Fighting games are a mainstay of the E-Sports conversation. Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Guilty Gear and Smash Brothers all sit at the forefront of the genre as mainstream pioneers of the competitive fighting game genre. Of course, the distinction of “Fighting Game” and there are regularly disputes about what games deserve such a title. Particularly the series Super Smash Brothers. The complaints and explanations that follow the series are the same throughout the series, the lack of conventional life bars, the ‘Simple’ inputs, people have even gone so far as to complain about the option to have items in game, which is in no way necessity. So, today we’ll look at what makes a fighting game a fighting game, and explore the tactical necessities that are present in games all across the genre, and we’ll see how much of that Smash Brothers employs.
For the sake of argument, we’ll be looking at Super Smash Brothers 4, the latest installment of the game, since it’s the most played of the games in the series at the time of writing.
Technical Gameplay Aspects
Footsies: Footsies are control of the ground, more specifically the mid range space between yourself and your opponent. Footsies will always be apart of a fighting game, and in some fighting games are almost all that matters (We see you Divekick!) The “Footsie” game has been a part of fighting games since Ryu had a crouching medium kick, and it’s hard to justify calling a game a fighting game without it given how important it is in developing an advantage over opponents, especially in 50/50 matchups or mirrors.
Reads: Reads are what make some of the most hype moments in fighting games. The ability to condition and understand ones opponents patterns so well, that a player develops, on the spot, an optimal reaction to punish their opponents predictability. Reads are the most attractive result of the mind games that come with the fighting game genre and make them such an amazing experience.
Spacing: This goes hand in hand with footsies, some people will even argue that they’re the same thing. Spacing is the ability to find the ‘Sweet Spot’ between your character and your opponent in both the air and ground to ensure that you get the maximum amount of damage out of your attacks and they get the minimum out of theirs. A good example who be the use of the world famous Hadouken or fireball at mid range. The fireball still has value from across the stage, as your opponent MUST react to it, it will not fade away unless it hits something or flies offscreen, however a good Shoto player will always look to have the proper spacing to squeeze the full value out of the move, the point at which their opponent must react, but is too far away to take advantage of the recovery frames (The time it takes an opponent to recover from an action). Doing this ensures that the shoto player can convert on their pressure if the chance arises and their opponent must find a response to the well spaced pressure being exerted on them. The reason this is considered the same as “Footsies” is because the one doesn’t come without the other. No one will ever say “Your footsies are good, and your spacing is bad.” Good spacing is the end goal, footsies are how you get there.
Attacking Further Criticisms
If all the pictures didn’t make my stance on Smash 4 as a fighting game evident, this will. Taking a look at those pictures alone, I’ve displayed examples of several core fighting game mechanics. If “Game where people hit each other until someone KO’s” is a good enough description of Street Fighter, it’s also accurate of Smash and many other fighting games. Smash 4 also comes with the core of fighting game mechanics, including a comeback mechanic called Rage. Many times, people will use the strength of Rage to discount Smash as a fighting game. However…
It’s not much different than being behind, and then 50+ percenting someones health bar with something like this. Much like a Critical Art/Super Art/Ultra Rage isn’t something that you’re going to have, and then instantly one shot someone with, but it can be a huge threat and change a game, forcing your opponent to respect the very obvious power you can leverage against them.
Another con people like to bring up about Smash as a fighting are the potentially simple inputs, but it’s never been the case that every character in any game was particularly difficult to use the inputs for. If you’re on a pad or stick, half quarter motions really aren’t that rough, and even in games like Street Fighter, they’re not necessary for every character. Indeed, even the games mascot character has no charge motions, or any other advanced motion, his special inputs are actually so simple that he has appeared in Smash Brothers, and might just make further appearances in the franchise. And then there’s Divekick, the game played with two buttons, and still just as much a fighting game as any of the others.
So what do you think? Is Smash a fighting game in your eyes? Did this article change your mind one way or the other? Do you hate me for talking about Smash in the Fighting Game section? You can let me know how much you loved this article (Or just call me awful) @TirasCarr on twitter, and however you feel, thank you for reading!