MultiVersus bills itself as the ultimate crossover fighter, a kind of “dream come true” scenario where anyone can take on anyone else. It’s a bold proclamation that challenges the reign of Super Smash Bros. Nintendo’s Ultimate, a game that features an unparalleled cast of video game characters competing against each other. Many claimants to this throne have come and gone but, surprisingly, MultiVersus makes a compelling claim. The game, which is in open public beta, has solid fundamentals, charm, and attention to detail that previous Smash clones sorely lacked, making it one of the best platform fighting games ever made.
MultiVersus follows the basic Smash Bros format: up to four players meet on a single battlefield and battle it out, with the goal of increasing the damage enough to knock their opponents out of bounds. The first team to score four knockouts in a match – or the first fighter to score two knockouts in a 1 on 1 match – wins. So far, so Smash. However, MultiVersus places much more emphasis on the 2v2 format, quickly establishing its own identity in the process.
Mechanically, each fighter on the roster has moves that negatively affect opponents, while simultaneously having positive effects on teammates. For example, whenever Shaggy charges to full power — a brilliant use of the Ultra Instinct Shaggy meme — his partner also receives a power boost for their next attack. One of Wonder Woman’s special attacks gives her a layer of special armor for extra defense, and if she’s close enough to her partner, she’ll immediately leap towards them and give them the buff as well. This idea of teamwork and synergy built into the core principles of MultiVersus is a fresh and welcome change to the format, with no match ever feeling the same. The partner dynamic also reinforces the 2v2 mode, making it seem like the developers of the core format intend people to play.
Some of this synergy also comes through the perk system, with characters gaining permanent buffs that can be equipped before a match and stacked between two teammates. The Wildcat Brawler perk, for example, increases the damage of all melee attacks on the ground for a team by 5% when equipped by one player, with that percentage being doubled if both players equip it. As you level up characters, you can also borrow perks from your teammates before a match starts – guaranteeing stacks if planned correctly – or even train a character to learn new perks using gold of the game. It’s an ingenious system with a multitude of permutations, especially when borrowing and training come into play, and it achieves an unprecedented level of strategic planning for a platformer.
Even more impressively, the bulk of MultiVersus’ modes also feature online play. Free-for-all pitting up to four human players against each other, and cross-play capabilities allowing consoles and PCs to mingle. There were a few stutters here and there, and occasional “now you see me, now you don’t see me” moments when a bad connection causes an opponent to spontaneously teleport around a map instead of walking, but most of the games played were smooth. Achieving this when there are only two players in a match is a feat in itself, but getting the network to work with four people in any number of environments – console or PC – is a Herculean task, and for the majority of the time, MultiVersus holds up.
MultiVersus has solid fundamentals, charm, and attention to detail that previous Smash clones sorely lacked, making it one of the best platform fighting games ever made.
The roster isn’t as large as the more established Smash Bros. cast. Ultimate, but it’s a great start. Velma Dinkley joins the aforementioned Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo franchise, while Wonder Woman represents DC Comics along with Batman, Superman, and Harley Quinn. Steven and Garnet from Steven Universe made the cut, as did Bugs Bunny and Taz from Looney Tunes, and Jake the Dog and Finn the Human from Adventure Time. Rounding out the 17-character roster are Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark, iconic cat-and-mouse duo Tom and Jerry, the Iron Giant, Space Jam’s version of Lebron James, and Reindog, an original creation from developer Player First Games; he’s the best of the good boys.
The majority of the roster will not be available to most players when they first log in. This is a free-to-play game after all, and that accolade also comes with full microtransactions with multiple currencies. The game features a rotating roster of four trial characters, but the bulk of the fighters will be locked. Luckily, you can earn these fighters with in-game gold as well as the premium currency called Gleamium, which is purchased with real money. However, the grind to unlock each character through gold is longer than it should be.
Case in point: When the rotation of trial characters changed after the end of the early access period, I had earned enough gold playing the game to purchase three of the four characters from the previous rotation, the fourth n arriving a day later. Around 10 hours of gameplay for four characters might sound fine to the most dedicated players, but that means it will take around 40 hours to unlock the entire roster – and by that time at least 1-2 more fighters will be added.
It also does not include cosmetics which are only available for purchase with Gleamium, including costume variants for the cast, special announcer packs where in-game characters serve as match announcers, and more. Tack on a battle pass with free and premium tiers and monetization is strong in MultiVersus. While the free grind here isn’t completely disabled, more bounty with in-game gold – or the ability to buy everything with gold or Gleamium – would lessen the sting. That said, the game proves that free-to-play can work with fighting games, positioning it as a trailblazer for the entire genre.
The announcer packs do a great job of showcasing the voice acting in MultiVersus, which ranks among the best we’ve ever heard. Each of the characters is brimming with personality thanks to a cast of star performers returning to the characters they helped popularize, including Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, Tara Strong as Harley Quinn, and Kevin Conroy as Batman. Nor are they random pinpoint lines that repeat until nausea; there is a level of care and detail in some dialogue that goes beyond what we expected. Characters will address fellow fighters before, during, and after battles with witty banter that simply cannot be heard elsewhere. Hearing Bugs Bunny call Arya Stark “the beauty of Winterfell” will never win a smile, just like hearing Superman say “let’s see how iron compares to steel” to the Iron Giant will never sound surreal.
“Surreal” is actually a perfect word to describe MultiVersus, a game that brings together iconic characters and puts them in battle. These characters are as authentic as they come, feeling like they’ve been ripped straight from their source material through some great voice work. The team-based mechanics are truly beyond anything offered in a platformer, while the classic 1v1 format also impresses. The roster offers a lot of variety, although unlocking all the characters without having to dip into the real-world wallet will definitely be a hassle. We don’t yet know how far MultiVersus has drawn its power – the open beta will soon give way to Season 1 – but as it stands, the game has shattered all expectations. Even if MultiVersus doesn’t overthrow the king, he’s more than ready to rule his own little corner of the kingdom.