Earlier this week, Nintendo held a little hands-on session in Sydney for the Smash community and press. We grabbed a bunch of people from the office to come check it out, and we're back with our thoughts on the game.
The event was pretty straightforward: a bunch of consoles packed into boxes, with Pro Controllers available for four-player matches if people desired. Nintendo staff also rigged up a projector in front of a couch, with four of the new Smash GameCube-style controllers. (Nintendo's lead local rep, however, stressed that existing GameCube controllers will work just fine if you have the dongle.)
The new Smash controller, for reference.
Tegan from Gizmodo and Matty from our sales team - who grew up as a massive Smash nerd - came along to the preview, so I asked them what they thought.
Tegan Jones, Gizmodo: The new Smash felt like a homecoming, particularly with the inclusion of the Gamecube controller. It gave me flashbacks to sleepovers where we would loudly play late into the night. As always, my first choice was Kirby, because why win when you can troll?
I’ve never been particularly good at Smash, but I had a hell of a lot of fun returning to it and once again mashing the buttons in an unwieldy fashion. It’s going to falcon punch you right in the nostalgia.
Matt Leahy, Allure Media: Yeah I did like it – really great feeling. The new controller they are re-releasing of the old one I think is a fantastic move because it feels like the original one in terms of button spring, position and majorly how the C-stick reacts for smash moves.
The biggest let down [on the old GameCube controllers] was how the spring of the buttons and the C stick is on those old 3rd party ones. So it was great Nintendo kept to all the old mechanics (feeling at least) for a new controller.
Regarding the game's mechanics: Taking away Sheiks chain upsets me but I knew there was a lot of shitty moves around there. I’m personally not a fan of the stages that just “fly around heaps” with so much happening in the background, it really wrecks my focus on the players.
I’d like to see a few more chilled out levels, much like the Splatoon Level. That was great. The Breath of the Wild stage exploded. Stuff like that is interesting and engaging without being over the top, spinning me out!
Alex Walker, Kotaku Australia: I didn't grow up with a GameCube, so I found it pretty difficult starting on the Pro Controller and then switching over to the GameCube pad.
But let's talk about the build quality of the pad for a second. Unlike the Pro Controller, it doesn't have of that texturing on the sides where your hands grip the controller. It's a hard plastic the whole way over, mirroring the original pad.
As you'd expect, there's only two triggers. So you could feasibly use the Smash pad with other games, provided they don't use all the triggers and bumpers. Nintendo staff also confirmed you can use the Smash pad to launch the game from the Switch menu as well.
I'm more accustomed to the Pro Controller though, so that'll be my pad of choice. As for the game itself, the build available didn't have Simon, Belmont or King K. Rool, but it did have a good variety of stages for people to try. There wasn't the capacity to have morphing levels, mind you.
But it was a good opportunity to just get to grips with everything. Something interesting I heard during the event was that Nintendo were actively sourcing feedback to feed back to the development team, which the community would no doubt have appreciated.
As for the gameplay:
- Bowser's down+B is brutal. It's not going to be a huge factor in competitive play (if at all), because moves like that are a bit too telegraphed to be effective. In the chaos of a four-player battle, however, beware.
- Similarly, Sonic's speed - coupled with the faster speed of Smash Ultimate in general - might be a bit too fast. It's great fun to constantly roll back and forth through a crowd, as well as staying out of the fray when you need, and we saw during E3 that the hitbox on Sonic's spring can also be a nightmare for opponents trying to recover off the ledge.
- Some of the new mechanics, like glide tossing and perfect shield, didn't get much use. It wasn't a competitive event, and most of the crowd (myself included) played Smash at parties or casually. Nintendo did confirm that they offered invites to the Smash preview to the FGC, however, letting the community run tournaments to choose who got to have an early hands-on, which was nice.
- Characters do less damage in group battles than they do in 1v1, which we were able to see a little of as the event wore on. I don't have any specifics
- The Breath of the Wild stage, as Matty mentioned above, blows up and reforms mid-fight. It's a great effect and it's a blast of a stage to play on.
- You can cancel out of dashes with any normal, which is super handy if you're just trying to get away from multiple projectile attacks or looking for a way to re-engage in a group fight.
Put simply: everyone's looking forward to more Smash. I'm loving the faster speed overall, and can't wait to get a weekend or two with the game just to iron out some of the characters further. We'll probably hear more about the game after the public gets hands on at Gamescom next week - which should also be a fresher build - and closer to Smash's release on December 7.