After what feels like years of hype building up, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will finally show itself to the world on Friday, making it the fifth Super Smash Bros. game released in the last 20 years. While it might seem a lot like it’s most recent predecessor Super Smash Bros. Wii U, a hefty amount of change makes it a big deviation from other entries in Nintendo’s franchise fighter.
Ultimate has more than 70 characters, including new folks like Simon Belmonte from the Castlevania series and the Inkling Kids from Splatoon, over 100 stages with multiple layouts for each, and a ton of singleplayer content including a campaign with customizable spirits and skill trees.
While only a handful of folks have gotten their hands on the retail version of the game, fans have been able to dissect the game through event-specific demos at places like the Evolution Championship Series in Las Vegas and E3 in Los Angeles. Those quick sessions have revealed a number of mini adjustments removing elements of the series that have been around since day one.
Taunts are now cancellable
Taunts have always been a hallmark of the franchise, phrases like Captain Falcon’s "show your moves" (even better when combo'd with Nes's naive "ok!") have become instantly recognizable as a way to mess around and show off. Taunt canceling, the ability to stop at taunt in the middle of performing it has been around in a limited way for a few characters since Super Smash Bros. 64.
Ultimate takes things a little further by letting you cancel taunts with any character. While some aren’t fans of the change, they think it cheapens the value of the taunt, it’s a small edition that adds a fun way to bait attacks (especially that each character is equipped with several different taunts).
Stages get picked before characters
Ever since the late '90s, we've had to choose our characters before we chose the level they beat each other up on. While it may seem like the most pointless thing to point out, it actually changes everything.
A few maps offer big advantages and disadvantages to certain types of characters. You wouldn’t pick King K. Rool or Donkey Kong for a small stage that’s suspended in the air since their recoveries are weak compared to those of fighters like Inkling Kid.
Now that we’re choosing stages first, we can pick our character with the stage in mind. For example, if some jerk were to choose Kongo Jungle, I'd avoid Yoshi since he doesn't mix well with the level's cannons.
A whole new level of polish
I’m not talking about polish on a mechanical level (even though Ultimate feels as smooth as buttah), I’m talking about the WWE, lets-get-read-to-rumble polish that pumps everyone up before the fight. Ultimate brings some much-needed life to its character selection, loading screen, and navigation menus. The four-character panels that drop down in a cloud of smoke before each match adds a lovely bit of thickness to the tension in the room.
While its a perfect hype tool, the polished visuals also make the series feel brand new. The changes, along with other minor accessibility improvements, make Ultimate incredibly approachable for everyone.
A former shell of Samus
Nothing disappointed me more than my favorite bounty hunter when I played for the first time. The changes to one of Nintendo's greatest kids have made her a completely different character — she’s considerably weaker, slower, and not as fun to play. Although, she can charge her gun mid-air now, which is something.
That's just one character too. A ton of fan favorites from the Wii U iteration have been reworked. Bayonetta, Marth, and Fox, while still dominant, feel weirdly different from their digital ancestors.
You can now save custom rulesets
The biggest problem that has continued to plague this wonderful series is simple: timed matches. I have zero fond memories of booting up Super Smash Bros. Melee with my friends and jumping into a match immediately - only to realize we forgot to switch to stock (giving everyone a number of lives instead of a time limit).
Now you can set up standard rulesets to go by automatically, something that a stubborn Nintendo should have done years ago. It's better late than never though.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate hits Nintendo Switch on December 7.