MultiVersus is a shameless mashup of Space Jam and Smash Bros. — and it works

Let’s get this out of the way: there’s little originality about MultiVersus, an upcoming free-to-play fighting game. It is, quite clearly, designed to resemble Super Smash. Bros., only featuring Warner Bros. characters instead of those from Nintendo and other classic video games. This means that instead of Super Mario getting beat up by Sephiroth, Shaggy and Wonder Woman team up to fight Arya Stark and Bugs Bunny in the Batcave. It’s strange and gross, but also feels right at home in a world of Fortnite, Space Jam, Doctor Strange and Rescue Rangers. As shameless as it may be, after spending some time with the MultiVersus, I’m starting to think it could become a big hit.

Functionally, the core of MultiVersus is identical to Smash. It is a 2D fighter where the goal is to knock your opponents off the level, which you do by dealing a lot of damage; the more your enemy is damaged, the farther he will fly. It is also a game about chaos. Things move so fast that you really have to pay attention to what’s going on, but there’s still a good amount of strategy beyond mashing the buttons. (Although I did win a few matches in the beginning by being a button purist.) I didn’t play enough to really dig into the nuances of the gameplay, but it felt like a surprisingly solid fighter with a good amount of variety to the attacks and characters.

MultiVersus mixes things up a bit by offering three main modes. You can fight one-on-one or in a classic four-player free-for-all, but the most interesting are arguably the team fights. Here, players compete as duos, aiming to get four knockouts to win. It’s especially interesting because among the standard tank and powerhouse characters, MultiVersus also has supporting characters who can help their teammates in battle. I’ve only played with strangers so far, so the matches didn’t have much coordination. But I’m really curious what happens when high-level players start working together. There’s a lot of potential in it.

From what I’ve played, MultiVersus has the core gameplay down, at least good enough for an amateur like me. But the real benefit comes from the fact that it’s both multiplatform and free to play, making it much more accessible than Smash, which has always been limited to Nintendo hardware. Of course, this doesn’t mean that MultiVersus is the better game, but it does have the potential to hit a large audience, just as Fortnite ultimately failed to dwarf the battle royale games that preceded it.

This success will probably come down to things I couldn’t experience in the alpha. MultiVersus has a battle pass and an in-game store, but since I haven’t been able to spend any real money on the game yet, it’s unclear how generous it will be to unlock new content. Likewise, MultiVersus will likely live and die during the character rollout. In the alpha there were 15 characters available, which feels small when you’re used to the more than 80 in Smash Bros. Ultimate. The most important thing is not only rolling out new fighters regularly, but also making that rollout feel like an exciting event, something Smash Bros. mastermind Masahiro Sakurai. has perfected.

As we’ve seen in the past, originality rarely has anything to do with success. And MultiVersus has the potential to open up these types of fighting games to a whole new audience. It’s way too early to say if that’s actually going to happen, of course, but the pieces are there – and the field is wide open given Smash’s uncertain future. You’ll be able to see it for yourself soon enough. While MultiVersus doesn’t have a final release date yet, an open beta will be launched in July. The game is coming to PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

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