On Thursday, Nintendo released the final Nintendo Direct for the upcoming game SUPER SMASH BROS ULTIMATE, due out early next month. And at 40 minutes long, it was a doozy! Jam-packed with information and goodies, fans will be frothing at the mouth until the game’s launch on December 4.
The previous Direct with SMASH news was back in September. Since then, there has been a deluge of speculation and rumors, as is typical for a game of SMASH’s magnitude. This includes a seemingly genuine “leak” that the Direct has now proven to be a hoax. Well, the final Direct has now put the kibosh on a lot of these rumors, such as the idea that perennial favorites such as Shadow the Hedgehog or Banjo and Kazooie will be among the playable roster.
What is not in the Direct may be cause for commiseration for some. However, there was so much that was in the Direct that fans will have no shortage of things to sink their teeth into when the game releases next month.
So what does this new info mean for the latest SMASH title? In the interest of full disclosure, I must mention that, as I skipped the Wii U, the last SMASH title I played extensively was SUPER SMASH BROS BRAWL. And blimey, that was a decade ago now. Thus, that will be my main point of reference for the SMASH BROS series alongside its predecessor, the legendary SUPER SMASH BROS MELEE for the GameCube.
The Final Roster
We can, at last, put the rumors of who will be in the game to rest, as the image above shows the confirmed final roster for the game. Every playable character in the game (except one — more on that later) is in the image above. With 74 fighters, this is by far the biggest SMASH roster yet!
Many of these fighters were already known to be in the game from previous Directs, so let us focus on who was revealed in this Direct specifically.
Ken Turns Up the Heat!
Firstly, we have Ken of STREET FIGHTER fame. He is a clone, or “Echo Fighter” as they are officially called now, of fellow STREET FIGHTER veteran Ryu, who was revealed in a previous SMASH Direct. He is overall pretty similar to Ryu. At least that’s how it looks. Obviously, he may play differently in practice once the game comes out. And the Direct does take care to point out his differences relative to Ryu.
I cannot say I am particularly happy with more Echoes. I prefer adding more characters who play entirely differently. However, I understand that it takes more time to develop and balance such fighters than it does to create Echoes. It is not really a huge deal, as at the end of the day more fighters, Echo or not, are always welcome.
For those who prefer completely new fighters, however, one need look no further than the next addition…
Incineroar Enters the Ring!
In a wrestling-themed intro cinematic, Incineroar of POKEMON SUN/MOON fame makes its grand entrance to SUPER SMASH BROS ULTIMATE. Despite being yet another representative of the POKEMON franchise, it looks to be quite unlike any previous fighter, POKEMON or not. Its moves are based mainly on pro wrestling, with an emphasis on stronger throws. It even poses for the audience after each successful attack, though luckily this can be canceled so you aren’t a sitting duck. Its special moves and Final Smash are all based on POKEMON moves, adapted to Incineroar’s wrestling theme.
It honestly looks like an incredibly fun character to play as, quite unlike anything we’ve seen in SUPER SMASH BROS before. Whether it will be as fun to play as it looks remains to be seen, but I have high hopes. Personally, I think it looks to be a fine addition to the roster and a worthy closer (for now — I’ll get to this later, too) to the many reveals of new fighters for SMASH. I can’t wait to give Incineroar a try for myself!
Each and every new fighter in the game will also have their own Amiibo. Because of course.
The Spirit of SUPER SMASH BROS
One brand new feature we saw in the Direct is the new Spirit Mode. The trophy-collecting theme of every SMASH game since MELEE is no more. In its place is the brand-new Spirit Mode. Instead of collecting trophies of the characters from Nintendo’s various properties, you instead collect these spirits. Moreover, these spirits actually serve a gameplay purpose in Spirit Mode, so there’s a reason to collect them all beyond simply completing your collection.
The spirits range from the standard Novice Spirits up to the powerful Legend Spirits. There are hundreds of spirits in the game to collect, from all manner of Nintendo and guest-star titles. They range from very well-known (such as Knuckles of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG fame) to the fairly obscure (such as Sagi, the protagonist of BATEN KAITOS ORIGINS, a great GameCube RPG that nobody bought).
The system actually looks remarkably interesting and complex and should allow for an entirely new way of play. It certainly looks more interesting than simply collecting trophies for completion’s sake as in previous SUPER SMASH BROS games.
How does it work?
How does this Spirit Mode work? It is actually fairly complex and interesting. There are two kinds of spirits: primary spirits and support spirits. Each fighter (such as the Inkling in the picture above) can have one primary spirit. Each primary spirit will provide various boosts and bonuses to the fighter, depending on the spirit in question. Not only that, but primary spirits can add up to three support slots, each of which can have a support spirit. Support spirits provide their own bonuses to the fighter, and can even include new skills and effects!
It kind of reminds me of the stickers from SUPER SMASH BROS BRAWL. In that game, stickers could be added to a fighter which would provide them with some minor passive bonuses. This, however, looks far more engaging and fleshed out than it was in that game. I greatly look forward to seeing how they compare.
How do I get them?
You will unlock new spirits in a number of ways. The primary way you will do so is via Spirit Battles. There is a Spirit Board in which you can pick spirits you would like to try and acquire. You will then face off against a fighter who is “kinda sorta similar” to the spirit in question. But that’s not all there is to it! In this Spirit Battle, you will be subjected to various conditions depending on the spirit in question. For example, the enemy might be invisible, or the enemy might be gigantic, or both and more!
It reminds me of the Event Battle mode from SUPER SMASH BROS MELEE, but much, much more fleshed out. And considering I loved Event Mode back in MELEE, this gives me high hopes for Spirit Mode!
You can play Spirit Mode either alone or with your friends. And speaking of that…
SUPER SMASH BROS Online
The Direct featured a segment on the online capabilities of SMASH BROS ULTIMATE. Going on what is in the Direct, it certainly looks like we have come a long way from the dark days of SMASH BROS BRAWL’s online “capabilities.”
You can set up “preferred rules” for when you search for a match. For example, Time Battle/Stock Battle/Stamina Battle, Team Battle/1-on-1/Free for All, Items/No Items, and so on. The game will attempt to best match you up with players who have preferences similar to yours while prioritizing players in your region so it doesn’t lag too much. You can also opt to just go with the flow and let other players decide on the rules, and also create presets for preferred rules so you can choose them quickly.
Back in the SMASH BROS BRAWL days I mostly ignored playing online with strangers and just played online with friends. But that is mainly because BRAWL had absolutely horrendous online. This SMASH looks to actually have quite good online, particularly by Nintendo standards. This may actually make me play with randoms!
There is also a ranking system called Global Smash Power. I don’t care much for rankings generally, but for those who are more competitive than I, you will be able to compare your skill to every other Smash player. The game will also attempt to match you with opponents whose GSP is similar to yours. If it’s high enough, you can unlock Elite Battles, though it’s unclear as to what those actually are.
You can even play other SMASH modes while waiting for a match. Smashing Sandbag does get old after a while!
More to come with DLC!
The base game’s roster may be revealed, but there will be more to come! (Told you I’d come back to this!) Currently, Nintendo plans to release five sets of DLC for SMASH, each one including a stage, a fighter, and music. There will be five sets (for now), and it is expected that each set will run for $5.99. If you purchase the Fighter’s Pass, you can get all five for $24.99.
Whether the price is too high or not comes down to your personal use. However, the base game is so jam-packed with content that none can say Nintendo is trying to rip you off here. If anything, one could argue the price of the DLC is so high is because they put so much effort into the base game. After all, for $60 you’ll be getting 74 fighters, over a hundred stages, hundreds of hours of music, and so much more. A pretty good deal if you ask me!
A Challenger Appears Already!?
Yep, Nintendo has already revealed the first DLC fighter. And it is not someone whom you’d expect. It is, in fact, a common Piranha Plant! The iconic MARIO enemy makes an unlikely entrance as the first DLC fighter for SUPER SMASH BROS ULTIMATE. Each attack takes different forms of the various incarnations of the creature that have appeared throughout the series, and its Final Smash summons Petey Piranha as he appeared in SUPER SMASH BROS BRAWL.
An interesting choice for the first DLC fighter, to say the least. But it certainly looks fun to play as! I hope to give it a shot when I eventually play SUPER SMASH BROS ULTIMATE. And guess what? For a limited time after release, Piranha Plant will be free DLC! All the more reason to rush out and buy SMASH!
An Adventure Mode… perhaps?
People were divided on the Subspace Emissary back in SUPER SMASH BROS BRAWL. Some saw it as a cheesy slog, while others greatly enjoyed it. Myself, I found it to be a fun diversion and story, though the gameplay could get a bit repetitive.
I certainly did not wish to see it axed entirely rather than improved upon.
Well, for those who wanted an improved sequel to the Subspace Emissary, Sakurai may have listened… or he may not have.
If one goes purely by the opening cinematic and what we’ve seen in the Direct, one could be forgiven for thinking that a proper story mode to succeed Subspace Emissary is finally here after a decade. It looks incredible. All the fighters are obliterated and turned into spirits by some kind of weird being reminiscent of Tabuu from SUPER SMASH BROS BRAWL, with only Kirby surviving. It is thus up to the pink puffball to save everyone else — and the world!
It looks incredible and would make for an awesome story mode. Unfortunately, I may have some bad news for you…
Not Much of a Story
I have read reports that what we heard in the English Direct is not the same as what was said in the original Japanese Direct. While I cannot verify these reports for myself on account of not speaking Japanese, people more bilingual than myself have said that in the Japanese Direct, Sakurai made it very, very clear that this is not anything like the Subspace Emissary, and that outside of that awesome cinematic, there would not really be a story per se.
I suppose we will find out once the game releases next month. But if true, this is immensely disappointing. It’s not a dealbreaker, mind you; the game still looks absolutely amazing with or without a story mode, and when I get a Switch it will be one of my first purchases. But I had hoped that they would improve on the Subspace Emissary and make something even better, rather than jettisoning the entire concept of a story. A Nintendo mega-crossover has so much potential, and it’s a shame that it probably will not be realized.
The Home Stretch
Well, that is certainly a lot of information for you to sink your teeth into. With the game’s launch only a month away, the hype is at a fever pitch, even for a SUPER SMASH BROS game. Whether you are a passenger on the runaway hype train or merely watching it pass through town, the fact of the matter is that this is going to be one of the biggest games of the year. Will it be the game of the year? Who knows. But even without having played the game yet, I think that it is inarguable that this game will certainly be a contender!