Why Smash Bros. is So Divisive in the Fighting Game Community

Evo is just around the corner. In fact, it’s happening this weekend and, like each and every year, I am so eager to see which player will come out on top in their respective games. That’s actually a half-truth. I will say that I am looking forward to see some high level gameplay in the majority of the games that will be on Evo, there is one game that I don’t really care for. It’s not Tekken nor Dragon Ball FighterZ. It’s definitely not Street Fighter nor Samurai Shodown. And I’m generally okay with seeing a couple of Soul Caliber, Mortal Kombat and Under Night At Birth matches even if I don’t play those games seriously.

The game I don’t really care for at Evo is, strangely enough, this year’s main event. It’s the game that’s going to close out the show. That game is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

I don’t think I’m alone here. If you look at a lot of websites that cover fighting games and their respective tournaments, you will see a lot of people posting a lot of hateful things about Super Smash Bros. To be fair, all games will get their share of hurtful messages from fans but there is a general perception that Smash Bros. gets the most hate among the fighting game community.

But the questions is why? All the games in the Smash series have sold incredibly well; it’s one of Nintendo’s most important properties out there due to the number of copies each new iteration sells. It also has one of the most loyal and hardcore communities out there. I mean, there are still some Super Smash Bros. Melee tournaments still being run… and that game can only be played on the Gamecube, a system that is three Nintendo generations old!

It just seems that Smash Bros. is that weird outlier within the fighting game community. The red-headed stepchild of fighting games, if you will. But the question still stands: why are the Smash Bros games so divisive? I can’t speak for the fighting game community at large but I can certainly give you my perspective as to why this is.

One of the biggest reasons, in my opinion, as to why a lot of people within the fighting game community doesn’t get Smash Bros. is that it doesn’t follow the normal convention of what a fighting game should be. Most fighting games follow the template that Street Fighter II popularized way back in 1991. Each player chooses their character and attempt to pummel their opponent to whittle their life bar down to nothing. Their opponent, of course, is attempting to do the same. If no one life is depleted when the time runs out, the winner with the most life wins the round. Win two rounds out of three and you win the match.

None of the Super Smash Bros. games follow these rules. Instead of attempting to knockout your opponent, the goal in each Smash Bros. game is to knock your opponent off the stage. There are also no life bars and replacing them is a percentage meter of how much damage the character has taken. The more damage that has been inflicted on him or her, the further they can be launched, making them easier to knock off the stage. Obviously, that’s not all there is to Smash Bros. but that is the very gist of the game.

The differences between other fighting games doesn’t end there. One of the reasons why I think Smash Bros. has a lot of casual fans, besides being able to choose from a wide variety of Nintendo IP characters and guest fighters, is that the gameplay is deceptively easy, especially when compared to other fighting games out in the market. In games like Street Fighter and Tekken, you have to do a lot of complicated movements on the controller to execute special attacks. This results in a lot of memorization on what joystick motion or button combinations does what. This can be tricky, specifically for newcomers, who just want to jump into the game they just bought. Heck, even the button layout can be daunting since you have to remember at least four buttons in a fighting game and be able to recall what each one does in the heat of battle!

All Smash Bros. iterations are definitely easier to remember. You still have to remember around four buttons but they’re broken down into functions. There’s going to be one button to attack, another button to grab your opponent, yet another button to block and, something that is kind of a novelty in most fighting games, a jump button. It’s definitely much easier to have Mario toss out a fireball than to have Ryu throw a Hadouken since all you have to do is push forward on the stick while pressing the special button to have Nintendo’s mascot execute the move!

This more simplistic control layout does feel more intuitive for the more casual gamer and it actually enables the player to concentrate on the game rather than having to execute some weird movement on the joystick to attack with a special move. However, this does have the negative effect on probably the majority of the fighting game community who were weaned on Street Fighter and Tekken. How can Smash Bros. be fun when they “dumbed down” the control scheme? Where’s my ridiculous Geese Howard Raging Storm motion?

It’s this perceived simplicity that does turn off a lot in fighting game community. It’s the same when fans turned their noses upward from “kids” who played Marvel vs. Capcom 3 using Simple mode. That’s not the way to play a fighting game! You can’t do a move consistently? You go into practice mode and git gud, son!

It certainly doesn’t help that Smash Bros. has a slew of Nintendo mascots in their roster. Instead of buff dudes like Ryu and Heihachi Mishima, women with *ahem* appealing character designs like Chun-Li and Nina Williams or dangerous looking creatures like Kuma, Smash Bros. mainstays are a portly plumber, a pink puffball that sings to put you to sleep and an elf with a sword. There are some badass looking characters but there’s still the perception that Smash Bros is a “kiddie” game.

There’s some truth to that. When Smash Bros. was envisioned, it was supposed to be a fighting game that newcomers can just play for fun without having to deal with the competitive nature that does permeate in the fighting game scene. It was more of a free-for-all as four players can fight each other at the same time and there would even be random items dropped just to add to the insanity. This was how Smash Bros. was supposed to be played but, when fans started getting serious and formed tournaments, it started to stray from its “party” game roots into the competitive Smash Bros. scene we have today.

Personally, the biggest thing that’s holding me back from actually enjoying a Smash Bros. tournament are actually the game mechanics. It’s just so different from other fighting games meaning that all the knowledge that I have doesn’t really carry over to Smash Bros. It’s difficult to really get into something when you don’t know what’s happening.

Of course, that’s just me. I’m glad that Smash players will get their time to shine on the main stage of Evo and as the main event, no less. But I’m just not interested and I feel there are going to be many within the fighting game community who will be skipping out o the last game of Evo. No disrespect meant but that’s just means I can go to bed early.

Do you enjoy Smash Bros. tournaments or not? Why do you think Smash has become so divisive within the fighting game community? Let me know in the comments section below!


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