Sunday, 5 October 2014

Super Smash Bros 4: Surface Impressions

I have been awaiting the release of Super Smash Bros 4 (henceforth: SSB4) for a long while. Melee was the only other Smash game I ever owned, and I played it extensively. I have also watched a fair amount of competitive play of all the series' games. I know much about the games, but not as much as I should like about the competitive scene and the techniques used therein.

That's why I'm starting this series of analyses. I love esports and have thought about chronicling one before. This is the perfect opportunity. I will post about my experiences, characters, tournaments, strategies, counter-strategies, and anything else that tickles my fancy.

For now: what's different?

The first thing I want to touch on is how SSB4 is different from Melee or Brawl. Perhaps the most vital aspect is combo potential. Combo potential has been nerfed with each iteration of Smash, for better or for worse.

In SSB64, or OG Smash, according to the Smash Bros Wiki, every character except Samus is capable of performing a combo that will "zero-to-death" an opponent. That doesn't make for a great metagame. You have players playing super cautiously until someone gets hit, at which point the match is over (at a high enough level of play). So, not a very high skill ceiling.

For Melee, the developers decided to speed things up a little. Players were able to move and react much more quickly than in OG Smash, allowing for lightning-fast matches between pros. The fast pace of the characters means you can still have "true combos" while allowing opponents to disrupt soft combos with a quick enough nair, dodge, counter, etc.

A quick little aside on the nature of combos. I consider combos in Smash to be in 2 categories:

  • True Combos mean your hits flow seamlessly from one to the next, allowing no chance for your opponent to break it. This is what most people are thinking of when they say things like "there are no combos in Brawl."
  • Soft Combos mean you must read your opponent for your combo to work. For instance: if Mario throws Marth straight up, the Marth player can control their trajectory somewhat (this is called DI, or Directional Influence). Mario will have to predict which way Marth will choose to go (left, right, or straight up) and attempt to follow up with a fair. If Mario succeeds, the soft combo is a success; otherwise, he can be punished. (See more on Prediction: Hard Read vs. Soft Read)

In Brawl, there are few (if any) True Combos. If you look at the Zero-To-Death article here, you'll see the largest section of any game, but read into it and you'll see that many of these require specific setups, opponents, or an extreme level of skill to execute. Effort was put into lowering the skill ceiling in Brawl: everyone was slower and had longer ending lag. This made the game less competitively viable, since the community revelled in Melee's pace and the challenge wrought by the high skill ceiling. They were also mad about tripping.

Enter SSB4. Impressions (including my own) have been very positive, with Melee pros declaring their support for it, and their intentions to compete. Nintendo is even organising tournaments, which is a welcome step away from their "please no competition" attitude they had for Brawl. It's quicker than Brawl, but not quite as quick as Melee; there are some true combos, but they're rare and tough to pull off (and may require opponents to land on platforms higher than where you hit them from).

A Roster to be Reckoned With

The most exciting thing, for me, is the roster: 48 competitively legal characters (I don't believe Mii fighters are allowed in tournaments), by far the largest cast of the series. The increase is not for nothing, either: each character plays differently, introducing unique mechanics, playstyles, and counter-strategies which the franchise has been wanting. Duck Hunt epitomises this, with an immense camp game and quality smashes which can counter close-quarters fighters that rely on closing gaps (which are the only types of fighters we see in Melee tournaments).

Show me your moves!

I am beyond excited to see what people come up with for the competitive scene. Next week I will post more about the new mechanics and balancing issues the developers have employed.

Stay smashing, super brother.

-mysetriosum(the deranged hermit)

1 comment:

  1. I have been awaiting the release of Super Smash Bros 4 (henceforth: SSB4) for a long while. Melee was the only other Smash game I ever ...