Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was heralded as one of the better Smash games to date upon release. With a huge cast of 75 playable characters so far, new cinematic finishes and a host of technical improvements from the previous title, Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U [a.k.a Smash 4 ], there is no telling the ceiling for the game.
Now, nearly five months after release, professional and casual players alike have had a chance to put in hundreds of hours into the game. Through this collective playthrough of the game, players have had time to discover the intricacies and mechanics that make the game among one of the best Smash games ever released. This has also given them time to find things that the developer, Nintendo, can do to improve an already great game.
We asked members of the competitive community their thoughts on the pros and cons most noticeable about the game so far.
Ultimate gained a lot of its praise from the competitive community for combining aspects from previous Smash titles that people enjoyed. It also discarded mechanics from previous titles considered imbalanced or player unfriendly.
World Best Gaming sponsored player Jestise “MVD” Negron explains how Smash 4, relies heavily on comeback mechanics like rage to help losing players. This can make the game unfair to the player who has earned an advantage:
“I feel like Ultimate goes back to Smash’s core values more than Smash 4,” MVD said. “Character matchups and neutrals are more important… This game is more like, can I out skill you?”
Some other mechanics that Ultimate brought back and tweaked were parrying, referred to as perfect shielding in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Smash 4, and the ability to do any attack after a dash attack.
It's all about having options and MVD goes on to explain how much these changes add to the competitive nature of the game:
“Now as a Snake player I can run and up tilt out of my dash, I can run and forward tilt out of my dash, and that’s really good. Now I can do any Smash out of a dash. I can do any move out of dash, even a jab if I wanted to. That’s a really good mechanic that I think competitive players obviously use a lot.”
This game is also faster than previous Smash titles, which makes for a more frenzied and aggressive playstyle according to Victoria “VikkiKitty” Perez, a Smash commentator. “
The game being as fast as it is makes it all that more exciting,” VikkyKitty notes. “Now defensive play isn’t what rewards you; timing out people isn’t what rewards you. It’s literally going in and making sure that you pressure your opponent on shield and try to force them to drop shield to commit to an action.”
Another thing that the professional community enjoys about the game is the giant cast of characters and how it brings the community together. With Nintendo bringing back characters that may have only appeared once in the series history, like Young Link, returning players can choose their former mains and compete with them on a brand-new title.
Even Melee players, the most diehard of Smash communities, are coming to Ultimate and putting time into the game. William “Leffen” Hjelte, a competitive Smash/FGC athlete for TSM, and one of the best Melee players in the world, avidly compete in Ultimate tournaments. He recently placed ninth in the Ultimate Nimbus tournament and has competed in several Ultimate majors included Prime Saga and Pound.
Omari “AceStarThe3rd” Chaplin, a Smash YouTuber and professional player, explains how a lot of players from all around the Smash community are putting time into Ultimate. “It is nice to see finally a Smash game where such a passioned group of players can diverge away from it to a new one. It makes for a nice big community.”
Excessive Input Buffering
The most common gripe of the professional scene has been buffering.
Buffering is the act of inputting actions during a period in which your character can not execute them. This causes the inputted actions to be carried out the exact moment it becomes possible to do so, on the first possible frame to be exact. This can lead to accidental inputs that can sometimes feel unavoidable.
An accidental input doesn't seem like the end of the world, but due to the nature of pro play spending so much time on the edge of the stage flirting with near-death scenarios, an accidental input can mean an accidental death, leaving even the best players unexpectedly a stock down.
“You have to be very precise with your inputs,” warns MVD.
VikkiKitty mentioned that she also has problems with the buffer mechanic, both with playing the game and watching. “The buffering window being so large -- maybe if they made it a little bit smaller -- I feel like it’d be easier to prevent people from Self Destructing as frequently as we've seen on stream,” said VikkiKitty.
Unequal Defensive Options
Other mechanics that might need tweaking in the future are the parrying and spot-dodging mechanics in the game. Parrying is the act of shielding then dropping the shield when the opponent attacks for frame advantage and spot dodging is when a character becomes intangible for a few frames after pressing down while shielding.
AceStarThe3rd said he thinks parrying could use a buff, especially when it comes to parrying multi-hit attacks. “I think that parrying needs a little bit of an adjustment to make it a much more stronger option because it’s already difficult in the first place,” said AceStarThe3rd. “It needs to be an option that you get much more of a reward from.”
Spot-dodging, or more specifically spot-dodge canceling, needs a significant nerf, AceStarThe3rd said. The ability to cancel the ending lag of a character’s spot-dodge by going for a grab or attack at the end of the animation makes some characters more deadly than they should be at close range.
“It makes it so spot-dodging is disproportionately stronger than the other grounded defensive options because it has a little bit of a freebie," said AceStarThe3rd. "Rolls you’re going to have ending lag, holding shield you can get grabbed. Spot-dodge was also possible to punish too, but now they made it much more lenient and I have no idea why."
UPDATE: With the release of Patch 3.0, Nintendo has made changes that, on the surface, try to address these two specific issues:
Made it easier to be penalized for continuous dodging.
Shortened the downtime when performing a perfect shield against projectiles.
Too Much Defense
In a recent Twitter thread, TSM's Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey, regarded as one of the best Ultimate players in the world, lamented some problems he had with game. He stated that even though Nintendo sped up the gameplay, the game feels very defensive and relies more on reads and luck than skill at times.
“As for professional play, I also dislike it,” he tweeted. “Everyone is so afraid to commit because everything is so safe and unreactable. They just stick to their safe neutral tools that will lead to follow ups if they get a hit.”
Hit or Miss Online play
Most of these things are not prevalent problems in casual players’ experience with the game. Ultimate does have its negatives and positives for casual players though. Thanks to online play, the game has a lot of things to do for players that don’t get out to local competitions, and it also features robust narrative modes and versus play against the computer. That is a lot is more than Smash 4 featured.
“If you were a person that didn't have any internet or that many friends and you wanted to play Smash 4 what did you have outside of classic mode and a few goofy modes that no one liked?” said AceStarThe3rd. Still, online play has its issues. According to AceStarThe3rd, the ranking and experience system are convoluted, and input lag is a major problem that makes internet play “disgusting” at times.
Certain characters also appear to be over-powered in online play that in an offline environment would never perform as well. “Projectile characters generally do a lot better,” UGS Gaming’s Ryan “RavenKing” McDonough explains. “There’s more lag to deal with on online, so you can’t react to projectiles better, so any hitbox that stays active for a while gives a better advantage to those character.”
Button mashing is rewarded in online play as well, especially with the character Zelda. “She just has the perfect amount of ending lag and startup on all her moves,” AceStarThe3rd said. “If you’re fighting against her and you’re not playing perfectly, you’re going to get hit so many times by so many stray hits.”
A growing esport
Even with all these problems, the game is still on the rise competitively and will probably be the premier Smash title until Nintendo rolls out a new console. “As long as Nintendo keeps catering towards the game itself,” VikkiKitty said, “the game is going to have a long lifetime.”