Does ARMS deserve its spot at EVO Japan?

New intellectual properties (IPs) are the backbone of the video games industry. Without new IPs, we would only ever see the same franchises over and over again. This would only make gaming, competitive or otherwise, become stale and boring. Thankfully, over the last few years, new IPs are becoming very common in all corners of gaming. In 2015, Nintendo gave us Splatoon, a competitive shooter with a unique, territory-claiming mechanic. Last year’s Overwatch is probably one of the best new IPs in the last decade. I say this for the community Overwatch has gathered in the year and a half that it has been out. In addition, the game is widely played both casually and competitively. This has helped make Overwatch an esport over time. 2017 has continued the trend of delivering new IPs that can be played both competitively and casually in the shape of ARMS.

ARMS

The first-ever EVO Japan will be held on January 26-28, 2018. ARMS is one of the games that will be played at the event. Image: Shoryuken

ARMS is a Nintendo Switch exclusive that launched in June. Prior to the game’s release, many believed that the game would become an esport. This was because of the game’s premise – a 1v1 or 2v2 fighting game that could be played without intrusive items or stage hazards. The game had a diverse cast of characters, with the promise of more characters and stages being added for free, similar to how Street Fighter V and Overwatch approach adding new content to their respective games. It looked like the pieces were aligning. It looked like ARMS was capable of becoming Nintendo’s next esport.

When ARMS released in June of this year, it certainly made a splash. Though, perhaps not as large of a splash as many people were hoping. Nintendo’s recent financial report claimed that ARMS sold a total of 1.35 million units as of September 30, 2017. Given the circumstances of being a new IP, the game has sold modestly well. However, a lot of the game’s coverage by streamers and YouTubers dropped off shortly after the game launched.

Despite all of this, the game still has a competitive community. One that’s small, but constantly growing. So much so that it was confirmed this summer that the game will be featured at the first-ever EVO Japan this coming January. I would like to discuss the game’s inclusion at the event. Specifically, I want to discuss if the game truly deserves to be there.

What makes ARMS different?

ARMS is Nintendo’s first take at a traditional fighting game. Nintendo’s unique style and approach to game design definitely shows in the game. For those unfamiliar with the game, ARMS features fighters that use extendable arms in somewhat small arenas, some of which have unique gimmicks. The strategy of the game comes down to which ARMS the player wants to equip, in addition to which character to play. As is a staple of the fighting game genre, different characters have different abilities and advantages, making each feel unique from one another.

As is standard for the company, Nintendo made ARMS completely different from any other fighting game on the market. While most fighting games encourage players to get close to one another to deal damage, ARMS encourages the exact opposite. The player needs to position their character in a specific way to inflict damage. In addition, the player has to strategize how they use their ARMS. Players have to constantly think about their spacing from their opponent. They also need to think about the best ways to use each of their ARMS, and how to take advantage of the arena’s shape, size and mechanics.

Due to the game’s gimmick of extendable arms being the main mechanic, ARMS looks and plays unlike any other fighting game. However, this brings some advantages and disadvantages.

The consequences of being different

A critique on ARMS that I have heard from many streamers and content creators online concerns the game’s viewer appeal. People feel that the game is simply too boring to watch. It’s impossible to comment on a game’s watchability from an objective stance. How watchable something is to you depends on what kind of gameplay you think is interesting to watch. Many people who enjoy watching fighting games may not enjoy watching MOBAs, and so on.

ARMS

Aesthetically, ARMS looks quite different from your typical fighting game. Image: GameXplain

However, this critique tends to come from fans of other fighting games. Since ARMS is so different from other fighting games, it isn’t able to immediately draw in members of other fighting game communities very easily. Moreover, the game simply looks different compared to most competitive fighting games. Traditional fighting games like Street Fighter and Guilty Gear all have their characters face each other on 2D planes. Tekken offers 3D movement, but still has the camera set up in a way that we see two characters facing each other, making it look like a traditional fighting game. ARMS offers a behind-the-back camera angle, something that is very rare to see in multiplayer fighting games.

Lastly, the game is a new IP, which is always a roll of the dice in regards to creating a community. When Street Fighter V launched, the game instantly garnered a competitive community thanks to the previous entries’ already established competitive communities. ARMS doesn’t have that luxury. Since it’s so different and it’s the first game in its series, ARMS has to earn a competitive community. This is easier said than done. So how exactly can ARMS accomplish creating a community as large and diverse as, say, the Street Fighter V community?

The game is a perfect fit for evo japan

In order to give ARMS a chance at having a large competitive community, there needs to be a big step forward. Having the game be featured at a huge event like Evo Japan is that step forward. Evo Japan will highlight ARMS and the community it has gathered thus far. If the game’s presence at the event impresses viewers, the community could become exponentially larger. We could even have a new well-recognized esport on our hands. ARMS is in a unique make-or-break position with EVO Japan. How the game’s tournament goes and resonates with viewers will determine a lot of the game’s competitive future. This puts a lot of pressure onto the ARMS players that will be at the event, but perhaps that may give them more drive to make the game as entertaining to watch as possible.

ARMS’ inclusion at EVO Japan could make the game huge. Image: Nintendo

Does ARMS deserve to be at EVO Japan this year? If I were to answer that based on the game’s competitive community and status right now – no, I don’t think it does. However, the event provides a potential for the game to turn from a small-ish competitive community into a huge one. And being a fan of the game myself, I think this game deserves to take advantage of the potential that EVO Japan is providing. It’s an incredible opportunity for the community of ARMS to grow. Therefore, I think ARMS more than deserves to be at EVO Japan in Janurary.

However, this is just my opinion. What are your thoughts on ARMS’ inclusion at EVO Japan? Join the conversation and let us know!

 


 

Featured Image courtesy of Nintendo.

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Nintendo World Championships 2017 and how it’s important for esports

Last Saturday, October 7th, Nintendo of America presented their third “Nintendo World Championships (NWC). The first NWC was held in 1990 as a means of promoting some of the NES’ most popular games, including Super Mario Bros. and Tetris, in addition to promoting more competitive gaming. The tournament itself was set up in cities around the United States, with each location having three winners categorized by age, those being “11 and under”, “12 to 17”, and “18 or over”. The tournament saw players competing in both single-player and multiplayer games, having to complete particular tasks, some of which were tangential to the main goal of a game (such as collecting 100 coins in Super Mario Bros. in as little time as possible – something that isn’t an inherent goal of the main game). The winners of each category would receive $10,000, among other rewards.

The 2017 Nintendo World Championships pulled in people of all ages.

The idea of promoting video games through competition was certainly ahead of its time, especially with competitive gaming still being in its infancy in the early 90s. However, Nintendo of America never gave a proper follow-up to the 1990 NWC for another quarter of a century. In that interim, the 1990 NWC ultimately left its legacy through its incredibly rare and highly-priced cartridges and little else.

That was, of course, until the E3 of 2015 when Nintendo brought the Nintendo World Championships back in a big way. In the weeks prior to E3, Nintendo of America announced that there would be qualifying tournaments for the 2015 NWC in certain Best Buy stores around the U.S. The winners from each of the eight locations of the qualifying rounds in addition to eight players chosen by Nintendo, the final round was streamed live via YouTube and Twitch.tv from Los Angeles as part of Nintendo’s presence at E3 that year.

The live stream garnered hundreds of thousands of viewers, with many surprise announcements made throughout the event. Some of these announcements included games that would be played for the competition, such as Metroid Prime: Federation Force, the localization of Earthbound Beginnings, and the re-branding of Super Mario Maker, which sold this writer on the game just through it being played live at the finals of the 2015 NWC.

Both old and new games were represented at the event, allowing Nintendo of America to show off the legacy of Nintendo’s games in addition to promoting the new games that were still to come that year. It brought both younger and older gamers together and showed off both new games and old games being played in new, competitive ways.

And last Saturday, while not having any of the hype-inducing announcements that 2015’s NWC did, was a reminder of why I think this event and others like it are a lot more important than many people realize.

The 2017 NWC saw a re-introduction of the age categories that were used in the 1990 event, albeit tweaked a bit. You can watch the entire 2017 event here. This year’s event used 12 and younger and 13 and older as the categories. While many of the games played at the event certainly aren’t considered esports (with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U being the only identifiable esport played at the event, and it wasn’t even played in its traditionally competitive format), I would argue that this event was still, in many ways, a representation of esports culture for the masses.

Why it’s important

I want to go into detail on how a big company such as Nintendo holding an event like this is relevant and important to esports. First off, I feel that it is important to note exactly who is watching these kinds of events. Due to the relative newness of esports, I’ve always found it understandable that most people that watch esports streams and events are in their 20s and 30s. The players of esports reflect this as well – the overwhelming majority of esports players, regardless of what game they play, are in that same age demographic. In fact, I would say that one of the most common critiques of esports, at least as far as this writer has seen, is its exclusivity.

This exclusivity of age representation in esports is somewhat concerning. For esports to develop and become more popular across cultures, I think a necessary thing to do is increase esports’ age demographic. This needs to be done for both viewers and players. If we don’t find ways to represent esports to reach demographics outside of the 20s-30s age range, then the popularity of esports will only stagnate and possibly die out in the long-term. I don’t think any of us want that to happen. This means that introducing esports to different age demographics is monumentally important. Since older generations are not as used to esports, I think the most effective way of expanding the demographic of viewership of esports is to introduce them and competitive gaming events such as the NWC to younger audiences, specifically to children and teenagers.

2015 Champion John “John Numbers” Goldberg (left) and Thomas G (right) competed against each other in the finals of the event.

We recently saw this with EVO 2017 this year. Disney XD, a channel with a 10-15 age demographic, steamed the EVO 2017 finals for both Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Street Fighter V. Simply choosing to stream an esports finals on a channel that can reach younger demographics can significantly help more people gain interest in competitive gaming and esports.

Disney XD also simulcasted the 2017 NWC, in addition to the event also being streamed on Nintendo of America’s YouTube and Twitch channels. Since Nintendo is known for being family-friendly, their hardware and games appeal to demographics of any age, and specifically kids. This allows more kids to be familiar with Nintendo’s online presence – specifically their YouTube channel. So with the 2017 NWC being streamed on both Disney XD and Nintendo’s Twitch and YouTube (especially with YouTube being so common amongst younger viewers), the event was definitely seen by many youngsters in addition to many gamers in their 20, 30s and beyond.

“So What?” You may be asking.

Sure, attaining younger viewers is great and all, but what does that matter if those viewers don’t eventually become dedicated viewers and/or esports players themselves? This is where the age categories of the 2017 NWC come into play. The 12 and younger and the 13 and older categories of the event allow the NWC to have both young and older players in addition to having players that younger audiences can root for, further engaging them in the event.

Players in the event were of diverse age demographics.

Having younger players and viewers of esports is far more important than many people realize. Another thing that is perhaps equally as important is the fact of a company as big as Nintendo holding an event like this in the first place. While I’m aware that this wasn’t a traditional esports event in how games were played, seeing a large gaming publisher hold an event like this can only be a positive sign for the future. Capcom has been doing this since 2014 with the annual Capcom Pro Tour events. Having more companies throw their hat into the ring of embracing high-level play, whether they’re proper esports or simply playing their games competitively, can only make more and more people become aware of and interested in esports.

Can we expect to see another NWC in the years to come? While there’s no concrete yes or no at this point, I certainly hope that there will be. Having more events like this from a large company that invites a wider age inclusiveness will only broaden the scope of the competitive gaming and esports communities. If we want esports to grow and continue to thrive, then we need to embrace methods that can increase the number of people that are exposed to esports. And because of that, I feel that events such as the Nintendo World Championships certainly can’t be ignored by the esports’ community.


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ZeRo returns to form at SCR Saga

Two months removed from his last S-tier win, Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios was able to reach the top again after a number of near misses, by beating MKLeo at SCR Saga. It was the return of ZeRo’s last stock magic, as he was able to pull himself out of a variety of difficult situations to take his 10th win of 2017.

For reference, it’s been a tough couple of months for the undisputed champ. A near miss at Evo 2017 and Dreamhack while watching Salem parade around his trophy. Second place at both Super Smash Con and Low Tier City. It wasn’t just that he lost, either. It was the way that he lost. Losing in situations he normally came out victorious by not letting the pressure exceed the moment.

However, it showed that it was just a matter of time before he reclaimed the top spot. After a strong performance this weekend, any talk of him not being the best player in 2017 should be off the table.

Photo courtesy YouTube.com/2ggaming

Last stock magic

When Zero is at his best, he takes early percent stocks and is constantly running in-and-out of attack range. At SCR Saga, the audience saw that in droves. In many instances, Zero would bait out a certain recovery option to setup a dair spike at the ledge with Diddy Kong. Larry Lurr and MKLeo unfortunately took the bait and paid the price.

By no means was it a perfect day for ZeRo, but it was characteristically a day in which ZeRo takes the crown. He’s no stranger to coming back from a deficit and in many cases was forced to overcome entire stock leads. This goes back to his ability to set up low percent kills and punish accordingly.

The day Bayonetta took over

No, a Bayonetta main did not win this event. There was none in the top three. But, there were three in top eight. Prejudice aside, Bayonetta mains are starting to make a clear push towards the end of the bracket. SCR Saga is just the first example of all the top Bayonetta’s playing well enough at the same time.

As a matter of fact, the world’s best Bayonetta main in Salem struggled mightily against the new up and comer Bayonetta in Mistake. Mistake forced Salem off of Bayo and onto Greninja. Salem was out placed by the two other Bayonetta mains (Captain Zack and Mistake) and this weekend seems to be a turning point.

Captain Zack after eliminating Nairo. Photo courtesy YouTube.com/2ggaminng

The sudden emergence of Mistake and the elevation of the meta through Salem has given Bayonetta new life. And at SCR Saga, it was a mix of play styles that all proved to be effective. Salem stayed defense heavy, while Mistake played all out aggressive and Captain Zack stayed in the middle of that spectrum. The group of players as a whole are improving.

Larry Lurr and MKLeo are close

It’s only a matter of time for Larry Lurr and MKleo. Both players are seemingly always right there, but have a few player matchups that hold them back. SCR Saga was another example of this.

To enumerate, Larry Lurr has now been in this situation many times in the past few months. His Fox continues to improve and another bracket similar to what he faced at Evo could mean an S-Tier major win. For MKLeo, he’s known as a champion already, but he seems back on track to start winning events again.

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Feature image courtesy of YouTube.com/2ggaming

The Week in Smash: Tweek’s Consistency and MKLeo’s Return to Form

Smash never seems to take a weekend off anymore. Even after the tournament packed July, the month of August started with two smaller major events (or regionals) that divided the time of many top players. It’s the first weekend since Evo that a top tier tournament wasn’t taking place so it’s a good time to take a look at some of the smaller events.

The two main events this weekend happened in the south. Low Tier City 5, that took place in Dallas, Texas and Smash Factor 6 that was south of the border in Mexico. In terms of talent, both events had significantly smaller attendance from top players, but it allowed for the regions to display their best.

The top players that did show put on a show for those crowds. Smash 4 was the main story this weekend with many of the top 10 Melee taking a week off before Super Smash Con. Smash 4 still had the likes of Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, MKLeo, Larry Lurr, and the surprise of the weekend In Tweek competing.

The problem was the two smaller events split up the talent, but in turn it gave us a good look at Mexico’s hidden Smash 4 talents. Yes, there’s plenty of good players outside of the Afro mentioned MKLeo in the Mexico scene. It’s not a matter of “if” the Mexico scene, it’s a matter of “when” they can fly these players out to events states side.

Smash Factor 6

In classic Smash Factor form, this tournament wasn’t going to leave us without MKLeo roasting Ramin “Mr. R” Delshad for the third time in a row. Let’s remember, MKLeo defeating a beaten down Mr. R at Smash Factor 4 is where Leo first burst onto the scene. It’s only right for MKLeo to handily and swiftly take down Mr. R at the tournament that helped launch his career.

Mr. R did take a set off Leo at this tournament, 3-1, but that just set up Leo’s incredible 10 game stretch where he only dropped one game. A 3-0 sweep over NAKAT, while going 3-1, 3-0 to finish off Mr. R and win his third straight Smash Factor.

Melee

The Melee side also had a similar mix of mostly local players with some top 20’ish players. Unfortunately, the Mexico Melee scene isn’t nearly as fleshed out as Smash 4 so it’s not the same type of talent pool. While there are some talented players, the whole is severely lacking compared to most American Melee scenes.

As for the tournament itself, the games were great and it had excellent storylines all the way up to Zac “SFAT” Cordoni winning the event. After losing 3-0 to TheMoon, SFAT narrowly beat out Johnny “S2J” Kim before getting the back against TheMoon.

In the games SFAT won, it was a steamroll. TheMoon was getting fooled by SFAT’s willingness to DI out at certain moments. He made it extremely difficult for TheMoon to get any of his patented Marth combos going against Fox. Outside of that, SFAT did an excellent job staying out of range and then moving in and getting run-up up-smashes for kills.

Low Tier City 5

It’s disheartening to see a community thrown event go to the wayside because of the influx of new tournaments. The once prominent Project M major In Texas has been relegated to more of a regional.

Melee

It’s a nice change of pace when none on the top six show up. It gives viewers a chance to see matchups that don’t ordinarily happen. For example, Wizzrobe vs. Hugs in a winners Finals is something that’s never been seen. It also gives a talented, yet under appreciated region like Texas a chance to show their skill.

While Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett won the event, Bananas, an ice climbers player who took the spot of Wobbles, made some serious noise. Finishing fifth at a major the size of LTC5 is no joke. Names like MT (who beat Wobbles) and UncleMojo (who beat MT) also made another deep run. Both names popped up at LTC4 as well.

In the end, it was Wizzrobe’s tournament to lose and he did not disappoint. Despite a close encounter with Syrox, he made it through top 8 with a 9-3 record and looked dominant while doing so. Wizzrobe continues to improve and refine his craft.

Smash 4

Finally, the most newsworthy moment of the weekend: Tweek over ZeRo. Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey is redefining consistency. He hasn’t placed outside the top 8 once this season and now he has a win over Zero under his belt.

However, ZeRo did fall early in the bracket. A Texas Bayonetta main named Mistake who made it all the way to winners finals. Mistake went on to beat the most feared Bayo in Smash 4, CaptainZack, and finish third. It was a great run for him and the Texas crowd cheering him on.

Regardless, Tweek was the real winner this weekend. Similarly to Wizzrobe, Tweek ended top 8 with a 9-2 record and beat the best player in the world. Three tournaments in a row ZeRo has come up just short. It’s becoming a pattern. Tweek is also slowly moving up result pages so expect another win to come shortly after this one.

 

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Featured image courtesy of https://goo.gl/images/TMVXZh

BEAST 7 payout situation cannot be tolerated

The year is 2009. The Super Smash Bros Melee competitive scene is hanging on by a thread. Tournament organizers are untrustworthy and payouts at events aren’t always fully guaranteed. Due to this trend, the Melee competitive scene is nearing its end…

WAIT, it’s 2017 and the scene is flourishing. Modern tournaments are a great experience and the scene is filled with the best tournament organizers in the history of the scene. So, why are we still seeing a flux of shady dealings within some prominent organizations?

Armada via twitter.com/UGSArmada

Let’s focus on one situation that happened recently. By now, Smash fans have likely come across the video Adam “Armada” Lindgren made or the tweet sent out from Ramin “Mr. R” Delshad’s twitter account. In summary, the main organizer behind the Swedish based tournament series B.E.A.S.T. didn’t budget appropriately and is now not financially able to pay the players for an event that took place in February of this year.

This is not the first time this has happened in Smash. Infamously, Pound V paid out players five years after the actual tournament. But that was 2011 and the scene was much different back then. It was still a young community (in terms of average age) and without esports media and social media fully developed, situations like this could be slipped under a rug. In 2017, with a fully fleshed out scene, this is completely unacceptable.

For reference, there’s a major nearly every week in Smash. Players have to carefully plan out where to spend their time and money. If an event backfires, it can cost a player financially, especially if they aren’t compensated for their efforts. It’s a negative effect that’s detrimental to not only the image of the tournament but the scene as a whole.

Organizational ignorance should be met with legal action

Today, payouts should be done accordingly, and if not, legal action should be considered. Smash is out of the basement. It’s a professional scene now where players, organizers, and media members are making a living. Issues with missing finances can’t be tolerated like it was back when the spotlight wasn’t as bright.

Unfortunately, it’s not an easy topic to discuss because most of these community figures and players are all friends with history. And that’s where the leniency from players who haven’t been paid comes from, but at some point, the pleasantries need to stop and people need to take responsibility.

It’s great to see players like Mr. R speak out while the organization involved is directly telling him to keep quiet. That’s not only completely unprofessional on their part, but almost feels as if they’re extorting these players with the idea that they’ll never see the money they earned from winning. It doesn’t help the fact that the BEAST organizers are tip-toeing around the situation trying to avoid controversy. That’s a giant red flag.

In today’s context, it’s not nearly as big of a problem as it once was, but it’s still a terrible look for Smash when it happens. It’s hard for this community to be taken seriously when prominent members and organizations are acting like it’s 2009. Organizers don’t have the luxury of taking their time anymore, and as a community, more pressure needs to be placed on these organizations to pay up.


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Featured image courtesy of https://smash.gg/tournament/beast-7-1/details

Leffen Wins Second Consecutive Get on My Level Melee Title

Ice and Leffen. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/evenmatchupgaming

What is it about Canada that makes William “Leffen” Hjelte untouchable? Is it the Canadian crowd that’s passion boils over into the gameplay? Or possibly, Leffen just feels more comfortable north of the border. Whatever the case, Leffen now owns two Get On My Level trophies.

 

Coincidence or not, Leffen took care of business in back-to-back years with dominating performances. At GOML 2017, Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma was the victim of another strong winners bracket run from Leffen. It wasn’t a clean sweep, but every game Leffen came out victorious rather convincingly. He had three separate three-stock wins and two two-stock wins.

After achieving another doubles title with his European partner Mustafa “Ice” Akcakaya, Leffen’s play showed a singles championship run was possible. Edging out DaJuan “Shroomed”McDaniels and Zac “SFAT” Cordoni started the run on Saturday as the momentum carried over to Sunday. Leffen only dropped one game before his matchup with Hungrybox.

Luck is always a factor

Competition breeds story lines because of the passion in which one competes. In this, characters are developed and a plot is set in motion. The famous Mango losers bracket runs, or Mango reaching Armada in Genesis grand finals is an example of this. All these patterns that develop over-time feel as if they’re scripted. How or why does life work like that?

I’m not trying to get existential over Melee, but Leffen’s performance feels as if it’s another example of certain patterns that don’t seemingly make senses on the surface. As I tried to explain earlier, the reasoning for this is unknown. It seems to be a combination of many different factors with a hint of luck.

Does the absence of Armada, Mango, and Mew2King from GOML push destiny along? Absolutely. It’s a different tournament with those names in the bracket, but here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter. Leffen came to defend his title regardless of who’s registered. Luck is a factor, but he still had to go through players that have bested him in the past.

 

The Grand finals

Hungrybox is 4-1 against Leffen in 2017. Even with some success against Hungrybox in the past, it’s still a mighty difficult task for Leffen to beat a player who has much more experience playing with the stakes as high as Grand Finals. The largest advantage for Leffen being his understanding of the Jigglypuff matchup.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/evenmatchupgaming

 

Facing Hungrybox is unlike any other Puff main. Yes, Leffen plays the correct way to beat the character, but it’s an entirely different thing to try and outsmart, and outperform Hungrybox. That’s what makes this performance even more special. From the start of game one, it was clear who had the advantage. Leffen built large leads and stayed committed to his solid game plan.

A year after running the gauntlet at GOML 2016, Leffen comes back off a 2017 filled with plenty of struggles and wins his first event of the year. Ironically, his last win came against Hungrybox at Don’t Park on the Grass at the backend of 2016. It’s a performance to get him back on track after failing to make Evo top 8.

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Featured image courtesy of YouTube.com/evenmatchupgaming

The New Star in Smash? Salem somehow wins back-to-back majors

Winning Evo and Dreamhack in a weeks span is special. Saleem “Salem” Akiel Young did exactly that and sent the Smash world into a frenzy while he’s at it. Salem’s unrelenting ability to defy the situation and pull out a win at any deficit is what defined his unexpected run to two S-tier major wins.

In fact, it’s what characterizes his play the most and gives Salem the Hungrybox effect every time it’s a last stock scenario. In a tournament scene flooded with strong Bayonetta play, Salem has separated himself from the rest. It’s the preciseness of his neutral game and how he turns a win in neutral into huge damage and in many cases: death.

$14,000 is a nice chunk of change for two weeks of service. Winning once can be considered a fluke, but winning twice is proof that it’s more than that. Yes, Salem is riding a wave of momentum and plays a character that no ones collectively figured out, but that doesn’t take away from his immaculate play that should be commended.

Let’s take a look at Salem’s results over the past week because they are staggering. At Dreamhack Austin, he took out Jason “ANTi” Bates and Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada twice in bracket. He also had wins over Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey, and of course, the now famous set with Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios at Evo 2017 a week ago. He finished off his Dreamhack weekend by sneaking out two set wins over James “Void” Mekekau-Tyson.

In a word, it’s been epic what he’s been able to accomplish in the losers bracket. On the verge of elimination, he’s been consistently able to scrape out wins. It’s becoming his calling card and is what makes him such a dangerous opponent.

Salem

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/dreamhacksmash

The next star in smash 4?
As a result of these past two weekends, Salem has flipped the Smash world on its side. It’s extremely rare for a player outside the likes of ZeRo, Ally, or Nairo to take an event of this size and notoriety. It’s nearly blasphemy to think a player could do it twice in a row. The odds were heavily against Salem but that didn’t stop him.

However, Salem is no stranger to shocking the world and winning a super major. Apex 2013, and most likely the last notable Brawl major, was won by none other than Salem by surprising the world and beating the worlds best at the time in Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman. His demeanor and temperament seem to be most effective up on the big stage as he’s proven over the years.

Now, it’s been a long time since a player established himself as a threat to win every tournament he attends. But, the combination of Salem’s skill and the uprising of Bayonetta as a top tier character gives the look of a potentially new god in the Smash 4 scene. It’s clear he has the makings of the next super star in Smash 4.

The real test will be whether or not he can keep up these placings. It’s likely he’s not going to win every event from here on out so it’s important for Salem to stay consistent and place high at every event possible. Right now, no one seems to have a handle on how to approach his Bayonetta. For now, that works in his favor but he’ll need to keep adapting to stay on top.

Nevertheless, it’s good for Smash to get new blood at the top of the leaderboards. Consistent placings, like with Melee, create storylines, but the hectic nature of Smash 4 tournaments right now is great for the scene. Salem is the face of this new trend. ZeRo, Ally, and Leo “MKLeo” Corrazco all missed top 8. Is it a sign of the times changing of just a blip in a busy Smash schedule? All I know it’s going to take some serious thought to take down king Salem.

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featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/dreamhacksmash

Super Smash Bros Melee Evo 2017 odds

Evolution 2017 takes place next weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in classic Vegas fashion I’m here to present the odds for Super Smash Brothers Melee. Of the 1,493 entrances, one of these players on the list below will be Evo champion. Will it be a past champion or a new name that takes the title?

9/4 Adam “Armada” Lindgren

It’s been a long time since anyone other than Armada was the favorite heading into an event. The two-time Evo champion is still amid the best year of his career. For Armada, he’s already accomplished the Melee gauntlet of tournament wins in his career. The lone achievement missing from his mantle is a third Evo title, or the “threevo.”

The 2017 tournament will be his second chance to obtain the illustrious third title that Hungrybox ripped out of his grasp in 2016. Armada will be focused and prepared. It will take an inhuman effort, like Hungrybox last year to take out Armada.

13/5 Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma

Armada is the favorite, but Hungrybox has the most recent major victory between the two of them. Smash N’ Splash 3 presented another game five set and like Evo 2016, Hungrybox edged him out. If anything, Hungrybox will have the most momentum of any player. With the recent win and the fact that he’s a returning champion, Hungrybox must feel a wave of confidence.

The key match will not be with Armada, but with Mango. The play of Mango’s Fox could be a potential hurdle en route to another championship.

Armada and Hbox, Evo 2016. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k

15/5 Joseph “Mango” Marquez

Mango has had two disappointing Evo performances in the last two years. After scraping out two Evo titles previously, much was expected of him the last couple of years and in both instances Hungrybox ended his run. It was a despairing couple of losses due to the anticipation of the “threevo,” which is a title not many fighting game players hold.

The reality is that Mango still has another Evo run inside him. His talents still show up, not as often as in previous years, but the potential to win is there. This aspect makes Mango such a dangerous player heading into this weekend.

6/1 Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman

M2K is the one of the top four that has failed to win an Evo. Historically, Evo has been M2K’s worst major of the year. Some of his worst career performances have taken place at Evo. He’s never made it past a fifth-place finish. It’ll be another difficult year to break through for M2K, especially if Leffen plays up to par.

6/1 William “Leffen” Hjelte

Leffen is the wildcard once again. Recently, he’s given Armada some trouble and has pushed players like Hungrybox to their limits. Leffen rarely wins the tournament, but on any given day he’s capable of beating anyone. There’s not many players with the matchup prowess and understanding of Leffen.

18/1 Justin “Plup” McGrath

Plup is coming off a third-place finish at Evo 2016. A performance in which he took out Mango. Well, guess what? Plup will play Mango and his tournament success could ride on that matchup and if he can rewrite the history between him and Hungrybox.

25/1 Zac “SFAT” Cordoni

SFAT has cooled off a bit in 2017 after a breakout 2016, but the Fox player still has enough winnable matchups to get him over the top. SFAT avoids his problem matchups in M2K and Armada and will get ChuDat, Hungrybox and Mango. All players he’s had mild success against. If he can somehow get a win over a couple of these players, he could carry that momentum into the top 8.

30/1 Weston “Westballz” Dennis

The return of the extreme punish heavy Westballz has seemingly returned in 2017. The defense is still there, but now he’s starting to hit harder again with his Falco. He matches up with Leffen, who he has had close sets with in the past, but could run into some problems down the line.

30/1 Jeff “Axe” Williamson

Axe will have his hands full with Wizzrobe and Armada in bracket. He’ll have to play extremely well to have a shot at top 8 winners. The secret advantage Axe possesses is having the raucous Arizona crowd, which is in close proximity to the Vegas area, cheering for him.  Let’s see if Axe has the Evo main stage magic once again.

35/1 Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett

Wizzrobe could be the one underdog to place your money on this weekend. It feels like a matter of time before he has another breakout performance. He can compete with the upper echelon players and he’s starting to win more of the 50-50 matchups. Wizzrobe now has the tournament experience necessary and is a threat to win an Evo.

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Featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k

SSB World, A New Smash 4 Database Focused on Helping Pros and Amateurs Improve

The landscape of Smash is growing rapidly with the frequency of weekend majors, and payouts starting to rise. The amount of data out there for Smash 4 alone is daunting. Smash has endless amounts of information tied to the game; but with Smashboard’s popularity falling, it’s gotten harder to find reliable sources of information regarding Smash 4.

Enter SSB World, a community driven site working towards creating a database filled with essentially anything Smash 4 players or fans can go to learn, watch, or just experience Smash. The main draw is the video database, which currently has 15,000 videos, and is growing every day. It doesn’t just include major tournaments, but extends all the way down to local events.

Furthermore, the site allows for players to search for character or player specific matches. It’s a great resource for players struggling in a specific match up or for those trying to get a handle on a character. Any member of the community can add a tournament video to the database, and that’s the beauty of SSB world.

Production Value

On top of that, SSB World will be able to provide necessary information to help analyze tournament and character results. As Smash grows, the more crucial this type of information will become. It’s not only interesting to look at, but will be essential to the industry as stream productions continue to grow and become more professional. A database dedicated to tracking players and characters will have great insight for streamers, commentators, and even players studying their opponents or characters.

Each players page not only provides their matches but also their record according to the database, among other important details. The site also works with the PGR, which is the stats team for Panda Global. It gives anyone looking at a player page a comprehensive look at that player’s tournament success up to that point, once again making it easier for broadcasters.

Say a player is looking for information on a player in his pool at a tournament, check SSB World. It’s the most optimal way for finding Smash 4 videos on the internet and provides much more insight than YouTube. The database covers character usage and how characters fair on certain stages. It’s a perfect medium for pro and amateur players.

Stats are the Future

Stats are the future of Smash, whether that’s in Melee or Smash 4. The readily accessible information on character or stage usage is the first big step. The base of information is all there, and as the scene continues to grow, more stats will become more accessible. In Melee, thanks to Fizzy’s mod, the game can track wins in neutral, edge guard percentage, and center stage control.

Stats as specific as this are the next step in the evolution of Smash. Imagine having that sort of data always available after sets. Not only will it be interesting, but it will actively help players improve. For example, a player who’s winning neutral 60% of the time, but is dropping most of his edge guards, will know exactly what he needs to work on. It will be a great resource, and databases like SSB World are helping the community by pushing us towards more data-driven play.

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pokemon murkrow using shadow ball

Niche Picks – The Darkness Pokémon, Murkrow

Meet Murkrow

Portrait of Pokémon Murkrow

One of the first dark type Pokémon to be introduced by Game Freak, Murkrow originally hailed from the Johto region of the Gold & Silver games. It is considered an omen of bad luck, and has a propensity to play pranks on people and Pokémon.

In appearance, Murkrow bears a strong resemblance to a crow. The feathers on its head jut forward and up, creating a witch’s hat appearance, while its tail feathers mirror the head of a broom.

Along with its unique appearance, Murkrow possesses a unique ability, Prankster. Prankster allows Murkrow to use its status moves with increased priority. However, if evolved into Honchkrow, it loses access to the Prankster ability. Due to this, Murkrow finds itself fulfilling a niche role on certain teams.

Not only does forfeiting evolution grant Murkrow access to Prankster, but also allows it to use the item Eviolite. Holding this item boosts an un-evolved Pokémon’s defense and special defense.

Pranking the Competition

Pokémon Murkrow uses swift

Murkrow’s main goal is supporting its party by using Prankster to get Tailwind up on turn one. Once Tailwind is up, the Trainer can take advantage of the speed boost to gain the upper hand in the match.

There is another surprise move that Murkrow can use against unsuspecting foes though, and it has the potential to really mess up a Trainer’s synergy. The move is Quash, and it forces the target to move last for the round. The key is for Quash to work, it needs to go before the target.

With Prankster, this is not an issue, however. Murkrow is free to Quash any threat that is faster than it, unless it is a dark type (dark types are immune to Prankster-enhanced moves). The result is a speedy sweeper, such as Kartana, being forced to go last and getting KO’d before it can even use its first Leaf Strike.

Using these two moves, Murkrow can dictate the flow of battle. Beware though, even with the boost to bulk provided by the Eviolite, Murkrow is still fairly delicate.

Example in the Wild

Spectators were able to observe the Darkness Pokémon in action during the Anaheim Regional Championship in February. Used by Trainer Gary Qian, the team managed to place in the Top 16.

Gary Qian’s Anaheim Regional Murkrow:

murkrow
Murkrow @ Eviolite
Ability: Prankster
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpD
Calm Nature (Gary’s was Impish due to shiny)
IVs: 0 Atk
– Quash
– Taunt
– Foul Play
– Tailwind

Gary’s Murkrow is par for the course as far as these birds go.

Moves are self explanatory with Tailwind and Quash providing immense tempo control as described in the previous section. Along with that, Taunt gives Murkrow a way to shut down opponents from setting up. Finally, Foul Play gives it a way to do some damage and not become worthless if taunted.

The EV spread, along with Calm Nature, gives enough special defense to survive a Moonblast from Tapu Lele. This bulk provides Murkrow enough staying power to hang around a couple rounds and be a real nuisance.

As for teammates, Pokémon that benefit from Tailwind and can immediately pressure the opponent are best. This includes, but is not limited to, Gyarados, Garchomp, Kartana, and Pheromosa.

pokemon Murkrow showing its swag

All images courtesy Game Freak

Follow me on Twitter: @aeroashwind

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