily battle where Dr. Mario hides behind eight metal Mega Men to a classic Donkey Kong spirit that has you fight alongside Peach against a massive DK on the arcade game’s stage.
Even this little indie gem:
And those are just a few of the hundreds of Spirit battles. I powered through the somewhat grind-heavy adventure just to see as many of them as I could.
That’s the power of well-crafted references. World of Light and the corresponding Spirit Board has them in spades, but even more come forth with Classic Mode.
Masahiro Sakurai’s team put just as much care into giving every fighter a unique Classic Mode route that fits their character.
At this point I’m kind of an expert in the subject:
There are three categories of Classic routes I would separate all 74 into.
- References to the character’s game series or a particular storyline.
- Combining opponents by color or theme based on the character’s interests.
- Playing with the character’s quirks.
The first category has some of the most fun Classic runs.
- Mega Man follows the story of his second adventure by taking on eight characters before fighting a giant robot, then Dr. Wily (Dr. Mario), then Mewtwo as an alien version of Wily.
- Ryu fights proxy Street Fighter representatives and is the only one with Stamina battles (similar to fighting game life bars).
For characters that group things together, there’s a ton of variety.
- Marth only fights dragons, ending off with a battle against Monster Hunter’s Rathalos.
- Bowser fights red costumed fighters in reference to his hatred for Mario.
In the last category, you have unique rule sets.
- Kirby fights characters that are known for eating, and only food items spawn.
- Mewtwo takes control of one of his previous round’s opponents to be a teammate in the next.
There’s so much to love about Classic Mode in Smash Ultimate that the one (in my opinion) glaring execution error shines.
With all of the variety exuding in each route, far too many end with a fight against Master Hand and Crazy Hand.
They are the biggest representatives of the Smash series as a whole, so it makes sense that they would be the default final boss. But the amount of times I groaned seeing them show when I expected someone else were far too frequent.
Why don’t more of the Mario characters battle Giga Bowser, for example?
It seems like a small thing, but the routes that go all-out on final bosses are the best. Toon Link’s Classic Mode is based on the Four Swords Games, and culminates in a four-on-one battle against Ganon from Ocarina of Time.
Now I’m not complaining to Sakurai’s team. They did so much more than they had to with Ultimate, and I love everything about it!
But if I could make any change to the end product, I would have added a more diverse boss battles.
Not just by handing out the six World of Light bosses more readily. So much more could have been achieved by adding a few Classic Mode-exclusive bosses as well.
I would have cranked the nostalgia machine up a few notches by adding a boss related to each of the eight original Smash 64 characters.
Mario, Link and Kirby already have representatives with Giga Bowser, Ganon and Marx. But imagine this:
Donkey Kong facing off against some variant of K. Rool, or even Lord Fredrik from DKC Tropical Freeze to tie in with the recent Switch port.
Samus taking on a returning Meta Ridley from Brawl, or one of her many other big baddies (Crocomire from Super Metroid perhaps? Beloved game, fun second form).
Yoshi taking on a massive Baby Bowser slowly approaching the arena, just like in Yoshi’s Island. Bowser’s final smash is kind of halfway there as is!
Fox would have to fight some giant figure like Andross, though doing a horde boss battle against the members of Star Wolf might be cool.
Finally, Pikachu. We could bring back Rayquaza. But there are a billion legendary Pokémon who could be intimidating bosses. Perhaps Ultra Necrozma to tie in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon?
Adding just a few extra bosses would add a ton of diversity and surprise for players who took on the World of Light first and might assume they’ve seen everything.
Again, don’t take this as me complaining about the end product in any serious manner. I’m simply a fan of all things Nintendo and can’t help but drool at the thought of even more iconography being brought together with such a well-crafted game.
That being said, what else would you want to see added into Smash Ultimate if you were on the dev team? It doesn’t even have to stick to bosses: Characters, alternate skins or items are always fun points of discussion as well!
Let me know in the comments or somewhere on the Internet, because even as I transition into playing Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee with my sister, I’m still thinking all about that Smash.