My history with the Smash franchise primarily consists of one fabulous month where I was living on my friend Kevin’s coach while waiting to join up with all my stuff that was already in Charleston. Each night, along with our other roommate Dennis, we would gather around the TV and play endless amounts of the Wii U Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart, while drinking seemingly neverending quantities of beer. Once my eyes and reflexes adapted to the non-stop barrage of chaos on the screen, I discovered one of the most memorable fighting game and shit-talking experiences around. Despite not winning all that often, I at least knew how to troll my friends with some quality Wario cheesing.
Now that my life has taken on a decidedly less dorm-like feel to it, would the latest Smash land as powerfully?
Unlike most fighting games, where battles against others are often 1 vs 1 scenarios that appear pristinely planned, Smash tends to favor complete pandemonium. You’ll often find yourself trying to keep track of 3 other combatants while increasingly more absurd item drops only serve to up the mayhem. Since I tend to fancy myself more of a button masher than strict tactician, this often works in my favor or at least helps level the playing field with the more competitive players out there. Sure, sometimes things might get so crazy that you accidentally jump in the wrong direction and fall off the stage, but that’s always good for a solid chuckle before moving on for more mayhem.
Single Player Smash
My biggest worry going in to my Smash purchase was whether or not it would still be fun if a lot of the playing was by myself. While for ideal and even more absurd levels of merriment it should be played with as large and rowdy of a group as possible, I was surprised how much enjoyment I got out of the game’s assorted single player modes. When the fundamentals are this delightful, it doesn’t matter how you partake in it.
This falling under the “Good” category might be a controversial opinion since most people wish the entire roster was available to start for maximum versus mode fun, but I found the grind to be one of the most enjoyable parts of my early single player experiences. Last Sunday was one of the more magical and carefree gaming days in recent memory. I had football on one screen and Smash on another. Between the 1 pm games and the end of the Sunday night matchup, I grew my roster to 69 combatants and kept the process from getting stale by mixing up using the “Reset Trick”, Spirit mode, and Classic mode to discover new challengers in a variety of ways. Each challenger fight felt meaningful, and the pressure was on since there was a cooldown before you could face them again. When my roster finally reached 74, I found myself both relieved to have finally reached the top of the mountain but also sad that the experience of meeting the new challengers was over (at least until the DLC).
Playing Against Others
Yes, I had loads of fun playing Smash by myself, but I’m not a complete psychopath. Of course, I had the best time playing with others. Regardless of the many shortcomings of online (more on that in “The Bad”), nothing quite compares to the joy of a thrilling comeback while your damage meter is flashing near 200% against actual human competition. Plus, I’m proud to finally be better than Kevin at the Smash.
No lengthy grinding is required to unlock this base fighter. DK has the perfect combo of size and power to make me at least seem competent in any match. I’ve even developed an effective combo of smashing the opponent into the ground then helicoptering them off battlefield as my go to move.
Playing Smash in Bed
Now this could apply for pretty much any game on Switch, as there’s nothing I love more than being able to play a good game in bed before going to sleep. Smash has the rare extra added comfort inducing powers that will make you want to curl up in bed with it at any point of the day. While, it’s optimally played on a big screen with the pro (or Gamecube) controller, handheld mode still provides for an exceptional smash experience with the Switch’s screen being surprisingly successful at capturing all the insanity without letting it become overwhelming.
The Mixed Bag
I’ve played probably 3+ hours of Spirit mode, yet I still don’t really know what’s going on. There’s some really weird fever dream story about everyone other than Kirby being absorbed by light, which then causes you to roam an overworld filled with hundreds of stage nodes to awaken fighters (which is sort of like unlocking them) and unleash spirits that provide boosts to your character. It’s all very unnecessary and confusing, but it can be super addictive as the bizarre challenges are a great change of pace. That being said, there are tons of odd difficulty spikes and way too many worlds that pretty much guarantee I’ll never finish this one.
Multitasking While Playing Smash
Attempting to pay attention to something else while playing Smash will result in you getting your butt kicked. Despite this easily and repeatedly verified fact, as soon as this is published, I will immediately return to watching football and playing Smash at the same time because it’s too fun to ignore.
Nintendo Being Nintendo – Setting up Online Play
Somehow, Nintendo still requires the use of a third-party app to fully utilize online play and actually communicate with those you’re facing off against. In the absence of the app, you can attempt to matchmake based on your preferred rules, but there’s no guarantee you get anything remotely close to what you’re asking for (supposedly the latest patch improves this). Oddly enough, you also cannot switch characters between matches if you choose to stick with the same opponents. While this isn’t a problem for my Donkey Kong loving ways, it does mean that every match uses the same characters until you break off to a new group. Even the process of playing with friends is needlessly complicated as you have to set up an arena and have them join (but there’s no actual way to invite them as far as I can tell without sending them info).
Nintendo Being Nintendo – Saving Replays
Anyone who reads this blog regularly, knows that I love to include gameplay videos. Nintendo, however, decided to make saving and sharing videos be the most complicated thing ever that it’s not even close to being worth the effort. First, they have disabled the standard and super easy video sharing of the native capture button. Instead, you have to remember to save the replay at the end of the match. Then you get to convert that replay to video by watching the entire video and choosing which parts to record. Then if you want to share it and haven’t given up yet, you can remove your Switch’s Micro SD card, plug it into a computer, and upload it. I really hope Nintendo wisens up and releases a patch that lets us use the standard feature that is in all the other first-party Switch games, but something tells me it’s not going to happen.
My Inability to Play as Anyone Other than Donkey Kong Online
I’m sure there are a ton of other spectacular characters to play as and that some of them might even be as good or better than Donkey Kong, but I’m afraid of trying something new and getting exposed for the relative Smash neophyte that I am.
As you can see, the good far outweighs the bad in Smash Ultimate. If you haven’t already bought Smash, go do it now. It’s the best version of the franchise to date, and it will provide endless hours of challenges and joy whether alone or in a group. Maybe, just maybe, by the time I face you online, I’ll have finally found a new character to main.