It’s a funny thing (though not totally unexpected) that the platform fighter is slowly becoming a genre for media corporations to bring their most famed creations together. Super Smash Bros. kicked it off with Nintendo, further extending the image of Super Mario Bros., Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, etc. But later, Nickelodeon All-Stars brought the fight to SpongeBob SquarePants and his cartoon friends. Warner Bros. is cashing in on this corporate platform fighter craze with MultiVersus, giving us some WB characters to fight with. Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Steven Universe, and even Superman are coming together for one big bout. But can it differentiate itself from other games in the growing genre? Well, actually, it distinguishes itself quite well. I was given the chance to preview the world of MultiVersus in a special Closed Alpha. And hey, I’ll be honest, it was pretty fun!
MultiVersus will be fully free to play at launch. It’s going the Pokémon Unite route, with the studio presumably aiming to make a profit off of in-game transactions for skins, characters, and more. (The in-game store was not ready during this Closed Alpha.) While you’ll have a roster of characters already free to experience, future fighters will likely require you to spend some in-game currency. There’s also a Battle Pass feature that’s fully functional in the game, giving you player cards, avatars, and character skins.
But really, how important are skins in a fighting game? MultiVersus is an effortful game with tons of fun characters and interesting platform fighting action. Even this alpha was certainly a step above Nickelodeon All-Stars, of which many will draw comparison. There was lots of good to this Closed Alpha preview and, as a free-to-play game, we can at least expect to see some refinements for MultiVersus down the line.
Bring a friend
MultiVersus focuses on 2v2-player action, with the game constantly encouraging you to bring a friend. Certain characters in the game fill a support role archetype (such as Reindog), with abilities like tethering yourself to an ally to pull them back onto the stage. It’s an interesting approach, and while 2v2 was certainly fun, I’m not sure how competitive the mode will be.
It was chaotic in the gameplay preview, and MultiVersus curiously does not use a life system — though I believe it might work better with all the action. Instead of having lives, you simply need to knock out any of the enemy characters four times. I think taking from a collective life bank would allow for exciting comebacks and 2v1s, but regardless, it’s cool to have a fighting game with co-op play as the defining feature.
Characters can also bring along perks, empowering their attacks or giving buffs to you and your teammate. You can even increase the effects of these buffs by having each player on the team equip the same perk. These perks are level-gated, meaning you’ll need to play the character you want to unlock them on for some time. It’s not a huge deal, and you unlock them fairly quickly, but it’s something to keep in mind.
That being said, I still somewhat prefer the classic 1v1 mode also included in the game. If 1v1 does end up being the core competitive feature of MultiVersus, however, it would be somewhat of a shame. Some characters are clearly designed to be played alongside a partner. It was hard to get a gauge of character balance, but the fighters are at least fun and well designed. Tom and Jerry are a fun projectile-based character duo. The two work in tandem to launch tennis balls and dynamite sticks at the enemy. Meanwhile, Shaggy unleashes his inner Saiyan as he grows increasingly powerful during the course of a fight.
Matthew Lillard, everybody!
Speaking of Shaggy, one of the more appealing features of this game is an all-star voice cast. Most of the characters in the game are voiced by the actors we know and love. Tara Strong is back as Harley Quinn, and John DiMaggio reprises his role as Jake the Dog. Even Maisie Williams returned to voice her Game of Thrones character, Arya Stark. (If Matthew Lillard as Shaggy hasn’t convinced you to give this game a try, I don’t know what will!) While not all voice actors returned to voice their famous roles, developer Player First Games sure rounded up a good cast.
These voice actors all return to voice an impressive roster, representing franchises from Scooby-Doo to Game of Thrones. The latter also opens the door for some live-action representation, which includes stuff like Friends or The Big Bang Theory. I Can’t remember the last time a sitcom character made their way into a fighting game, but there’s a first time for everything.
Platform fighting dominance
I’m not a Super Smash Bros. expert by any means. My only real experience being a brief after school obsession of Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii. From what I can tell, the game works pretty similarly to the game that inspired the genre. Platform fighter veterans shouldn’t have much problem adapting to this game. It’s free to play with cross-play and cross-progression, so anyone can fight anywhere.
I’ve heard nightmarish stories about netcode for platform fighting games as well, but MultiVersus‘ rollback netcode seems to be implemented flawlessly. From the games I’ve played, I haven’t noticed any lag spikes or issues caused by the connection. So far, I’ve only fought against other players in North America, but coast-to-coast connection seems to run exceedingly well. Fighting games live or die by their netcode, so it’s cool to see MultiVersus knocked this area out of the park.
I’ve yet to experience how the connection fares with people overseas, but hopefully, I’ll be able to see similar results. Proper rollback netcode (as is implemented in Guilty Gear Strive) allows me to fight players in a playable connection as far as Japan. Will MultiVersus fare the same?
Overall, my gameplay preview of MultiVersus convinces me it’s on track to be a terrific platform fighting game, if you can get down with the free-to-play format. What’s more impressive is that what was shown is just the Closed Alpha. There’s still so much more to come, and that just leaves the game with tons of room to improve on an already pretty solid product. Now then, where’s Disney’s Smash game?