It’s been a pretty wild year for Super Smash Bros. fans. Even before the release of Smash Ultimate in December 2018, we knew something special was coming. Nintendo’s latest entry in the series-mashing franchise promised more characters than ever before, bringing back the full cast of fighters from the game’s history, a ludicrous number of stages, items and more.
It was certainly the Ultimate edition of Smash, but Nintendo was far from finished. Since release, Ultimate has seen six DLC characters join the roster, bringing with them balance updates, new spirits, stages, music and Mii fighter costumes. The reveal and upcoming launch of Fire Emblem Three Houses’ Byleth marks a key point in Smash Ultimate’s post-launch content. As Fighter Pass 1 comes to a close and we gear up for a new wave of speculation, let’s take a look back at how Smash Ultimate has changed since its launch, pick our favorite additions, and take a guess at what we can expect from the future.
How Smash Ultimate has changed since launch
- Piranha Plant – February 1, 2019
- Joker – April 17, 2019
- Hero – July 30, 2019
- Banjo & Kazooie – September 4, 2019
- Terry – November 6, 2019
- Byleth – January 28, 2020
Nintendo tested the DLC waters with fighter releases for Smash 4, but Ultimate has really seen the studio take to the progressive format. With the exception of pre-order bonus Piranha Plant, each DLC character brought an entirely new mechanic to the series.
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Joker introduced the Arsene meter. Hero brought a randomized spell list. Banjo & Kazooie had a limited-use move. Terry wrought terror with damage-dependent Super Special attacks. Byleth will bring a directional weapon system that sees the character swap between sword, axe, lance and bow.
DLC characters are more than just a chance to hark back to old series or introduce third-party characters; they give Sakurai and his team the chance to experiment and push Smash beyond its usual bounds. After all, why add more if you’re not going to bring something new to the table?
Not all of the additions have proven as popular as others, with the final reveal of Byleth perhaps the most controversial. We’re not sure anything will match Joker’s surprise reveal during The Game Awards 2018, but each announcement has come with its own special and charming animation. As old school fighter fans, our favorite of the bunch has to be Terry with his Buster Wolf special, but what’s yours?
Spirits and Mii outfits
Smash character reveals have become big business, as fans wildly speculate and share rumors over who’s likely to be announced for the next slot in the roster. With so many potential characters, you can’t please everyone, but that’s where spirit board events and Mii outfits come in. Even if they can’t make it as full additions, Mii Outfits and special spirit board events have given series like Xenoblade, Resident Evil, Goemon, Samurai Shodown and more a chance to star in Smash without eating up a valuable character slot.
Mii outfits have also given Nintendo a chance to show indie games some love as well. Prior to Ultimate’s launch, if you’d suggested Undertale would get Smash recognition then we’d likely have laughed. Yet here we with both Undertale and Cuphead receiving Mii Outfits and unique music compositions. It’s been a wonderful way to give smaller games recognition, and we’d love to see more of this in packs and events that arrive alongside Fighter Pass 2. Our favourite from the first batch? It’s got to be Sans, if only thanks to that glorious Megalovania mix.
Balance updates and competition
While they still won’t commit to funding prize pools for competitions, the patching approach for Smash Ultimate seems to have kept the competitive community close in mind. Tweaks have been refreshingly gentle, by and large touching up weaker characters or slightly dressing down those at the top. The result is a game with one of the widest pools of competitively viable characters, yet it still manages to be an utter blast when messing about with your mates.
We’d love to see Nintendo change their mind regarding esports in future though. Despite its explosive popularity, prize pools for Smash Ultimate remain woefully small, or in the case of the upcoming EVO Japan, practically nonexistent. Smash is a brilliant entry point for many into the world of competitive gaming, and we’d really like to see Nintendo embrace that side of Ultimate further.
A look to the future
With Fighter Pass 1 wrapped up, it’s a new season for Nintendo. Six more characters are preparing to carve their mark in the greatest crossover event in history (sorry, Avengers). Who’s likely to make the cut? At this point it’s all conjecture, but we reckon there are a few names more likely than others.
- Rayman: Ubisoft and Nintendo are stalwart friends, and so far Sticker and Mii outfits from the French studio have been limited, which could indicate they’re saving up for a well-known platforming face to secure his ticket.
- A Microsoft character: Similarly, the green giant and Nintendo have been rather chummy of late. We can’t think of a better way to secure a good future relationship than a Smash crossover. What would you pick between Minecraft or Halo?
- Urshifu or another new Pokemon: Following the sales success of Pokemon Sword and Shield, the Galar region has left fertile new ground for character inspiration. We reckon Isle of Armor’s stance-shifting bear would be a great way to bring a new control style to Smash and drive interest in the expansion.
- Shantae: As an outside shot, we have to also recommend purple-haired genie Shantae as an option. Smash’s DLC roster could desperately do with some more women, and WayForward’s comedic platformers have proven extremely popular with Nintendo audiences. Is she likely? Probably not, but we’d love to see it happen nonetheless.
After six characters and over a year of support, how do you rate Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? What’s been your favorite addition so far, and what would you like to see in future?
Super Smash Bros. has always been somewhat of an enigma in the fighting game community. Forgoing many staples of the genre, Smash is both a chaotic party game and a competitive title that draws thousands to EVO each year