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Icons Combat Arena: Project M’s Failed Successor

Super Smash Bros. Melee has a legacy like no other. It has managed to outlive both Brawl and Smash 4, and has lasted over 18 years in the esports community. As such, many fans of its style of gameplay have made games that take heavy inspiration from Melee. One such game is 2018’s Icons Combat Arena, by the indie studio Wavedash Games.

A Bit of Backstory

Project M, the predecessor of Icons Combat Arena
Project M 3.6b

Icons Combat Arena is not the first game made by Wavedash Games. In fact, you probably already know of their previous work. Before they made Icons, they were responsible for the popular community mod Project M. At this point, every Smash fan has at least heard of Project M. It was a community-driven passion project built by fans of Melee, while using the engine and content in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It received multiple updates and a load of new content over its five-year development.

Project M was a fantastic addition to the Smash community, but sadly ended development in December of 2015. The original developers stated that they would start work on a new project, but the community wouldn’t know what this project was until two years after Project M’s final update.

A Rough Start

Promotional artwork of Icons Combat Arena
Icons: Combat Arena

Two years later, the newly formed Wavedash Games revealed Icons: Combat Arena to a…less than favorable reaction. The game was already seeing backlash due to it’s generic art style and its heavy similarities to Super Smash Bros. Melee. At the time, fans on the Smashboards forums warned the developers that changes needed to be made in order for the game to be successful. Given the current state of the game and studio now, it would seem these warnings were ignored.

The Game Itself

Screenshot of Icons Combat Arena
Icons: Combat Arena

The game itself leaves much to be desired. The team was there, and they knew what they were doing. How this game came out this poorly is a true mystery.

Smash Bros with an Overwatch Skin

One of the most glaring issues with this game is its art style. The game takes a lot from games like Overwatch in terms of its visual style. A lot of the characters even bear a striking resemblance to some of the characters of Overwatch. For example, before an update, the character Xana looked almost exactly like Zarya. The art style comes of as bland and uninspired, which is surprising given the effort this team put into there previous work.

It’s Just Melee, but Worse

A good portion of the characters are just discount versions of Melee characters. Ashani for example, is pretty much Captain Falcon, even having her own Falcon Punch. The more egregious offenders however, are the characters Kidd, and Zhurong. Kidd is just Fox, and Zhurong is Marth. In one of the games trailers, Zhurong pulls off a Ken combo, something that Melee players have already seen. These similarities bring up a valid question: “Why play this game when I could just play Melee?”.

Fatal Mistakes

There are three things that ultimately lead to the death of this game. One was the fact that the game never seemed to reach 60 frames per second. The other is the very weird 6-frame input delay that the game has. The most fatal mistake, however, is the fact that this game is Free-to-Play. On its own, this isn’t bad, but this game locks the majority of its roster, leaving only Ashani and Xana available for free. Not to mention that this game has the ever-controversial inclusion of loot boxes.

Going Nowhere

Artwork of Icons Combat Arena
Kidd from Icons

The constant mistakes made by the developers would ultimately bring about the downfall of this game. The studio would very quickly close down shortly after the release of this game, and no word has come from anyone on the development staff.

Icons should be an example to future platform fighting game developers. If you’re going to make your own Platform Fighter, you have to give players a reason to play it over Smash. Wavedash games didn’t understand this, and as such they suffered the consequences.

If you still want to play this game then unfortunately, it’s no longer possible. The game is (or was) always online. Since the studio is gone, the servers are now shut down, meaning no one can play it. Even offline modes can no longer be accessed.

 

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