The Super Smash Bros Ultimate Stage Builder is here. People now have a chance to make some rather basic creations for custom stages. However, there are some important things to remember with this new tool. While people might have big dreams for things they would like to see, there are certain confines they will be restricted to. Tempering expectations and focusing on technically interesting stages that you can build structures on may be wise, as getting over ambitious can quickly eat away at the number of people able to play in an area.
The Stage Builder is tucked away in the Games & More section of Super Smash Bros. Once you enter, your first steps are to choose a size, background, and the music people will hear. For your first stage or two, going with a Small stage is a wise idea. It allows you to get a feel for what is possible, see what the different layers look like when you draw on them, and make it easier to avoid hitting that four-player limit sooner. There are 12 backgrounds to choose from, and unfortunately none are one flat color. Still, you have an assortment to start with.
Once you have a blank slate in front of you, you essentially have the ability to draw platforms and backdrops with fifteen different kinds of materials of varying colors and textures on one of four different layers. You can turn a grid on or off, if you want to try and make your freeform drawing a little more accurate. Colors can be shifted, to help you better see where things are placed and might overlap. A guideline shows you about where people would stand and the height of characters. Once you place platforms, you can attach gears to make them rotate, rails to have them move, or switches to cause actions. As for hazards, people can place bomb blocks, bumpers, cannons, explosive blocks, ladders, springs, warp zones, and wind areas. Test and play functions are available and, in general, everything is very user-friendly. There aren’t an extravagant number of options, but the things needed to get started are around.
Actually making something that looks good, let alone impressive, will take time. Let me tell you a story. I wanted to make a level inspired by Jupiter’s Picross series, to celebrate the Picross S3 announcement. Before the Stage Builder made its debut, I thought that maybe there would be the ability to add numbers or text to a background. I even saved a screenshot from Picross S, intending to base the stage on a specific puzzle.
Thus, Very Bad Picross was born. (It is also known as, “Do you know how hard it is to draw the number 3 in Handheld Mode?”) The mind was willing, but the Stage Builder was weak. The level I made was functional. It is recognizable, in a Drawful sort of way. It even allows for platforms in different positions, to provide different areas for characters to fight on. It just looks incredibly sloppy.
So, I went back to the drawing board. What other series that I love is celebrating a milestone soon? Oh, right. BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! is coming to the Nintendo Switch on April 25, 2019. (The same day as Picross S3!) The level design in the series is minimalistic, relying on various boxes and rectangles. As I established earlier, finding your footing and making something that looks good and works as a stage might take time in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Before someone starts experimenting with wild designs and elaborate settings, trying something a little simpler might be best.
Which brings us to BoxBoy! 2-6. It is an approximation of the sixth stage in the original BoxBoy! game’s sixth world. While it is on a much smaller scale than the actual game, the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Stage Builder had enough items to build an approximation. Since there are no spikes, bomb blocks filled in to offer a similar sort of hazard. A vertical block on a rail served in place of the door that appeared in the original level and required Qbby to place blocks to hit a switch to open it. A bumper replaced the crown. The result is a very obvious tribute for up to four players to use that looks okay and maintains the spirit of the original game.
There are some bits and pieces in the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Stage Builder that could be really helpful. In the weeks and months to come, we’ll probably see people make some interesting levels that work well mechanically, look striking, or maybe even manage both at once. When you’re first starting out, going with a simple idea is probably best. Don’t end up with a Very Bad Picross. Start smaller, testing what different elements do and how they work together, and try for something better.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is available for the Nintendo Switch.