Demo units were Switch Pro Controllers only
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate immediately felt distinctive from Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Matches were timed with 4 players and items on. I was able to play close to 25 matches and each one taught me that the new mechanics changes like directional air dodging or the added recovery to consecutive dodge rolling would be brutally punishing if I play without strategic thought. The offstage game is especially different now that air dodging has been changed. Battles are still chaotically frantic in when playing with 4 people and items tend to K.O. you at a surprising rate.
I am not an expert on frame-data or every single combo available to each character but as someone with a significant amount of hours on these characters over multiple years, I will do my best to describe what, if any changes I noticed to each character I played.
I was able to try out the following characters:
Marth was very reminiscent of his Brawl incarnation with his new side special that unleashes a very swift flurry of slashes, unlike the slow and methodical side special from the WiiU version. His animations and moves were the same for the most part (if there were slight changes I didn’t notice) and his tipper mechanic seemed as strong as ever. He was very quick and it is possible that his aerial moves and jabs have less recovery on them now. I want to say that his forward air has been buffed but perhaps that was just a placebo effect I was feeling while having too much fun. I hope that Lucina is equally strong.
Corrin seemed almost unchanged. The pro controller layout was so incredibly jarring and against my Gamecube controller muscle memory that I couldn’t consistently insta-pin with side special to test if it had changed at all. I want to say that their forward smash has less recovery on it than before and that up air has been strengthened to some degree as well, but Corrin largely seemed familiar in every aspect.
Sheik also felt familiar and once again the rubix cube of a layout on the pro controller kept me from testing combos that I’m assuming do still work based off of what I was able to achieve after numerous trials and errors. Her up air felt much more powerful in terms of how the game registers hits and feedback but I don’t think it has changed percentage wise. Needles felt unchanged and I’m hoping that needles into bouncing fish still work. Sheik’s throw trajectories may have been altered a bit as forward throw to bouncing fish seemed to whiff at low percentages, making me think that combo may be character dependent now.
Ganondorf was an absolute joy to play and he feels as powerful as the Gerudo King should be. There is a very keen swiftness to his neutral air and it has the damage to boot. His sword is a bit quicker than Ike’s but just as strong. The armor on warlock punch is no joke and I imagine players will be taken by surprise by it in the beginning when they go for a punish that isn’t optimal. His down smash is very reminiscent of Cloud’s and is powerful as well. I want to say that warlock kick has been sped up but I can’t confirm it. Ganondorf is easily one of the characters that excited me the most from the demo and I think he has the potential to be the strongest he’s ever been before in a Smash title.
Ike, like Ganondorf, has a few noticeable and deserved changes. His up air is now a quick and powerful swipe that feels much more intuitive and gratifying than the awkward circular attack from the past games. He seems to be less of a heavy broad-swordsman and more of a slower version of Roy that hits harder. I wasn’t able to test his throw combos to any conclusive results as far as follow-ups were concerned but I think Ike mains have a lot to look forward to.
Ridley. Wow. Ridley is an absolute monster who you should not underestimate under any circumstance. Ridley has speed that rivals Marth and power that would make Bowser look weak. All of their moves felt powerful and satisfying to land, with the side special that drags you across the screen being an absolutely hilarious (or frustrating for the opponent) move that launches you a comical distance even at zero percent. Down air is actually very similar to a ground pound and while slow, hits as hard as you would expect. Neutral air reminds me of Charizard’s and Ridley absolutely has the speed and aerials to make grab mix-ups a central part of Ridley’s neutral game. I think we can expect quite a few adjustments to make it into the final build but I expect to see a lot of this character in competitive play.
Bayonetta doesn’t seem to have lost much of her steam in Ultimate. Witch twist combos felt intact, throw setups were all working and witch time still demands respect. Honestly I don’t know that she was changed for this demo build but I’m sure that hardcore Bayonetta mains with more hands on time would disagree with me. Regardless she’s still an awesome character and it’s good to have her back.
Smash Ultimate gave me every reason to believe it has the potential to be the most fun Smash yet, and although I don’t plan on playing many item based or timed matches, the new stages were fun and creative and the old stages reminded me of why I’ve kept playing all these years. As a reminder, if you’re like me and don’t mesh with the pro controller, new Gamecube controllers and adapters are being made for Ultimate and will launch alongside the game on December 7th.