Spirits were a new feature for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Switch, but they're not exactly the most straightforward of inclusions. As such we've taken it upon ourselves to try and help explain the whole thing for you

If you'd rather just have the information fired directly into your ears and eyes rather than passively laid out on a page, you can get all the same info in the video above.

What are Spirits?

Spirits appear in the adventure mode World of Light and also appear to be unlockable in what appears to be a sort of event mode called Spirit Board. They’re characters from all sorts of different franchises owned by Nintendo as well as many other publishers and developers, so chances are even higher than ever that your favourite obscure character will be getting some kind of representation in the game.

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They don’t come into play during regular battles or online matchmaking, so if you’re concerned about the competitive scene being impacted, don’t be. If you don’t like the idea of them, they’re safely tucked away behind an optional mode and you needn’t bother with them. However, it is somewhat possible that World of Light is the only way to unlock new fighters, in which case you will have to dip your toe at least a little bit.

The lore behind it all is that Spirits are characters that have been ripped from their bodies and are floating about the place desperate to exist again. In their desperation they enter puppet fighters that have been cloned from all the playable fighters in the game; so, for example, you’ll be fighting a Mario Puppet that’s being powered by a Smoky Progg from the Pikmin series, or a King Dedede Puppet powered by a Gordo.

How do they work?

These affect how the characters behave, and all sort of wacky things can occur as a result of these two characters combining into a single fighter. For instance, Gordo causes Dedede to become invisible and basically do nothing but fire Gordos. These mashups don’t stick to just the traditional rules either, and so you’ll be thrown head-first into all sorts of unpredictable and unlikely scenarios. Even the stage can be affected, such as being covered in poison, lava, or having strong winds happening all the time.

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But Spirits aren’t just an obstacle for you to overcome, they can also be benevolent. You can assign Spirits you collect through methods we’ll discuss later on to your fighter, and empower your own abilities, similar to the stickers found in Brawl. You can assign one primary Spirit which will boost your strength and defence. For example, according to the Direct, a Lvl. 1 Gooey assigned to Inkling has a total power of 1587, which is made up of a strength power of 762 and a defensive power of 825, indicated by appropriate icons (see above).

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Each Spirit comes with its own class as well, namely Grab, Attack, or Shield. These three classes work in favour and against one another using a fairly straightforward rock, paper, scissors manner that’s common in a lot of other games. Attack is strong against Grab, Grab is strong against Shield, and Shield is strong against Attack; simple stuff. Do be aware though that Attack and what we’re calling strength are not precisely the same thing, as their icons are completely different. The same goes for Shield and Defence as well.

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There appear to be four types of Primary Spirit class in total (and a fifth we’ll talk about later), three of which are the three we mentioned before, and one that is as yet unknown, but we’re pretty chuffing confident that this is a ‘balanced’ class that falls into none of the three classes we just explained. This is only speculation though, so don’t go telling your mum or anything.

So now you’ve got your fighter all suited and booted with a primary Spirit, you’ll be much better prepared for taking on some of the crazy and madness-inducing battles you’ll have with other Spirit-powered fighters that have massive advantages over you. But it doesn't stop there either, otherwise we probably wouldn’t have felt a need to write this guide.

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Along with one Primary Spirit, you can also have up to three Support Spirits help you along as well. This is determined by how many Support Spirit slots a Primary Spirit has, and can range from one to three. These Spirits are in their very own class, which is the fifth we alluded to above. As such rather than boost your strength and defence, these support-type geezers give you additional skills, with a massive range of different lovely goodies to choose from. You can get bonuses such as starting a battle with a Fire Flower, being made of metal, and even auto-healing your damage over time, amongst countless others.

How do you get them?

Well, that’s surprisingly simple actually, so we won’t spend ages on it.

You unlock Spirits in World of Light as well as the Spirit Board that was briefly mentioned in the Direct. Fight them, beat them, and then you’ll get a chance to unlock them. Once you’ve won the battle, you have to hit the puppet fighter you were just brawling against with some sort of fancy ray gun at just the right time. Get it on target, and you’ve unlocked it! Miss, and you’ll take a good chunk of that shield surrounding it off, making it easier to unlock when you encounter that Spirit again.

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It also seems you can make things easier by using single-use items called the Shield Spacer, which presumably removes a chunk of the shield, and Sluggish Shield, which we imagine slows it down, making an accurate hit much easier.

Going back to the Spirit Board, it also looks like each Spirit will be available for a limited period. This could mean that it’ll change constantly over time, meaning new Spirits you may not have will be forever popping up. Maybe they’ll also introduce new Spirits this way for free throughout the game’s life, who knows?

But what about those stars and terms above each Spirit’s portrait? Well, that’s a really simple and easy way to tell at a glance just how strong and beefy a Spirit is. They range from Novice to Legend, each being represented with an appropriate number of stars, and the more stars, the more potent they are. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t take care of weaker ones as well, because there’s more to Spirits than just fighting with them.

What else do they do?

As you fight alongside your Primary Spirit, it’ll gain experience and level up in a relatively predictable manner. You can also feed it Spirit Snacks that you receive for completing battles, which come in small, medium, and large variety, but that might not be the actual terminology. Keep feeding it or training it up until you reach the max level, and your Spirit may even do a Pokémon and essentially evolve into an enhanced form, presumably becoming more powerful in the process.

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Can you also do this with Support Spirits? Sadly at the moment we just don’t know. There’s nothing to confirm it either way from our research, but the Direct and official site suggest that you can’t. Makes sense really, as not all support skills can be easily scalable; you’re not going to start a match with two Fire Flowers now are you?

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You’ll no doubt be accumulating a lot of Spirits, but don’t think you have to hold onto all the stragglers if you only want Lanky Kong on your side. You can send Spirits back to the real world which basically means you lose them forever, but naturally, there’s a point to it. Once you send a Spirit off to the great land beyond, they leave behind a Core. These can then be used in conjunction with others to summon other Spirits at whim.

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And that’s not even it. You can also train up Spirits in the dojo, causing them to gain experience and level up over time. Alternatively, you can choose the only other obvious vocation and send them out to find treasure. It’s not clear what treasure they’ll reap for you, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to guess that they might be Snacks and potentially even Cores.

The important thing with these two Spirit activities (as we’re calling them) is that they happen even when you’re not actually playing the game, and even when the system is off and you’re out galavanting or doing the weekly shop.

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And then to add yet another layer to this proverbial lasagne, you can also train your Spirits - presumably just Primary Spirits, but again it’s not clear - in different styles. These boost certain attributes and hinder others, in what many are calling a balanced manner. You can unlock new styles by beating Spirit Masters, such as Gravity Man, Cap’n Cuttlefish, and no doubt plenty of others we’ve yet to see. It also looks like you can force a Spirit to forget a style if you want to switch things up by visiting Slowpoke.

And finally, you can also power up your amiibo fighters with Spirits, but you’ll lose any Spirit you choose to do this with, so be cautious.

What if I can’t be bothered to crunch all the numbers?

Don’t worry. All Spirit assignment can be automatically recommended by some funky algorithm by simply pressing Y on the Spirit assignment screen. This no doubt carries across all modes that Spirits are a part of.

Can I beat the living snot out of my friends with Spirits?

Yes, you can battle others using Spirits in what appears a somewhat similar way to Custom Fighters in Smash for Wii U and 3DS.

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Are you excited to take Spirits out for a spin? Let us know in the comments below.