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A hypothetical Switch port of Smash 4: Character balance

When the Nintendo Switch was announced in October of last year, many anticipated the announcement of a port Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. After all, in the Switch’s teaser trailer, we saw what eventually became Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Imagining a port for Smash 4 didn’t feel out of the question. Over a year later, we still have no confirmation on whether or not a Switch port of Smash 4 will come to fruition.

While we’re in the limbo of waiting for a Smash-related announcement, whether it’s a Smash 4 port or an eventual Smash 5, we might as well take this time to talk about how the foundations of Smash 4 could be improved. For now, I want to imagine what Smash 4’s balance could evolve if it were ported to the Switch. I will primarily look at Smash 4’s balance regarding its roster of characters.

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In the Switch’s reveal trailer, many thought this part of the trailer would reveal Smash 4. Image: Nintendo

I think every corner of the Smash community can agree that Smash 4 has the best balance in the series. Smash 64 and Melee only see a select portion of the roster prevalent in competitive play. These games don’t have awful balance, but it’s clear that high-level players can only seriously compete by using certain characters. Brawl’s balance was notoriously bad, with Meta Knight being played in most competitive matches. This poor balance led to Brawl being modded so much. Smash 4 is considered to be the most balanced game in the series. The variety of characters that are played in tournaments, big or small, reflect this. So how exactly can Smash 4’s balance be improved from where it is now?

Resuming Balance Updates

As balanced as I think Smash 4 is, it obviously hasn’t always been that way. When Smash 4 was first released, there were many characters and certain combos that were unfairly good. Diddy Kong’s infamous down-throw into up-air “hoo-hah” combo comes to mind This combo was relatively easy to pull off and killed fairly early, making many people frustrated with Diddy Kong as a character. Nevertheless, Diddy Kong was picked up by many high-level players due to the ease of getting KOs. This made Diddy Kong quite a prevalent character in tournaments in the early months of Smash 4’s life. There were other balance issues that were quickly fixed, such as Fox’s jab-lock and Bowser’s down special that could easily break shields, among many other fixes.

As time went on, things such percent damage, shield damage, throw angles and more were tweaked through balance patches/updates. To me, each patch throughout Smash 4’s life has been an exciting event. Looking at all the changes made to the game, and seeing how the competitive community adapts is interesting. Moreover, the frequent patches made competitive players more engaged with the game. The patches also encouraged certain characters to become played more. Marth is a great example of a character that has benefited from patches. He was arguably mediocre at launch, but thanks to the buffs he has received through patches, he is now considered by many to be either high-tier or top-tier.

In a hypothetical Nintendo Switch port of Smash 4, I would like to see balance patches return. The last significant patch to the game was released shortly after Bayonetta was released, over 18 months ago. This port of Smash 4 could recapture the excitement of seeing characters get buffed or nerfed and seeing the competitive community adapt to all the changes made.

Empowering the weaker characters

Okay, so we will continue having patches, but what will those patches change? Many would like stronger characters such as Bayonetta and Cloud to get nerfed in addition to having weaker characters such as Jigglypuff and Zelda to get significantly buffed. Ideally, I think it’d be best to see both of these happen to some extent. However, I would give more focus on buffing characters that are considered bottom, low and middle-tier.

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Should balance patches focus on making non-top-tier characters better? Duck Hunt and Mega Man are just two characters that can be made better. Image: Nintendo Life

The thing about Smash 4’s roster is that no character is fundamentally flawed. Almost every character’s moveset is unique, entertaining to play as and can be played well given enough practice. The only things about the lower-tier characters that need to be improved are the likes of what we have seen previous patches do. These include improving frame data, the strength of moves and even movement speed. I’m convinced Jigglypuff can be a great character in Smash 4 if her damage and knockback output was increased on all of her moves. In Smash 4, she ultimately plays quite similarly to her high-tier Melee counterpart. Smash 4’s iteration of Jigglypuff just needs a lot more oomph. Making her Rest nearly as powerful as, say, Little Mac’s KO Punch would be a proper start.

There are many mid-tier characters in Smash 4 that I’m convinced are quite good in the right hands. Link, Duck Hunt and Pac-Man are three characters that I really admire watching. Their focus on resource management makes them unique to play and watch. It’s a joy to see these characters played in tournament, and I’d love to see them become more common in high-level play. A way to do this, of course, is improving parts of their movesets here and there.

Other characters like Shulk, Luigi, Ike, Lucario and so many others are all fun to play and watch. I don’t feel that any character needs to be entirely reworked. We just need to keep seeing small improvements to these characters’ frame data, damage output and knockback output.

Moving forward

While I share some of the irritation of seeing certain characters more often in high-level play (Bayonetta, Cloud, Rosalina, etc.), I don’t feel like the solution is to make those characters much worse. What I love so much about Smash 4 is the diversity that we see in competitive play. Buffing non-top tier characters will encourage players to pick up characters that may not have played before. If more characters improve through balance patches, the competitive scene can become significantly more diverse than it is now.

And who benefits from more diversity in competitive play? We all do. For players, they get more experience with different kinds of character matchups. For viewers, the inclusion of more characters being played at tournaments makes every match feel different to watch. Seeing a greater variety of matchups is entertaining to viewers. Improving the weaker characters in the roster will only make the variety of characters that we see in tournaments become greater.

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A more balanced roster leads to more character diversity. More diverse matches make watching and playing the game more interesting and varied. Image: VGBootcamp

This isn’t to say that there will still be some characters that are played more than others. I’m not sure that it’s possible for a game to be perfectly balanced and have every character be equally good. With a character roster as large as Smash 4’s, I don’t think anyone can expect that. What I would like to see in regards to the roster’s balance is for the floor to be raised; I would like to see Smash 4 balanced to the point that no character can be considered “bad” or “not usable if you want to actually win a tournament”. Smash 4 as it is is close to that, but there are still many improvements that still need to be made.

Improvements to the game’s balance are one of the biggest reasons why I would love to see Smash 4 get ported to the Nintendo Switch. Of course, there are many other reasons to want a Smash 4 port, which I plan on delving into in the coming weeks.

For the game’s balance, do you agree or disagree? What characters would you like to see get rebalanced, and how so? Join the conversation and let us know!


Featured image courtesy of Nosolo Gamer.

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