With Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, we once again have a Smash Bros. game with a story to it. Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Wii U omitted it. While the story is not as in-depth as something like Subspace Emissary, it does give us a sense of purpose as Kirby attempts to save captured fighters and Spirits from Galeem by going around this new world. But more importantly, the organization of all things in World of Light allowed for a creativity that people might not have expected. It is all thanks to the way captured fighters and Spirits work.
In Super Smash Bros Ultimate World of Light, players take a growing party of characters around a worldmap that gradually opens up and unlocks as you face new fights. Each battle has matches that try to grasp the feel of a character, if not the actual person. For example, there is a fight to get an Ashley Spirit that pits you against a Mii Swordfighter dressed Ashley and a miniature Ridley that is supposed to remind people of Ashley’s demon minion Red on the WarioWare stage. The Lon’qu Spirit fight has you face a Chrom in a dark outfit who is also wielding a Killing Edge and has more powerful slash and stab attacks. Getting the Kaitlin & Katie Spirit has you fight a normal-sized Isabelle and tiny Isabelle. Fatal Frame II’s Mio & Mayu Amakura fight has a Daisy and Peach in matching outfits constantly running away from you on the Luigi’s Mansion stage. It is so much fun seeing how things are pieced together to try and foster a connection between the Spirit that is supposedly possessing the character.
The Spirits themselves also allow you to get creative ahead of fights. Lots of characters you collect will be able to negate negative stage or status effects, like floors that will put you to sleep or having a chance to negate the power of fire before heading into a fight with someone like Charizard. You can exploit the attack, shield, and grab triangle to make your team stronger against an enemy’s telegraphed weakness. The Roy Campbell Spirit, after acquired, can dispel a nasty stage effect that will the controls intermittently switch during a match so that left becomes right and right is left. Kaitlin & Katie, after you get them, remove fog. When I use my Mii Swordfighter, which is often, I like to have Leif from Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, to boost his sword attacks and Yakumen Player, so the Critical-Health Attack is boosted. It lets you plan for situations you think you might be in and maybe turn them to your advantage.
I also loved how some Spirits have additional functionality. Reese & Cyrus repair bridges, giving you access to areas that you couldn’t otherwise reach. Poppy Bros. Jr. lets you blow up boulders blocking access to things like treasure chests. One version of Kapp’n drives a boat, which lets you cross small bodies of water after you acquire him. There are all these little moments where it encourages you to keep fighting battles and collecting spirits so you can… keep fighting more battles and collecting more spirits. But, it also makes you think about who would work in each situation.
Then, there are the areas that require you to do a little extra footwork to reach areas by collecting items. There is a power plant that you need to fix, so you can gain access to different areas by bringing down fences. Every battle inside has an electric theme to it, with a fortunate battle to acquire a Dr. Light spirit ahead of it all that makes you invulnerable to electric floors in stages. Part of the light puzzle work here to reach the final match against a Pikachu that will set things right involves placing Zapfish in specific sockets to extend platforms to reach places (and unlock Pichu). Once you get everything done and set things right, you get the Great Zapfish and Zapfish spirits as a reward (and nod to the events of Splatoon).
It is seeing the World of Light map grow that really keeps me engaged. I find myself constantly returning to these matches, even though it can be quicker to unlock characters by taking on Spirit Board challenges or Classic Mode, because I like seeing what happens as I unlock more Spirits and explore more of the board. Maybe a new boss will come down, like the early Giga Bowser fight, to challenge me with a different form of a familiar character and allow me to see a cool, but brief, cinematic. Maybe I’ll get on a flight to unlock characters from Street Fighter, taking planes to different areas around the world in a nod to the actual Street Fighter world map along the way.
In short, I feel like the Super Smash Bros Ultimate World of Light campaign is handled very well and encourages people to keep roaming around its world and seeing sights. It does a good job of encouraging you to collect more Spirits, both so you have well-rounded parties or to gain access to new areas. It gets playful with its battles, using different color schemes and stage gimmicks to remind you of various people and games. It is just a lot of fun. Every time I play through it, I am so happy it exists.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is available for the Nintendo Switch.