Smash Bros. Ultimate: Monsters, Music, Stage Morphs, Oh My!

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Luigi’s Castle?

The second direct opens with a Smash themed transition, something that fans know immediately: a new character is being released!

The reveal video opens with a outside shot of a castle in the middle of a thunderstorm. A robed man approaches the castle, only to hear the sound of a famed plumber’s screaming.

The scene shifts to Luigi, equipped with his ghost-catching gear, trying to make a stand against mummies. When Luigi’s attempt fails, he hastily retreats to a different section of the castle. Catching his breath, Luigi realizes that something is wrong, turning around to see a Bust of Medusa facing him with gliwing eyes. He retreats again, running from the collapsing corridor with the sounds of hissing echoing.

Luigi trips, picks himself up, and is mortified by the sight he sees next; That of Death itself, its eyes an azure blaze. Luigi faints, and Death rips Luigi’s essence from his body. Suddenly, a whip comprised of a spiky ball and chains darts across, knocking Death back. As the whip returns from several meters away, the robed figure casts aside his cloak, revealing Smash’s surprising new fighter, Simon Belmont.

Simon throws a cross at Death, and the video changes to show Simon in actual gameplay.

After a brief showing of Simon and his abilities, Simon is shown walking into the throne room of the castle. A legendary creature of the night appears, summoning pillars of flame to combat the hunter, knocking Simon back. The creature is none other than Dracula himself.

As Simon braces for the impending attack, another whip blocks the incoming blast of flames, then dispels the next wave of attacks.

“Begone,” Cried out the new warrior. “You don’t belong in this world, monster!”

This voice belonged to Richter. After a brief showcase of Richter, the duo are seen attacking Dracula, with Richter landing the final blow. The Super Smash Bros. Ultimate title appears, along with that of the Castlevania series.

And what about Luigi?

We return to see his ghost returning to his body, only to be frightened away by yet another monster.

And thus the second Smash Ultimate direct begins.

About Castlevania in Smash Bros.

Sakurai begins by again introducing himself, stating that this direct is a follow-up to the last, and dives right in to Simon and Richter’s inclusion into the game.

Simon Belmont

For Simon, Sakurai begins by showing that Simon has had a redesign from his previous games, and mentions that his signature whip has one of the longest reaches of most fighters’ attacks, at the expense of being left vulnerable and having a slow launch time. Another feature of Simon’s whip is that it can be moved freely in 360 degrees in a different attack, though how remains unclear. UPDATE: A Treehouse video shows that this is done by holding the A button (Regular attack button,) and moving the control stick.

Sakurai then details Simon’s special attacks, such as the Axe, shown to be able to pop Villager’s balloons during recovery, the Cross, which is thrown out a certain distance, and returns, Holy Water, which is thrown and explodes, hitting enemies a few times, and an Uppercut, in which Simon leaps up with a dagger drawn. “While they may seem simple,” Sakurai adds, “They are very powerful.”

Last but not least, Simon’s Final Smash, the “Grand Cross,” is shown, in which Simon summons a casket, grabs it with his whip, and launches it in the air, with the trapped fighter(s) taking damage from an explosion of energy.

Dracula’s Castle

The new stage coming with Simon and Richter is that of Dracula’s Castle, which Sakurai states is “the darkest of stages in Smash Bros. Ultimate.” In it, candlesticks may appear on the stage, which will turn into items when hit. Also, monsters will appear on the stage, though whether or not they are stage hazards or simply just background characters adding to the mood of the stage is unkwnown.

The stage consists of a staircase on both ends, while the middle of the stage sits deeper, a little lower than the stairs. There are also floating platforms, which move slowly.

But of course, what is Dracula’s Castle without the legendary vampire himself? Dracula appears “once in a blue moon,” although his specific conditions to appear are currently unknown. He attacks by shooting out damaging dark orbs, a set of fireballs, by disappear into a swarm of bats when needed, and by creating pillars of flame. Dracula can even transform into a more monstrous form, complete with bat wings.

And on the stage alone, 34 music tracks from the Castlevania series will be usable, including original and remixed versions. Sakurai states that the music from Castlevania is very popular amongst Smash Bros’ music team, so they wery very excited to work on the arrangements.

Richter Belmont

Following Simon’s reveal, Richter Belmont will be joining the game as, you guessed it, an Echo fighter of Simon.

“Though his strengths are the same,” begins Sakurai, “His look, voice, and animations all set him apart.”

Sakurai also points out that Simon uses moves that Richter originally used in his games, so Simon could theoretically be Richter’s Echo Fighter, and vice versa.

New Echo Fighters Approach!

Following the reveal of Castlevania’s heroes, Sakurai also shows off two additional Echo Fighters from different series, both of which have been fan requests.

The first is Chrom, a fighter Fire Emblem fans didn’t know they wanted until they saw Lucina in the 3DS and Wii U releases. (Or as a surprise guest in in one of Pit’s Smash Taunts, or as Robin’s Pair-Up in a Final Smash, or even Lucina’s reveal trailer, etc, etc…) For those not aware of Fire Emblem Lore, Chrom is Lucina’s father, while both Chrom and Lucina are descendants of Marth. (Don’t worry too much about the implications this causes to the Space-Time Continuum, Fire Emblem plays with this quite a bit.)

As a fighter, Chrom seems to have characteristics of both Marth and Ike, making him somewhat unique as an Echo Fighter. He uses similar throws and movement animations to Marth, while using Ike’s Aether as a special move. Chrom also seems to retain Marth’s Dancing Blade move as well.

The second new Echo Fighter is that of Dark Samus, whom is so distinct visually and personality wise, that they would appear to be their own character. Unlike Chrom, however, Dark Samus’ attacks are based entirely on that of Samus’ and offer no moveset changes. However, Dark Samus’ projectiles are visually different, retaining a fresh feel to the game. Metroid fans are finally given more series representation with Ridley and Dark Samus, as opposed to only Samus and her Zero Suit.

Roster-wise, Sakurai shows that Echo Fighters can be shown seperately on the fighter select screen, or can be “stacked,” with the main character and Echo Fighter able to be swapped with the push of a button.

Sakurai also mentions that he plans on showing all of the fighter designs before the game is released, and that he has a “few more to announce later.”

Stages

Sakurai then shows some returning stages to the series, Such as the Great Bay from Zelda, the Living Room from Nintendogs, Xenoblade’s Gaur, Plain, and more. Those featured are Melee’s Pokémon Stadium and Brinstar Depths, Brawl’s Garden of Hope, the 3DS’ Unova Pokémon League, and Magicant, and the Wii U’s quirky Gamer stage. A brand new version of Final Destination is also shown.

Amongst these, I personally like the Magicant and Gamer stages, while Brinstar Depths and Pokèmon Stadium are classic stages, so I’m glad to see these return as well. The Gamer stage has also grown to become a favorite as well.

A brand new stage of New Donk City Hall is also shown, to the tune of Super Mario Odyssey’s “Jump Up, Super Star!” The stage consists of a single platform that moves to different parts of the stage, akin to the Prism Tower and Delfino Plaza stages. After a while, platforms will appear with musicians, and jumping past them will cause them interact in response. Amongst these is of course, Pauline, who sings the song in Super Mario Odyssey.

Sakurai then shows how the stages have been graphically enhanced, showing Melee’s Fountain of Dreams stage in both the original and enhanced versions, and I must say, Ultimate’s rendition of the stage is jaw-dropping.

However, for stages that were part of the Original Super Smash Bros. game for the Nintendo 64, the priority was to keep the original visual styles of the stages, retaining the nostalgia of yesteryear, while keeping the stages graphically enhanced.

Viewers are then treated to a grahical comparison of the number of stages. From the original Nintendo 64 game, there were 9 stages total, while Melee from the Gamecube tops the number to 29. Brawl had 41 in total, while the 3DS had a lesser 35 stages. The Wii U version had 48 on release, and both the 3DS and Wii U versions had 42 and 56 respectively, with DLC added in. So where does that put Ultimate? 67, 72? Nope! The stage total in Ultimate doubles that of the Wii U’s (before DLC), putting the total at 103!

Yes, 103 stages are in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Call me crazy, but most fighting games don’t even have a 1/5th of the number of stages this game has, so it’s already shaping up to be a fantastic value.

“If you exclude Battlefield, Big Battlefield, and Final Destination, we have exactly 100.” Sakurai states.

If that wasn’t news enough, every stage can be switched to an battlefield and omega form, tripling the number of stages one can play on. The icing on the cake? Each stage can be used for 8-player battles. No more fumbling around the stage select screen, wondering which stages can be used as an Omega stage, or which is fine for a group of 5+ players.

To ensure the game is accessible enough for fan-favorite stages to be playable, every stage is unlocked from the beginning, allowing for some chaotic and unique battles.

If you like your stages more straightforward, there is a seperate option to turn stage hazards off, and if you’re worried about how to find one of your favorite stages, the stages are sorted in order of appearance, so the 64 stages will be shown first, while the Wii U/DLC stages will be shown torward the bottom.

While having Battlefield and stage hazards off on stages is a nice touch, it becomes unclear what the differences are between them. Regardless, the vast number of stages intrigues me, and I’m sure I’ll be able revisit some childhood favorites, and even play on stages I haven’t played before from the 64!

Stage… Morphs?

If all the news on stages wasn’t enough, Sakurai introduces a surprise mechanic that’s sure to keep matches exciting: Stage Morphs.

We are introduced to this concept by watching a battle with Fox, Pac-Man, Rosalina (and Luma), and Link, on the Brinstar Depths stage. After a bit of fighting, a second stage, being formed from light, appears, transforming into Skyward Sword’s Skyloft stage, while the former stage disappears. The fighters switch seamlessly into the new stage, resuming the fight as if the stage didn’t change before them at all.

As someone who has battled long 10 or 20 stock matches before with friends and amiibo, I am very excited for this change, as I know this is sure to keep matches fresh.

In order for the stage morph to occur, players must first choose to enable the option from a settings menu, choosing from random intervals, every few minutes, or leaving the option off enrirely. Then, the starting stage and morphing stage and selected. Once the match has started, the stage morphs will occur whenever they were previously set to appear.

However, this new feature appears to be limited to two stages, so having a mystery swap between multiple stages or a marathon battle between all of the stages will not be a possibility.

Regardless, this is an addition that I am very excited to see, and I am eager to try out some odd choices of stages in battles!

Music

For those looking for perfectly orchestrated battles, My Music is returning, and it’s better than ever!

Smash fans, have you ever played on one of your favorite stages, realizing that one of the music tracks you really like from the same series just couldn’t be used? Well, there’s no more of that.

As another welcome change, the music on stages is no longer tied to specific stages, but to the series instead. As an example, say you wanted to listen to Breath of the Wild’s main theme on the Bridge of Eldin. Normally, that wouldn’t be possible, but with the improved My Music system, this is just one possibility.

And that’s not the only surprise regarding music, as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has not 200, or 300, or even 500, but more than 800 music tracks in the game! And if you count the menu themes and fanfare, that number goes to roughly 900.

“If you played them all in a row, without looping or stopping, there’s more than 28 hours worth of music,” Sakurai states.

Sakurai then takes the point home, calling the game franchises a “big part of video game history,” resulting in a massive collection of memorable tunes, encompassing a varied range of emotion and memories. He calls it nothing short of extraordinary, and that’s a point I’d have to agree with.

There is also a Sound Test menu, where players will be free to listen to the game’s assortment of music to their heart’s content. To make this easier to sort through, all of the game’s music is sorted by franchise series. For those tracks that aren’t from a series, but a single game, they are sorted into an “other” category. Examples of what can be found in the other category are themes from Duck Hunt, Balloon Trip, Ice Climber, and more.

Lastly with mysic, there is also a playlist menu, in which players can freely assemble the favorite tracks, as opposed to the 3DS’ and Wii U’s favorite section. Also following in the 3DS’ footsteps, when the Switch is in Sleep Mode, and headphones are plugged in, the music will continue to play, allowing the Switch to finally be used somewhat like an MP3 player.

If you just can’t wait to listen to some of the game’s music, you can begin listening to some samples on the official website for the game. The team plans on adding music to the list on a weekly basis, so you can check back to see what new additions have been added.

You can visit the website at: https://www.smashbros.com/

Rule Changes

Next,Sakurai shows off a slight change to how rules work for the game.

Before any matches start, any characters are picked or any stages selected, the first thing players will have to choose are the battle’s rules.

From this menu, titled, “Rulesets,” players will be able to change whether the game will be a timed battle, stock battle, and more. The best part about it, is that these rulesets can be saved, allowing for quick and easy rule changes.

After playing the Wii U version for a while, it became pretty annoying to have to change the rules from a 2 minute timed battle, to a 5-stock un-timed battle with every launch of the game. Now rules will be saved, and it becomes as simple as choosing a saved ruleset, and launching straight into a match.

For another change, one of my favorite modes, Stamina Smash is now recognized as it’s own battle mode, complete with life stocks and teams, as opposed to a single-battle fight to the finish from Special Smash.

For those who don’t know what Stamina Smash is, it’s a different type of battle mode where fighters start with a pre-set damage percentage, with damage percentages treated as health instead of a type of launch rate. Once the perecentage of a fighter reaches 0, they are defeated, and can no longer battle in the match. The only difference from prior versions of stamina smash, (other than it being a a true mode,) is that characters seem to “explode” after reaching 0%.

Also, Stage Select will now appear before fighter selection, allowing players to “pick a fighter based on how well suited they are to the stage.”

While I don’t exactly agree with the logic, it’s a smaller change that will definitely take some getting used to.

Sudden Death has also been retweaked slightly. Fighters will still start at 300% damage, however, the screen zooms in slowly, seemingly limiting the safe zones of the screen, as in games like Speedrunners.

Also, Final Smashes have an optional, chargeable, form in a Final Smash Meter. With the option enabled, the Final Smash Meter will be filled during battle, and when it is full, a weaker final smash can be used. However, only one Final Smash can be used at a time, meaning players with filled Final Smash Gauges will have to wait until the current Final Smash is completed, before they can unleash their own.

Battle Modes!

Super Smash Bros Ultimate isn’t just re-using the same old formula, as there are other battle modes to use as well! Some are returning modes, and some are totally new concepts.

One of these modes is Squad Strike, a new mode in which players can either pick a character and compete in a round-robin elimination battle, or two players can pick 3 or 5 characters each and see whom emerges victorious.

Melee fans, Tourney mode is returning, and it’s the as good as it was on Melee. In Tourney mode, players can select a total of up to 32 participants, (player or computer,) the number of computers, (if any,) and the game will automatically generate a selection of valid tournament brackets to use. If Smash Bros. happens to be one of those games that brings friends and family together, you can easily host your own battle tournaments.

Another new mode is that of Smashdown, in which all of the fighters used in a battle can no longer be used in the next, challenging players to use characters other than their best, and to become a better player overall. Whether the strategy is to use your best fighters first, or pick your rival’s so that they lose their best characters, this mode is sure to bring a lot of laughs and ignite that competitive spirit!

The training mode will now have it’s own exclusive stage, complete with a training grid to measure projectile distances, launch distances, and more.

Also returning from Melee is Classic Mode, where a series of battles will occur, often based around certain themes. Battles in this mode can consist of beating powered up enemies, multiple numbers of a fighter, fighters with similar themes, or even a hunt for targets in a minigame round. A score is also generated each round, carrying over until the mode is complete or a continue is used.

New Items

This iteration of Smash also adds in new items, Pokémon, and assist trophies to keep things interesting.

The new items are revealed in a montage of sorts, starting with the regular items, then moving towards the character-summon items.

The first of these is a Banana Gun, which is largely self-explanatory. It fires a single powerful “bullet,” (The direct’s words, not mine!) and then becomes a banana peel, which causes other fighters to trip when they step on it.

Another Item, the Killing Edge, is a sword that deals huge damage when it glows. Fire Emblem fans may recognize this as a sword which drastically increases critical hit rates.

From the Kirby series, the Bomber enemy appears as it’s own Item, and, true to the series, unleases a huge explosion when used. Like the Wii U’s 1-Up Flag, this item has a bit of charge time, so fighters will have a chance to act accordingly.

Following the Castlevania series is Death’s Scythe, which instantly KOs enemies that are “badly damaged.” What constitutes as badly damaged is a little unclear, but likely applies to fighters have have taken over 150% of damage.

Another item is the Staff, which deals more damage the further away the target is, and the Rage Blaster, which similarly gets more powerful when the user is has a high damage percentage.

Lastly, one of the last new items is that of the Ramblin’ Evil Mushroom, which reverses opponents’ controls. It is used similarly to the Fire Flower, as a projectile spray, but appears visibly on the character, like the flowers grown from Lip’s Stick.

As for the Pokémon, Exeggutor’s Alolan regional variant makes it’s debut, functioning as a long vertical wall.

Abra finally makes an appearance as well, teleporting enemies into hazards and other items, making it one of the more hazardous pokémon yet.

Also joining the ranks are Pokémon Sun’s Solgaleo, which fires a horizontal beam of fire, and Pokémon Moon’s Lunala, which fires a beam vertically from the background of the stage into the foreground.

Mimikyu also appears, grabbing an unaware fighter, trapping them inside it’s cloak until the fighter “explodes.”

Pyukumuku can be summoned as well, seemingly providing a one-time counter-attack before disappearing.

Vulpix fans can delight in the fight that not only will the traditional Vulpix be found, but it’s “Snowy” Alolan form can be found as well. The regular Vulpix fires off a short-range ember, hitting fighters a few times, while the Alolan variant Vulpix shoots out ice, which freezes fighters on contact.

Another pokémon to watch out for is Marshadow, which appears underneath fighter’s shadows, stunning them, before delivering a powerful sucker punch.

And last but not least, we have Ditto, whom is one of the more interesting additions. True to it’s Pokémon appearances, Ditto can Transform into the fighter who summoned it, essentially giving the fighter a duplicate ally temporarily.

And before things get too carried away with Pokémon, Zero appears, and he’s definitely not a Pokémon.

As an assist trophy, Zero dashes to opponent fighters, delivering three hits with his sword, and can fire a beam from his sword for a ranged attack.

From the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Knuckles the Echidna joins the fray, with his own homing attack, and a three hit combo that ends with an uppercut.

Krystal from the Star Fox series also appears, freezing enemies with her staff, which doubles as a close-range weapon should attackers close in.

The Klaptraps, small, yet vicious crocodiles from the Donkey Kong series, have been included as well, latching onto a fighter and chomping them 10 times before launching them away.

From the Anumal Crossing series, Kapp’n can also be summoned, driving straight off the edge of the stage, trapping helpless fighters on a ride to oblivion.

Taking on more of a support role, Chef Kawasaki, an enemy from the Kirby series, will lend a hand by catching fighters with an outstrecthed ladle. The chef then starts cooking up some food and fighters, akin to Kirby’s Final Smash in Brawl, before leaving.

Gray Fox, one of the more dangerous assist trophies, can reflect incoming projectile attacks, while rushing down the enemy with ruthless attacks, chasing them as the fly from impact.

Nikki, from Nintendo’s Swapnote, will lend a pen into battle, drawing enemies and hazards into battle, similarly to the Pictochat stage.

Shovel Knight, a popular guest character in his own right, brings his trusty spade into the mix, hopping down on it into enemies, and digging into the ground, hitting foes in the face with the upswing. He can also dig up items while summoned

Last but not least, the cataclysmic Moon from Majora’s Mask makes an appearance, crashing down onto everyone in the stage, blowing up in the aftermath.

A Powerful New Foe

Rathalos, a huge dragon from the Monster Hunter series, will also be making an appearance in Ultimate. As a boss, Rathalos can dive in from the background of the stage, shoot three consecutive fireball attacks, throw airborne enemies to the ground, and shoot down large fireballs with an exploding area of effect. However, Rathalos isn’t just a one-time boss…

He can be summoned as an Assist Trophy in regular battles as well. Sakurai even goes as far as pointing out Rathalos is the first character to be both an boss, and an Assist Trophy in the entire Smash Bros. series.

As an assist trophy, Rathalos functions largely the same, but doesn’t seem to attack from the background of the stage. He is also shown to have a roar attack, which stuns all nearby fighters.

For those reading closely, Rathalos is considered a boss, which can mean one of two things:

1: Rathalos is a stage boss, like Ridley from Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U, or,

2: Rathalos is a boss boss, like Ridley was in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

In the first case, we can expect a few more stages, which may or may not have been revealed yet, with their own bosses, while in the latter case, we may be treated to a true story mode, like the Subspace Emissary from Brawl!

Should Ultimate be getting a story mode, it would be the icing on top of the most lavish cake, with a unique story to tie together the game’s unlikely guest characters to the returning cast of the series. It’ll be a blast to play, an unforgettable game crossover, and make the game easily one of the top games of 2018, if not number one, all while providing tremendous value to the players.

I officially can’t wait for the release, but there’s still more left of the direct! So, getting back on topic…

Main Menu

The last thing Sakurai leaves us to see is the main menu, which has “Smash,” “Games & More,” “Vault,” “Online,” and a mystery mode, as selectable options. Choosing an option “zooms in” on it, revealing further choices, while going back “zooms out” from it. A dashboard can also be triggered with the ZR button, which has shortcuts to the main menu, the mystery mode, wireless communications, notifications, settings, and an in-game guide, as well as the current time.

The interface seems very bold and fluid, almost like comic book, yet seamlessly transitioning from menu to menu.

As far as the mystery mode goes, I’m totally convinced it’s a story mode, and the fact that the in-game dashboard has a shortcut to it shows that even Sakurai knows it’ll be a big portion of the game.

As Sakurai’s commentary on the direct fades, the screen starts to shake, and heavy footsteps rumble. There’s one last announcement for now.

The Rumbling of a Nemesis

A quick slideshow of Nintendo’s Heroes and Villians through a TV filter starts the new video off. Mario is seen in a fighting stance against Bowser, Link protects Zelda from Ganondorf, Kirby faces off against Meta Knight, Fox and Falco confront Wolf, Samus charges a shot against Ridley… but what other series has long been without it’s own villain?

If you guessed Donkey Kong, you’d be correct!

With the TV turning off, viewers are shown a sleeping Donkey Kong snoring away, throwing a Banana Peel across the room, while a bored Diddy Kong swings from a tire swing. Their peaceful afternoon in the jungle is disturbed by loud, heavy, footsteps. The duo look around, shocked, before the footsteps rumble their home again. Alert, they peer outside a window, seeking to find the disturbance. As the shadowy silhouette of an old foe apporaches, they learn that the source is no other than… a costumed King Dedede?!

The duo’s jaws drop.

As King Dedede laughs histeracly at his prank victims, an even larger figure, who the costume is based on, appears behind Dedede, slapping him off-screen. The figure is none other than King K. Rool, to which Donkey Kong and Diddy King’s eyes pop out of their heads, breaking the window. King K. Rool looks down on the pair, puffing air from his snout, before erupting into a roar.

From there, a gameplay montage ensues. For his Attacks, King K. Rool seems to use a blunderbus with his Nuetral Special attack, shooting a cannonball out while sucking in enemies with a second button press, a beely flop as a forward smash attack, a makeshift jetpack that uses a propellor for the up special, a vicious back-breaking grab, a counter move (likely down special,) in which he expands his stomach to hurt attackers, a powerful jab with a bixing glove (regular attack?) And a crown toss, which is likely to be a side special attack.

As for King K. Rool’s Final Smash, it is activated by a ruuning tackle, and, if it connects, sees the King laughing in his Crocodile Island lair, firing a laser from his stony likeness’ mouth, targeting Donkey Kong Island.

And with the Final Smash, the video seamlessly connects the gameplay with the rest of the reveal’s cinematic. Donkey Kong and Diddy King are seen flying back due to the laser’s impact, skidding against the ground, then immediately breaking into a run. King K. Rool likewise runs toward Donkey Kong, and the three jump into the air, the backdrop a sunset sky, crossing fists, (a foot in Diddy Kong’s case,) and sending a shockwave throughout the land.

The video fades to the Smash Bros. Logo, and shows a taunting Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong buried underfoot by King K. Rool.

From there, the smash mural gets updated with Simon on the left, Richter on the right, Chrom on the furthest to the right, next to Robin, Dark Samus to the Center Right, and King K. Rool off to the left from the center.

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