10:30 am EST, November 7, 2018

The good, the ‘Brawl,’ and the ugly of the ‘Smash Ultimate’ online features

As the Smash Ultimate online features were detailed in the latest Nintendo Direct, we all collectively sighed, as Nintendo took two steps forward, but one step back.

The Smash 4 online experience was in desperate need of a complete overhaul, and get an overhaul it did. The Smash Ultimate online lobbies will be nothing like the previous iterations, which at times is actually a bad thing. Here are the best and worst features of Nintendo’s upcoming online-heavy brawler.

The good

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Matchmaking. Matchmaking, matchmaking, matchmaking. This has been a highly requested feature for the Smash Bros. series for some time now. After all, what’s the purpose of ranking higher in your Global Smash Power (GSP) if it doesn’t actually get you anything at the end of the day?

Gone will be the days of playing against players of beginner skill, as it will be mostly impossible to be matched up with someone of much lower skill than yourself. That is, after you prove your worth in some matches at the get-go.

Your GSP will also help calculate a really important feature for the Smash Ultimate online experience: Elite matches. Elite matches are only accessible to the best of the best, and will be like an advanced version of Smash Hell, sans the spam. The better players in Smash Ultimate will wind up in this segment of lobbies, and it will apparently be watched by the game’s dev team to help decide what balances and tweaks need to be made in future patches.

Honestly, if it all ended there, Smash Ultimate online matches would be a dream come true. However…

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The ‘Brawl’

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It seems like you won’t be able to report other players in-game, rather only in the Nintendo Switch Online app, as in games like Splatoon 2. The Wild, Wild West that we’ve all been craving since Brawl‘s days are likely back, bringing a new level of chaos into the mix. There will be voice chat in the Switch Online app with anyone in your public lobbies, but you can always close those off to just friends only.

You can still get banned from playing on the general servers for some time, it seems, but only through things such as killing yourself too many times in succession. It’s probably safe to assume this will also happen to players who are grieving, or targeting a certain player too intensely through multiple matches, and for those that are stalling for a good amount of time.

There will be a plethora of item, stage, and battle-type choices to make, similar to how ‘Brawl’ pitted players against each other. This time around, Smash Ultimate online battles will have players vote on what conditions they prefer, thus allowing the servers to match players with like-minded opponents, to the best of its ability. Geographical location will also have some to do with how players are pitted against each other. All of this is either a good or a bad thing, depending on your playstyle and thirst for chaos.

While there was no answer as to what connection speed will be required to play Smash Ultimate online, there was reference to a LAN cable being the preferred means of playing against players.

The ugly

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For Fun and For Glory were completely axed, which is a big shame. With all of the other amazing improvements in the matchmaking and ranking systems, Nintendo looked us right in the eye as they announced that they were getting rid of arguably the only good part of Smash 4 online lobbies.

When the online matchmaking was described, it was said that players would be matched with like-minded players to the best of the game’s ability. This means that you could end up in many, many matches that you do not want to be in, as you selected something such as “no items” or “Battlefield only,” but there weren’t enough players that wanted the same conditions as you in your local area.

Of course, the private lobbies are a good answer to this, as you can set the rules that you want for your own lobby, but that’s an extra step that should not have happened. What’s the point of removing such clear and decisive organization tools such as For Fun and For Glory?

It’s my hope that the private lobbies will be relatively simple to make, and that there will be enough players with similar condition interests as myself so as to have them find my lobby quickly. It will be a bit of a game of chicken, as there is an intimacy in having players pick and choose what strangers they want in their room. If the lobby maker wants to kick someone out that doesn’t deserve to be, they likely can. This was impossible in the Smash 4 always-public lobbies, and will definitely be a big adjustment.

Smash Ultimate releases for the Nintendo Switch on December 7, 2018.

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