On Nov. 1 2018, Nintendo held the last Smash Ultimate Direct before the game’s impending release on Dec. 7. Following a series of seemingly reputable leaks (looking at you, Grinch and Undertale Redditers) Nintendo’s Direct would shed light on just how reputable those leaks actually would be, in addition to revealing a number of other things said to manifest the “Ultimate” Smash game. Let’s recap and look at our new characters:
Wouldn’t be a Smash Direct without new fighter reveals, would it? Say hello to Ken, Incineroar and… the PIRANHA PLANT?! The Ken and Incineroar reveals were rather expected. Ryu’s arch-rival, echo character, Street Fighter representative along with a heavily expected Generation Seven “Pokemon” representative. Nothing too surprising here.
Ken will be a faster echo of Ryu. No idea if he’ll hit less hard or have some deficiency Ryu doesn’t have as a balancing mechanic, but barring something unforeseen, it looks like Ken will be about as competitively viable as Ryu will be. About par for the course for an echo fighter. Not much to really see here. A good inclusion on Nintendo’s part, though, giving added third party representation to a system sorely in need of such a thing.
Incineroar will be a unique fighter. I’m highly intrigued by Incineroar’s competitive prospects; I’m not sure if it’ll have a kill confirm or not, but its counter mechanics seem interesting. Revenge, Incineroar’s Down-B, will cause it to not flinch towards an attack it takes at the moment of usage. Under Revenge’s mechanics, if Incineroar were to take a particularly hard hit while Revenge-ing, its next attack will be much, much more powerful as a result. This adds a lot of risk and reward to the character; rather than Counters on characters, such as Marth or Ike, Incineroar’s Counter only has value if it actually manages to land a good blow against an opponent, not missing with its attack or errantly striking its opponent’s shield, and letting the attack go to waste. Where Marth and Ike, among others, get immediate value out of their counter, Incineroar will need to do more work to get value out of its Counter. Thing is, Marth, Ike and most other Counter characters already get a lot of value out of their Counter. Unless Incineroar can do insane things, like kill a character from mid-stage at 40% with a Revenge boosted attack, I’m not sure this new risk and reward benefits Incineroar very much juxtaposed to the aforementioned Counter users. Additionally, we haven’t seen the attack used airborne, but Incineroar’s recovery looks rather subpar. Take that with a grain of salt, but generally characters who can kill themselves with an attack used on the ground (see Little Mac, Ryu, Luigi) tend to not have great disadvantage states, and in some cases, recoveries. We’ll need to see Incineroar gameplay to make this distinction conclusive, but Nintendo cautioning us against using Incineroar’s attack makes me feel wary, to say the least.
Now, let’s talk about the Piranha Plant. Yeah, THAT Piranha Plant. I can’t be the only one who thought “WTF is this? A troll inclusion?” as it was being revealed. In all honesty, I was thoroughly amused by this thing’s inclusion. That said, this was not the Mario rep myself and millions of other gamers were expecting. Where we all thought we’d be getting Geno, Nintendo pulled a “Nintendo” and went with a character that not a single person on the planet thought or expected them to include. Much like Incineroar, there isn’t much to speculate about with regards to the plant’s viability on the competitive scene. We’ve seen it use all of two notable attacks. It seems to have excellent range (for a plant…?) and it has a close quarters stun projectile of some sort, which leads me to believe a decent combo game could be in coming up. Beyond that, we literally know nothing. Nope. I can’t even call upon the plant’s canon traits from various “Super Mario” games and try to muster a guess for a moveset. This plant’s sole function in these games is to hide in a pipe, occasionally rise from the pipe, and chomp whatever, if anything, happened to be standing on the pipe. The inclusion of the plant would be like trying to watch a dog play professional football for the New England Patriots; what in the hell is this thing supposed to do? Why was it included in the game? And for the first time in forever, I haven’t got a clue. Yep, I’m totally dumbfounded. Guess we’ll just have to see when the game comes out!
We now know Nintendo is planning to release five more characters in the future, along with five new stages, as paid DLC. Each new character will come in a set that will cost $5.99. They project to have all sets released by the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020.
The new menu option, Spirits, was also revealed. This seemed like a casual player’s mode, through and through. Funny enough, it turned out to be quite complex. The basic concept is that players can earn characters “spirits” of video game characters that didn’t get included into the game as playable characters, which help to enhance their fighter traits in battle. The mode itself seems decent, but I thought Nintendo did a very poor job presenting it. There was a lot of rambling, and I felt like they didn’t elaborate on a good deal of the mode. But this seemed to be their way of compensating for a number of heavily clamored characters that didn’t get into the game as playable characters. Okay, not a bad idea, even if we had to abolish trophies to get this thing in place.
Additionally, we now know to expect a new Adventure mode we never got in Smash 4! Little actual details were given about “Light of the World” but what we do know is, according to Masahiro Sakurai, the mode will not be noticeably similar to Brawl’s Subspace Emissary. We also know that, unlike the SSE, there will be actual voice acting this go around. This is shown when the entire cast, joining one another standing atop a mountain, faces off against some unknown entity floating in the air in front of them. We immediately interpret this entity to be hostile and threatening, as many characters are distressed by its appearance. We see the voice acting when Fox walks out in front of the whole cast, points his blaster at the entity, and shouts “We need to take them all down, team!” To which Marth responds with “We need to take down about ten each!” Pit promptly replies with “We can do it! I know we can!” And the last of the voice acting features Zelda saying “Distill your fears, allies!” seemingly as a way of relaxing the cast’s nervousness at this unknown threat. Shortly after, the entity lashes out at the roster, firing some type of bright light beam thingy at everyone. To make a long story short, it seems to pretty much disintegrate everyone. Sonic and Pikachu try to run away as fast as they can, but they get caught up and turned to nothing by the light. Bayonetta tries to use Bats Within to weave her way through the onslaught, but the light wins. Falco attempts to board his fighter plane, flying away from the chaos, but he falls victim to the destruction. Finally, Kirby boards the trademark Warp Star, and is the only one able to get away from the annihilation. Even Mario, Nintendo’s mascot character, gets hit, and seemingly turned into some kind of weird, empowered stone clone of himself. And that was it, as Nintendo cut off their sneak peek of the mode then and there.
Given how little information about this new mode is readily available, I don’t really know what to say here. I am very glad that Nintendo is noticeably trying to give their game more replay value, something which has been a problem with the entire Smash franchise to this point, and I think this strategy will work. They finally brought back a lot of single player features which were oddly absent from Smash 4.
Finally, Nintendo revamped their online modes; rather than having to distinguish between “For Fun” and “For Glory” as they did in Smash 4, players will be able to connect to one another via “preferred rules.” Which could include increases in stocks, time, items, stage availability and more. I REALLY liked this. This gives competitive players an increased opportunity to play on more than just flat stages for competitive practice online. No longer will private lobbies be needed for competitively oriented gameplay, as two players with identical “preferred rules” may engage in whatever type of game they may like! It still pays homage to the casual fanbase, too, by allowing them to select rules which give them their type of gameplay, with as many or few items and stages as they’d like!
Overall grade I’d give the Direct: A, fittingly also the first letter of “ambiguity” which perfectly embodies the game and what we’re in for. I mean that in a completely positive way as well; this game is gonna be something special. As I type this, we’ve got one month and six days for its release. Along with millions of others, competitive and casual alike, I can’t wait!