I mean where do we even begin? Today’s Smash news poured like an unending deluge that teased, pleased and somehow squeezed in a whole host of new characters, stages, items and tracks. 28 hours worth of music to enjoy, able to turn the screen off and pop on some headphones as you shove the Switch in your bag and balk as Nintendo single-handedly dethrones Spotify. This in itself is insane, a tiny, small detail to enjoy, but let’s get to the ghoulish meat of the matter.
To begin, we’re treated to a beautifully rendered dark and moody castle scene, a lone warrior enters the mansion’s unhallowed halls – Luigi. We see him do battle with all manner of brutal monster, medusa and mummy before being reaped by Death himself. It’s Castlevania. Simon Belmont is here with legendary whip, crosses, holy water and the most Metal Final Smash anyone could’ve hoped for. He’s accompanied by echo fighter Richter, much to the clamor of fanboys everywhere – this is what Smash hype is all about.
Dracula’s Castle, dubbed the darkest stage in smash history, features breakable candlesticks to swipe items from and the occasional series boss to contend with as well, featuring the creatures we saw in the trailer. Death and even Dracula himself appear on occasion, rousing giant pillars of flame, disappearing as a flock of bats and becoming a monstrous behemoth bat. To help you in battles is a new assist trophy, his son Alucard, who promises to not only offer you extreme force, but stands as a difficult, temporary opponent to knock out of the ring prematurely. Permeating all this Transylvanian goodness is a maddening 34 tracks from the entire series discography- the love here is palpable.
With an assist trophy, stage, character and echo fighter, we move on and are treated to more wonderful clones from other franchises. From Fire Emblem Awakening, easily the title that helped the series gain western popularity, Chrom ascends from mere Final Smash cameo to a fighter himself. Seemingly a conglomerate of Ike, Marth and Roy, he’s an addition fans have been desperate for, even if we almost have the entirety of Fire Emblem playable at this point. Another treat, as if Ridley himself wasn’t enough, is a character fans never thought they’d see. Metroid mutation Dark Samus enters the fray veinier than ever, seemingly more agile than her nemesis. Echo fighters can be compounded on the menu, freeing up space, clarifying unique characters by compiling them all in one place, a nice touch. Clones have always been somewhat of an issue in Smash, so to see them clarified as echo fighters instead of brand new additions is a savvy embellishment.
We’re then spectators to a stage exhibition, including many old revamped favourites from throughout the series alongside Mario Odyessey’s New Donk City Hall, complete with a serenade by Pauline, and the more obscure Earthbound’s Magicant. There’s a total of 103 stages, all unlocked from the outset to scrap in. This is where a new feature is introduced, stage morphing, mid-fight an entire stage quantum leaps into another, from Skyloft to Luigi’s Mansion to Zebes and more. Rules and stages are now selected before a match on top of new optional tweaks, stage hazards toggleable and final smashes charging over time opposed to the collection of a smash ball. Whenever these appeared it’d break the flow of battle, all players ditching the fight for a lethal reward, now fights can continue uninterpreted, all players on a more even playing ground. Classic and tourney modes return alongside the new smash down, where characters are removed from the roster after a match, forcing players to adapt on the fly. Training mode also returns with a new stage, on a grid with trajectory curves to truly hone your launch power into an exact science. Prepare world, Kirby’s coming.
New items, assist trophies and Pokemon are next on the fan-service itinerary, first up a single banana with the power of an ICBM, followed by a Fire Emblem favorite, the Killing Edge. Kirby’s very own adorable, sentient ICBM Bomber also makes an appearance, waddling around whilst Death’s actual Scythe drops amongst a slew of other projectiles and crafty tools. Pokemon are next and the first introduced is arguably Gamefreak’s new mascot, Alolan Exeggutor stretching skyward, dividing players like a gleeful skyscaper. We see both standard and alolan Vulpix make an appearance alongside Abra, happy to troll fighters with it’s teleport and on occasion drag them to the netherworld. Solgaleo, Lunala and Marshadow are of course present next to the ominous hand of the highly huggable, yet definitely murderous Mimikkyu with a handy counter from Pyukumuku to boot. Finally, someone who should’ve been there from the start, Ditto transforms into your fighter, helping you out in a pinch.
As for guest appearances thanks to the assist trophy, Megaman’s Zero finally arrives to deal beam sabre justice & Knuckles…is Knuckles. Starfox’s Krystal and a stray Klaptrap also descend to help out, whilst the sinister combat prowess of the Animal Crossing cast deepens as lovable Kapp’n straight up kidnaps foes with his bus, that’s one heck of a trip. Metal Gear’s Grayfox reappears with Kirby’s old final smash present as Chef Kawasaki, whilst Nintendo Letterbox mascot Nikki wriggles her way in to doodle some death and destruction. Seemingly on a conquest to appear in every game possible, Shovel Knight rears his helmet, here to shovel some justice down our throats once more. The most horrifying, and my personal favourite, is the inclusion of the moon from Majora’s Mask, hurtling towards the stage from afar, it’s disturbing grimace growing into the foreground as you can do nothing but despair. A final assist trophy treat, as if we haven’t already been showered in love by this point, is the inclusion of a winged Rathalos from Monster Hunter, hinting at more series inclusion and tearing gaming’s beloved limb from limb as both a boss and an assist. Like an overbearing, divorced parent, Smash Ultimate will stop at nothing to shower you in love and gubbins to prove its affections. We’re left with a sneak peak of the main menu with a “mysterious mode”, my money’s on a melee-esque adventure mode.
But I know what you’re wondering- is our purple hero present, was Waluigi revealed at the very end in some kind of Smash typical, hypebound twist? Well, despite a very evident duo of purple and yellow chairs behind Sakurai, nothing was said. Throughout we were teased and trolled this way, especially in the finale. A cutscene where we see DK and Diddy at home, baleful stomps demanding attention. In the distance a towering King K.Rool silhouette, DK’s nemesis. With the flick of a sheet it’s King Dedede, howling with laughter like the giant troll he is, before being smashed to the side as the true Aligator King emerges. Yup, another addition to the cast! With blunderbuss and pirate hat, boxing glove and giga laser, King K.Rool leaves his mark.
This was unarguably the greatest smash update we’ve received since the inclusion of Cloud in Smash 4, just when we thought we were being spoiled, we were given far more. Smash Bros. stands as a tribute to gaming’s most beloved franchises and is easily the most ambitious crossover in the history of gaming to date. With some time until release, who knows what else we’ll see? Only time will tell.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate launches exclusively on Switch December 7th.