Super Smash Bros Ultimate – 20 years of gaming celebrations

There are many things in my life that stay consistent. My insatiable thirst for pizza for one. The words ‘ah man, that’s good’ that slip from my mouth after that first delightful sip of morning coffee and lastly my hype for a new Super Smash Bros game. My excitement for gaming in general has dwindled due to the tyranny of adult life stopping me from staying up to 4am with a controller in one hand and a handful of doritos in the other. That and the fact my library of unplayed games is stacked higher than a dog walking through Hyde park late April. So when a new game that spikes my interest looms I usually ignore it for a while. Yeah I really can’t do that with smash bros. I, like many others have been boarding the smash hype train for well over a decade now. 2007 saw me dashing up the stairs after school to check the smash website. 2014 saw me wired into my college computer scrambling for roster leaks. 2018 saw me hunched over the sofa nursing a hangover gripping my girlfriend’s hand in excitement as the final direct blared through my senses for Ultimate. It’s something that echoes those childhood memories where Christmas felt magical.  I don’t think I could’ve quite grasped the bond I’d grow from that Christmas morning back in 2002. As I mashed buttons on my new GameCube controller trying to kill Yoshi, I didn’t think almost 20 years later I’d still be using it for the same game. Poor little guy’s got some mileage on him now. I call him dusty. He’s 16 now and his y button is caving in, but he’s still going strong. It’s mind-blowing that I can play that same controller 3 generations of gaming down the line. I grew up with this series and it seems the series and gaming in general has grown up with me.

The game started off on the N64 in January 1999 (a month shy of 20 years from Ultimate) originally as a Japanese exclusive with only 12 fighters. The game was a fresh new take on the fighting genre. Arcade classics such as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter have a very restrictive platform for your fighter. Combo’s, through convoluted button presses, meant this game wasn’t easy to pick up especially against a pro. Have you ever faced someone who is a god at these games? It’s just the worst. It’s developer Masahiro Sakurai thought so too, so he wanted to create a game where everyone could have fun regardless of skill level. The health bar had to go and the fighting arena gave much more freedom to breathe. What he created was a mix of platforming and fighting where being knocked off the stage is the only way to secure a KO. You may be getting beaten, but you have the chance to survive and fight back.

The controls are very simplistic with 2 buttons doing physical attacks with A (usually) and special attacks for B, as well as a directional button you could do a variety of moves with very few buttons. This easy to play method made this game accessible to everyone, but also accidentally opened up doors for intense competitive playing in the GameCube version melee. Melee had a brutal turnover with the game being developed in only 11 months but the reaction from the community was unprecedented. The game at a base level could be played competitively but over the years, the more engrossed players became, they managed to find exploits within the game’s mechanics to create their own professional playing jargon. Things such as wave dashing and L cancelling started to make the games similar to street fighter again. They allowed players to have much more control over their fighter making them faster and easier to recover and land blows. This meant without learning all the technical mumbo jumbo you might as well walk off the ledge yourself and get that sweet release of death. Saying that, competitive melee became huge and melee tourneys are still held today alongside smash 4 and soon ultimate. This clearly displeased Sakurai as the next game, Brawl, on the Wii demonstrated. Whereas melee was lightning quick, brawl felt like a hungover Jigglypuff. The fighters felt like slow ascending balloons and the combat much less intense. Brawl killed the competitive scene as a result of this and quite a few other reasons. The game exploits in the past game were completely removed and playing defensive became much easier. In fact, far too much easier. Air dodging was now infinite being restricted to one in Melee and rolling kept you invulnerable for a long time. It meant running away could be an option. An absolute nightmare if you play as a slow character and sonic is darting around at any time that you swipe at him. Tripping was also added; perhaps the most ridiculous addition to this series ever. Any fighter at any random moment could just trip and be left vulnerable. It makes you wonder if this was Sakurai’s idea of a big middle finger to those who championed the technical exploit side of melee. Sakurai is a developer who really appreciates and listens to his fans as Smash for Wii U addressed brawl’s issues and the gameplay was much faster. Each game has seen an evolution within the community and the overall hype for the games reach ridiculous levels on the internet. New fighters are a particularly big topic in smash discussions and the roster has reached an unbelievable variety of fighters.

The fighters are the biggest draw to these games because of how unique and colossal the choices are. The N64 title had 12 fighters overall with some odd but now iconic characters. Captain falcon was a character that has been defined by Smash Bros. Coming from the F-zero franchise, the cap was never seen outside of his car. He didn’t have his own flesh and polygons for his 3-d model and likeness arose from Smash. Oh and bless little Ness. He’d never had a 3-d model rendered of him outside of Smash. Earthbound 64 was cancelled making Smash Bros the only 3-d representation of the character. The same is true for the ice climbers appearing in only game in 1981 and being revived from the depths of the NES with melee. Roy and Marth popping up in melee too, showcased fire emblem, a Japanese exclusive, which has since seen popularity worldwide. Pit from Kid Icarus rising after 20 years.  These games have re-animated icons that would be either long forgotten or just never known by most players. Each smash release preserves and glosses them up making the lost 8-bit character’s jump into the HD modern age. It’s truly quite a beautiful thing to have grown up and watch them all live on. Seeing the ultimate roster feels so surreal to look at. 3rd party characters such as Cloud, Megaman, Sonic, Simon Belmont would had been laughable inclusions among the message boards of 2008. All of these characters have been highly requested for over a decade and Sakurai listened and delivered as well as bringing in Ridley. A fighter he stated in the past is far too big to fight with but you know, he just went and did it. With 74 fighters spanning 3 decades of gaming it’s difficult to find a player who won’t connect with at least a small handful of fighters. I bet even my mum could name a few (Fox would be a lucky guess for sure).

Not only that but the August direct revealed upward of 800 songs for hours of trips down memory lane. This game is a nostalgia trip and a half. The amount of content in this game is nothing short of astonishment especially when you compare it’s download size of a mere 13gb in comparison to 50+gb for most AAA titles for Ps4 and Xbox. Each game upon its release seems Gargantuan and this one is a culmination of them all. Super Smash Bros Ultimate is not only a celebration of gaming, but a celebration of itself.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate for Nintendo Switch drops on December 7th with 74 fighters, 103 stages over 800 music tracks and infinite fun with friends. I am beyond excited. It’s difficult to see where the franchise can go from here with everyone being here and more or less every feature returning. (R.I.P break the targets and homerun contest). The community will live on for a very long time though I’m sure as fans both old and new will cement this as one of the best Nintendo games ever made. I mean… unless it sucks?!

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