In October 2017, Goku, the main character of Dragon Ball, achieved a form called Ultra Instinct. The ability allowed him to dodge basically any attack. He looked great. In the weeks following the reveal, fans created memes of characters from other franchises edited to make it look like they were activating Ultra Instinct. Early entries included some fun antics like Tobey McGuire’s Spider-Man, esports player Faker, and Scooby-Doo’s Shaggy.
While Ultra Instinct Shaggy was a meme to some, MultiVersus took it as a call to action. Warner Bros’ new smash platformer MultiVersus treats Shaggy’s Dragon Ball-inspired transformation as a core part of his character. It’s heartwarming to know that the developers are seeing the same memes as the fans. Somehow that became the basis for an entire video game.
With MultiVersus, licenses are valued above all else. The characters are pets first and fighting game characters second. Hell, how did Lebron James get into the game? He is a real life human being! Part of Super Smash Bros.’ the allure is how integrated universes feel. In Smash Bros, Ryu from Street Fighter produces stronger attacks when you perform joystick maneuvers, just like he does in his own game. There are plenty of examples like that – you can even run a loop on Sonic’s Green Hill Zone! Smash is like playing with a toy box, while MultiVersus is more of an FYC Emmy campaign than a game.
But it’s not just the characters that are missing; the stages are bare. They are full of minimal decorations and are laid out pretty much the same way with one or two platforms. Scooby-Doo gets a generic haunted house with some framed photos of previous villains and the Batcave includes a large computer, memorabilia, and two Batmobiles. That is all. There are so many things you could do with either slot, but in MultiVersus, you might as well be running on an empty box.
Despite all of this, skins and announcer packs are awesome customizations that should instantly spark joy. It’s amazing to hear Kevin Conroy’s Batman say things like “Match Point” or fight as Jake from Adventure Time’s female counterpart, Cake, as a skin – Cake’s skin even includes an entirely new voice track. While these are palpably nice additions, they’re hidden behind paywalls.
At the end of the day, MultiVersus feels like a Twitter brand: a game created by someone who captures the general vibe of each franchise involved without necessarily enjoying any of them. And when it inches to allow for enjoyment, the game immediately puts that joy behind a paywall.
If you want cool stuff, you need Gleemium, MultiVersus’ premium currency to buy the most thoughtful stuff in the game. Gleemium can’t be earned by enjoying fights with your kids or logging fast hours of gameplay; you need to buy it with real cold cash. Sounds like “premium”, but I guess… with more gloss, whatever that means.
MultiVersus lures you in with the promise of being a weird but polished fighting game. Somehow the entire Warner Bros. catalog is available. Even characters from Warner Bros.-produced shows like Ted Lasso could join. Heck, maybe even Larry David! It is funny. You can easily share a MultiVersus screenshot with a caption like “how is this possible?” which is ultimately half the battle for a game like this.
But while the rarity might get you in the door, once you get there, the game feels like it’s doing everything it can to get the last dollar out of your wallet. First with Nickelodeon’s All-Star Brawl, and now with MultiVersus, video game developers (er, really more like media conglomerates) are learning in real time that the appeal of Smash Bros has always been that the game is actually fun to play. .