Classic mode takes things back to basics stripping out spirits and pushing your fighters through a gauntlet of eight challenges which includes a bonus stage and concluding boss battle. Each respective classic mode is themed around your selected fighter with us playing against 80s gaming mascots such as Pacman and using Pokeballs and Masterballs as the main spawnable items when taking Pikachu's path. We admired these subtle deviations but we found the mode lost steam during the latter half as we were pushed through the same basic collectathon challenge mode and lost track of the times we fought Master Hand. That being said, it has one of the greatest credits sequences we've seen in a game as it saw us dashing through space and blasting the devs names into a bunch of fiery particles.
Online and local multiplayer modes, of course, remain as chaotic as ever. You can fight with up to eight players at once and create your own custom matches tweaking aspects such as spawnable items, stage transitions, and damage counters. There's even GameCube controller support allowing you to relive the title's former glory days on the lunch box-shaped console. On top of standard battles there's the tournament mode that can have up to 32 participants and Squad Strike where your teammates can take turns joining the fight and jumping into battle.
While much has stayed the same, there have also been changes across the board even when excluding the addition of spirits. Upon booting up the game players now only have eight playable fighters to select between with the rest being unlockable when sinking time into the various different modes. We get that this was perhaps not to overwhelm players and let them get to grips with the more straightforward characters but we can see why it may be disappointing for casuals looking for some multiplayer fun right out of the box. A welcomed change is that you now select your stage before your character which can help you make a more informed choice when it comes to your fighter (unless you have the stage set to random, of course).
The hybrid nature of the Switch made Ultimate feel like a true combination of the divided Wii U and 3DS versions we got during the last generation. We played a fair amount of battles across handheld and docked mode and don't notice any major performance issues but we didn't find that the more chaotic battles were harder to focus on the smaller screen. The Pro Controller felt much nicer in hand when pulling tougher strings of button combos but even the single Joy-Cons were a perfectly serviceable option as one Nintendo employee proved to us in the review session as he proceeded to wipe the floor with a group of players using the seemingly less intuitive method of control.
Ultimate lives up to its name - it's the definitive Smash experience. It also helps to solidify what was a fairly limited first-party line-up for Nintendo following the launch of heavy hitters Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild in 2017. It brings together more than 100 stages and all of the fighters as well as introducing an all-new RPG-like spirit system that helps expand customisation tenfold and provides a satisfying fix that we are sure completionists won't be able to get enough of. Its Classic mode does have some slight flaws and we would have preferred that more fighters were able upfront, but these minors flaws don't stop Ultimate back from being a title we can see ourselves returning to for years and years to come.