Many in the dedicated Super Smash Bros. community today will openly admit that the series hasn't been the same since Melee released for the Nintendo Gamecube back in 2001. Nearly two decades since that entry,the franchise – according to loyalists – hasn't improved upon the fundamental mechanics that made the second game so beloved even to this day.
This public perception may change when the series' latest iteration, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, releases for the Switch later this year, however. At its core, this sequel, which puts together every character ever featured in the franchise together for a frantic all-out brawl to the death, is just as fast-paced as Melee, eliminating the floaty gameplay of Brawl and the series' Wii U and 3DS iterations, yet keeps the style and charm that ushers Smash into the modern era with attitude.
The word Ultimate in the game's name is very indicative of the game's content, as each fighter has been reworked so as to mesh better with the speedy action onscreen. Things like Link's new manually detonating bombs and the Inkling's use of paint to apply further damage onto enemies feels very deliberate and thoughtful, unlike the workings of the past where participants can easily win by mashing buttons together. This is the closest we've seen Smash actually embrace its fighting game pedigree in a long time, in fact.
This is especially apparent in matches that include only two participants. Right from the get-go, a versus screen appears letting you know that a serious competition is about to take place. Mechanically, fighters take slightly more damage than they would playing in a group of 4 or more players, meaning each person in a 1v1 match will have to train and relearn each of their favorite character's movesets in order to best utilize them in practice.
In regards to how the two new characters, Inkling and Ridley, play in the game, each is incredibly fast-paced, though not as fast as a character like Sonic. The former is the most elligible to be picked up in the competitive scene, predominantly for that aforementioned damage multiplier ability, though also for the ability to quickly evade attacks by dipping into ink as a squid. The latter – if not nerfed by the time the game releases – will most likely be banned from tournaments, as Ridley can not only grab opponents and launch them off the stage at a moment's whim, but also deal an astronomical amount of damage with his tail attack.
All in all, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the fighting game that Nintendo fans have been waiting decades for. As hyperbolic as that may sound, there's something for everyone here: an incredibly diverse cast of characters, serious competitive potential, and tons and tons of nods to the awesome history of the medium. It's really no wonder why Nintendo made this their flagship title for the year.