In a post published last month almost immediately following Nintendo’s final Direct featuring Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I detailed exactly what I was looking for in the new game’s adventure mode. To nutshell it, I wanted a heavy focus on cinematics (a la Subspace Emissary from Brawl) while also providing a varied approach to the unveiled “Spirits” mode that was implied to be a heavy factor in the World of Light trailer. I also noted that I didn’t want World of Light to simply be “running around on the map and keeping oneself busy with progression and fights against the remnants of the fallen roster.”
I’ve played over twenty-five hours of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate since getting it the day it was released (though technically an hour before in a midnight-ish release). Of that, a large majority has been playing through World of Light. I’m not done with it, either, but I’ve played through more than enough to determine that it is exactly what I didn’t want and has very little of what I did want. I will now explain why I don’t care anymore and how World of Light is an incredibly fun and rewarding adventure mode.
It’s amazing how the intro cutscene to World of Light served both to make me skeptical and satisfy my narrative-heavy preference. Watching the trailer, I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, making the cutscene feel almost like an advertisement. When put within the context of the game, and with the knowledge of how World of Light functions and what’s to come, it’s perfect. All the fighters are facing off against a new threat, revealed to be named Galeem. Galeem steals everyone’s essence through rays of light, with only Kirby surviving. Now, Kirby must gather the forces of Nintendo’s deep lore—both fighters on the roster and spirits from other franchises new and old to the Smash Bros. series—to take back their world.
The major reservation I had going into it was with the focus on spirits. What are with these spirits? What is the purpose of making them so prevalent? In a way, one is assembling an army. The player can collect and level up their spirits to strengthen them in battle (and one definitely needs it), with the number of spirits exceeding a few hundred in quantity. Initially, I saw the spirits as a gimmick, something of a continuation of the “stickers” system from Brawl, only given a little juice—which alienated me, for sure. What needed changed in my thinking was a little imagination: instead of looking at the spirits as random event matches, look at them as though they’re actually matches against characters of other franchises, needing to be rescued to help thwart the forces of Galeem.
What the sole cutscene in the beginning of the mode does is provide enough clarity and motivation to have the player see through the mode. A long, cutscene-heavy adventure the likes of which I desired outright isn’t really necessary. The size of the game mode (which rivals the length of Subspace Emissary, if not surpassing it) and the different interpretations of what the game is capable of doing within battles is more than enough to hold one over. It doesn’t even matter that Kirby was the one to survive, so long as someone survived. From what I’ve played, I’ve seen two cinematic cutscenes the likes of the trailer, and one of them was the trailer cutscene itself. After nearly twenty hours of gameplay, that’s all I’ve been treated to. If you had told me there were two cutscenes in twenty hours of gameplay a month ago, I would’ve been pissed. I also would’ve been shocked that World of Light was twenty-hours long.
What helps in the immersion of pretending the spirits are the actual characters they showcase are the ways the game makes the roster characters similar. In a few examples, one can face the spirit of Kraid in the form of a giant King K. Rool who’s slow and very capable of using his body as a weapon. One can face a trio of blue Inklings (if I recall correctly) that jump in the air continuously in low gravity, simulating the diagonal path taken by bloopers in the games they inhabit. These are just two examples of spirit battles within World of Light that make it an immensely-detailed work that decimates the need for any narrative indulgence. I still do miss the character interactions that were wholly present in Subspace Emissary, but World of Light takes the gameplay aspect that Subspace admittedly lacked and makes it both creatively ambitious and narratively important.
Fortunately, Ultimate showcases the limit of story to provide great gameplay prowess. For simply running around on a big map with a bunch of areas one can interact with, it’s the peak in which a mode of this type can be done. Without even finishing it, World of Light has achieved its place as my favorite adventure mode the Super Smash Bros. series has ever incorporated into their games. Better than Adventure Mode in Melee, and better than Subspace Emissary in Brawl. I’m overjoyed to say that the skepticism I had for World of Light upon watching its debut trailer was in vain. It’s a terrific mode that’s as addicting as the fighting fun Super Smash Bros. has been known for for nearly twenty years. Few words attached.
If you’ve played Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, what do you think of World of Light?