(Editor's note: Updated November 1, 2018 with new information. Originally posted after the initial E3 2018 announcement)
On Tuesday morning, Nintendo revealed a copious amount of details about its next Super Smash Bros. game. Now titled Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the game appears to be more than just an update for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. It looks to be a collection of everything from the series to date.
Having said all of that, there are some major key points to consider when looking at this new Super Smash Bros. game. Shacknews is here to break down everything a Smash Bros. fan should know going into one of the Nintendo Switch's cornerstone holiday releases.
Everybody is Here! Yes, Everybody!
Everybody? Yes, everybody means everbody from the Super Smash Bros. games up to this point. That includes even the most obscure characters from the first games in the series, like Young Link and Pichu. It also includes many surprise return characters, like Snake and Ice Climbers.
Shacknews has the full roster detailed, so check out our full character roster write-up.
All Stages Appear to be Back and Updated
Beyond characters, most (if not all) of the past stages in the Super Smash Bros. series look to be back. It's a little early to say that every old stage is back. After all, where are the Poke Floats, right?
But it should be noted that many of the series' stages are back and they look better than ever. For example, classic Melee stages like Big Blue, Princess Peach's Castle, and Great Bay have been visually upgraded with higher-resolution graphics and effects. They now fit in with the new-school Smash Bros. visual aesthetic.
On top of that, every single stage in the game now has its own Omega form, for those that love playing on Final Destination-style stages. For those who love playing on the simplistic, yet multi-platformed Battlefield stages, every single stage in the game now also has a Battlefield variant, which leads into the next point...
Certain Elements Have Been Refined for Competitive Play/Esports
The Omega/Battlefield design choice is a huge deal for anyone who loves to play the Smash Bros. games competitively. Beyond the "No items, Final Destination only" crowd, it also offers up an overture to the esports circles, a group Nintendo has been hesistant to reach out to in the past. Furthermore, there's the option to turn off certain options in an effort to create a more competitive space. Stage Hazards and the Rage mechanic can both be toggled on and off.
One other minor change that's going to mean a lot for competitive play is the decision to scale damage between four-player free-for-alls and one-on-one battles. Smash 4 was heavily criticized by competitive players and spectators for being a slow game, compared to its predecessors. Damage scaling and faster overall movement is a response to these grievances. It's still not as fast as Melee (which will likely mean that scene will still carry on, despite everything) but it could also mean that esports sessions won't be restricted to two-stock games.
On top of that, movement mechanics look to be much more fluid. Dashes can be canceled by Smash attacks, for example. Another big change is that directional air dodges have been improved substantially, allowing for greater air dodges and better recovery. Short hops also offer quicker combat options, similar to Melee.
But most of all, Nintendo is aiming to eliminate a lot of the janky elements of the past games. Ice Climbers have had all of their cheesy elements removed, like the wobbling glitch and many of the combos associated with using both characters as a tandem. That's receiving mixed reactions from Ice Climber mains in the Melee scene.
There's also a certain something else that Nintendo may be looking to rein in very soon.
Bayonetta's Reign of Terror May be Ending Soon
Newer-school players are going to be happy to hear that Nintendo may be more receptive to reining in certain characters who have been crazy out-of-control in these last days of Smash 4's esports run. And yes, a character who still appeared to be broken in this version of Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Just saw father Sakuria see the BnB off the top from Bayonetta and shake his head.— Bear @ #E32018 (@BearUNLV) June 12, 2018
It's not the final build yet...#SmashBrosUltimate
BAYONETTA IS GETTING NERFED— Larry Lurr (@LarryLurr) June 12, 2018
Bayonetta can fly more than Ridley... and this guy has wings.— Alax (@RelaxAlax) June 12, 2018
MKLEO JUST GOT BAYONETTA NERFED 100%— Omni (@InfernoOmni) June 12, 2018
What exactly are these folks referring to? Well, Leonardo "MkLeo" Perez did God's work during Tuesday's E3 Smash Bros. Invitational and showed just how broken Bayonetta still is. Look at this!
Sakurai witnessed this carnage firsthand and heard boos rain down at the Invitational. And judging by this good-natured quip after the tournament was over, it looks like he's fully aware of the problem at hand.
Bayonetta has been a scourge in not only the competitive Smash 4 scene, but is also a terror in the hands of a marginally good player against casual crowds. She's needed to be brought down a notch for a while and it looks like her time is finally coming.
Online Play Modes Have Been Refined
The competitive scene helps segue into online play. During the November 1 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Direct, Masahiro Sakurai noted that online game modes would see a bit of an adjustment. Game modes would no longer be separated by "For Fun" or "For Glory." Instead, players can look for games by rule settings, whether they want to play with all items on or with all of the competitive settings on. Players can also choose between Time, Stock, and Stamina battles, as well as set time limits.
Matchmaking will be determined by a combination of Global Smash Power, preferred rules, and proximity. Players in closer regions will be prioritized.
It's possible to search for team battles by playing with a local partner. Private lobbies are also available so that friends can battle amongst themselves. This opens the door to voice chat via the Nintendo Switch Online app.
Speaking of the app, a special section called Smash World will allow players to share replays, screenshots, and more via the Nintendo Switch Online app. More features will be revealed later, with Smash World estimated to launch in 2019.
Final Smashes Are Faster
In the name of picking up the pace, it appears that Final Smashes in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate have been made faster. The flashier finishers appear to have their animations noticeably sped up and many of the finishers that involve manual player control appear to have been overhauled.
The idea appears to be to make everyone's Final Smash a quick, yet elaborate, sequence in order to keep the game going at a quicker pace and also to feel satisfying. One of the bigger examples is the change to Giga Bowser, which no longer has the Bowser player roaming around the stage while opponents flee in terror. Now he goes in the background and just punches everyone from there.
The refined Final Smashes are likely going to elicit some mixed feelings, as they still turn the tide of games, but now feel a lot more automatic, compared to the old system. Another example aired during the post November 1 Smash Direct Nintendo Treehouse stream, where Yoshi's Final Smash was shown to be a Yoshi Stampede. Again, it was more automatic compared to his previous Final Smashes, which had its effectiveness tied to player inputs.
A lot of fighters have had their Final Smashes adjusted, which leads to the next point...
A Majority of Fighters Have Undergone Changes
Many individual characters have undergone changes. They range from cosmetic changes, visual changes, Final Smash changes, or even mechanical changes. Here are the changes that were detailed during the Nintendo Direct:
- Mario: Mario now dons Cappy from Super Mario Odyssey and has new alternate outfits that include his wedding outfit from that game, as well as his builder outfit from Super Mario Maker.
- Link: Link's default outfit is now his Champion's Tunic from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. His moves now reflect certain mechanics from Breath of the Wild, such as his bombs now becoming the Remote Bomb Rune from last year's game. Link's Final Smash has also been changed to the Ancient Bow and Arrow, making his new move closer to Zelda's old move.
- Ice Climbers: As mentioned, certain cheesy combos with Nana are no more.
- Ike: Ike players can now choose between his Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn outfits. Each outfit contains slightly different voices for the character.
- Pikachu: Pikachu can now be either male or female. Females have a heart-shaped tail. The Pikachu Libre outfit from Pokken Tournament has also been added.
- Fox: Fox's default look has been updated to that of Star Fox Zero. His Final Smash change is among the biggest, as the Landmaster has been retired in favor of a more theatrical attack that sees Team Star Fox attack in their Arwings.
- Falco: See Fox, but Falco's Final Smash sees the Arwings fly in a slightly different formation.
- Ryu: Ryu undergoes one of the bigget mechanical changes out of everyone, as he now automatically faces his opponent in one-on-one fights, just like in Street Fighter. So watch your inputs carefully.
- Samus: Samus can now charge up her Charged Shot in mid-air. Similar charging moves on other characters can also be built up in mid-air. These charges can be jump-canceled, but at the cost of leaving your fighter vulnerable.
- Marth: Marth's Dancing Blade has been sped up and made simpler, allowing players to connect with more powerful combos. But the biggest change is that he will now have an English voiceover. No more taunting players in Japanese.
- Roy: See Marth, although it's unknown whether he also has English voiceovers.
- King Dedede: King Dedede has a new Final Smash that takes opponents into a steel cage, where the gluttonous monarch will unleash missiles and a jet hammer attack.
- Zelda: Zelda's look has been updated to reflect her look in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Her new Final Smash seals her foes inside the Triforce of Wisdom before launching them into the skies.
- Sonic: The big blue hedgehog's Super Sonic Final Smash has been sped up significantly to reflect the fact that he's Sonic the Hedgehog.
- Pac-Man: Pac-Man's Final Smash has also been sped up significantly, not unlike certain arcade cabinets that are running at turbo speed. He can also loop around the stage during this move.
- Pokemon Trainer: Individual Pokemon no longer suffer fatigue, which frees up Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Charizard to play out entire games, if the player so desires. There's also a female Pokemon Trainer available.
- Captain Falcon: Land the Falcon Punch at just the right moment and it'll trigger a dramatic slow-motion effect.
- Cloud: Cloud's Limit is now displayed over his character icon at all times.
- Robin: Robin's magic meter is now displayed over his character icon at all times.
- Villager: Villager players can now look at their character icon to see what item Villager has pocketed. There are also eight different Villager character models to choose from.
- Bowser: Bowser has a new Final Smash, one mentioned earlier. Now he goes Giga Bowser and stands in the background, punching any hapless player directly into the screen.
- Mr. Game & Watch: G&W's character model has been updated... which sounds strange to say. What that means is, he now resembles his look from his various games whenever he performs his attacks. His Octopus Final Smash now moves faster.
- Wolf: Wolf's outfit has been updated to reflect his look in Star Fox Zero. His moves have also received a visual overhaul.
- Shulk: Shulk players can now select their desired Monado Art by using the style switch button like a weapon wheel. His Final Smash has been updated to also feature Fiora.
- Ganondorf: Ganondorf's look has gone old-school, returning to his look from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. His Final Smash now sees him become the Demon King, Ganon from that game's final battle.
- Mii Fighters: The proportions on all three Mii Fighters have been adjusted, with multiple voice options available. They will not be available to play online at launch.
- Pit: Pit's Final Smash has been updated to the Lightning Chariot from Kid Icarus Uprising.
- Zero Suit Samus: Zero Suit Samus' new Final Smash calls upon her gunship, where she'll suit up and fire off a powerful laser.
- Olimar: Olimar's helmet will now get cracked whenever he takes damage, though it gets fixed almost immediately.
- Bayonetta: The sound effects on Bayonetta's guns will differ depending on whether she's using her Bayonetta or Bayonetta 2 outfits.
- Wario: Wario's Final Smash has also changed. He's still Wario-Man, but now he automatically pounds his opponents in a comical auto sequence.
- Donkey Kong: Donkey Kong has shelved his bongos for his new Final Smash, in which he unleashes rapid-fire punches, something players of Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze should be familiar with.
- Little Mac: Mac's new Final Smash is more focused, as he'll only unleash Giga Mac on whichever opponent he lands the first blow on.
- Ness: PK Starstorm has been upgraded, with Paula and Poo now offering an assist.
- Lucas: His PK Starstorm has also been upgraded, as he gets help from Kumatora and Boney.
- Wii Fit Trainer: At the request of the Wii Fit developers (and make of that information what you will), the Wii Fit character model now has upgraded facial features.
- Mega Man: Mega Man's Final Smash still calls upon generations of Mega Men, but they'll now be joined by Proto Man and Bass.
- Palutena: Palutena's Down+B is now significantly stronger, as it acts as both a physical counter move and as a projectile reflector.
- R.O.B.: R.O.B. has a new visual indicator on his chest that indicates how much more he can hover.
New Assist Trophies/Pokemon/Items
There are new Assist Trophies, Pokemon, and items joining the fun. The difference with the Assist Trophies this time around is that certain ones can now be KO'd and that KO will count in a Timed battle. Here are the new Assist Trophies debuting in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate:
- Rodin (from the Bayonetta series): Attacks with his own fists in a similar fashion to Bayonetta.
- Squid Sisters (from the Splatoon series): The Squid Sisters put on a concert in the background, which the camera will zoom in on as it continues. The KO window will shrink the more the camera zooms in.
- Bomberman (from the Bomberman series): Bomberman will drop giant bombs that explode in four directions.
- Burrowing Snagret (from the Pikmin series): This creature will burrow in from underground and peck at anything that gets too close.
- Sukapon (from Joy Mecha Fight): He dances around and puts up a fight against anyone who gets too close.
- Alucard (from the Castlevania series): Alucard draws his sword against any nearby opposing fighter. He can also transform into a bat and avoid attacks by taking his mist form.
- Krystal (from the Star Fox series): Krystal brings her staff and uses it against opponents, sometimes freezing them.
- Zero (from the Mega Man X series): Zero dashes to find the nearest opponent and slices them with his laser saber.
- Knuckles (from the Sonic the Hedgehog series): Knuckles hits with a spin attack and with a flurry of punches.
- Klaptrap (from the Donkey Kong Country series): The toothy Kremling wanders the stage and takes multiple bites out of nearby opponents.
- Kapp'n (from the Animal Crossing series): This jerk will put opponents in the back of his bus and drive them helplessly off the stage.
- Chef Kawasaki (from the Kirby series): The Chef fills the void left by the former Kirby Final Smash and places opponents into his giant pot, popping them out after inflicting damage.
- Gray Fox (from the Metal Gear Solid series): Gray Fox also returns from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, slicing up fighters with his blades.
- Nikki (from Swapnote): The old Mii Freeware app is immortalized when Nikki draws a dangerous objects and sends it at opposing fighters.
- Shovel Knight (from Shovel Knight): The indie gaming community gets a strong representative, as Shovel Knight attacks with his weapon of choice and also occasionally digs up food.
- Moon (from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask): Now this just isn't fair. The Moon will slowly hurtle towards the stage and end the world for any hapless fighter in its path.
- Rathalos (from the Monster Hunter series): An incredibly dangerous beast, Rathalos is the only character to simultaneously act as a boss and as an Assist Trophy.
- Yuri Kozukata (from Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water): Anything captured by the evil camera is momentarily frozen in fear.
- Isaac (from Golden Sun): He's got the whole world in his hands. Isaac uses the power of his massive gloves to punch out or grab opponents.
- The Black Knight (from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance): A powerful warrior, the Black Knight attacks with his sword and can withstand almost any attack without taking damage.
- Thwomp (from the Super Mario series): Just like in the Mario games, Thwomp will crash down on anything standing underneath its shadow.
- Spring Man (from ARMS): The long-limbed fighter uses his extendo-arms to punch out opponents. He can also unleash his special flurry of punches, just like in ARMS.
- Wily Capsule (from the Mega Man series): Dr. Wily will fire powerful blasts from his trusty capsule vessel. If it's destroyed, Wily will beg for forgiveness, just like at the end of any Mega Man game.
- Flies & Hand (from Mario Paint): Flies will fill up the screen, as the Mario Paint hand tries to swat them with a fly swatter. Fighters caught in the crossfire will get swatted.
- Tiki (from Fire Emblem Awakening): Tiki will go into her dragon form and engulf the field with fire.
- Vince (from the Art Academy series): Vince will paint large objects that float around the field, causing damage to any fighters they collide with.
- Guile (from the Street Fighter series): Guile hits incoming opponents with his Flash Kick.
- Akira (from the Virtua Fighter series): Akira will run across the stage and go toe-to-toe with any fighter in his path.
- Arcade Bunny (from Nintendo Badge Arcade): The Crane Game will start along the stage. Any fighter caught in the crane will be pulled off the stage.
There are also new Pokemon contained in Poke Balls. Here are the new Pokemon joining the battle so far:
- Bewear (#760)
- Solgaleo (#791)
- Alolan Exeggutor (#103)
- Abra (#063)
- Lunala (#792)
- Mimikyu (#778)
- Pyukumuku (#771)
- Vulpix/Alolan Vulpix (#037)
- Marshadow (#802)
- Ditto (#132)
And lastly, here are the new items:
- Healing Field (from Arms): Heals fighters inside its radius.
- Black Hole (from Star Fox): A remnant of a stage from the original Star Fox, this will suck in all nearby fighters and leave them floating in mid-air.
- Launch Star (from Super Mario Galaxy): Launches fighters to a different area.
- Fake Smash Ball: It's like a real Smash Ball, in that it behaves the same and activates when hit enough times. Except this Fake Smash Ball explodes.
- Banana Gun (from the Donkey Kong Country series): It looks like a real banana, but the banana inside explodes on contact. Yes, the peel is left behind to use as a normal banana peel.
- Bomber (from the Kirby series): Hold the Bomber up and charge it to make it explode, blowing up any surrounding enemies while keeping you unharmed.
- Death's Scythe (from the Castlevania series): The Grim Reaper's weapon of choice will score an automatic KO on any victims with high damage percentages.
- Killing Edge (from the Fire Emblem series): A powerful weapon that deals double damage and knockback when it's glowing.
- Rage Blaster: A blaster that does additional damage if the user it at a higher damage percentage.
- Ramblin' Evil Mushroom (from the Mother series): When an opponent is sprayed, their controls are reversed.
- Staff (from the Kid Icarus series): Fires a projectile that does more damage from distance.
Trophies are Gone, Replaced by Spirits
Citing a strain on developers, the Trophy system that has been a part of the Super Smash Bros. series since Super Smash Bros. Melee is being retired. It is instead being replaced by a new system called Spirits.
Spirits are game characters with abilities that can be used to enhance your fighter in various game modes. These Spirits are represented by game characters from numerous franchises. That includes the franchises of the core cast and beyond. Primary Spirits can be equipped to help boost a character's strength, while Support Spirits can be used to grant characters new skills.
These boosted characters can be used in Spirit Battle mode to take on powerful opponents, where players can then attempt to capture more Spirits. The Spirits are captured via a post-battle skill game, similar to the way Pokemon trainers attempt to catch Pokemon. There are hundreds, potentially thousands, of Spirits, all of which grant their own unique bonuses.
If players don't want to use Spirits to boost their characters, they can also use them to power up Amiibo Fighters. Or they can simply keep them as part of a giant collection, the way they would for the old Trophies.
The concept of Spirits leads to...
World of Light Brings Adventure Mode Back to Smash Bros.
This was one of the most stunning announcements of the final Super Smash Bros. Direct, as Masahiro Sakurai revealed that a whole new single-player campaign would round out the Smash Bros. package. This game mode builds on the concept of Spirits and creates what's essentially Nintendo's version of Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War, bringing together gaming's greatest characters for a battle against an ultimate evil.
That evil is Galeem, a sinister force that has amassed an entire army of Master Hands to do its bidding. Galeem has turned the entire cast of characters in Spirits, essentially killing them all. The only one left alive is Kirby, who must begin the arduous journey of bringing all of the fighters back to the land of the living and helping vanquish Galeem for good.
Sakurai is not going so far as to say this story is on the scope of the Subspace Emissary, but players can count on a full Adventure Mode that features a multitude of overworld maps. This may not be as long as Brawl's classic Adventure, but it doesn't look to be a short journey, either.
New Fighters/DLC Aren't Ruled Out, But Ridley May Be The End (Update: Not So Fast!)
"We've made including every single fighter ever our number one goal," Sakurai said during Tuesday's Nintendo Direct. "So we're kind of hoping you aren't expecting too many new challengers."
Sakurai originally stated this during Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's E3 reveal, implying that Ridley might be the end of the road. This has since proven to be far from the case.
On August 8, Nintendo held a special Smash Direct that unveiled new fighters Simon Belmont from the original NES Castlevania (along with Echo Fighter Richter Belmont) and Donkey Kong Country nemesis King K. Rool. New Echo Fighters Chrom from Fire Emblem and Dark Samus from Metroid Prime were also added to the fray.
A later Nintendo Direct added Isabelle from Animal Crossing. At this point, it was clear that there were still a few characters left to go before the roster was finalized.
On November 1, the roster was rounded out by Echo Fighter Ken from Street Fighter and Incineroar from Pokemon. Sakurai explicitly stated that these were the final characters of the starting roster. Going back to his original E3 statement, surely this meant that would be it for the game's characters, right?
No! As it turns out, Sakurai has had a change of heart since that date and revealed that the team will be moving forward with a full Fighters Pass worth of new characters. The first of the post-launch characters is not a part of the Fighters Pass, since it'll be available for free through January 31. That character is Piranha Plant, the most bizarre character choice this side of Duck Hunt.
Sakurai amusingly quipped that he wasn't sure when he'd ever get time to rest. That time might be coming soon, which brings us to...
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is Likely Masahiro Sakurai's Swansong
Masahiro Sakurai's return to Super Smash Bros. was a surprise. Development on the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game had taken a physical and mental toll on him, which he had spoken about on many occasions. Development on Super Smash Bros. is not an easy thing. As he noted during the Nintendo Direct, even something as simple as Kirby's copy powers can become a major process.
So with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate acting as the ultimate collection of everything from the past Super Smash Bros. games, it may very likely spell the end for Sakurai's tenure as series director. There's a very real possibility that Sakurai could look at Ultimate as every single item under his tenure all wrapped up in a bow, leaving him free to move on from the series, once and for all.
Sakurai's status in relation to Super Smash Bros. may remain unknown for a long time, even long after Ultimate hits store shelves. But don't be surprised if the series director looks at this newest game, which packs in everything from all five of his Super Smash Bros. games (the N64 original, Melee, Brawl, 3DS, and Wii U) and decides that there are no kingdoms left to conquer in this particular world.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is set to release on Nintendo Switch on December 7.