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Smash Bros. Ultimate fans are finding coping strategies for its character unlock system

Some Smash Bros. players want to experience the game two different ways


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s scale is both a blessing a curse, especially since players have to unlock characters and levels before they can be used in battle. That’s not rare for fighting games, but the amount of unlockable content in Ultimate is staggering: only eight of the 74 characters are available when you begin playing.

This issue could have been mitigated by a game mode that allows the use of all the characters and levels as long as you stick to playing with other human beings in local matches — an option that would also have helped tournament organizers — but Nintendo didn’t include that option at launch. That we’re aware of, at least.

This indicates that Nintendo has strong feelings about how players are meant to experience the game, and that experience includes a trickle of characters that are unlocked at a particular pace.

But player reaction to the unlock system shows that some fans want to try all the characters right away ... while also enjoying Nintendo’s sense of pacing. And they’re coming up with a strategy to have it both ways.

How to grind through the unlocks

There is already a method for speeding up the rate at which you unlock characters, and you can read our guide right here if you want to hit the ground running. I’m one of those players who wants to get as many characters as quickly as possible so I can spar with my friends.

A comment on the guide took me by surprise, however.

“Could you all just not, well, play the game as intended?” a reader asked. Others on Reddit shared the same thought, and there is an interesting workaround so you can have it both ways.

“For those who want to take the time and enjoy progressing through the characters, but want to have friends over and stuff like that, you can create another account, and unlock everyone fast on that account, while taking it slow on your main account,” one fan posted. “Credit to u/cockyjames for the idea.”

This isn’t an isolated thing; many fans are posing about their fond memories of unlocking characters by playing normally.

“I distinctly remember my first time getting the ‘a new foe has appeared!’ screen when playing Melee with my brother, and both of us freaking out as he had to fight some blue haired dude with a sword,” one player wrote.

“It was really fun back in Melee time, and it made it actually worth something to win the game,” another explained. “Nerve racking playing against this foreign character, knowing you CANT lose and let your friends down.”

The question is whether having the option to play as any character from the start would mean modern Smash fans would miss out on these experiences. But, as we’re seeing, players are willing to go to seemingly silly lengths — including two different save files on two different accounts — to be able to access characters as quickly as possible while also enjoying the fun that comes with slowly unlocking characters. Nintendo may not have had to protect that experience, since players seem willing to protect it for themselves.

Both facts are true: A timed unlocking system for this many characters is antiquated, but there’s pleasure to be had in delayed gratification. An option to play with everything unlocked locally would have removed the need for some players to grind through the exploit, and it would also mean that tournament organizers wouldn’t have to worry about spending time unlocking everything on official equipment.

Arms, for instance, includes a “hidden” option to unlock all the characters for competitive play. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate needs something similar, and it wouldn’t be surprising if something along those lines was patched into the game (or discovered) in the near future.

Giving people the option of how they want to play is never a bad thing, especially when so many happily ignore it.

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