United in excitement ahead of Smash Ultimate release
Depending on your time zone, you may or may not have less than 24 hours left to wait before you can play the latest edition of Super Smash Bros from Nintendo. It's called Smash Ultimate, but let’s ignore the implications behind that word for now, and just fully immerse ourselves in anticipation for what could be one of the greatest games of the year. Unless, like this writer, you put it on your Christmas list and now have to wait more than two weeks to get your hands on the damn thing…
Anyway, Christmas salt aside, the game has done something pretty rare, namely unite some of the biggest names from the two sides of the Smash tracks. For the longest time the players in the Melee scene have been viewed as elitists but, for some reason, probably the crazy-fast gameplay and combo potential, the newest game has everyone salivating at the thought of what might be possible.
Need for speed
The last title in the series, Smash 4, was not necessarily a failure of a game, as the Metacritic scores and sales figures show, but the slower gameplay was more reminiscent of Brawl than Melee or the fan-made Project M, which was an update of the Brawl engine that made the physics more similar to Melee. Early looks at the new title suggest the high-speed, combo-driven playstyle that has made Melee such an esports favourite is somewhat incorporated into Ultimate, although of course not to the extent they have been in older games.
Excitement in the Melee community is really cool to see and, of course, there is no lack of hype from the Smash 4 side of things, with that game having run its course, and top pros losing their motivation. Undisputed king of 4 Gonzalo ‘ZeRo’ Barrios made the choice to join a new organisation ahead of Smash Ultimate's release, too, signing a deal with Tempo Storm rumoured to be worth five figures a month, which is unheard of in Smash esports.
Smash and grab?
It must be said that the same hype surrounded the release of the last game in the series and the reality is that Nintendo are still not committed to competitive play in the way the community would really like. While the majority are happy to have a new game to play, there is equally a fairly vocal group pointing out that Ultimate appears to just be a tweaked version of the Smash 4 engine with more characters added in, and that the real prize would be a reworked version of Melee, the truly competitive game.
Fortunately for those folk, they have the timeless classic to continue to play, and continue to explore, too, with Melee so incredibly deep that new techniques are still being uncovered in 2018. Some more vocal types from that community couldn’t resist a little dig at Nintendo and their fans, though, playfully riffing on the similarities between it and the last title in the series, which is not an entirely unfair point.
However you feel about previous games, the fact is that all of those people are massive Nintendo fans and the vast majority will be feverishly ripping into their copies of Smash Ultimate the moment they are able to. With the esports side of the Smash 4 scene also dormant in recent months, there will likewise be an explosion of events as players seek to establish themselves as one of the Ultimate heroes early on, meaning tonnes of amazing content for fans, too.
So, Christmas is coming early for the Smash community, as well as millions of other Nintendo fans around the world, including but not limited to half of the Luckbox office. Tweet us your best combos and we can’t wait to see what Ultimate does for Smash esports in 2019. If only we hadn’t put the damn thing on the Christmas list…
Smash Ultimate is released on Nintendo Switch on December 7th, available in stores and download from the Nintendo eShop.
Picture: Nintendo / Facebook