Super Smash Bros. Ultimate isn’t a game that lives or dies by its online features — but if it were, it would be dead in the water, according to many players. Days after launch, players say their premium Nintendo Switch Online subscriptions are totally wasted on the new Smash Bros., because playing online simply does not work.
The problems are myriad — so let’s start with lag. There are few things as frustrating as a laggy fighting game, and players report serious issues with connection and input lag. If just one player suffers from a poor wireless connection, it can bring the entire match down. We’ve run into that here at Polygon, and it’s one of the Smash community’s most commonly cited issues.
Queuing up for an online round with a random player is just as miserable for large swaths of people. It’s made more so by how these modes work: Players can choose which rules they prefer to play with when entering quickplay, but good luck getting the game to honor that. The community’s new joke is that players looking for one-on-one battles with no items are more likely to end up in four-person matches full of the most chaotic items possible. That’s literally the opposite of what these people want.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate really is something special, man.— Leffen (@TSM_Leffen) December 9, 2018
In what other game can you have a 4 man match where Cloud, Joker, Mario and Sonic face off, with pokeballs and assist trophies going off left and right, despite those 4 players all searched for 1v1 no items.
The other matchmaking option is battle arenas, which allow you to invite as few as one other person to fight with you under predefined rulesets. But that still takes time for the game to set up, and if you want to get your friends involved, you’ll need to let them know you have an arena open.
Worst of all, there’s no way for two local players to fight against online friends — in either online mode. Nintendo stealth-edited its support page to make it clear that cooperative play only works in quickplay, a belated and disappointing note.
And again, this all depends on whether or not you can get your wireless connection to hold up at all. While Polygon staff has had a lot of success playing online with friends and strangers, we’ve also run into connection errors, depending on the strength of our wireless networks.
For what it’s worth, director Masahiro Sakurai pointedly recommended buying an Ethernet adapter for the Switch and using a wired connection to play Smash online. That’s an extra $29.99 expense, though; considering that Nintendo Switch Online costs $19.99 annually, this is the first major game that requires it, and a lot of the issues don’t even depend on your internet connection, there’s reason to argue against its value.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is still an excellent game when played offline or over a local wireless connection. But the online situation is, for some players, a huge misfire thus far. It’s discouraging enough that competitive Smash Bros. players have even weighed in, including Leffen, an Evo stalwart.
“[Super Smash Bros. Ultimate] has perhaps the worst online matchmaking/netcode of any AAA game — for its time — ever,” he tweeted.
“I like the game a lot but that just makes this so much worse.”