Nintendo announced today that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is getting a wild, weird new system called Spirits. Players will be able to assign spirits—cameo characters from other games—to their Smash fighters that will help buff them in battle. Its mechanics are a lot to take in and it’s easy to imagine that, like Smash’s trophy system, a lot of players will take it or leave it after the game comes out on December 7.
“Fighters can join forces with spirits to enhance their powers,” Smash director Masahiro Sakurai explained in today’s Smash direct. “The Spirits system lets you simulate battles between characters from more series than ever before.”
Players can earn spirits like Dry Bowser or Silver the Hedgehog by selecting them from a bounty board and trying to win them in battle. These battles won’t be against the spirits; they’ll be against some related Smash fighter in a situation designed to reflect the ethos of the spirit you’re winning. For example, to win Owain from Fire Emblem, players will first need to fight Chrom from Fire Emblem. Or to win Mario’s Lakitu and Spiny, players will need to face off against Iggy Koopa and three small, red Bowsers. To actually get the spirit, on another screen, players must breach a circling shield around the fighter they beat—that’s Bowser in the Lakitu and Spiny example—with a gun at the exact right time:
Players can trade in earned spirits they have for a “core” that lets them summon new spirits, which feels a little like a gacha game.
Spirits have four tiers of power: novice, advanced, ace and legend. They’ll augment fighters’ abilities depending on their stats. Each has a type, too, that falls into the category of “attack,” “grab” and “shield,” which, in a rock, paper, scissors fashion, are strong and weak against one type. One more category: primary spirits and support spirits, the latter of which players can assign to primary spirits to give them abilities like “strong throw” and “autoheal.”
“Mixing and matching spirits will help players get the upper hand against certain opponents, adding quite a bit of strategy to battles,” Nintendo said in its press release. “Equipping a spirit is similar to equipping a charm or accessory in an RPG.”
Spirits level up through battling, eating snacks or going into a training mode. Some have “enhanced forms,” a sort of Pokemon-like evolution. They have power levels in their fighter type, so, for example, ST Falcon may be a 1055 power in the “attack” category. Stronger primary spirits will help buff fighters more. To buff Amiibo figure players, spirits can be fed to them, which will make the spirits disappear. And, for some reason, players can send spirits out into the world to collect treasure—although it’s unclear exactly what the treasure does.
Smash Ultimate won’t have trophies in the traditional sense, although there will still be an assist trophy system. Sakurai framed the Spirits system as something that exists in its stead. And like the trophy system, I expect that I won’t be engaging with this odd and complicated Spirits system much and will spend most of my Smash time enjoying its basic multiplayer mode—but players excited to collect the huge breadth of Nintendo cameos will likely enjoy seeing all these little guys, you know, doing whatever they’re doing.