There are certain games you can count on making an appearance on every Nintendo console: Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and more recently, Super Smash Bros. Since the N64 days, Smash has been one of Nintendo's major tentpole franchises drawing millions of new fans into Nintendo's orbit, so the company's announcement of a new Smash for the Switch came as no surprise.
During E3 in Los Angeles, Nintendo finally lifted the veil on the latest entry in the series, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, to the delight of fighter fans worldwide. We had the opportunity to spend some time fighting among ourselves in the E3 version of the brawler, and we came away quite impressed. Ultimate feels both familiar and new, and this is due in no small part to its impressive roster. If you've played any of the previous Smash titles, you'll find a character you like. Nintendo has included every character from previous entries, landing an impressive 65 character count, assuming there are no other reveals between now and its 7th December release date.
Ultimate's E3 demo didn't feature the full roster, but the selection was varied nonetheless. We had a chance to try out two of the latest newcomers: Splatoon's Inkling and Metroid's Ridley. Twenty-eight returning fighters rounded out the demo roster to an even 30. Mechanically, Smash feels somewhat more forgiving than previous iterations. We were able to pull off dodges and play on the edge of the arena much easier than we had been in the past, likely thanks to some of the mechanical tweaks that have been made.
Nintendo were quick to note that thousands of changes have been made under the hood to balance Ultimate, and some of them were readily apparent, and in our opinion, quite welcome. In particular, the mid-air dodge's increased movement is useful in returning from the edge of the stage, especially when combined with each character's Up + B move.
The addition of penalties for repeatedly dashing felt welcome to us, as it eventually forces your opponent to stand and fight, or risk getting knocked out. Beyond that, the only other major change we could identify, and that was shown during the direct, was the perfect shield. The perfect shield mechanic is similar to Street Fighter III's parry system. If you release the shield button with the perfect timing, your character will deflect the attack, setting up an opportunity for a counter. We have a feeling that Smash pros will employ this to great effect.
During our demo, we had a chance to try out a handful of new and returning stages. The favourite among the Nintendo Life team at E3 was easily Breath of the Wild's Great Plateau. The stage takes place atop the sole tower on the plateau, crowding all four combatants onto a small-ish platform. The roof of the tower can be shattered by repeatedly smashing your foes into it, thus opening up the stage to reveal a beautiful view of Hyrule in the distance. Splatoon's Moray Towers also made the jump to Smash and it's as beautiful as it is fun to play.
The stage plays with verticality in a way that most Smash stages don't, with zig-zagging staircases taking you up and through. When we played on the stage, we found ourselves dropping and jumping to chase rather than dashing and running. It was also a treat to find stages like Saffron City, which hasn't been seen since the original N64 title. Nintendo has put a great deal of care into updating these stages, and the work they put in shows.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate isn't a simple port or update, it's an entirely new game. The visuals are new and fresh and the art style is different, albeit subtly. Each character has been reworked, making them feel familiar, but new and the new characters feel like perfect additions to an already packed roster. We can't wait to see more, and we'll have much more on Smash throughout the rest of E3. Stay tuned!
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is out on the Nintendo Switch on 7th December.