Over the years we’ve seen many great crossover fighting games. Marvel vs Capcom, King of Fighters, but few challenge the success of Super Smash Bros. The unlikely Nintendo crossover fighting game finds a lot of success in being deceptively simple and rewarding players skill in both pushing others to their demise or by simply avoiding their own. Despite Nintendo’s success, most attempts to copy it failed for one reason or another. PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale had bad mechanics, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is half baked, several anime games lacking depth, with the only one I’ve played that came close to hitting the mark was Jump Ultimate Stars. When Warner Bros. announced MultiVersus there was fear of them missing the mark, but also hope because there was a surprising amount of love and attention. Now that we’ve had a chance to experience the latest closed alpha, we wanted to share our first impression of the upcoming free-to-play brawler.
Before stepping into a match, players are offered a chance to unlock Wonder Woman by completing the initial tutorial. Almost immediately the similarities between this and Smash are apparent. Not only are inputs largely the same, along with charged attacks and blocks, the core mechanics are as well. This will likely make it familiar to long standing fans or simply offer the same accessibility to newcomers.
MultiVersus features two key differences that help it stand out. The first is how the main mode, teams, is set up. Instead of picking whomever you like, players are given incentives to synergize with their partner. This plays into every character having a role, such as assassin, bruiser, tank and so forth, along with buffs/debuffs. Where things further increase is through perks, which enhance how you and others play. Both players using the same perks increases their power, with signature perks enhancing various aspects. It makes for a fun concept, one that can get pretty deep with enough skill or a neat extra for those just looking to fight.
Another massive positive is character diversity. A lot of the initial characters are what I’d describe as being safe. Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Finn, Arya, Garnet and Harley Quinn all fit into a fighting game without much effort. Bugs, Jake, Taz and Tom and Jerry are also close enough where they’re also safe, but a little quirky. This leaves Shaggy, Steven and Velma, all whom suggest a positive direction for the upcoming title.
While Shaggy also fights like a quirky but safe fighter, embracing the Ultra Instinct Shaggy memes allows for a bit of fun on both sides. Steven, who is honestly not much of a fighter in Steven Universe, falls under support and is true to that distinction. The best Stevens know when to shield their partner, blocking attacks or hindering others. Finally, Velma could be a rather generic fighter, though MultiVersus went the Phoenix Wright direction with her. Sound bubbles of her various catchphrases, the iconic Scooby Doo run and a clue mechanic shows they’re willing to think outside of the box to bring a wider variety of characters to the world.
Along with showing love towards the various IPs, the current Battle Pass gives an idea of what ideas they will have going forward. Some of these are pretty strong, like Jake gets Cake as an alternate costume, there are some fun taunts that feature either amusing actions or iconic scenes, with my favorite being ringout VFX.
In addition to getting the credit for beating someone, every ringout is accompanied by an animation. Players can select this animation, with the initial ones being a generic icon or the House banners Targaryen, Stark or Lannister. Each have a brief animation to go with it, but what I love is the willingness to have fun with it. One of the first unlockables on the pass is the iconic That’s All Folks featuring Porky, with some of the later ones being really out there. There is one of Spike biting the air, Shazam! or perhaps the most interesting, Space Kook appearing out of some mist.
While a lot of things can change between now and release, the amount of love and effort that has gone into MultiVersus leaves us hopeful. With a good number of notable characters either confirmed, rumored or desired, along with a near endless source of banners, alternate costumes or amusing ringout animations, this could really be a hit. Especially if the free-to-play elements are handled just right.