Super Smash Bros. Ultimate came out on Friday and I, like many Switch owners, excitedly opened my copy and played for hours. A friend of mine came over and her, my partner, and I played for a couple hours after which I played by myself. The levels are beautiful and plentiful, the characters amazing, fun, and incredibly diverse. Playing couch co-op was an instant blast - we jumped right into the regular multiplayer mode and played on teams against the computer, or in free for all against each other. Every second was exactly what I wanted and did not disappoint.
As I played the game solo over the weekend the incredibly massive flaws became more visible. Before I start I want to say that I absolutely still think the game is worth every penny and I’m by no means not going to stop playing it. Smash does, however, have some MASSIVE negatives.
Spirits in the game give minor bonuses to you when playing in the spirits mode. There are seemingly HUNDREDS of spirits, you can feed them, level them up, break them down to make new spirits etc. It is an absolute shit show. It’s confusing, there’s several in game currencies at play, they do absolutely nothing to enhance the actual experience of the game, and act as an extremely annoying pop up after matches. I haven’t even opened Spirit Board (another mode in a game of endless modes, both good and bad) because it has the word “spirit” in it.
I LOVED the original adventure mode in the old Smash. It was so much fun. The World of Light is ruined because of spirits. You’re forced to deal with them to progress because the World of Light mode is, at random, incredibly difficult for an average player like myself. I’ll breeze through several fights only to get stuck for an hour fighting Peach with poison mushrooms. Maybe if I optimized my spirits more the fight would be easier? I honestly don’t know and don’t want to waste time figuring it out. The World of Light seems more like it’s there to net you spirits than it is to have a legitimately fun adventure mode. There’s also a skill tree....which operates on yet another currency that I also have to look at and pay attention to because they give huge bonuses. It’s terrible. I just want to run through levels fighting characters in silly fights. That’s it!
But all of that garbage - all the extra nonsense added in for no reason, all the bad design choices, none of it compares to Nintendo’s omnipresent problem: Smash online is absolutely terrible. Issues are piling up as people play it more - here are some I’ve noticed myself and confirmed reading comments from other players online:
- You can not play couch-coop AND online with friends at the same time. If you’re couch coop you’re forced to play with random people online.
- The connection is mediocre at best, atrocious at worst - I’ve seen some pretty terrible lag already and been disconnected a few times.
- Quickplay only let’s you play FFA, which means you have to choose Battle Arenas to play anything else and Battle Arenas is an ancient design in a world of online gaming. It would have been so easy to just have different options for paying - 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, with a no item toggle for each - just one idea off the top of my head.
- Level and character select is, for some reason, not as present in online mode as it is when playing offline. There are some points in playing online where it would make sense to have selection, and it’s just not there.
- Why is there no ranked mode? Every solid online competitive game has free play and ranked.
The core game is incredible - the amount of content and quality of fighting is better than ever. There are some cool new things as well - I’ve only played around with Squad Strike mode a bit, but it definitely seems like a great new addition. However, Nintendo has been failing miserably with its online service and this is more painfully obvious in Smash Ultimate than ever before. I’ve also been playing Fallout 76 and I honestly think my experience has been better online with that hot mess than it has with Smash Ultimate. I just hope the coverage of Smash equals that of Fallout 76.