With any Super Smash Bros. installment, the spotlight is always on new playable fighters, and “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is no different, although it sacrifices quantity for quality.
“Ultimate” introduces six newcomers, fewer than any previous installment. This is due to every fighter returning, including characters cut from earlier games. Beloved characters like Ice Climbers, Pokemon Trainer, Wolf and Snake are back, plus Young Link and Pichu, whose inclusion really wasn’t necessary. Six characters will be added later as DLC, with two revealed thus far: Piranha Plant, a minor Mario enemy, and Joker, the protagonist from “Persona 5.”
The roster is extended with Echo Fighters, a new term for clones like Dark Pit and Lucina. While clones use an existing character as a basis, Echoes have drastically different animations and slight attack changes. The number of differences varies between Echoes; Daisy and Richter have barely any altered attacks, but Dark Samus has minor frame data changes and swaps Samus’s fire damage for electric damage.
Echoes are an excellent way to warm fans towards clones, but they feel inconsistent given the aforementioned Young Link and Pichu, who are clones of Link and Pikachu, respectively. While Dark Pit and Lucina were retroactively labeled as Echoes, other fighters with very few differences weren’t. This is ridiculous given the remaining Echoes, Chrom and Ken, have enough differences be semi-clones, characters based on existing fighters with major moveset differences.
Speaking of semi-clones, Isabelle from “Animal Crossing: New Leaf” was added as a semi-clone of Villager. This old dog was clearly taught new tricks, as her specials, Smash attacks and miscellaneous moves are original. Although she’s one of the kindest characters in the roster, her puppy-dog eyes shouldn’t fool anyone: Isabelle is a dangerously versatile fighter who specializes in stage control with her command-grab fishing rod and Lloid trap.
Inkling is a fairly technical newcomer, with weak neutral and aerial attacks balanced by special moves and Smash attacks that cover foes in ink. While inked opponents are more easily damaged and launched, ink is a limited resource. Unless refilled by shielding while pressing B, ink attacks deal less damage or become unusable, leaving Inkling vulnerable. Like an actual match of “Splatoon,” playing as Inkling requires meter management mastery.
If anyone is having his finest hour, it’s the highly requested King K. Rool. His moves are both goofy and menacing, referencing his boss battles in the Donkey Kong Country series. His chestplate gives him super armor during belly attacks, though it breaks and stuns him if damaged excessively. With powerful attacks that are stronger than a golden banana, K. Rool is the best super heavyweight fighter in the series.
Unlike K. Rool, Ridley got the short end of the stick. Fans showed colossal support for Metroid’s iconic villain, but that may have been a big mistake. Even though Ridley’s moves deal huge damage, his surprisingly weak air mobility and easily punishable attacks are what cut him down to size. Thankfully, fans at large will stop complaining that Ridley isn’t playable, but that doesn’t make up for his massive flaws.
Third party Smash characters are always a delight, and Simon Belmont from the Castlevania series is no exception. His his iconic whip, Vampire Killer, gives his Smash attacks, aerials and tilts excellent range and protection from weak projectiles. Simon is the only newcomer with an Echo, that being Richter. Richter is almost identical in combat, but Simon’s moveset includes moves from Richter’s games, so they’re essentially Echoes of one another.
The Fire type starter Pokemon from the Alola region, Incineroar, fills the traditional fighting game archetype of an up-close-and-personal grappler character. This pro wrestler isn’t the most practical character, but its varied moves make it entertaining to play as, like its unique counter that strengthens its next attack. Incineroar has the most flair of any fighter, as most of its attacks end with wrestling taunts that can be instantly cancelled.
These characters were such popular choices because they were selected from the Smash Ballot, a 2015 event that asked fans who should be playable in upcoming games. While runners-up became Assist Trophies and Mii costumes, five of the newcomers had massive voter turnout. Incineroar is an exception; a character slot was saved for a Pokemon, and director Masahiro Sakurai chose Incineroar because he wanted to design a grappler.
“Ultimate” introduced a solid group of new and highly requested fighters, as well as Ridley, whose inclusion at least means fans can end the infamous “Too Big for Smash” debate. Given how faithful the newcomers are to their original appearances and how fun they are to play, it’s exciting to imagine how the upcoming DLC fighters will play when they’re released over the next year.
Visit the Electric Retrospective blog at https://electricretrospective.wordpress.com/ for gaming news, reviews, and editorials. New articles release every Tuesday.
This is Sean’s third year on the ECHO, having contributed to the site during journalism class in his sophomore year and becoming a columnist and blogger in his junior year. Sean writes Electric Retrospective, a column dedicated to gaming editorials and reviews, as well as a blog also titled Electric Retrospective that posts news stories and reviews every Tuesday.
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