MultiVersus brings platform fighter players a brand new experience
Batman, Shaggy and other Warner Bros. characters appear together in artwork for platform fighter MultiVerus.
Provided by Warner Bros. Games

MultiVersus brings platform fighter players a brand new experience

The game is no mere Smash clone

During one of the game’s initial technical tests, commentator and platform fighter aficionado Samuel “Wisely” Mihelich got the chance to play MultiVersus with Devin “reslived” Gajewski, a top Project M player and one of MultiVersus’ developers.

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Reslived showed Wisely one of Bugs Bunny’s most basic mechanics: After digging a tunnel using his down-special, “Bunny Burrow,” Bugs can then throw projectiles through the tunnel to make them pop out of the ground at a different part of the stage.

Though he had put nearly 20 hours into the game already, Wisely had no clue Bugs’ projectiles could interact with his tunnels in that way. It highlighted the depth of MultiVersus and the unique ways its different mechanics interact with each other.

Platform fighting games are often evaluated by how they compare to Super Smash Bros., the most famous series in the genre by far. But, with its floaty yet fast-paced aerial movement, perks system and two-versus-two emphasis, MultiVersus has provided participants in its closed playtests with an experience quite unlike any existing platform fighter.

Who will be the best?

Xavier “CPWMA” Conchar has an extensive background with platform fighters; he played Project M and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U competitively before becoming a top player in both Slap City and Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. He and Wisely both said Brawlhalla players would have the easiest time transitioning into MultiVersus and performing well at early events.

Mike “mef96” Franco, on the other hand, grew up playing the Smash series and eventually became a top NASB player. While he said he has relatively little competitive experience, mef96 said he has excelled in early MultiVersus tournaments because the game presents a fresh opportunity for anyone who enjoys it, regardless of their background.

“I don’t think it matters what game people have played before,” mef96 said. “This game is just so different.”

Some of the most successful MultiVersus players so far have come from a wide array of gaming backgrounds. They include Smash Ultimate pros James “VoiD” Makekau-Tyson and Tyrell “NAKAT” Coleman, NASB players Tyler “mirrorman” Morgan and Tyrie “FlashTyrie” Bradley, and even shooter game players Leviathan and Synume.

The main thing that makes MultiVersus feel somewhat similar to Brawlhalla is its floatiness and the way players can set up edgeguards. Though it doesn’t have much in terms of grounded movement options, MultiVersus allows players to perform two jumps, two dodges and two specials per airtime. The game’s extensive aerial mobility allows for aggressive off-stage plays, which made it appealing to mef96.

“If you ever see me play Ultimate or NASB, I’m always in the air,” mef96 said. “I think off-stage play is way, way more awesome than grounded play.”

However, the similarities end there. According to CPWMA, MultiVersus feels more combo-oriented than Brawlhalla. In addition, MultiVersus’ perks system enables players to shape their character’s playstyles in unique ways.

Characters in MultiVersus can equip up to four perks. One of them provides a character-specific buff, while the others provide general boosts to specific stats. CPWMA said it felt like there was an optimal build in the second technical test. However, he said he believes the developers will ultimately implement a system more like the first technical test, where players could apply whatever perks would best help their character fit their playstyle.

“You could basically be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to be the Tom and Jerry — who’s normally a zoner character with a bunch of projectiles — but I’m going to make them a rushdown build,’” CPWMA said. “Or, you could be like me, who played Steven Universe as if he’s Jigglypuff. That’s weird to say, but you can do that.”

Doubles versus Singles

For most platform fighters, Doubles is an afterthought compared to Singles. In contrast, MultiVersus was designed with Doubles as the primary competitive mode. This was another attractive feature for mef96, who considers himself a “Doubles fiend.”

“I think it’s super cool that each [character] has something unique that they can bring to a 2v2,” mef96 said.

Currently, MultiVersus characters fall into one of five roles — assassin, bruiser, tank, support and mage / ranged — which indicate how they play in Doubles.

“It’s interesting because I’ve never played a platform fighter that had clearly designed classes,” Wisely said. “We’ve had to make them up in Smash. Like, people now know what a ‘space animal’ is, even though that’s not a real thing. But now, if you go through and see ‘mage’ or ‘ranged,’ you know it’s going to have a lot of zoning and a lot of projectiles.”

Despite the game’s emphasis on Doubles, Wisely mostly focused on one-versus-one play during the technical tests. He said he has reservations about the fact that characters in MultiVersus generally don’t take damage from their teammate’s attacks.

“I think that means you just get really chaotic instead of fighting around each other,” Wisely said. “I really like that Doubles in most Smash titles or other platform fighters have team attack on so that you have to be really cognizant of both hitting and saving your teammate.”

Nevertheless, the developers implemented certain moves that would interact with the character’s teammate, even without team attack. For example, Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth, which is generally used to attack her opponents, can also be used to grab a teammate and pull them away from a potential edgeguard or combo situation.

Although many moves specifically have a certain function in Doubles, CPWMA said characters’ move sets translate well to Singles.

“I think they’re going to plan on keeping it so that characters don’t end up having abilities that are useless in 1v1,” CPWMA said. “The classes matter, but they matter in teams and they don’t matter in 1v1s, and I think that’s a very fun dynamic.”

In contrast, mef96 said he is “not a Singles fiend.” He said certain characters can’t combo as effectively in Singles since they wouldn’t need to do so if they had a partner who could combo in Doubles.

“I don’t think the game was meant to be played 1v1,” mef96 said. “The mechanics don’t work out as well as 2v2 does.”

MultiVersus carves a niche among platform fighters

Aside from its innovative gameplay mechanics, MultiVersus stands out among other platform fighters in large part due to its polish. The game features extensive voice acting. Characters even have voice lines that interact with characters outside of their respective universes.

“I love playing a match and losing and then hearing Superman say, ‘I’m sorry Steven,’” CPWMA said. “This game has a lot of heart in it. They captured the spirit properly.”

These non-canon interactions even extend to alternate costumes. Despite having the same move set as Shaggy, the Uncle Shagworthy variant has a different voice. In addition, other characters acknowledge Uncle Shagworthy as a separate character through their dialogue.

The developers have also made characters battle in creative ways. For example, Tom and Jerry’s moves show they’re really trying to fight each other, and they simply happen to hit their opponents in the process. Likewise, Velma is just on the stage trying to solve a mystery, with speech bubbles and light bulbs above her head becoming her hitboxes.

“A lot of the things I think of as rules for platform fighters are just being thrown out the window, in a good way,” Wisely said. “There are characters where I was like, ‘I don’t know how you’re going to make a fighting game character out of this,’ and it turns out they didn’t have to. They could add any character to this game and make it work.”

Mef96 said he is a strong advocate for the game, especially considering it’s free to play. As a result, players have nothing to lose by trying out. Even if they don’t like the game competitively, mef96 said many people will enjoy it as a casual experience.

Ultimately, MultiVersus is no mere Smash clone. Rather, MultiVersus has provided a unique experience that has left many platform fighter enthusiasts dreading the end of the closed alpha and anxious for the open beta in July.

“If you go into this trying to make it Melee, you’re going to be really disappointed,” Wisely said. “But, if you go into it thinking it’s going to be its own unique game with really cool stuff, then you’re going to have a great time.”

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Dylan Tate
Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.