Super Smash Bros. is easily among the games that developers have tried to emulate. Only Grand Theft Auto, Halo and Call of Duty strike me as higher up in the list. However, in the growing field of Smash-inspired games, very few have managed to make a tangible effort. Whether its a lack of diversity of franchises in the roster, the misunderstanding of the series’ deft balance of party, platforming and fighting mechanics, a lack of polish, a poor release strategy, or a mixture of all of the above, several Smash “clones” have failed to make an impact.
Needless to say, when WB Games announced MultiVersus, a free-to-play spin on the Smash formula with characters across a variety of franchises, I was skeptical.
I needn’t have been. After having spent several hours hands-on with a closed beta for the game, I am nothing short of thoroughly impressed. What could have easily been a simple, soulless Smash “clone” in a less talented pair of hands is actually a heck of a lot more. From a surprising depth of mechanics to a deep-rooted love of the franchises represented, MultiVersus understands the spirit of what makes Smash work, but incorporates it in a game that is itself distinguished from its Nintendo peer.
Beginning with the art style, MultiVersus has a lovely comic-book style to it. The colours pop, and the characters look like they should, but also like they fit within the world. As much as I adore Smash Brothers, and admit this is part of the appeal, characters like Solid Snake, Mario and Marth can look kinda funny next to each other. With MultiVersus, they have done a good job threading the needle in such a way that Arya Stark, Superman and the Tazmanian devil all look like they could realistically be in the same world. I’d almost equate the style to some of the old Scooby-Doo spinoffs they used to air on TV, where Scooby would meet KISS or the Phantom of the Opera.
This style is furthered but some truly exceptional audio work. The music is great, the sound effects pack a punch and most importantly, a number of the original cast members reprise their roles here. Arya is voiced once again by Maisie Williams, and the current voice of Bugs Bunny, Eric Bauza, reprises his role as the Wascally Wabbit, to just give a few examples. This additional level of polish helps with the overall immersion in the game world and shows that WB is taking this effort very seriously.
The fighting mechanics and gameplay are also rather strong here. Each character has a unique move set that tailors to their specific personality. Velma, for instance, can use quips to stun her foes. The Tasmanian Devil can turn you into a giant roast turkey and eat you. Bugs Bunny has a box full of ACME tricks and can burrow beneath the stage (he plays somewhat like Villager from Smash). Tom and Jerry work as a duo to cause mischief and chase each other… as well as the opponent.
In my case, I opted to “main” Bugs Bunny until I had enough coins to earn Arya, and then opted to play as her. While I have no reverence for Game of Thrones as a franchise (I only recently got an HBO subscription), she played the closest to Marth and Lucina, my two mains in Smash. What I guess I’m trying to say here is that there is truly a character for all playstyles, which is a nice fit.
Matches themselves can be Free for All, 1v1 or 2v2 teams. The latter is recommended by the game, as several fighters have support moves that when used in conjunction with your teammate can help turn the tide of battle. For my playstyle, however, I felt 1v1 fights to be the most exciting, as the moment-to-moment action here works well in the setting. Items do appear in some modes as they do in Smash, and time will tell if further playlists will be added to accommodate more classic-style players.
Throughout this overview, I have mentioned Smash a lot. In fact, it was probably inevitable, but special attention needs to be placed on some of the features that differentiate this game. Firstly, it’s free to play, and the monetization from what I have seen seems quite fair. There is a battle pass system, and characters are unlocked using in-game currency at your leisure. Secondly, the network matchmaking here is far superior to that in Smash, and I was able to have smooth match after smooth match with no sync or latency issues. Finally, and perhaps crucially, this game is multiplatform, meaning everyone will have a chance to play and practice, regardless of the system they own.
All in all, my impressions of MultiVersus are quite positive. While time will tell if this game will be able to find an audience, I certainly feel there is a lot of promise here. The hope is that the game will continue to grow, add new characters, stages and modes and incorporate fan feedback. I am certainly optimistic and am rooting for the game. Because a game where Batman and Bugs Bunny team up to fight Shaggy and Arya Stark is on its own just such a cool concept. Fingers crossed the final MultiVersus product sticks the landing.
Huge thanks go out to Warner Bros Games for giving us access to MultiVersus. The game is coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5 and PC.