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Smash Bros. Ultimate confirms final features—and new fighters through 2020

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Enlarge / The enemy within: Smash Bros. Ultimate's single-player mode will force you to defeat an evil that has invaded all of your favorite series characters.Nintendo

A 40-minute Nintendo Direct presentation has wrapped a bow on December's massive Switch game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, by revealing more characters, plans for DLC through 2020, and long-awaited details on the game's local and online modes.

We should get the bad news out of the way first—Nintendo only had two truly new characters to unveil on Thursday. Incineroar, from Pokemon's Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon games, arrives as a melee-focused "luchador" type of fighter. His quick moves and heavy grapples look like an interesting alternative to the likes of classic melee character Captain Falcon.

This creature is joined by the Street Fighter series' Ken, who will appear as an "echo" combatant alongside Street Fighter's Ryu—meaning, they share nearly identical move sets but have slight differences in speed, power, and animations.

  • 74 characters will ship on the game's cartridge. But, sure enough, there are more to come.
  • Five of them will ship in a $25 DLC bundle, which can be purchased for $6 separately.
  • One wild new character, Piranha Plant, will unlock for free in "early 2019" should you purchase the game by January 31.
  • Yes, it's a hopping green pipe with an attacking piranha plant inside.
  • This character isn't complete yet, so we didn't get as full of a special-attacks breakdown for this one.
  • Street Fighter's Ken is one of the last two characters shipping on the final cartridge version in December.
  • Ken is an "echo fighter" variant of Ryu—meaning, they have nearly identical moves, but with slight differences.
  • For example, Ken's spinning kick attack can rack up multiple hits; Ryu's cannot.
  • The other final character announced today is Pokemon's Incineroar.
  • Every successful Incineroar attack ends with a pose—which, thankfully, can be canceled out of.
  • His up-B attack is an upward dash that concludes with a downward dash—so it'll let you recover, but if you aim it wrong, you'll launch off the level.
  • The downward dash of this attack.
  • Mid-air lariat.
  • Grab an opponent and throw them into the ropes. (Ropes are automatically created when you grab.)
  • When your foe bounces back at you, your button timing determines what kind of reaction attack you pull off.
  • Basic mid-air kick. That's some luchador stuff.

After those characters were revealed, Nintendo boldly declared, "that's all the fighters you'll find in the game." But the videos "and one more thing" twist clarified that statement—that this announced roster, up to a whopping 74 characters, is what's shipping on the game's cartridge. The roster will still grow via free and paid DLC in the year-plus span following the game's launch. One character, Piranha Plant, was announced as a freebie for anyone who buys the game by January 31, and it appears set to arrive by February 2019—which is when its associated Amiibo toy launches in stores. Footage of the new Piranha Plant character was limited, but its bounciness and stretchy attacks certainly look unique, inspired, and fun.

The paid DLC will cost $6 per new character, or $25 to purchase all five in a combined pass; each will come with a custom battle arena and a few songs. If that cost sounds steep to you, Nintendo doesn't have a lot of comfort to offer, telling fans, "only those confident in its contents should purchase [the pass]." At the very least, Game Director Masahiro Sakurai confirmed that all of these characters will be bona-fide new characters, as opposed to "echo" copies of existing combatants.

The video included a lengthy pause and series of blinks from Sakurai upon this DLC announcement. "I wonder if I'll ever get to take a break," he added.

  • We only got a brief peek at the new "World of Light" adventure mode, which has players wander across a 2D world in search of battles.
  • Another section of the adventure mode's map.
  • This mode begins with every Smash mascot being absorbed in a flashy cut scene by a Thanos-like world-destroying event.
  • Let's unlock Mario's soul.
  • This mode appears to revolve around saving mascots' souls.
  • But this adventure mode is joined by a new "Spirits" mode, in which players unlock and use "helper" characters to enhance their own powers.
  • This mode appears to replace the collectible "trophies" in older games.
  • How much will all these upgrades impact the fun and balance of the core game? It's hard to say.
  • Unlocking new "spirits" looks a lot like battling in the game's adventure mode.
  • Claim more spirits via a bounty board.
  • Ugh, we have to feed these things, too?
  • The longer the video went on…
  • …the less we understood what was going on.
  • This is one Nintendo image.
  • Spirits, spirits, spirits.

When you start playing the game, however, the roster only includes eight combatants—just like with the original N64 version—and game director Masahiro Sakurai didn't clarify how the game's dozens of other characters unlock for general play. The biggest hint came at the presentation's conclusion with the unveil of a single-player mode, dubbed World of Light. This mode sees players move around levels in a bird's-eye view, like something out of a '90s RPG, before battling CPU opponents in amped-up, challenging twists (much like the "Subspace Emissary" mode of old).

A similar challenge-twist battle mode, dubbed Spirits, was also unveiled, though this isn't a linear adventure mode. Instead, this turns the series' collectible "trophies" of old, which were always merely cosmetic, into equippable "gems" that change and bolster your characters' stats. This unveil, quite frankly, was confusing even after watching the video presentation a second time, as these unlockable Spirits function like stickers, have wildly different effects on character stats, and can be permanently destroyed, upgraded, and traded around.

These Spirit boosts and tweaks can be taken into some of the game's online modes, but the default online modes appear to ignore these Spirits entirely. (Considering how balance-breaking these kinds of upgrades can be in fighting games, we're glad for that.) Most of the game's online features should look familiar to anyone who played Smash Bros. for Wii U, but we'll still see a few big new features. Most notably, a global-ranking system will determine eligibility for an "elite" matchmaking queue, while the Nintendo Switch Online service will let friends turn on voice chat via their smartphones when playing custom friend-matched battles. (You'll have to settle on pre-written messages when playing against matchmade strangers.)

The rest of the video, embedded below, includes descriptions of a few single-player "wave" combat modes, additional "assist trophy" announcements (including a Virtua Fighter character!), and—unsurprisingly—a slew of Amiibo toys coming out through next year.

Smash Bros Direct, November 1.

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