Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: San Diego Comic-Con 2018 Hands-on Preview

While Shacknews was on more of a clock at E3 2018, there was much more time to try out Nintendo's latest entry to the Smash Bros. series at this year's San Diego Comic-Con. Here are our impressions.


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was an omnipresent part of Nintendo's E3 2018 presentation and a major part of its booth. It makes sense, given its more than a party game or a fighting game. It's a celebration of Nintendo's heritage across the ages. But that celebration is about to reach its peak, with Ultimate promising to feature almost everything in the series to this point.

Shacknews didn't have too much time to try the game out at E3. We squeezed a couple of matches in, as is evidenced by the video below. But this year's San Diego Comic-Con allowed for a much more extensive look at Nintendo's biggest holiday release. And for the casual Smash Bros. player, there's more to love than ever.

Those who approach Ultimate the way they do Super Smash Bros. for Wii U will be in some trouble out of the gate. Ultimate is noticeably faster than its predecessor. It's not quite "Melee" fast, but the flow is much smoother, especially once players master the short hop. The short hop has been refined to allow players to hit X/Y and A simultaneously for a quick aerial attack.

The other big change is to the dodging system. I remember a big part of my For Glory experience rolling away from danger at a moment's notice, but repeated rolls and sidesteps will get progressively slower and more open to punishes. This encourages more offensive styles or varied defensive maneuvers, like the air dodge. The air dodge gives a big momentum boost in a single direction and actually takes some getting used to. It's a bit of a gamble, since the ending lag leaves players wide open for follow-up attacks, but the air dodge gets some serious distance and can even be used for recovery in a pinch.

All that mechanical stuff is fun and all, but how do the new characters handle? Comic-Con also allowed for some extended time with Inkling and Ridley, both of whom are immensely fun to play. Inkling, in particular, could take the Smash world by storm with their Splatoon-based moveset. The Splat Roller is a particularly powerful special that will often bury opponents in the ground and leave them immobile for a few seconds. This move is offset by a high recovery time, so it's not always possible to follow up that burial with a Smash attack. Speaking of which, the Inkling's forward-Smash has some serious range and could become a favorite for beginners. The most unique aspect of the Inkling is that just like Splatoon, their paint meter needs to be refilled over the course of battle. This is cleverly tied to the block button and the B button, which has the Inkling's squid form dive into the ground to safely refill their paint meter.

Ridley is a little more unwieldly, but has the potential to be wildly powerful. He has a high variety of specials, right down to his neutral-B fireball, which can be charged to unleash nearly a dozen at a time. His side-B is going to be abused a lot, as it's basically a flying command grab. Players who can't fight out it are dragged across the stage. But it's Ridley's down-B Tail Spear that's the toughest move to master. It can cause mild damage, but can often be punished. However, a fully-charged Tail Spear can not only cause massive damage, it can crumple the opponent, allowing Ridley to hit a KO blow. He's not going to be for everyone, but Ridley has the potential to be a lot of fun.

The other big takeaway from this time with Smash Bros. is the heavy stage diversity. The new Splatoon and Breath of the Wild stages are a lot of fun in their own ways, but my attention was more on the returning stages that I never expected to see on a big console release again. Saffron City from the original Super Smash Bros.? Spirit Tracks and Prism Tower from Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS? Princess Peach's Castle from Super Smash Bros. Melee? Nintendo isn't afraid to go in with the deep cuts this time around, further feeding into the idea that Ultimate will be true to its name and feature everything in the series to date.

Lastly, some are wondering whether the classic GameCube controller will be necessary here. That answer is going to depend on how quickly the average player can adapt without it. This demo was held with Nintendo Switch Pro Controllers, arguably one of the best designed controllers currently on the market. And while many of the standard Smash Bros. controls remain intact, there was one key function that wasn't where I expected it to be. The grab button has typically been tied to the Z button on the old GameCube controller, which is located along the right shoulder. However, on the Pro Controller, the grab button is tied to ZL. Hitting the right shoulder here will block, but those looking to grab will have to switch over to the left shoulder. It's going to take some mental adjustments to get used to that, but veterans who would rather not make this change may want to stick to the GameCube controller.

There's going to be much more on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in the coming months and Shacknews will be here to cover it all. We've already started counting down to the game's release with character profiles that we'll be adding to on a weekly basis. We'll also have any news as it arises. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is set to release on Nintendo Switch on December 7.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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