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'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' review: An audacious and accessible fighter

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ is an absolutely massive game that’s easy to jump into, but tough to master. (image: Nintendo)

Nintendo’s (NTDOY) “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is the epitome of excess. The fighting title, which lets you play as, and slap around, some of gaming’s most iconic characters, is an absolutely audacious example of what a game can be when companies from across the industry lower their guard in the name of fun. And dollars, of course.

Available Dec. 7 for the Switch, “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is the latest offering in the 20-year-old fighting game franchise, and it is easily the biggest and best yet. There are more game modes, more collectibles and more characters to unlock in “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” than I’ve seen in any other game of its ilk.

But it isn’t without a few niggling flaws here and there. The new World of Light adventure mode, for instance, takes a bit to get the hang of, but outside of that, this is easily the best “Smash Bros.” to-date, and one of the most accessible fighting games around.

So many options

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is an embarrassment of riches. In addition to a handful of new brawlers, every fighter to have ever appeared in a “Smash” game has returned. In total, there are more than 70 fighters. On top of that there is an absurd amount of fighting stages, each of which have variant versions.

There’s an incredibly ridiculous number of fighters to choose from.

Then there are the game modes. There’s of course, Classic mode, in which you can choose a single character and fight through stages to the final boss, and then there’s the various Smash modes for when you just want to throw down with friends.

A fighting role-playing game

New to “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is a mode called World of Light.

This is basically the game’s story mode, and boy is it huge. The general conceit is that all of your favorite video game characters have been captured by the evil Galeem, who is using them to create evil copies. Still other characters have been turned into spirits that control those copies like puppets. Your goal is to free all of the trapped fighters and spirits and take down Galeem.

I usually end up getting bored with fighting games pretty quickly. Sure, I unlock all of the characters, which is fun, but once that’s over, I’m usually done with the title.

The game map in World of Light mode is enormous.

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is a completely different type of fighting game, though. The World of Light mode lets you travel around a giant game map fighting cloned characters in different stage scenarios that never feel exactly the same. At one point the floor can be lava, or sticky, or there could be high winds that blow you off the level entirely.

Beyond that, each spirit you unlock has its own attributes, which you can use to improve your fighter. Here’s how it works. You start off with one fighter, the cheapest of them all: Kirby. As you advance through stages, you’ll collect spirit cards. Those spirits are broken down into primary spirits and support spirits.

Spirits are represented by a slew of characters from across the history of video games. Half of the fun of collecting them is seeing which you can identify and what games they’re from.

Those spirits all have their own attributes. Primary spirits are categorized as attack, defense, grab or neutral. Attack is stronger than grab but weak to defense, while defense is weak to grab. Neutral spirits are, well, neutral. Each opponent you take on in Spirit mode will have a primary spirit of its own, so you’ll need to equip your own spirit that best counters them. You can even level up primary spirits to increase your fighter’s battle power.

Fighting in ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,’ is smooth and easy to get a handle on.

Support spirits can do things like increase your attack with swords, spawn you with weapons or improve your stamina.

It took me a while to fully grasp just what was going on, and why I would choose one type of spirit over the other. But once you figure it out, it feels like, well, an RPG. And a long one at that. Running through the map will take you hours, especially when it comes time to take on more difficult fighters.

And this is just part of the game. As you progress through World of Light you’ll unlock fighters who you can then play as in all other modes. And with more than 70 characters, you’ll be unlocking them for quite some time.

Let’s get ready to smash!

“Smash” occupies a strange place in the pantheon of fighting games. Players can pull off flash attacks without entering the kind of strings of button combinations other games require like “Mortal Kombat” or “Marvel vs. Capcom,” but there’s still a technical element to it. Fans regularly participate in tournaments, and playing against someone with even a little bit of skill can be a frustrating experience.

The screen can become a little too chaotic when playing in handheld mode.

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is no different. I’ve been playing for the better part of a week, and feel like I’m the greatest player in the world when I take down a tough boss. But I’m really just pressing one button and flicking the joystick in one direction or another.

As soon as I sit down with a real-life player who knows how to play better than me, which isn’t exactly difficult, I’m positive I’ll be hurling my controller across the room.

The only time I had trouble playing “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” was in handheld mode when there were more than two fighters on screen at once. The chaos of three to four fighters going at it on the Switch’s 6.2-inch screen can become too difficult to follow. On my big-screen, though, that’s not an issue.

Should you get it?

If you have any interest in “Super Smash Bros.,” remember having a blast playing it in your dorm room or as a kid, or just want to punch Pikachu in the face, then “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is absolutely worth picking up. This is easily the best iteration of the series, and one that’s going to hold your attention for quite some time.

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Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@oath.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley. Follow Yahoo Finance on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.finance.yahoo.com/