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Pink: The Last Nairbender-An Interview with Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl’s First Major Champion

nickelodeon all star brawl

Prior to the exciting finales to Super Smash Bros. Melee and Ultimate’s main events at Super Smash Con: Fall Fest, an exhilarating Grand Finals decided the first major offline tournament for Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl.

Despite being a newcomer to the fighting game scene, NASB’s first outing pulled 200 entrants and the largest prize pool up for grabs all weekend thanks to developer GameMill and tournament sponsor Metafy.

In the end though, it was the Aang player known as Joshua “pink” L. who took home the trophy in a phenomenal Grand Finals comeback through the losers side of the bracket.

The Game Haus sat down with pink after their big win to discuss their tournament run as well as their thoughts on NASB and its potential competitive future.


How does it feel to win Nick All-Star Brawl’s first major offline tournament?
nickelodeon all star brawl


Image: @TridentSkrt on Twitter

“It feels very surreal because the thing is there are a lot of very very good online players, and the online scene for this game is actually cracked. It’s amazing — like some of the best online players, if they were to come to this tournament, they would probably farm.

It felt really surreal because I knew I was good enough to win, and I tweeted it even before I won the tournament actually, and I knew I could win — and I don’t want to say I didn’t expect it, but it wasn’t the first thing on my mind.

It also felt super surreal to talk to top players of Smash and stuff I’ve watched for so long and them to ask me questions about the game that I play and… it’s crazy.”

What game(s) did you come from?

“So I started getting into fighting games through Mortal Kombat 9 and the Netherrealm games, so I played Injustice for a long time, I played Street Fighter IV, I played Dragonball FighterZ — I was the best Dragonball FighterZ player in my region.

The thing about my ‘origin story’ per se is there were like nine people at a Dragonball FighterZ local at GameWorks in southern Virginia and I won. And I was like ‘Okay this is cool — I’m glad I won”, and then next week Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had just come out and there were 100 people entering at the same venue for a different game and I was like ‘Okay… I guess I’ll play that game.’ I ended up being a Pichu player for a while and I ended up learning the game fairly quickly thanks to my FGC background and how my brain works I guess — I’m pretty good when a game comes out.

When this game (NASB) came out, it kind of checked all the boxes for me. A lot of the stuff I didn’t like about Ultimate, this game sort of fixed.”

How cool is it seeing the player overlap with games like Smash?

“It’s pretty cool. I wish there was more of it — I wish there were more FGC heads who would take a serious shot at Smash. But the thing about it is if you take a serious shot at Smash right now, you’re probably trying Smash Ultimate which has eight frames of native input delay which feels awful. And that’s why I DQ’d actually out of Ultimate for this tournament.

Going from Nick to Ultimate feels bad — modern fighting games don’t have that problem… so I get why they won’t want to transition over.

But if there are any FGC heads that listen (or read) this, Nick All-Star has one frame of input delay! It’s really great!”

Preparation

What goes into picking a character for this game? Why Aang?
nickelodeon all star brawl
Image: GameMill Entertainment

“The neutral aerial. That’s the real answer right?

Everybody saw it. It’s the reason Michelangelo was banned. The nairs in this game tend to just be the over-tuned one move that kind of dictates how the character plays and how the rest of the tools balance around that… at least for the top tiers.

The move is not always neutral air, for Lucy for example, it’s not always one move but there’s always those sort of the purposely over-tuned parts of certain characters’ kits. So right now, in the game’s current state, you want to pick a character that has one of those options. So like Aang, Mike, Lucy, etc. Like Reptar, he’s a good character, there are no bad characters in the game, but characters like that that don’t have like the one cheese move that kind of wins you games right now.

Ren and Stimpy kind of have the move, but they have a variety of janky stuff about them. I feel like playing characters that are kind of impressive.

I’m pressing buttons really quickly, but most of the time it’s one button, and I won through my neutral and movement and just pressing nair over and over again.

Pick Aang if you’re looking for a character. That’s my answer.”

Word on the street is Aang can’t kill? You sort of proved us wrong on that.

“Well I proved it wrong and right at the same time.

How Aang works is he’s like a two-step character is what you call it. So it’s like the first step you know I’m playing Aang I’m playing neutral or I’m just pressing nair and killing you right? That’s step one. Step two, if I don’t kill you off of that one interaction or a second interaction, you’re getting to like 150 or 200% and that’s step two. And that’s the hard part of playing Aang. Aside from that, that’s it.

So if you can do the one-step, two-step and kill them consistently and get a read then yeah that’s great.”

So Nick All-Star Brawl is a brand new game. What goes into prepping for a game that just came out? Are there specific things that you were looking for? Did you have a roadmap for prepping for this kind of tournament?

“Yeah kind of. So, I think I had sort of an advantage in this situation because I’ve done this a lot. When a game comes out, I’m very interested in fighting games as a whole because I’ve played them for so long… so because I’ve had so many opportunities to learn so many different games, I feel like when a new game does come out I’m pretty good at picking apart what is good.

Like VoiD said — how the mindset works is essentially he doesn’t want to find what’s working in a game when it comes out he wants to find what is good to do. If you map it out in your head, what is the ‘good option’? What is hitting people, what’s working, etc. I think that mindset helps a lot and just playing a lot of different fighting games is like the main thing.”

Were there any matchups that you were prepping extra hard for? Anything you were scared to face in bracket?

“So 24 hours before the tournament it was Michelangelo. I was so scared of Michelangelo, but they announced that ban only 24 hours before the entire tournament started, so I was prepping for Mikey really hard… and then they banned him while we were in the hotel room.

My friend had to pick up Oblina on the spot and I was like ‘Okay! I’m prepping for Oblina, guess I’m prepping for Ren and Stimpy!” So it kind of flip-flopped when that ban got announced because that was the entire metagame. At least online it was Michelangelo — he has the funny move, he kills you off of it.

Aang kind of does the same thing which is why I put it in that tweet, but everybody loves when Aang does it. I’m not gonna complain! I do think it’s a little funny.”

The Tournament

So what was it like being on that stage, you lose Winners Finals, the reverse 3-0 and having to come back in Losers and then bracket-resetting and then winning it all through that?

“So the thing is I knew I was making a lot of mistakes, and I think some of the better online players that were watching on Twitch too were pointing out that I was dash attacking a lot. As well as I was playing at moments, there were also a lot of simple mistakes I was making.

That’s bound to happen because the game’s been out for like two weeks right? And Mirrorman was obviously making a lot of mistakes too, we both were, we know that.

But it was just like a matter of channeling the energy of just losing that set and wanting it so badly into something productive and just like amp-ing myself for my next opportunity rather than having a mental breakdown, giving up — and it’s really easy to do that, at least it feels like it. Maybe other players who have done this for a long time feel differently and got around it better.

For me at least it’s really hard not to you know let it get to you, but I feel like holding it together and then just like thinking about why I lost and the really simple mistakes that cost me is kind of why the next set was better.

I think that’s why I sort of speedran the first set of Grands because I was thinking of what I did wrong and the simple mistakes he was making as well. Because I know that we were still both learning the game obviously, so simple mistakes he was making — I could zero-to-death him off of a nair, because he was doing, I don’t wanna call it ‘bad’, he was doing these risky dash attacks a lot on my shield and I was just thinking like ‘Okay I cannot keep letting him get away with these dash attacks. I have to kill him off of that.’

Simple stuff like that. Ironing out simple mistakes is what I really needed to do.”

Could you tell the difference between the skill levels of the players competing? Was it more even throughout the tournament or was there a clear difference? 

“There was a disparity between the people that were grinding the game a lot, especially the people playing online and the Smash players that just wanted to try it out. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Obviously, if the game is new, everybody’s just trying it out no matter your skill level right now.

It was noticeable as someone who was exclusively grinding this game and not Smash Ultimate. Obviously, a lot of these people before like Top 64 were really just Smash players that wanted to try NASB.

So the first few rounds I don’t want to call them ‘easy’ or ‘free’, you get in that mindset and you start losing. But because a lot of the Smash players were just trying the game out, before Top 64 was not too difficult to prep for. After Top 64, I really had to start respecting every opponent because the game’s so new anybody could’ve really made that run if their mindset was in the right place and their execution was right and they were practicing.

I just had to respect everybody.”

The Future

What’s the future looking like for you? What’s the next event on your list?

“I’m thinking about going to Mainstage, but it depends on how many people go to the Nick event because I’m not really going too much for Smash. I also want to go to Just Roll With It in North Carolina because I have a friend who invited me and they have a Nick All-Star event; maybe try to win that.

I want to keep the momentum up and just keep playing every day because that’s what really helped me do this. I feel like a lot of sponsors and stuff, I tweeted ‘oh unsponsored by the way’ — I realized a lot of the bigger name sponsors are waiting because the game’s been out for two weeks — I just won one tournament. It’s a major, but it’s one tournament.

So I feel like a lot of them are waiting for me to win more to think about pursuing me as a player right? So just one tournament isn’t enough so I just need to keep up the momentum pretty much.”

A lot of people have been wondering, since the game is so fresh and so new, it’s admittedly a bit rough around the edges. From a player like yourself, what needs to be changed about the game? What things do you think the developers and the community as a whole could do to make sure this game lives on and survives? 

“On the community’s behalf, we just need to keep playing and have faith that the main dev team and Thaddeus will continue to improve the game. And I think anybody who’s paying attention right now knows that’s probably where we’re heading.

Because Thaddeus is always talking about the game, always listening and he’s watching the tournaments. He actually messaged me after I won the tournament funnily enough and we talked a little bit.

I think things are generally going to improve over time like mechanically and the systems of the game. I don’t know so much about the graphics and presentation… stuff like that’s hard to change in post. I personally don’t think the game looks that bad aesthetically… it looks good enough!

I just really like the game personally! I think it’s really well made mechanically and the systems and stuff and it checks all the boxes for me. I hope that people just keep playing.”


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