A legend retires: Reflecting on ZeRo’s impact on Smash
On January 12, Panda Global released the fourth version of their Panda Global Rankings (PGR) that ranks each professional player of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. The first three versions of the list featured Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios as the highest ranked player for Smash 4. To little surprise, Barrios ended up claiming the top spot on PGRv4. However, on the same day of the rankings being released, Barrios announced via Twitter that he would no longer be competing in tournaments for Smash 4.
Barrios’ Twitter post included many different reasons as to why he wants to put an end to his Smash 4 career. Among them was that he simply lost his passion for Smash 4, in regards to competing in high-stakes events. Barrios claimed that he is likely going to compete again once a new Smash game arises. Until that happens though, Smash 4’s top player is currently retired.
As such, I feel that now is the optimal time to reflect on how Barrios impacted the Smash community, particularly in the era of Smash 4. Barrios impacted the Smash Bros. community in ways that many people may not initially realize. He impacted the game and community on both a macro and micro level. He impacted the community of top-level players just as much as he impacted the little guys that can only afford to attend local tournaments. How did he do this, exactly? Let’s talk about it.
ZeRo’s Legendary Win Streak and Tournament Performance
While I understand how cliche it is to mention the incredibly long win streak that Barrios had throughout the first year of Smash 4’s life, it can’t be overstated how influential this made Barrios as a figure within the entire competitive Smash Bros. community. Barrios attained a streak of winning over 40 consecutive tournaments throughout the first year of Smash 4’s existence. The streak itself didn’t end until the MLG World Finals in October of 2015, over a year after Smash 4’s release on 3DS and just under a year after the Wii U version’s release.
During this time period, Barrios admittedly became an easy player to root against. It’s only natural for many people to want the world’s greatest player to be dethroned at some point. While this inevitably happened with Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada’s win over Barrios at the event, this ending of Barrios’ win streak didn’t slow him down. Barrios continued placing very high in most tournaments in 2016 and 2017. Many viewers of Smash 4, myself included, found utter joy in every instance of seeing Barrios’ stellar performances at tournaments. Barrios went from an easy player to root against to someone that viewers could always look forward to seeing perform. The best part was that Barrios rarely disappointed viewers, in that regard.
In the entirety of Smash 4’s life to date, Barrios has remained loyal at playing Diddy Kong, despite all of Smash 4’s patches that reduced the character’s knockback and damage output of certain moves. The same can’t be said for Sheik, a character that Barrios used often in tournaments for a time, but dropped following nerfs given to the character in later updates to Smash 4. As time progressed, Barrios began occasionally playing as Lucina in tournaments in 2017.
No matter which character he used, Barrios always showcased extreme knowledge of Smash 4’s mechanics, and the specific mechanics of each character that he used. This always made Barrios’ performances at tournaments a pure spectacle to behold. Another contributor of this was Barrios’ ability to make incredible “reads” – predicting what moves players would make in the moment, adjusting his play style accordingly.
Lastly, another component of Barrios’ incredible tournament performance was merely the camaraderie and chemistry that he had with other players. Barrios remained a fun player to watch because it was always clear to see that he enjoyed playing against other top-level players, which brought about a positive atmosphere to watching events with him. Notable accomplishments for Barrios throughout Smash 4’s life include placing first at EVO 2015, Super Smash Con 2015, GENESIS 3, Big House 6 and placing second at EVO 2017 and the 2017 2GG Championship.
Zero’s Youtube Channel garnering a community
Over the course of Smash 4’s life, many competitive players began producing content on YouTube, such as giving extended thoughts on characters, making tier lists and talking about their experiences at high-level tournaments. This includes Barrios, who began posting content on Smash 4 as soon as the game released in Japan in September of 2014. Barrios went on in 2015 to make various types of content on his YouTube channel.
Throughout 2015 and 2016, Barrios made many videos, including character analyses, tier lists, self-imposed challenge videos, discussions and more. In 2017, there was a noticeable decrease in the amount of videos made by Barrios, as he shifted more of his attention to tournaments and streaming on Twitch. In a way, Barrios’ steady decrease of involvement within the Smash 4 community throughout 2017 foreshadowed his eventual tournament retirement in 2018. Despite this, Barrios’ YouTube channel currently sits at over 200,000 subscribers.
So why mention this? What does Barrios having a YouTube channel have to do with him being an important figure in the life of competitive Smash 4? Simply put, Barrios’ videos got people talking. I have fond memories of going to local tournaments in 2016 and talking to other players about videos that Barrios posted on his YouTube channel. Barrios never strayed from voicing his opinions that may not have been popular.
His videos resonated with many Smash players of different skill levels in a way that no other Smash 4 content creator could match. There was something magical about seeing so much content about a game that was put together by the best player of said game. While other top-level Smash 4 players create content, such as Eric “ESAM” Lew for example, Barrios’ content seemed to be talked about a lot more among many different players, particularly those that attend smaller, local tournaments. Barrios used his YouTube channel as a way to get the Smash 4 community talking about certain subjects that they may not have talked about otherwise. I am certainly grateful that Barrios did just that in 2015 and 2016 specifically, since they were the most crucial years for the competitive game’s development and growth.
Zero: An Inspiration to local players
Naturally, being the top player of any game is going to put a spotlight on you, and Barrios is no exception. Barrios turned into an example of what Smash players could achieve. His dedication and passion for Smash 4 for the past three years was both astounding and admirable. Whether it was the content about what a lot of people were wondering, or the stellar tournament performances throughout his Smash 4 career, there was a lot for Smash 4 players and viewers to enjoy from Barrios.
As he turns away from playing in tournaments in the year, it’s important for Barrios to know exactly how much he contributed to the community that he was and continues to be an active part of. Speaking on a personal note, Barrios’ tournament performances always inspired me to keep improving, and even encouraged me to begin attending local tournaments in early 2016. Barrios’ stellar play style in tournaments was something that made me, and countless other Smash 4 players, want to improve and get better. Moreover, Barrios’ content made me curious about certain topics, and actually ended up making me want to try improving with certain characters that he talked about in his videos. Barrios impacted so much of my experience with Smash 4 throughout the last three years that I honestly don’t know what my experience with Smash 4 would have been like without him.
As Barrios retires from playing in tournaments in Smash 4, I wish him the very best moving forward. As stated in his Twitter post, Barrios intends on streaming on Twitch more often throughout 2018, in addition to entertaining the idea of commentating for tournaments. Regardless of where he goes, all Smash 4 players and viewers should wish Barrios well as he pursues different endeavors. This isn’t necessarily a goodbye to Barrios. In fact, I plan on watching his streams and hope to see him commentate in the future. However, this is a send-off to one of, if not the most entertaining, likable and important players in Smash 4 history. Gonzalo Barrios, we the Smash 4 community, wish you well and look forward to seeing you compete again, whenever that may be.
What are your thoughts on ZeRo? Has he impacted your experience with Smash 4 at all? As always, join the conversation and let us know!
Featured image courtesy of Evil Controllers.
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