The past month has been a whirlwind of activity for me, parts of which have been me snatching time to play the new Super Smash Bros. Over the years, the series has been a lot of different things to different people. That has changed, even for me. Smash used to be a party game, something to play in groups with my friends and not take too seriously.
Now, it’s become more of a single player experience for me, something the previous iteration of the game never really catered to. Smash Ultimate on the other hand feels like a game that provides a lot to the lone player such as myself who doesn’t care about playing online. Most of that comes through in the game’s adventure mode: World of Light.
The spirit mode is an amazing concept, one that really does cast a huge net, one that captures even more of video game history than I could have ever imagined, even from a game that advertised the fact that “everybody is here”.
Since playing Melee, way back in the day, there was this big metaphor that Smash was a toy box. Trophies of the characters being stand in for models or action figures. The spirit mode takes this idea one step further and impressed me right away in filling the huge map with characters from franchises from Metal Gear to Bomber Man to Sonic the Hedgehog.
Part of the fun of the mode is how the game represents characters from all of these different franchises by piecing together different characters, items and stages together. They manage to represent the likes of Rabbid Mario by putting a bunny hood on Mario and giving him a Ray Gun, or the Rock Mario power up by having a metal Jiggypuff that only uses it’s rollout move.
Moving from battle to battle was always a joy, I was eager to see which character from video game history would pop up next and how they would decide to represent them through a custom rule set. It was a great experience for the single player, however, more time I invested into this the more I started to notice its shortcomings.
The World is Light is vast, and because it’s so big and casts such a large net, the more I play the more I realise a lot of the game’s deep pulls are lost on me. While there is always going to be someone out there who gets a kick out of the obscure references in the game, at times it feels like it’s kind of being padded out. The map is packed with so many Pokemon and Animal Crossing characters that weren’t exactly hard up for representation.
Not to mention the vast army of generic anime people from Eastern games of niche interest outside of Japan. I’m sure these wide array of characters are clever pulls in their custom battle rule sets, but my lack of knowledge surrounding these characters is compounded by the fact that the game itself obscures information about the characters.
The spirits in this game come at the expense of the trophies of the previous games. And a lot of the spirits simply blurred together for me when I was playing World of Light, something that could have been elevated slightly if they’d put any information about these characters outside of some stats and a battle based around them.
Outside of a name and some reference to the series they come from, there is no information about these characters. The trophies of the old game had names, original franchise, where and when they made their debut and a sort snippet of information about them. This game is so packed with content already, but some small amount of information would have gone a huge distance towards keeping me interested in playing the World of Light, when I’m not struggling between a whole grind of Fire Emblem characters.
The World of Light is amazing, and when it hits, it hits real well. But after a time, it felt like a mindless slog and I wasn’t invested in interacting with the reference of the battle after a certain point. On top of this, some of the gimmicks of the battles come at the expense of the player. The throwing together of mechanics make some of the battle incredibly difficult. Which is probably the point, but at some point, managing to succeed despite the chaos ends up feeling like luck more than skill.
I never ended up finishing World of Light and ended up spending more time with the game’s equally referential Classic mode. And I get more out of that at this point. I will go back to finish World of Light eventually, and I really appreciate what they’ve done with it. But I guess this turns into a classic example of being too much of a good thing.