Game review: Go back in time with Nintendo’s ‘Smash Bros Ultimate'

Have you ever wondered who would win in a fight between Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog?

There are more than 70 playable characters in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Courtesy Nintendo
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Long before Zack Snyder made us all wish we never wondered who would win in a battle between Batman and Superman, a game series came along that pitted beloved characters against one another: Super Smash Bros., the first instalment of which was released for the Nintendo 64 in 1999.

Have you ever wondered who would win in a fight between Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog? Or between Pokemon's Pikachu and Street Fighter's Ryu? Or let's make it even crazier: who would be the victor in a four-way fight between Pac-Man, Final Fantasy VII's Cloud, Princess Peach and Metal Gear Solid's Snake?

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch makes it possible find the answers to these questions – although they will almost always come down to "whichever character is controlled by the better player".

The fifth game in the series has more than 70 characters from popular Nintendo and other franchises, with more to come. As if that wasn't an impressive enough number, Ultimate also comes with 100 stages that serve as battlegrounds for the frenetic action. These locations are as recognisable and ­nostalgia-inducing as the characters: Mario's Mushroom Kingdom, the Great Plateau Tower from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the 8-bit backdrop of 1986's Balloon Fight.

Not your typical fighting game

Smash games are not like your typical fighting game, and not only because of their crossover credentials. Games such as Street Fighter, Tekken and Mortal Kombat make you learn sometimes very complicated button combinations to pull off special moves and reduce your opponent's life bar to zero for the win.

Forget all of that. In Smash games, the objective is to knock your opponent/s out of the stage. Instead of a life bar, you each have a counter that starts at zero per cent and goes up each time you take damage. The higher your percentage, the further you get knocked back by attacks and the greater the risk of being knocked out of the stage and losing.

Instead of complex button combinations, all your moves are easily accessible, consisting of either single button presses or a button press combined with a directional input. This means that you don't have to spend ages learning how to simply do the basics, and can jump straight into the action. And what glorious action it is. ­Ultimate is a true joy to play or even to watch being played. Fights are a frenzy of attacks, blocks, dodges, throws and super abilities. Up to eight people can play together on a single console, making it a great game to play at parties.

Different modes of play

Ultimate is not only filled to the brim with characters and stages – it also comes with a bevy of single and ­multiplayer modes that should keep even the most dedicated gamer busy for quite some time.

These include Classic, where you take on a series of fighters to earn rewards; Squad Strike, in which you and an opponent, and each create a team of fighters and then see who comes out on top; and World of Light – a pseudo-RPG campaign mode. World of Light makes use of the new Spirit mechanic, which has you unlocking a variety of “­Spirits” that can you can attach to your chosen character to provide stat buffs or grant special abilities as you make your way across a vast map to fight against and unlock other characters.

Final verdict

It’s a fun addition to the formula, especially when you don’t have anyone else to play with.

Ultimate is of course at its best when you're in the same room as your opponents, but there are also plenty of online modes to keep you busy if your friends happen to be living on the other side of the world.

In many ways, Ultimate feels like a throwback to earlier times, when games were more about providing a fun experience than simulating reality or holding your hand through a Michael Bay-­lite story. It will have older gamers feel like children again – especially when you pick Mario versus Sonic on the Green Hill Zone stage, complete with its instantly recognisable music.

This has been a great year for gamers, and Ultimate closed the year with a guaranteed smashing time for young and old.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is out now on Nintendo Switch


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