Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Hands-on impressions from E3 2018

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate seems like a fever dream for any fan of Smash Bros. Every single character that has ever been in Super Smash Bros. is in this Nintendo Switch Smash, with coveted new characters Inkling and Ridley and new "Echo" character Daisy rounding things off. All of these characters have changes both subtle and dramatic to how they play, and those changes look mostly to be improvements. Plenty of retro stages are making a comeback, too, alongside brand new ones such as a Sheikah Tower from Breath of the Wild.

I was only able to play two two-minute rounds of Smash Ultimate at E3 2018, so I didn't get a glimpse of the game's menus or options, nor can I tell you whether or not there is a single player mode. What I can confirm is that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is exactly what it says on the tin: in terms of characters and stages, it's the ultimate Smash game.

Choose your character

I had access to a somewhat limited array of characters for my demo, but they included Inkling and Ridley, so I played a match as each. Inkling feels like a perfect fit for Smash Bros. All of her abilities both accurately reflect the fun, inky playstyle of Splatoon while also seamlessly lining up with the different types of attacks in Smash.

Inkling can shoot ink from the Splattershot, mow enemies down with an ink roller, throw ink bombs, and perform powerful Smash attacks with various other weapons such as the Inkbrush. The Inkling has an ink gauge next to her health that empties as she attacks with ink, but can be refilled by shielding and pressing B, letting Inkling disappear into the Ink. Her Up + B move transforms her into her squid form and launches her into the sky, just like the launch when returning to the game in Splatoon.

Not being as familiar with Ridley's lore, I didn't quite get the same kick out of playing the big, ridiculous dragon. After flapping about the Sheikah Tower stage for awhile, I'm sadly on the side of the naysayers who said that Ridley wouldn't work well in Smash. He felt cumbersome, far more so than other large characters such as Bowser or Ganondorf, and his attacks didn't seem to hit as hard as I would have liked them to. I might attribute this to the game still needing balancing, but I also think it may just be that Ridley's an unknown quantity to me and I struggled to use him properly. As someone who played a lot of Splatoon, Inkling felt natural in a way that Ridley didn't. I look forward to seeing masters of the game take on Ridley and show me how it's done.

Final Destination, or something

A small range of stages was also available for my match, including samples of stages from each of the past Smash Bros. games. I had a blast returning to Saffron City from the original Smash Bros., and being smacked around by old-school style Pokemon popping out the top door of Silph. Onett is back, as is Big Blue. There is also a smattering of new stages, including one I played on, Sheikah Tower.

Sheikah Tower comes from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and takes place atop one of the iconic landmarks. There are few major hazards — occasionally the top roof of the tower will crumble down on the heads of the fighters and do major damage to anyone standing in the way (the roof will reconstitute itself over time).

All items!

Super Smash Bros Ultimate Nintendo Switch Ice Climbers

Super Smash Bros Ultimate Nintendo Switch Ice Climbers (Image credit: Nintendo)

With items on, I got a small sampling of the goofy, mayhem-inducing toys that should always be turned on for every match if you want to have fun. I threw multiple Pokeballs, greeting friends inside such as Abra and Metagross. The Ray Gun is back with a new visual design, but the same green, punchy lazers. I picked up multiple Hammers (much to my opponent's chagrin) and an Ore Club, and gobbled up some Super Spicy Curry, too.

At one point during my second match, two Smash Balls at once dropped in and properly thudded to the ground instead of bouncing around the stage. These were the fake Smash Balls shown in the trailer, recognizable by their weird behavior and backward design — the bottom line is thicker, whereas on a true Smash Ball the left line should be thick. A few real Smash Balls floated by, too, but our constant fighting over them did not result in a Smash Attack from either side.


Without seeing or hearing anything additional about available modes, more characters, stages, items, or settings, it's hard to say much more about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate after going hands-on than what we already saw in the trailer. The game does feel a bit faster in terms of how the characters move and react to one another--a bit closer to Melee, even. But mostly, it just felt like a Super Smash Bros. game on the Nintendo Switch.

Which, for the majority of us Smash fans, is exactly what we wanted anyway.

Smashing! When can I get it?

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will launch for the Nintendo Switch on December 7, 2018. It will cost $59.99.

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Jaz Brown