On Sunday afternoon at San Diego Comic-Con, I played three minutes of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at a demo on the exhibit floor. The Nintendo Switch booth featured rows of consoles and screens with controllers. When I went, I waited in line for about a half-hour, and then attendants escorted me to the gaming area where I joined three other guys for a quick beat-’em-up experience featuring many of gaming’s most iconic characters.
I was the oldest player at my console, and probably the one with the least Smash Bros. experience. Of course I’ve played some of the games over the years, but only when I was over at somebody’s house or something. I’m a casual gamer, and when I play, it’s usually action, RPGs, or survival horror, like Resident Evil, the Batman Arkham series, Alien: Isolation, or a Final Fantasy adventure. My fighting game of choice would be Injustice 2, not the bouncy, cartoony kitsch of Smash Bros. Before this past Sunday, I hadn’t played a Sonic, Mario, or Link game in over a decade — unless it was at a convention demo.
The digital four-player slugfest began, and my newbieness showed. I took longer than everyone else just selecting my character, Link, before we got down to business. One of the other guys selected some kind of boxing rink level. I mashed buttons furiously, didn’t understand what my character was doing, and by the end of the round I was the only player who had a “-1” score under my name — the lowest number. In short: I sucked.
But I still had fun.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the kind of game that’s mean to be played in a group, as opposed to other one-one-one or one-on-AI games like the aforementioned Injustice 2 or the venerable Street Fighter series. Yes, you can definitely have group tournaments or whatever with those games, but Smash Bros., with its bouncy, buoyant character design and nostalgia-fueled character roster, seems specifically designed for a multi-player experience that brings fun to your console.
The levels are expansive, and the camera zooms in and out depending on what’s happening. It’s hard to really follow what’s going on though, at least for me, when there are four characters fighting all over the place at the same time. Blink and you miss something. Your character is getting smacked across the screen before you know it, or maybe you’re the one doing the smacking. It’s cool to be able to jump around to different levels and hang from skylights and stuff though, and to find out what abilities your character has to prevent you from falling to certain doom off screen.
We got one more round. This time we were on some high-rise building rooftops. I’d chosen Kirby, and I got even more confused. I knew who Kirby was, of course, but had never played a Kirby game before. I thought he looked cute, and fully embraced the kiddie, cartoony feel. He’s literally a round, pink ball of fluff that gets even bigger and rounder by eating things. He spits things out too. I guess I wanted to fully relish the experience. So we start playing, and his controls are even funkier than they were when I played Link. It was almost like he refused to follow my commands.
And then I realized that he wasn’t the character I’d selected. I’d actually been playing as Mega Man.
I turned my eyes to a different corner of the screen and realized that I was the boyish-looking blue robot fighter with the large blaster gun. You know who I’m talking about. Mega Man’s a video game STAR, right? Too bad I wasn’t playing him like one. I will admit, though, that this time I felt like I was approaching a level of competency. I don’t know if it was because of the way Mega Man played, or if it was because that, after sucking for two-and-a-half minutes, I had enough experience to maybe, just maybe, know what I was doing?
I still got beat up a lot, but I didn’t have a “-1” under my name when things ended. So there’s that.
Anyhoo, in my opinion, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a great game depending on who you are. If you’re into party games, or you feel like taking a trip down memory lane to a more youthful time at the console, then this is the game for you. But if you’re older or just prefer a more mature gaming and graphics experience, then you might want to move on. And if you generally suck at fighting games in general, then you’ll probably want to invest your time and money into something else. From an objective level though, Smash Bros. is a well-done game with nice rendered environments and enough expansiveness to accommodate up to four people at once.
Check out our gallery below.