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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Nintendo Shows Promise

The Super Smash Bros. franchise targets casual gamers. Its creator, Masahiro Sakurai, looks at the game as a casual experience. Nonetheless, through his vision, iconic characters met up to throw fists at each other. He built something great.

However, a group of other people took it to a whole different level. In 2002, Matt Deezie threw Tournament Go., Melee’s first big tournament series. It started as a small gathering of people that wanted to become the best at the game. However, it built the foundation for a competitive Super Smash Bros. community. Since then, people around the world gather to find out who is the best player in the venue.

Under normal circumstances, a competitive player beats a casual one without any difficulty. Nintendo hasn’t ever put too much thought to this, but now things changed. Nintendo cares about its competitive community.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Balance in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Brawl built a competitive community, but at its core, it was a casual game – Image: Nintendo

Controversy defines this game. The raging Melee community had high expectations for Brawl. With all the popularity Melee gathered, it was only natural for the hype to grow. Players found ways to exploit Melee. Wavedashing and L canceling drastically sped up the game and added many layers to it. The community thought that Brawl would build upon Melee, and rise to an even higher level of competition. New characters like Sonic, Lucas and Wario joined the mix giving the game a fresh feel.

After seven years, the Super Smash Bros. franchise had a new entry. On paper, this would fuel the community’s tank and make it grow to even higher proportions. However, the game performed poorly in an unforgivable area.

The gameplay was slow. Random tripping messed with the flow of the game and being able to air dodge freely eliminated many flashy combos. It wasn’t a bad game, but Melee’s competitive community didn’t embrace it. To add to this, the metagame was strictly polarizing. Many characters didn’t have a chance at a top level. Meta Knight managed to dominate the scene, due to his ridiculous potential, at one point being banned from tournaments.

There are exceptions to every rule. Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, one of Melee’s Gods, actively competed in the game and at one point was even considered one of the best players. Being one of the best in one game wasn’t enough for him. He went for blood and delivered.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl was a great game. Casuals loved it, but on the other side of the spectrum, it faltered. It managed to build a community, but it wasn’t stable enough to survive the next games’ rise.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

The next entry in the Smash Bros. franchise came in as Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, commonly referred to as Smash 4. Its faster-paced gameplay dragged many in, and Brawl’s popularity instantly took a significant hit. It was far from perfect. Many characters like Sheik and Diddy Kong dominated the game. However, compared to Metaknight’s run in Brawl, they weren’t a problem.

It improved on many things and built a solid community from the get-go. It was a great competitive game.

Balance in Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Smash 4 wasn’t a perfect game, but its competitive run was respectable – Image: Nintendo

When it came to patches, Nintendo felt lost. Their approach toward balancing was lackluster. They preferred nerfing characters over buffing, resulting in some poor outcomes. Greninja is a perfect example of the issue. After patch 1.0.4 he got some unnecessary nerfs and consequently started dropping in the tier list.

Another considerable issue came in the addition of Bayonetta. At first glance, she was a cool witch that adds a new, edgy archetype character to an otherwise innocent game. However, at the time of her release, some significant problems became apparent. Due to her games nature, the characters combo mechanics didn’t fit into Smash. Her specials led to ladder combos that quickly took stocks at ridiculous percents. She wasn’t an easy character to play and even received some substantial nerfs towards the last patch, but that wasn’t enough. After her metagame developed, she started becoming a prominent figure, eventually dominating the roster.

Bayonetta’s dominance and news of the release of Smash Bros. Ultimate led towards a steady decline in the games community. People were seeking greener pastures, and footage of the next entry showed promise.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

The most recent entry of the franchise showed many improvements. Nintendo finally took the competitive community under consideration and added features like a hazard toggle and higher damage in one vs. one scenarios. They also brought back directional air dodging, a mechanic that dictates the flow of melee. It came in its reworked way, but the community received it positively.

Balance in Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Ken and Ryu got heavily toned down between games and patch 3.1.0 rewards them both with some much-needed buffs – Image: Nintendo

Balance wise, the game dropped in a very healthy state. Some characters didn’t get the best treatment, but out of the 69 characters at release, almost half were competitively viable. An achievement that not many games can claim. There isn’t a clear explanation of what shifted Nintendo’s focus, but the game now has a dedicated balancing team. In the past, Sakurai dealt with the balance. However, now that he has moved on and let a dedicated team deal with the issue, Smash is competitively running in a positive way.

This doesn’t mean that the game has no issues, but the balancing team shows promise. In patch 3.1.0, some necessary adjustments were made. Characters like Ken and Captain Falcon got some needed buffs. On the other side, Pichu, Peach and Wolf got toned down. Initially, the balancing of the game would reflect on the result of Elite Smash matches. This scared the community because of the level of play that occurs in this setting doesn’t reflect the competitive reality of the game. However, after seeing Nintendo’s performance, some trust was built. Nintendo does care about the balance of the game.


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Featured image provided by Nintendo

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