My Expectations for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate After Its Final Nintendo Direct

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When the trailer for this game revealed itself for the first time, I was intrigued. When more detail was provided at E3, I was genuinely hyped. The Nintendo Direct that followed (revealing King K. Rool/Simon Belmont) made me hyped even further than I could imagine. All was pointing up for the series in my mind, which was something I wasn’t used to after the eventual apathy I had gained for the series following my “creative differences” with Smash 4. All that had yet to be revealed, which would ultimately seal the fate of the game for me was whether or not it would have a dedicated solo campaign, a la Adventure Mode or something similar. With the Nintendo Direct that occurred today, the last one to feature Ultimate specifically, we got an answer.

“World of Light.” This is the name of the story mode the world was shown a trailer of at the very end of the Nintendo Direct. It was a roughly 70-30 balance of cinematic brilliance (sans voice acting, of course) and in-game gameplay coverage. The context is this:

A floating god-like being controls an army of Master Hands, with the entirety of the Smash Bros. roster standing at the edge of a cliff ready to face off with it. After about thirty seconds, the god-like being gets pissed and unleashes a universe-wiping attack that eradicates every fighter… except Kirby, who manages to escape by… warping to another dimension, probably. When he crashes into the remains of the earth(?) following the attack, he finds a small space of fertile land that differs from the desolate landscape surrounding it. Later on, it shows that each fallen fighter is used as a blueprint for evil copies that stand to face Kirby in his plight to save the rest of the roster from eternal dormancy. This is all that is shown (and implied) from the cinematic cutscene.

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As for the gameplay aspect, one is shown traveling around on a map using different characters in an isometric viewpoint, stopping and interacting with points of interest. These points include conditioned matches with said soulless fighters, various other event matches, and map-specific events that further progression. It seems linear in fashion, with little indication that anything about it will feature a wide variety of cinematics or narrative prominence. I could certainly be wrong, but that’s what seems more prominent to me. A lot of the gameplay looks like it will feature the player running around on the map and keeping oneself busy with progression and fights against the remnants of the fallen roster. Like Smash 4‘s Event Match mode but with hub world interaction.

Should World of Light be like what I described directly above, I would be disappointed. My story-preferential mentality hungers for something similar to Subspace Emissary, a cutscene-heavy rollercoaster of Nintendo classics interacting with one another (and occasionally fighting one another). Should World of Light feature a nice collection of cutscenes, even if they should play only after being defeated or encountering new soulless fighters, I’d be satisfied. I desire that sort of reason to care about what I’m fighting for and the extra emphasis on the characters’ distinct personalities. It’s what I loved about Subspace Emissary, and made me mildly care for the original Adventure Mode in Melee.

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Purely from a gameplay standpoint, what was shown seemed a little on the inconsequential side, but it seems interesting enough to keep one’s attention on. The trailer seemed to give some different ways of transporting around the hub map, which was an interesting way of showcasing characters’ unique abilities to progress. The linearity gives off some lazy vibes, though the prospect of going through different challenge after different challenge may give enough variety to keep the mode interesting. At the same time, the newly-revealed Spirits mode is almost the same thing, so it will be interesting to see what they’ll do to paint a different picture.

World of Light was, by far, the most striking and important reveal to me, as someone who was clamoring for any kind of substantial solo campaign. As stated before, it holds the fate of whether or not the new game will feel like a complete experience to me. My initial reaction was mixed, but as I’ve pondered on it throughout the day, I’m more optimistic than otherwise. I’m looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, just about everything else (from this specific Direct) was incredibly underwhelming. I care little for Street Fighter, so Ken’s reveal did nothing for me. Incineroar is from a time in Pokémon’s history where I grew “creative differences” with it, so that’s also a miss. Piranha Plant is the greatest reveal since King K. Rool. A completely monotonous, inconsequential “character” that literally no one asked for, and yet I love the balls on Sakurai for putting it in there just to be different. As for the rest of the characters revealed for the new game, the only ones I was genuinely pumped for were King K. Rool, Dark Samus (though disappointed it was reduced to an echo fighter), and Ridley. I also both love and hate the decision to bring back every character who has ever been in a Smash Bros. game. I like that Snake and Ice Climbers are back, but did we really need Young Link and Pichu back?

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What’s probably the most blatantly not-for-me mode to be revealed was Spirits mode, which is a glorified sticker-collecting mode that replaced the prevalence of collecting trophies to view in a gallery format. As a disclaimer, let me mention that I wouldn’t be totally upset if they did away with trophies in the game altogether, but what they replaced it with is what irritates me. A mode where one faces Smash Bros. characters “similar” to characters from outside series in conditioned fights that unlock said outside character’s spirit, used to enhance the power of those on the Smash Bros. roster… like stickers. On the surface, this sounds fine, but it also sounds like a mode one can completely ignore—that’s what irritates me. Collecting trophies has typically always been a fun endeavor. Now, they’re stickers with a better purpose, contained in a convoluted system of gobbledygook that doesn’t mean anything.

At its peak, the hype surrounding Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in my mind was rivaling that of other games such as Soul Calibur VI and Metroid Prime 4. Currently, my expectations are lukewarm, with the hesitancy of the quality of World of Light becoming a giant question mark for whether or not I end up spending more than a few hours with the game. It may very well be possible that I play the game and end up loving it—who knows what the future holds? At the moment, all I can say is that it’ll be an interesting menu on hand for an “ultimate” game. And hey, unlike Smash 4, it at least has a story mode!

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