The original Super Smash Bros. was published in 1999 for Nintendo 64 and offered 12 playable characters.
Fast forward to today and the roster has vastly expanded, with Masahiro Sakurai’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the much antiticpated fifth installment in the wildly popular franchise, boasting over 60 fighters representing 30 different intellectual properties. During San Diego Comic-Con, we got to sit down with Bill Trinen, Director of Product Marketing at Nintendo, and test drive a demo for Ultimate. We previewed some of the new characters and stages, discussed how certain characters have been brought back in (and improved upon), and just generally had a blast.
“It’s really designed so that anybody at a party can pick it up, start playing, and have fun,” Trinen said, “and yet there’s also layers and layers of depth of what you can do.” We started out the demo by taking a look at two new highly anticipated additions from Splatoon: an Inkling character and a Moray Towers stage. Inkling is an amusingly nimble fighter, and its splattershot attack was fun to (attempt to) dodge. Moray Towers is similarly dynamic, and allows a player to automatically zip down the ramps by running, a key feature when one’s trying to avoid getting drowned in ink.
We also got to take a look at Ridley, Samus’ archenemy from the Metroid series. Ridley is a formidable beast, capable of delivering both a low tail whip or a fireball to the face. Making a return is also the Metroid Frigate Orpheon stage, an unwieldy battlefield that will suddenly flip upside down on the players as the Parasite Queen watches in the background. With Ridley able to perform two mid-air jumps, players may find he excels at dominating this particular stage.
There are some stages and characters that have been updated to reflect various iterations of their respective games. Link, for example, has been modified with an outfit from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and his moves reflect the move sets from that game. “With Link he’s got his bow and arrow, he has his remote bombs,” Trinen said. Zelda has been similarly redesigned, but here she’s based more off the 1991 game A Link to the Past. “Her moves are pretty similar to what they’ve been in previous games, but they’ve been tweaked a bit so she’s a pretty strong character now,” Trinen added. We had Zelda and Link face off on the new Great Plateau Tower from Breath of the Wild, a visually gorgeous stage that can be completely demolished through various means.
There are certain characters that players may find especially joyful to pick up again. The Ice Climbers are back, and while they look cute, they’re incredibly formidable opponents. I also tried out Metal Gear‘s Snake, who makes a return in Ultimate; he came with a learning curve that I struggled with, but more seasoned gamers will surely enjoy figuring out how to utilize him best.
Trinen also talked about Pichu, a character who wasn’t in the demo build but who will be available in the full version. As a less evolved form of Pikachu, it has less control over its skillset, meaning when it unleashes its electrical attacks, it will also damage itself. Trinen said it’s these sort of quirky, endearing additions that the game’s creator,Masahiro Sakurai. is known for. “Mr. Sakurai is notorious for just going into the root nature of those characters, and the original game they appeared in, and bringing them to life in a way that really reflects the uniqueness of the character,” Trinen said.
Asked if this game is meant to appeal more to Smash 4 or Melee fans, Trinen said that they’ve really tried to balance the mechanics of both games in a way that will hopefully appeal to both fan bases. “The game’s been designed in a way that’s faster than the Wii U game, and they added in a direction air dodge when you’re midair,” he explained. “And you can actually use that to maneuver.”
But of course, the major benefit of this game will be the console. “The great thing about the Switch is that you can pick it up and play on the go,” said Trinen. “You can play in handheld mode and be able to play against other people. Or you can play in tabletop mode, just set it up and sit down and have a potluck Smash Bros. anywhere you want.” The dream.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will be released for the Nintendo Switch on December 7, 2018.