SDCC 2018: Hands-On With Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

While at San Diego Comic Con, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get some hands-on time with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at Nintendo’s booth. While there’s not much that can be gleaned from a one-time demo, there’s still a few elements worth sharing to help tie you over until the game’s launch in December.

Firstly, in terms of gameplay, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate feels just as smooth as its predecessor on the Wii U did a few years back. Sure, each character has their own physics in regards to their mass, but any seasoned Smash enthusiast can differentiate the sheer speed of Super Smash Bros. Melee and the more lethargic feel of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U felt like just the right blend of the games that came before it. My mind and fingers went at ease. It felt natural, as Smash should.

For the purpose of the demo I wanted to try out brand new characters, of which the Inkling and Ridley were available to play. In the first round I played as the Inkling. If anything, Smash strives to emanate its character’s source material. If you played Splatoon then you would know that the key to victory is covering the battlefield in ink. In Smash, the Inkling can spray their opponents with ink to make them sluggish and prone to more damage. Practically all the Inkling’s special moves use ink in one way or another.

The standard special is the Splattershot, a good ranged weapon that can quickly get other fighters covered in ink from a safe distance. The side special is a Splat Roller that can steamroll anyone in your path. I was surprised at the momentum of this special. You’ll definitely want to be careful using it on smaller stages lest you accidentally fall off. It feels similar to Yoshi’s egg roll side special in terms of momentum. The Inklings up special turns them into an Inkling Squid that can soar to a great height and damage anyone in midair. It also makes for a good recovery move. The down special is a Splat Bomb that can be thrown from a distance with a decent blast radius. Finally, the Inkling’s Final Smash is the Killer Wail, a huge megaphone that releases waves of pure sound. It can be aimed and feels most similar to Samus’ Zero Laser.

Of course Inklings can’t recklessly spray ink nonstop. Their supply can run out and needs to be charged. This is where the game can get puzzling if you’re just doing a blind run with the Inkling. In order to recharge your ink, you’ll need to enable your shield and then press down to submerge the Inkling in its ink. An unusual button input, but that’s how it’s done. It would be best to recharge your ink supply regularly in safety rather than use all your supply and recharge at that point. I recall winning that match but getting into the mindset of a Splatoon player. Overall, the Inkling is a real fun character to learn.

Next up was Ridley and my first impression out the gate was how fast he is in spite of his mass. While Ridley’s moveset seems like that of a heavyset fighter, he is very agile. The same can be said of his overall moveset, whether you execute moves on ground or in the air. Ridley’s standard special is a Fireball that can be charged to unleash a volley of fireballs. However, if Ridley is attacked mid-charge the blowback can damage him instead. Ridley’s side special is a Command Grab that can be triggered both in midair and on ground in which he drags his opponent along the floor and launches them in the air. The higher the opponent’s damage percentage, the more likely they can be thrown out of bounds. Ridley’s up special is a vertical glide that can also be angled for recovery purposes. The down special is Ridley’s most curious move. It’s a tail stab attack that can be nearly useless if too close to your opponent. However, if the center of Ridley’s tail tip connects with a fighter, it can deal 10x more damage than usual. I wasn’t able to pull it off but a successful tail stab can set your opponent up for punishing damage. Finally, Ridley’s final smash has him head butt an opponent into Samus’ ship in space and he follows up with a blast of his laser that engulfs the ship with the other fighter on it. So disappointed I didn’t get the final smash for this character.

My time with the demo was brief, but it was definitely fun. Another thing I observed, unless you caught it at Nintendo’s E3 2018 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Treehouse event, was that the stage select now occurs before selecting your character. Perhaps it’s to ease flow of matches. I mean, I always deliberate with friends when we play for awhile but this works too.

There’s still just a few more months until the game’s eventual release. No doubt Masahiro Sakurai and his team will be using the time to tweak the game and polish it to Smash’s standards. Yet even now I can assure you that Smash fans are going to be pleased yet again.

Hopefully there’s some more surprises in store for us between now and release time too. What characters would you like to see added as newcomers to the existing roster? Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is planned for release on December 7, 2018 exclusively on Nintendo Switch. For more information on the game and other Nintendo news, be sure to look out for Mammoth Gamers.

One of the biggest Star Wars fans there is. When I don't have one of many gaming peripherals in my hands I probably have my nose in a good book, out amiibo hunting, or contemplating (and never deciding) what game to pull off my shelf next!