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Why Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is so important

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Key Art

The past week has been a time that the Super Smash Bros. community only gets to see a few times a decade. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was officially unveiled on June 12 in Nintendo’s E3 Direct, with the 2018 Super Smash Bros. Invitational commencing a few hours later.

This week has been a time of excitement, enthusiasm, hype and passion for the new game, and for good reason. There are 65 confirmed playable characters and over 80 stages to play on. They tweaked characters’ movesets and new mechanics such as the much-needed revision of perfect shielding. There’s a lot to get excited about. And this excitement is exactly what the Smash community needs.

Having attended a local tournament this past weekend, there was something palpably different about the atmosphere. The atmosphere had a new fire within it – it felt rejuvenated. Regardless of what game they played, all tournament attendees were talking about the new game in some capacity, expressing their excitement and thoughts on Ultimate.

It is this rejuvenation that I find to be so captivating. Let’s discuss why Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is both exciting and, most importantly, vital for the future of Smash.

The Approach of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

As stated in Nintendo’s E3 Direct, the overall changes made in Ultimate could number in the tens of thousands. Perhaps the changes that are most eye-catching to the competitive community are the changes made to movement. Ultimate includes directional air dodging, similar to Melee. In addition, dodging becomes less effective if used excessively.

Smash Bros. Ultimate punishes excessive dodging.
Ultimate makes dodging a less effective option. This makes defensive play less reliable. Image: Nintendo

What does this mean? Quite a lot, actually.

In Smash 4, defensive play was more encouraged due to dodging being such an effective option in competitive play. With the effectiveness of dodging being reduced, players now can’t rely on defensive play as heavily. In fact, ZeRo, the winner of the 2018 Super Smash Bros. Invitational, has extensively discussed how he feels that Ultimate encourages and rewards aggressive play.

Other factors of aggressive play being encouraged include the fact that there is a higher damage output in 1v1 matches, perfect shields activate when shields are disengaged and an increase to the game’s overall speed. With aggressive play being more encouraged, matches feature significantly more offensive play than Smash 4 matches. More offensiveness not only makes matches more fun to play, but it also makes matches more exhilarating for spectators.

This leads into something that is equally important about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

The E3 2018 Super Smash Bros. Invitational’s Impact

The importance of this year’s Super Smash Bros. Invitational at E3 2018 shouldn’t be understated. This event wasn’t something that was thrown together by a few Nintendo employees that play the game competitively. Various higher-ups at Nintendo were involved in making this event a reality. As such, the Invitational shows Nintendo’s willingness to engage with the competitive Smash Bros. community. Nintendo is perhaps more willing to engage with and support the competitive community now more than ever before. What illustrated this sentiment best was this heartwarming video about the Smash community that played at the beginning of the event.

As for the event itself, it was nothing short of an amazing spectacle. While items and Smash Balls were turned on in a few matches for the sake of showing off the game’s content to all audiences, each match showcased the exciting competitive nature of the game very well. Additionally, this event confirmed that stage hazards could be turned off, as the Frigate Orpheon stage was played without being flipped upside down mid-match. A hazard toggle has been a huge request from Smash fans. The inclusion of this feature (and many others) suggests that Nintendo is listening to fan feedback and suggestions for this game.

Masahiro Sakurai giving trophy to Invitational winner Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios
Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios received his trophy from series director Masahiro Sakurai, who rarely makes public appearances. Image: Nintendo

The Invitational also showcased a few features in Ultimate that cater more to spectators. The most notable changes include a map of the stage when a character goes off screen. This feature shows how close launched players are to the blast zone. Another addition highlights the remaining stocks for each player every time a player dies in a 1v1 match. Both of these changes, while seemingly small, mean quite a bit. They make the game easier to watch, making the game more appealing for spectators. This, in turn, has the potential to make the game more appealing to be viewed as an esport.

Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios came out of retirement to attend this tournament. After an intense grand finals against Leonardo “MkLeo” Perez (which you can watch here), ZeRo placed first. He even received the trophy from none other than series director Masahiro Sakurai himself.

Overall, the event brilliantly showed how different Ultimate is from Smash 4. This event showed far more offensive play than what Smash 4 typically offers, making for an event that was ostensibly thrilling tow watch.

What Role Will Ultimate Play in the Smash Community?

While various players have praised Ultimate for encouraging more aggressive gameplay options, some have expressed concern about the game’s compatibility with Melee players. Since Smash 4’s release, the competitive community has been split into two main camps: Melee players and Smash 4 players. Both games continue to be featured in tournaments, big and small. Both games continue to be played at EVO.

Many prominent Melee players simply couldn’t play Smash 4 due to the game’s slower pace, among other factors. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will surely manage to attract competitive Smash 4 players; but will Ultimate be able to do the same for Melee players?

It’s perhaps too early to say at this point. As Mang0 expressed on Twitter, Nintendo seems to be making the right steps to make a new Smash game that will appeal to as many people as possible. At the same time, it could be argued that Smash 4 players have something of a “head start” for Ultimate – something that Melee players may lack. While Ultimate is certainly a compromise between Smash 4 and Melee, this author is currently unsure if Ultimate can be a game that can bring over many Melee players – something that Smash 4 wasn’t able to entirely accomplish.

New Perfect Shielding mechanics.
New competitive nuances, such as the revised Perfect Shielding mechanic, will give this game its own competitive identity. Perhaps that should be put above making the game resemble parts of Melee’s competitive identity. Image: Nintendo

That said, things look promising for Ultimate. As Armada stated in his impressions of the game, there’s a hope for the game’s competitive future that wasn’t there with Smash 4. Hungrybox discussed that the game would succeed in bringing over many more Melee players if air dodges are modified even further. I’m unsure if it’s fair to assume that Ultimate can only attract Melee players if it replicates certain parts of Melee’s competitive identity, namely wavedashing. It would be more interesting to see competitive nuances unique to Ultimate, rather than those that make it feel like Melee.

Regardless, Ultimate will most certainly make a huge competitive splash when it releases. The coming months will be exciting. As we discover more details about the game, so too will we discover more about what the game’s competitive identity will be like.

The Future of Smash

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has reinvigorated the competitive Smash community. With the excitement inherent of any upcoming Smash game, Ultimate looks to be an important milestone for Super Smash Bros. as a series. With even more competitive aspects in the game, in addition to Nintendo’s increasing acknowledgement and engagement with the Smash community, the future for Smash looks promising.

Another thing to note is that Ultimate will be on the Nintendo Switch, one of Nintendo’s most successful and popular systems to date. This means that Ultimate will reach a new audience, potentially making the Smash community larger than it ever has been before. Additionally, the game boasts so many new features to make the game more appealing for players as well as spectators. This is what makes the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate so important.

To what extent will Smash Ultimate impact the competitive community? Will it make a large splash in the larger world of esports? Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long to find out. As surreal as it may sound, we have less than six months until a new Smash games in our hands. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate releases on December 7, 2018.

 

What do you think about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? Do you think the game will attract both Smash 4 and Melee players? As always, join the conversation and let us know!


 

Featured image courtesy of the official Super Smash Bros. website.

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other TGH writers along with Derek. 

You can also follow Derek @DerekExMachina.

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