Today’s Nintendo Direct got right down to business by revealing the final characters for this December’s big release, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Ken (Street Fighter) joins as an “echo fighter” to fellow series fighter Ryu. Based primarily on his Street Fighter II: Turbo incarnation, Ken is far more than a simple pallette-swap for Ryu: Ken is a tinge faster in both his movement speed and attack speed. His Shoryuken uppercut attack also possesses a fiery effect that hits the opponent for big damage; he also has a number of other attacks that vary from his rival Ryu. Incineroar (Pokémon), the final evolution of the Alolan starter Pokémon Litten from Pokémon Sun and Moon, joins the fight as well, bringing along many of his signature moves and a pro-wrestling-esque fighting style. This concludes the reveals for the base-game roster and leaves the final count at a whopping 74 playable fighters!
Instead of collecting trophies, a new feature called “Spirits” has been introduced for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. These can be equipped to characters, and their power and effects vary depending on both the character they’re equipped to and the rank and level of the Spirit itself, which ranges from Novice, Advanced, Ace, Legend. Primary Spirits with enough slots may also equip additional Support Spirits. Each Spirit falls under one of three types: Attack, Grab, and Shield. They can also be leveled up through battle or by feeding them snacks, up to Lvl.99. Certain Spirits also have a final form that they may achieve upon reaching a high enough level. By sending the Spirits away, you can combine them to create additional, new Spirits. By beating certain Spirits known as “Masters,” you can unlock Facilities. You can also burn your Spirits to power up your Amiibo Fighters, and while this destroys the Spirits, you can get them again and repeat the process. Other ways of leveling up your Spirits include sending them on missions, treasure hunts, and leaving them in a training dojo.
Online has changed for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate by no longer being separated by “For Fun” and “For Glory” (unranked and ranked game types), and is now based on three factors. Preferred Rules allows you to preset the match settings that you wish to play by, and they will be saved so that one player’s preferred rules will be selected at random from the group of players in the match. The online matchmaking system will also apparently try to link up players with similar play preferences for an easier experience for the participants. Global Smash Power is a points ranking system of sorts that represents how much more GSP you have in relation to the other players around the world and will fluctuate based on the number of total players. The new smart matchmaking system will prioritize players within close proximity to one another in an effort to keep connections between match participants as strong and reliable as possible, although, hopefully, Nintendo has plans to support dedicated servers for the game soon with the release of Nintendo Switch Online (they no longer have the excuse of a free service for terrible online quality – there’s money going into it now). Players with a high enough Global Smash Power (GSP) ranking will earn the right to participate in new Elite Smash Battles, a pro mode of sorts that only the best players will have the privilege of reaching. The devs will also use this particular mode as a monitoring system to determine the balance of the game so that they may roll out future rebalancing updates as needed. Channeling its inner Call of Duty (???), Super Smash Bros. Ultimate online has a new feature called “Smash Tags,” a player created gamercard or dog tag unique to them that players will obtain upon defeating other players and may collect as many as they want as they continue to defeat more opponents across the world.
By creating your own Battle Arena in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, you can set up an online lobby for you and your friends to duke it out over and over, choosing when to participate and when to spectate. The jury is out on whether or not the online lobbies will be up to snuff, as Japanese developers seem to be systemically incapable of doing online play well, but I’m willing to throw Nintendo a bone and hold out hope for this game in particular, which brings me to the next point: the Nintendo Switch Online App… This mobile application for most smartphones is what players will use to voice chat within lobbies and in-game amongst their friends and other participants. Nintendo, this app, while cute and all, has got to go. Fling it out of a trebuchet into the sun and give us a communication system like the other ones out there that have been in place since, oh, I don’t know – 2005? Nintendo also revealed that they are currently developing a new app specifically for Super Smash Bros Ultimate. This companion app, with an undetermined release date at the time of this writing, will allow players to post and share their screenshots and videos with other Smashers around the world. In the Direct, they specifically stated that this app was not used to track stats of players and their characters, but honestly, why else would you want to use it? Screenshots and such can already be shared via Facebook and Twitter, so its present utility seems to be a redundancy of what’s already in place but time will tell.
A number of new Assist Trophies were also announced for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate; however, I can say with certainty that several of these Assist Trophy characters would have been preferred as actual playable fighters by numerous fans. Characters such as Dr. Wilely from Mega Man, Guile from Street Fighter, Shovel Knight, and Shadow the Hedgehog are all characters that players the world over would have loved to be able to actually fight as, but we can’t have it all (and honestly, 74 playable fighters is nothing to sneeze at). Standard modes and menu features also return, such as Century Smash, which allows you to continuously launch CPU players off the screen for as long as you can last. You can view every single loading screen tip and trick in-game, as well and sort them by character or type. And going into the records allows players to view both their online and offline stats, such as character usage, number of KOs, items used, etc. Going back to the Smash Tags, you may trade in unwanted tags for in-game gold that you may use to purchase music tracks, outfits for Mii Fighters, bonuses for Spirits, and more. You now have the option of custom balancing other players whose skill level may be drastically higher than everyone else, or measurably lower, to make for a more enjoyable, fair fight (though let’s be honest; no one ever got better in a game of skill by playing people worse than them) when playing casually with friends or family.
Series director Masahiro Sakurai also announced that, while they had officially revealed all unlockable fighters for the base game, development was already underway for five additional fighters that will be released later as paid downloadable content in individual packs of $5.99 (USD) each, or as a bundle with the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Fighter Pass for $24.99 (USD). Regardless of which route you take to purchase the content, each pack will contain one additional fighter, a new stage, and multiple new tracks for the game’s already massive soundtrack. While Sakurai-San didn’t initially reveal who the yet-to-be-developed Fighter Pass characters were, he did state that there will not be any more echo fighters and each additional DLC fighter will be built from scratch. A purchase bonus was revealed; however, for the bundle pass in a new Mii Fighter outfit of Rex from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (is there still hope for him getting added as a fighter??) as well as some tracks from the acclaimed JRPG. In true Sakurai fashion, he announced one of the coming characters at the end of talking about the Fighter Pass as being a Piranha Plant, and from what little gameplay footage we got to see for the flora fighter, it’s looking like a really interesting one, though I am seeing many parallels to ROB. Piranha Plant will be ready shortly after launch and will also receive its own amiibo. There was a short teaser trailer for the brand new Adventure Mode, World of Light, as well, in which we saw a mysterious, monstrous beam of light capturing all of the fighters in the game, stealing their spirits and turning them into evil statue versions of themselves. We can now all hold our breath in collective anticipation for December 7th when we all start our brawl, our melee, our beat-em-up party all over again.