Defensive options are very important in every fighting game. Blocking, dodging, countering, parrying, are all fighting game mechanics that are just as, if not more integral to a match as attacking. Smash is no exception, as defense is a big part of every smash game. Blocking in smash is unique from most traditional fighters because you cant hold shield indefinitely. If you hold it for too long, or it takes too much damage, it will break, and leave you wide open to a massive punish.
Luckily, shielding a poorly spaced attack will typically allow you to punish with a quick move. However some feel that this isn’t always the case in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Shielding in Ultimate compared to other smash titles (most notable Smash 4) is quite different. Add in the new perfect shield/parry technique, and we now have a radically different shielding system on our hands. Many players have expressed their concerns with how safe many moves feel on block. Shielding is definitely different in Ultimate, but is it truly worse?
Everything is safe
The main issue many players have with shielding is that many moves that would be dangerous on block in past titles are now safe. Many characters can get away with landing a poorly spaced aerial, or even some smash attacks and still be able to avoid an out of shield punish. Grabbing out of shield is also slower than in past titles and isn’t nearly as viable as it used to be. Throw in the fact that perfect shielding isn’t nearly as easy as it was in Smash 4, and now it’s much harder to land that perfect block punish. This is understandably frustrating a lot of players.
When an opponent doesn’t space a move properly, it usually means that they should be punished for it. Whether it be a jab out of shield, or a quick tilt is beside the point; they messed up a neutral interaction and their opponent should be able to capitalize.
If you find yourself constantly getting hit after shielding something you thought was unsafe because you pressed buttons after shielding, then the obvious solution would be to not press buttons. Simply roll away and reset neutral, or even stay in shield. However, this is also a frustrating proposition. Your opponent is still getting off pretty easily for being reckless. They don’t get punished, and got to apply free pressure with the only consequence being a neutral reset. This can make players devalue shielding, and even lead to them playing less aggressively. Instead of looking for a quicker out of shield punish, now they may just reluctantly roll away and reset the interaction. It’s no secret that many moves are much safer on shield than in past titles, however all hope is not lost.
Stuck in the past
Many of the struggles players face when playing Ultimate can likely be attributed to growing pains from transitioning from Smash 4. Shielding, and defense in general were very strong in Smash 4. Airdodging and rolling were much stronger, and shielding a poorly spaced move would almost always lead to a grab; or at the very least a quick punish. After playing a fighting game for years at a time, muscle memory will most certainly develop, and many players are still struggling to shake off their Smash 4 habits. There are viable out of shield options available for every character. Players just need to find out which ones work, and which moves give their opponent frame advantage.
This doesn’t mean a players feelings about the shielding system in Ultimate are invalid. It just means that they might be more adjusted to it as time goes on. We have to remember that it is still only month 4.
This is not to say that Smash Ultimate is free from criticism, however. The community is a bit divided at the moment over some players voicing their issues with Smash Ultimate; some even expressing how they miss how things were in Smash 4. Others think that Ultimate is a great game, and that Smash 4 doesn’t hold up in comparison. No matter which side you’re on, your opinion is still valid. If someone genuinely likes Smash 4 over Ultimate, it doesn’t make them a crazy person. But at the same time we can’t look at Ultimate as this infallible masterpiece, because it certainly isn’t perfect.
Despite the limited defense options, many can agree that most things about Ultimate are an improvement. Sure, it is annoying running into a player on quickplay who seemingly gets rewarded for recklessly pressing buttons on shield. But at the end of the day the better player will still typically come out on top.
Give it time
Lastly, some things just need time to develop. Ultimate has only been out for 4 months and there is a big patch incoming that could drastically change things. The Smash 4 that was played last year looked nothing like it did 4 months into the game’s life cycle. The game is about to get a new character and possibly even new gameplay changes. Smash 4 saw changes in shield stun almost an entire year after the games release. Smash Ultimate is still very much in it’s infancy, and we don’t know what the game will look by the end of April; let alone months like down the line. Who knows, maybe players will even adjust to how shielding works after a few updates. Either way Smash Ultimate is still young, and needs time to develop before we pass final judgments.
Also, stop pressing buttons.
What do you think about the shielding system in Smash Ultimate? Be sure to let us know in the comments down below!
Featured image courtesy of Dragon Smash on youtube.
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