In Defense of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

While I would never call myself as a fighting game enthusiast, I enjoy playing fighting games. I’ve played a lot of them throughout my life – several Street Fighter games, the Capcom/Marvel crossovers, the Mortal Kombats, the Tekkens and Soul Caliburs, even obscure ones like Waku Waku 7 and Psychic Force. But ever since I played Super Smash Bros. Melee on the Nintendo Gamecube, Smash Bros. has become my favorite fighting game franchise.

So when I see people talk about how they don’t like Super Smash Bros. that much, I can’t help but wonder why because Super Smash Bros. games are all kinds of awesome. And while a lot more people are becoming more aware of this (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the best selling fighting game of all time, and the Super Smash Bros. franchise is the best selling fighting game IP), I still see a lot of people who aren’t quite high on Smash Bros. Heck, 67% of the writers on this site feel that way. So I’m using my space this week to attempt to change their minds and try to get detractors to view Smash Bros. in a different light.

Super Smash Bros. IS a fighting game

I really don’t get the argument that Super Smash Bros. isn’t a fighting game. I mean, you’ve got two (or more) characters trying to beat each other up with normal and special moves. After each match, you have a winner and a loser. Smash Bros. games have combos too. They have flat stages, and you can disable items. The only real difference that Super Smash Bros. has compared to “traditional” fighting games is the win condition – instead of trying to knock the other fighter out by draining their life bar, you try to knock the fighter out of the stage.

See what I did there? Knock out, knock out of the stage. Is that much of a difference to say that Super Smash Bros. is not a fighting game, or very different from a traditional fighting game?

Is not being a traditional fighting game a bad thing?

Okay, so let’s say that because of not being life-bar based, Smash Bros. is far from traditional fighting games. Is that such a bad thing? Is that a good enough reason not to be open to a different style of fighting game?

I don’t have much to really say about this, other than this perspective is quite close-minded towards the spirit of innovation – why change things up when Super Smash Bros. could have just copy-pasted what Street Fighter has been doing all along, right?

Simple moves doesn’t mean simple game mechanics

Another common criticism that I see people have about Smash Bros. games is how the gameplay is too simple for them, because of how moves in Smash Bros. are executed. Yes, you will rarely see complicated button combinations like “QCF+P” or “clockwise+P” in Super Smash Bros., but that doesn’t mean that Super Smash Bros. is simple.

Fast forward to 5:17 for the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate version of Smash Bros.’ in-game, opening How to Play tutorial.

If we dissect the moves in Smash Bros., it’s not just directional button + Smash attack or directional button + Special attack. The game has tilts (holding down a direction + Smash attack), neutrals, back attacks (run forward, jump, turn away from your opponent and attack as you are turning) and so on. Heck, I’ve been playing Super Smash Bros. games since Melee and I still keep fudging forward Smash attacks and forward tilts.

Beyond the moves, Smash Bros. has a lot of layers of complexity when it comes to combos, because the amount of damage your opponent has taken, plus their weight and size, affects how far they fly away from you when you attack them. The same combo that works for an opponent whose damage is between 0% to 30% stops working beyond that range, and combos that work for those in the 30%-70% range won’t work beyond that too. Air juggles, kill moves, even throws, their effects change depending on how much damage your opponent has taken. And I haven’t even mentioned the Rage mechanic yet.

This is the reason why, despite having similar button combinations for moves and despite playing Super Smash Bros. games a lot, I can’t simply pick up a new fighter and master it in a couple of hours. It takes me a lot of effort in getting to know a Smash Bros. fighter but rather than memorizing a move list, most of my effort goes towards knowing what moves and combos work for different opponents and situations.

The Smash Bros. Roster is a strength, not a weakness

While I can’t deny that Super Smash Bros. is filled with characters that don’t seem to belong in fighting games, anyone who would rather see unknown fighters over known/well-known characters from non-fighting game franchises is missing the entire point of Super Smash Bros. – a celebration of Nintendo’s history.

All these characters are fighters in Super Smash Bros. for special reasons.

We’re all entitled to our opinions and I don’t want to question the views of others too aggressively but, would you be more interested in watching a fight between characters that you don’t know but who look like fighters over a fight between characters that you do know or recognize? I haven’t played Street Fighter V, so I don’t know who the heck Ed or Laura or F.A.N.G. is. I’m not interested in seeing them in a fight. But I do know who Link is, and I would much rather see Link from the Legend of Zelda go against Cloud Strife of Final Fantasy VII – characters I know or are familiar with.

With all this said, I just think the fighting game community is a little too close-minded when it comes to Super Smash Bros., but the EVO 2019 viewership does point to a change this perspective. I do wish that Smash Bros. haters/detractors can give the franchise, and especially Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, another chance – despite being a Nintendo Switch exclusive, it’s the best selling fighting game of all time for a reason.

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