Pubmaster Burkey does his best to ensure everyone is here

Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Super Smash Bros Ultimate (2018)

It’s quite the event on the social calendar, you know, and I take great pride in organising it every year, or at least on the years when people can be bothered with it. It quickly becomes front-page news, with everyone talking about it, and I’m ashamed to say some lewd scenes and paparazzi photographs have made it to the back pages on occasion.

Everyone is welcome, but if you haven’t got the stamina for it then you’ll find yourself left behind in an instant. Make it to the end though, and you can take great pride in the fact that there are not many who’ve achieved what you just have. I’m talking, of course, about the 12 Pubs of Christmas.

Why, what did you think I meant? A marathon, a tough mudder, scaling Everest? Puh-lease, that’s for show offs. The 12 Pubs is where serious work gets done, and not every Tom, Dick, or Sir Edmund Hillary can do it. For starters, not everyone can even sign up, because you need to be in a country where drinking is pretty much the only culture. Ah, that’ll be the UK and Ireland then.

Secondly, though you might think of it as a safari for beer-bellies, an excursion for loud drunken louts, you must remember that there’s an awful lot of walking between each pub. That said, Pubmasters such as myself try to keep the logistics to a handy minimum. After all, time is tight – you’ve got to start in and around 6PM, when the Angelus would normally be calling us to prayer.

You’re talking about 12 pubs in 6 hours, or 30 mins per pub if you’re useful at division. You need a bit of time in the middle for a food pit-stop to keep any laggers going – it may very well be the nicest McDonald’s any of my acolytes have ever had. And finally, you don’t become safe after the 12th pub, because you’ve obviously got to while away the rest of the night in a club, which actually makes it a thirteen venue affair. Unlucky for some? Well, the weak can always bottle out and rush home in tears. Or chunder all over the public pavement, whichever surrender method suits them.

I assure you I’m not a massive control freak when it comes to these night outs designed for people 10 years my junior. It doesn’t have to be me, I’m graceful enough to attend Christmas pub crawls organised by others. I even had to completely miss out on one a number of years ago, although in this case I had a perfectly good reason: my best mate had gotten Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and we whiled away what must have been a dozen hours, an hour for every pub (minus the club and the Subway) tackling all it had to offer.

God, we were mesmerised, and my pal doesn’t go nearly as wild for Smash Bros as I do. Which, considering all I’ve written about Smash Bros up to this point, you can probably believe. It’s a hell of a game that makes you turn down one of the funnest nights of the year, but Smash Bros Ultimate managed exactly that.

Anyway, I was in fine company – not just with a pal (because you can forget about the online, though we’ll get onto that in a minute) but the fact that this game, in what would seem to be a denouement for the entire series, brought together each and every single Smash Bros character who had ever been playable.

Yes, it mightn’t make much sense to have Link alongside Young LInk alongside Toon LInk, nor did anyone really want all 900 Fire Emblem characters together. And having Pichu playable has never, ever been a selling point anywhere in recorded history. But, oh, what the hell, why not have them all?

It’s not just characters of course – you’ve got over a thousand songs in the game now, especially if you grab all of the DLC. And I hate the idea of downloadable content, but here it’s definitely worth it. After all, why wouldn’t you want to play Smash Bros as Banjo and Kazooie, for heaven’s sake? Never mind just having Mario vs Sonic, here it can be Cloud holding a Super Scope, fighting Ryu with the grim reaper’s sickle and the Duck Hunt Dog having just ingested a spicy curry.

What a wild game, and it gets even wilder in the 1-player mode – not really as great as Melee’s admittedly limited Adventure Mode, and not many story scenes like the sometimes maligned Brawl’s Subspace Emissary had. But the amount of effort that went into all of the Spirit battles, battles designed to evoke the image and feeling of whatever Spirit they represent, was insane. I’m sad that Trophies had to make way, but how can I complain? There’s still a Home Run Contest, a Shop, over 100 stages, over 1500 Spirits, a Stage Builder, and Online Mode.

Well, can Online Mode really be considered a selling point on a Nintendo machine? During one of the Nintendo Directs, Sakurai-san advised the use of an official wired LAN device to ensure the best possible connection, and that’s when I knew that Smash Ultimate’s online play was finished. Of course, it was finished anyway, being a Nintendo game. But now it was finished finished.

They also tried to hit us with this wetty plea to have our connection as untroubled and free as possible to reduce lag for other players, and make it as nice and flowery and awesome an experience as possible you guyyyys.You’re joking, aren’t you? Why give concessions to the enemy so easily? Sun Tzu would set you on fire right there in your gaming chair if you gave your opponent the smoothest, easiest battlefield possible.

It’s like when you have a football club, and they make sure to cut the grass nice and short and neat because Man City or Barcelona or Paris St. Germain or some other bourgeois club are in town and you’re dying to impress them. Then they stuff you four-nil and, like a simpering fool, you’re there applauding their great play and you hope your ‘respect’ for the opposition is noticed.

Shudder or what? No, give them nothing. No quarter, no comfort, nothing. Keep the grass long, cut the pitch up, make it as bobbly as possible. Rattle them, disrupt them. Do the same on Smash Ultimate – instruct your cat to sit on the router, or use your next-door neighbours open connection, play your Switch undocked underneath a lead and asbestos roof, whatever objectionable methods you can think of.

When I see myself going up against a Ness or a Lucas online, I immediately leap towards my laptop and resume downloading a load of massive torrents. The ensuing match goes at a slideshow speed, not fun to play, but at least I get the win. And that’s all that matters. Meanwhile, Ness and Lucas can’t get a recovery together, and end up falling lamely off the side, and you end up feeling great.

Sounds wonderful, right? And when you do get a lag-free match, or simply just an offline match, you’ll find the speed, play control and feel to be just right. Purists will still prefer Melee of course, but you can’t keep looking back, can you? In any case, all great things comes to their ultimate conclusion eventually, and so after a post-launch and DLC period lasting almost three years, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate really can be called the finished article.

But it is more than that. This is the best Smash has gotten, the ultimate celebration of the series and of gaming in general. I’d say Mr. Sakurai, as well as the hundreds of people responsible for Super Smash Bros Ultimate, from programmers to composers to artists, I’d say they deserve a drink or 12, wouldn’t you?

24 December 2021

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