This week, Yahtzee reviews Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Well, this is what we call making a rod for your own back, I suppose. See, Smash Bros. on the Wii U came out and the usual suspects scurried up my garden path, waving it, but I slammed the door and went, "Sorry! Much as I'd love to join you in Nintendo’s paddling pool full of self-satisfied cum, there’s no single-player content, so damn, hands tied! If only I liked multiplayer games and wasn’t quite so good at alienating people." So now, of course, Smash Bros. Ultimate comes out with a story mode and I can’t use that excuse anymore. Back up the garden path they come, “Oh, please review Smash Ultimate, Yahtzee! Please please please, there’s a story mode!” Look, it’s not really my thing, alright. “Oh, please review it anyway, everyone else is talking about it, we’d love to hear YOUR take.” Fine, here’s my take. “Ugh, we didn’t like your take! You shouldn’t have reviewed it if it wasn’t your thing!” For fuck's sake!
I want to know what you whinging cunts were expecting. Did you think I would finally be converted? "Oh yes, this specific combination of characters and slight gameplay tweaks has finally made me see Smash Bros. for more than just a colorful button-mashing/nostalgic wank-exercise. I am now a Nintendo fan, please let me know where to report for my free Amiibo and lobotomy." No, that’s not how it works, is it? Smash Bros. doesn’t create Nintendo fans, it leeches off them. You become a fan of the character from their own game, not for seeing them in Smash Bros, mainly 'cause you can’t fucking see them in Smash Bros, from all the particle effects and the camera being pulled back far from the action like me at all my high school discos. So I asked myself, how I would feel about a fighting game populated with all my favorite characters? A game in which Modesty Blaise and Major Kira can team up to take down Horatio Hornblower and the Arkhamverse Riddler. And yes, I suppose I would get a kick out of that, but I don’t expect anyone else to, who didn’t know the characters. It would only be the superficial appearance of Modesty Blaise, with none of the nuances of the comic strip that make her a great character: the personality, the backstory, the surprising amount of gratuitous nudity.
Actually, Smash Bros. has a close equivalent to that with Bayonetta, and sure enough, little of that character’s actual personality is conveyed. She’s even depicted with realistic human proportions, which kind of threw me. Without legs like an unfolding stepladder, she just looks like that one friend of your mum, who kept wanting to hang out with you when you were a kid because she was still single at 34, and the ticking of her biological clock had become as loud as a malfunctioning lawnmower engine.
But anyway, Smash Bros. Ultimate does indeed have a story mode, but it’s not much of one, and you need to turn over a few rocks in the main menu to find it. If you’re expecting the sumptuous buffet of laughably-earnest cinematics and specially designed platforming levels that was the Smash Bros. Brawl story mode, then you can go stick your head in between your legs and wait for your rectums to dispense butterscotch angel delight. All you get this time around is two cinematics - one at the front, one at the end - and approximately five hundred-million-billion-squillion random battles against the AI. The story is: all the fighters have been captured by two god-like forces, a white circle representing light and a black circle representing dark; sterling creativity on display there. What was the inspiration, Nintendo? The stains on your favorite night-dress? The only fighter who isn’t consumed is Kirby, possibly because the evil gods were both diabetic, and so it’s up to them to explore an open-ended map screen battling and unlocking characters as he, she, or it goes.
It’s a deceptively long campaign: every time I thought I was close to completing the map they pull out another fucking map, it was like being the only filing clerk at the cartography department. Because you don’t just unlock fighters; there are also hundreds upon hundreds of what are termed "Spirits". Basically still images of video game characters who didn’t quite have the clout for a full-on appearance. You fight whichever fighter or fighters most closely approximates the spirit, like for example, Otacon from Metal Gear Solid is represented by Doctor Mario and a R.O.B. robot. Gotcha. Although personally, I’d have gone with the Squirtle in glasses, or something equally moist. Unlocked spirits convey various buffs, and you swap them out before each battle to best counter your opponent and the whole Nintendo characters crossover remit (which was already getting shaky with all the guest characters) is now officially in the bin, because the spirits are from all over the place. You’ve got Shantae, Rayman, the chicks from Fatal Frame. Blimey, Nintendo’s in bed with a lot of people; it’s going to have a snatch like an inside-out pink ski sock. I wish there was an in-game database explaining where some of these spirits were from. Perhaps the game would have had some value then as a virtual museum, but no, all you get is an image, so basically all you’re doing is filling out a sticker album.
At its core, it's about the combat and yeah, it’s Smash Bros: you mash buttons and hope all those particle effects are coming out of them and not you. Every now and again, your tiny opponent gestures vaguely with a limb that’s like two pixels big on screen and you promptly get blasted into the cosmos and you’re left wondering what the fuck that was and how you were supposed to predict it. So for a while, I was struggling along, not having much fun, but everything abruptly changed after I unlocked Donkey Kong, who I proceeded to exclusively play as. Why? Because A) he’s big and cartoony enough you can actually read his fucking movements, and B) he has this one attack that I like to call, “Fuck Off I Win (ook ook)", where he slaps the ground and everyone in a ten-yard radius explodes. I ended up challenging myself not to use it, because I jerk off sailors for nickels and even I thought it was cheap. Things went pretty smooth after that until the final boss, when I had to pick two additional characters to use besides Donkey Kong, which was like pulling me out of my nice comfortable roadster and forcing me to do my final lap on a unicycle. But you know what? I didn’t dislike playing to story end: it was samey and prolonged, but there were moments where I’d land a full-on wound-up Donkey punch that made my trousers tighten with satisfaction.
So, what is it about Smash Bros that irritates me? I think I’ve finally figured it out. See, I believe in video games as an ever progressing art form, and while I’m sure Smash is a lot of fun when you gather your mates around it, the same is true of poking a dead fox with a stick, and I don’t think Smash has any artistic value. It’s got so many characters, but it doesn’t add anything to them. It just references them superficially, it’s Hey, Who Remembers This: The Game. Breath of the Wild is a great game with a lot of artistic value, but Link’s appearance in Smash Ultimate is to Breath of the Wild what a TV commercial for action figures is to The Empire Strikes Back. And even that’s not why it annoys me. The artless does has a right to exist: hence daytime television and KFC. What annoys me is what an enormous fucking profile the game has. I resent the rest of gaming media for fixating on it, and letting it selfishly hog attention away from games with actual new ideas and stories to tell. I despise the twat-sanders who come up my garden path, demanding I review it and messing up the plastic flamingos, for wanting them to join me in an unproductive circle-jerk.
So just to clarify, I don’t hate you, Smash Bros., I don’t even hate your fans; I just wish they’d shut up, and wipe the spunk off my flamingos.
- He's a tough snob but someone has to do him: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Horatio Hornblower's final smash is blindsiding the opponent with dense nautical jargon and then giving them imposter syndrome
- Please report known abusers of giant cartoon monkeys