“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” lives up to its name not just in its sizable character roster and stage selection, but also in its effort to address the previous “Smash Bros.” entry’s shortcomings.
Unlike its 2014 predecessor, “Ultimate” offers compelling single-player content to accompany the multiplayer fun characteristic of the series. Specifically, it brings back a fan favorite mode and revamps another.
Though Adventure Mode — introduced in 2001’s “Super Smash Bros. Melee” — was absent in the 2014 iteration, it’s present in “Ultimate.” Serving as a campaign, it provides entertainment to those looking for an adequate single-player experience.
In the new Adventure Mode, titled “World of Light,” players battle against corrupted “Spirits” who assume the forms of the game’s fighters. Because the Spirits bring with them special battle conditions, such as the floor turning to lava, the mode contains the amusing quirkiness past Adventure Modes had.
However, the Spirits also add light role-playing elements to the mode. When players defeat a Spirit, it becomes uncorrupted and joins the player in their cause. Some Spirits can boost players’ attack and defense attributes, while others can make them less vulnerable to certain special conditions.
Because players can level up Spirits and only equip a few in a single battle, World of Light’s role-playing component is deep enough to feel like a worthy supplement.
During their journey, players may find some Spirits too difficult to defeat. Fortunately, World of Light does not have linear level progression, so players can pick a different fight if one gives them too much trouble. After they gather more Spirits and continue to level them up, they can return to a tough opponent for a better chance of winning.
World of Light’s non-linearity, then, not only prevents the mode from becoming boring but also makes the role-playing elements more meaningful.
Regarding series staple Classic Mode, another mode allowing for solo play, its version in “Ultimate” is more enthralling than its previous one. In this mode, players fight in a brief series of battles more standard than those in Adventure Mode. Because these series’ opponents and stages were randomized in the 2014 “Smash Bros.” entry, the battles felt trivial.
“Ultimate” takes an opposite approach — it contains a distinct series of battles for each character. For example, in his series, the dinosaur Yoshi fights against a sequence of reptilian opponents, including the famous Pokémon Charizard. Such personalization makes for battles that feel both special and charming.
Another improvement to Classic Mode is the removal of battles consisting of more than four fighters. In the previous “Smash Bros.” iteration, battles in the mode could consist of up to eight. Although battles of five or more fighters can be fun when playing with real people, they feel gimmicky when only playing against the computer.
Despite improving upon its predecessor, “Ultimate” is not without problems. Unfortunately, the notorious lag that has plagued online matches in the series’ past has returned, and the franchise representation in both the roster and stage selection feels somewhat disproportionate. In the game, publisher Nintendo sidelines some intellectual properties worthy of greater presence, such as “ARMS,” “Sin and Punishment” and “Advance Wars.”
As “Ultimate” continues to improve via patches and downloadable content, these issues have potential to diminish, but in any case, this latest “Smash Bros.” entry is the best in the series yet. Even for those who care little about its single-player aspect, the game still manages to impress with its impressive visuals, huge soundtrack and considerable amount of content.