Paper Mario Talks — Pro Mode & Hammer

Continuing with gushing about things I like in my last post about Pre-Hooktail Pit Runs, today’s topic covers something I found exceptionally interesting in Paper: Mario Pro Mode, and that’s how you approach The Master.

If you’re unaware, someone by the name of Clover created a mod of Paper Mario that enhances its difficulty. Enemies do double damage, badge costs have changed, FP costs have changed, new enemy layouts, smart AI, new areas to explore… it’s quite a lot of new content. If you’re curious, click here to check out the release trailer that contains a link to download!

Anyway… one boss, in particular, stood out to me in Pro Mode, and that was The Master. His entire gimmick was changed – he now starts at 0 ATK (first form) / 1 ATK (second form) / 2 ATK (final form) for his basic attack (his combo moves have set damage), and with every strike you inflict on him, his ATK for the basic attack increases by 1. This means a Jump increases his ATK by 2, and Hammer by 1. I’m sure you see where this is going, but let me explain: this new gimmick actually makes Hammer a more viable choice than Jump when fighting him.

In 64 and TTYD, Jump is generally vastly superior to Hammer. It has generally better badges (Multibounce, Sleep/Shrink/Dizzy Stomp, Power Bounce) and nets a greater increase in power when you increase your attack because the attack of both Jumps are increased when you perform a successful Action Command. So, essentially, your ATK for Jump is doubled when compared to Hammer. The only thing Hammer has going for it is against high-DEF enemies and challenge runs that restrict your badges…but most of the time, your partners are there to help clean up. It’s much more effective to rely on Jump than Hammer almost every time. I will note that the Hammer is inherently better in 64 than in TTYD thanks to awesome badges like Power Power Quake, which are souped up Quake Hammers that can easily out-damage Multibounce, but for single targets like bosses, Jump still reigns supreme. However, The Master in Pro Mode turns that on its head.

Because of his unique gimmick, the battle is more about maximizing single hit damage so you can better control how much damage he’s inflicting. You can’t attack The Master recklessly. You need to make sure you’re doing the most damage with every strike to maximize your own damage and minimize his. With Mario’s Hammer, you can more smoothly increment The Master’s damage output to manipulate your HP into Danger or Peril, and using Charge makes sure you’re doing 10+ damage per hit with Hammer and Power Smash or Mega Smash. This makes Hammer a much more viable choice. You need seriously beefed up Jump to match what the Hammer can do, and even then, you’ll have a much harder time manipulating his ATK if it’s always increasing by 2. Honestly, I’m impressed with his design, because Mario’s Hammer being superior carries through for all 3 forms of The Master. It’s a strange concept to grasp. Almost every other boss I fought had me using some combination of D-Down Jump, Spike Shield, Ice Power, and ATK-increasing badges. The Master was the only boss to make me choose Hammer over Jump.

And yes, you could use Power Jump or Mega Jump… but the Hammer itself costs no FP, and The Master has DEF as he grows stronger, so D-Down Pound becomes a viable choice in his later forms. Besides, those two specific Jump badges are Hammer-esque in how they work anyway!

That’s my short spiel on The Master in Pro Mode and why I like it so much. I wish more bosses made Hammer a clearly superior choice over Jump.

Just Sayin’

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Paper Mario Talks — Why Pre-Hooktail Pit is the Perfect Challenge

There are many, many challenges in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door — Level Zero, No Jump No Hammer, Single Partner, BP Only, Double Damage, etc… but one among them all stands the test of time, for me, as the best TTYD challenge out there. That challenge…is Pre-Hooktail Pit.

A Pre-Hooktail Pit run is a run where the player completes the Pit of 100 Trials before completing Chapter 1, which is done by defeating Hooktail. Back in the old challenge running days, this was considered one of the top challenges. Today, I consider it to be one of the “gatekeeper” challenges, a challenge that breaks you into the higher tier of Paper Mario players. Despite my labeling it as a “gatekeeper” challenge, I think it’s the perfect challenge for upcoming challenge runners and veterans alike. Here’s why:

1) It tests everything

Remember my first blog post for Paper Mario Talks? I talked about the 4 skills of a challenge runner. Well, this challenge tests every single one of them and does so in an amazing way. You need to manage peril’d partners, choose the right badges/items for the job, work with on-the-fly RNG, and figure out strategies for all the various enemy loadouts you’ll encounter. Sometimes, you’ll be put in a tight spot and need to superguard and guard well or execute good Power Bounces, Multibonks, and Sweet Treats. Seriously, no other challenge tests everything at the same time so much.

What separates this from a challenge like Level Zero is it also tests your endurance. In full-game runs, you have the luxury of saving and quitting, only doing bite-sized chunks of the challenge. Pre-Hooktail Pit (and other Pit of 100 Trials challenges in general) provide no such luxury. You have to go through the whole thing, including Bonetail, before it is truly complete. And while I don’t consider endurance a particular skill of a Paper Mario challenge runner, it certainly is a skill that any player can benefit from. If you get too tired, you can start committing silly mistakes that can cost you a run.

2) It’s modular

Pre-Hooktail Pit is only the base form of its type of challenge. One can also choose to up the difficulty by including extra restrictions such as 10 HP (Mario cannot increase his HP above 10 in any way) or No Mega Rush P (cannot equip the badge Mega Rush P). You can also combine the two to create a devilishly difficult 10 HP No Mega Rush P restriction. All three of these add to the difficulty, but don’t take away too much from what it’s testing of the player. They all require a little more superguarding, but other than that they function mostly the same, and so provide a good stepping stone of challenges to attempt as you improve as a player. This is what allows newer challenge runners and veterans to continue performing this challenge.

What’s more, speedrunning the base form of the challenge is somewhat popular, and tests the player in a completely different way since you don’t have time to loaf around and prepare – you need to think on your metaphorical feet much faster than someone going through a normal Pre-Hooktail Pit run, who has all the time in the world to figure out a solution. While it’s a little too RNG-heavy to be a completely legitimate speedrun, it is a cool and interesting take on the challenge.

Now, other full-game challenges are also modular (it’s a nice thing about TTYD’s challenges – many are modular), but I particularly like the increase in difficulty the different restrictions of Pre-Hooktail Pit provide without sacrificing something. Many of the “step ups”, so to speak, of full game challenges omit or heavily downplay something crucial in terms of skills being used.

3) There are multiple ways to complete it

While most players follow a general rough guideline on stats, badges, and items to bring, the challenge itself can be completed in a myriad of ways. Some players will choose Heart Finder or Item Hog, Quick Change or Power Plus, Pretty Lucky or Close Call, etc… some decide to upgrade Goombella, others decide to upgrade Koops (or both!). Some will bring Life Shrooms, others will bring Courage Shells, Fire Flowers, POW Blocks, Mushrooms… in short, there’s a lot of variety depending on the player’s preference, and it changes how the run is tackled. While some strategies are definitely better than others, there are enough viable strategies to keep the run fresh and exciting for new players looking to enter challenge running and for veterans to try new things when doing the run.

Again, lots of full game runs offer this same level of variety, but I think an important distinction to make here is that many strategies will be developed on-the-fly that will vary. While you have time to prepare in a Pre-Hooktail Pit run, you have to work around your preparations in case something goes wrong. When you’re really only fighting bosses, you can prepare very well and not have to worry about something going wrong impacting your strategy too much.

And, well…that’s really all I have to say on the subject. I do want to say that most challenges, full game and Pre-Hooktail Pit, are very good, barring a select few I don’t think test all the skills I’d want it to. but if you ever want to get into the next tier of Paper Mario players, Pre-Hooktail Pit is a perfect place to start. There is no better challenge run. Give it a try!

Just Sayin’

Paper Mario Talks — How To Break Combat (64): Status

In Paper Mario, there are six kinds of status that the player can inflict on an enemy (Dizzy, Stop, Paralyze, Sleep, Shrink, Attack Down). Let’s take a look at them and how to inflict them!

Attack Down – Reduces an enemy’s attack by 3 for 4 turns. [Chill Out]
Dizzy – Opponent cannot move for x turns (varies by enemy). [Dizzy Dial, Dizzy Shell, Dizzy Stomp]
Paralyze – Opponent cannot move for x turns (varies by enemy). [Power Shock, Mega Shock]
Shrink – Opponent’s damage is halved for x turns. [Shrink Stomp]
Sleep – Opponent cannot move for x turns (varies by enemy). [Sleepy Sheep, Sleep Stomp, Lullaby]
Stop – Opponent cannot move for x turns (varies by enemy). [Stop Watch, Time Out]

For your information, the range of status where it lasts for x turns can vary from 1 – 4 turns.

Of these six, four of them do the exact same thing – hinder an enemy from moving. Without any differences (attacking a sleeping opponent does not wake them up, for instance), these statuses all cripple opponents in the same way, making combat in 64 very simple – find an enemy’s weakness to an immobilizing status and exploit it.

While I enjoy using status, and I consider knowing when and where to utilize status as a key element in strategy in Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the monotony of what status do in 64 makes combat really easy. Furthermore, because so many status do the same thing, you can effectively lock an enemy into status and prevent them from ever attacking if they’re weak to two different kinds or very weak to one. Compare this to TTYD, where Dizzy no longer immobilizes enemies, Paralyze doesn’t exist, and enemies can wake from Sleep after being attacked; there’s much more variety, and you can’t really prevent enemies from attacking.

Now, while status is pretty broken in 64, the ability to inflict the same condition with so many different status does have its few benefits, but that mostly applies to challenge running. If you’re trying to inflict status to start setting up with, say, Super Jump Charge, you can cycle between an item/badge and Dizzy Shell or Power Shock to try and get a status inflicted sooner. It’s a cool concept, but that’s really all I find cool about the monotony of status in 64. This specific brand of status monotony is also why really hardcore challenges can be beaten in 64.

Let’s take a small turn and focus on the other two status, Shrink and Attack Down, which both reduce damage Mario takes. As you saw in my previous post, Chill Out’s Attack Down status is ridiculous. For 4 turns, an enemy has -3 ATK. That’s a big deal for the Tank Mario build and for just longevity in general. It cripples enemies in a different way. Sure, they can attack, but doing no damage is the same as not attacking at all (except for the ones that inflict status on Mario, but let’s not talk about those…). To supplement Tank Mario even more is Shrink, which halves an enemy’s damage. Halves. That’s Last Stand without having Last Stand active! With Last Stand and Shrink active, you’d be hard-pressed to find something that can damage Mario besides Final Bowser.

Speaking of… I find Bowser really interesting. Up until Bowser, every enemy in the game is stuck with their fate when inflicted with status. Bowser can remove status from himself (including Attack Down!!) with the Star Rod buff, and is the only enemy capable of removing status on Mario and his Partners. The entire game, you’re used to being able to do pretty much whatever you want, and then Bowser turns that on its head. It’s probably why I find him such a fun and interesting boss, and also why he really ramps up the difficulty curve when it comes to challenge running. But, we can talk about Bowser another time.

Anyway, the bottom line is…status is broken in 64. Even superbosses in Paper Mario: Pro Mode can’t prevent you from status-locking them. And while it’s cool to do that and be rewarded for using different status, I wish there had been more variety because just selecting a different item to do the same thing to an enemy can get a little stale.

Just Sayin’

Improvement in Smash 4 BONUS XV – Game Flow

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

I’m sorry for taking so long to post this. It’s been over a month, so let me explain: I was recently offered a partnership for my YouTube channel, so I’ve spent the better part of the past two weeks working very hard to get my channel to be more presentable and get an upload schedule going and all that good stuff. I just didn’t have time to finish this post. Now that I’ve got everything set up, I will be writing more posts again!

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the actual post 🙂

——

So! Game Flow. Game Flow is something I like to use when I think about the current state of myself and my opponent during a game. You see, the second the game starts you and your opponent have a state assigned to them. What state that is depends on the character, stage, time left, and percentage, but it’s there right when the match begins and constantly changes throughout. Today’s post will be going over those states individually and how I define them. I’ll also be going over how quickly it can change.

So, game flow is definitely a subjective topic with an objective core. There’s definitely some sort of flow (it’s how you can see momentum rise and fall), but to a lot of players it can mean something different. I see it in 4 distinctive states – advantaged, disadvantaged, neutral, and true neutral.

Let’s go over those.

Advantaged state is a state where you have the advantage. Your opponent is feeling pressured and unsafe, while you feel safe to mount an offense. Sometimes this state flickers by after being hit or during an opponent’s whiffed smash attack or grab. Your goal is to maintain this state for as long as possible and reclaim this state whenever you don’t have it.

Disadvantaged state is the opposite of Advantaged. You’re feeling unsafe, pressured, scared, ans basically don’t feel like you can approach or mount a good offense. You may throw moves out in a panic or in defense, or feel like you need to air dodge or spot dodge to escape a situation. If you’re in this state, get out of it as quickly as possible.

Neutral state is a state where neither you nor your opponent have the advantage or disadvantage. However, in this state, you’re not completely safe. You could easily transition to the Advantaged or Disadvantaged state depending on the decisions you and your opponent make. You could also transition to True Neutral. In this state you’ll feel safe and pressured at the same time, and you’ll be aiming to move from this state to Advantaged or Disadvantaged. Like Advantaged and Disadvantaged, this state can come and go extremely quickly.

True Neutral is a state where neither you nor your opponent have the advantage or disadvantage, and there is no way for either of you to immediately change that. In that specific moment, you feel completely safe, but you don’t feel like you can do anything to create pressure either. This state is incredibly rare. It generally happens at the very beginning of a game and when someone loses a stock. It can happen mid-match in other situations, but generally requires some players to be extremely defensive/campy. Strangely enough, when this state is achieved it generally lasts longer than the others, but not by too much.

Those are the four states of the game as I see it. It’s important to consider when your character and style is in one of these four states, and how it transitions based on the decisions you and your opponent make.

To give you a couple examples:

When Toon Link has the percent lead and the timer is low, he is an in Advantaged state while fighting against non-projectile characters like Donkey Kong/Bowser or against slow characters like King DeDeDe/Luigi, even if they aren’t close to him, because his projectiles generate pressure and the opponent needs to make that up before time runs out.

When crossing up someone with a slow Bair/Forward Tilt, Kirby goes from Neutral to Advantaged due to the pressure he’s generating being behind the opponent instead of in front because they lack access to their jab and grab immediately to prevent him from pushing his Advantage forward.

The ways you can see these transitions are endless. Being aware of them can not only help you make better decisions, but it will help you identify how your opponent might be feeling. Some players may not feel pressure when you think they should and vice-versa, and that can really throw you off. Obviously, this may not be how you see the game, but if you’re looking for a place to start, I hope this helps you.

Just Sayin’

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV

Choosing a Main in Super Smash Bros.

Thanksgiving is around the corner. That means you’ll be joining together with family and friends, and you know the relatives around your age are gonna want to play some Super Smash Bros.! So get ready to bust out your main and lay down some heat!

A “main” is something that anyone in a competitive fighting game can toss around – it’s the character you use the most; the character that you’re trying to win with; the character you have the most fun with. It doesn’t just encompass competitive play – even casual players have a “main” character that they’ll use amongst friends and challengers.

Picking your main is an important part of Super Smash Bros. This is the character you’ll be putting in most of your time practicing and playing with. It’s the character you’ll do research on, learn match-ups for, and try to win with.

So, how do you pick one? There are a lot of characters and a lot of different styles of play. I’m going to break this down, because finding a main happens even in casual play, and I’d like to address those players in this post as well.

The first thing I want to cover applies to every level, but especially competitive players, and that’s style.

I won’t go over this in too much detail (but I highly recommend you go look some of this stuff up or ask me personally to break it down further), but when I say “style” I’m referring to the style the character brings out. I’m sure you’ve heard the terms, “Aggressive Falco”, or “Defensive Mario”. Aggressive and Defensive are both styles of play. Let me give you a list of the common ones and a small definition of them:

Aggressive/Offensive: Focuses on applying pressure to win. Often will throw out many attacks.

Defensive/Campy: Focuses on defense and punishing. Tends to attack much less and throws out projectiles if able instead of running at the opponent.

Bait and Punish: Utilizes pressure and defense to fool opponent and punish them hard. Also likes to use frame traps to force 50/50 situations (you guess wrong you get punished, you guess right you’re safe).

Now, a player is not strictly one of these styles. I would say a player combines a blend of these styles but leans towards one more than the others.

So what does this have to do with picking a character?

Well, characters have certain styles that fit them better. Take the character I use: Kirby. Kirby doesn’t excel very well in the offensive department – he has slow ground and air speed and so doesn’t have the luxury of moving in and out quickly and just throwing out attacks. Kirby’s best played with a Bait and Punish style. He lures characters in and then punishes hard. If you lean more towards an Offensive style, Kirby might not feel right for you.

When you’re picking a character, you want to find one that fits ‘you’, the player. If you don’t feel comfortable playing a certain way, but that character begs to be played that way, I suggest you look for another character, or learn to play that style better. I actually lean heavily towards Offensive, but due to my experience I’m able to turn Kirby into a character that can be played my way. That takes a very long time – long after you’ve improved.

Okay, let’s dive a little deeper into the levels of play and how they should think about main selection.

Casual

If you’re playing at a more casual level, I highly recommend that your main be who you have the most fun with. Or, if you’ve got character loyalty, go ahead and continue being loyal. At this level of play, characters are pretty balanced. No one really understands the ways to abuse a character’s strong points and exploit their weak points.

Why would someone casual have a main? C’mon, Smash is still a competition, and people like to win. Even if you’re casual, there’s gonna be kids who want to challenge you. You gotta have a character to lay the smack down with. It’s definitely not as important, but identifying yourself with a character definitely helps you bond with other players (“Oh, you play Fox? Cool! I play Ike.”). That conversation happens a lot in any level of play.

Style is important, but really, your style isn’t as refined here, so you can get away with playing basically everyone.

Casual-Competitive

This is for the players who are casual but might be interested in joining the competitive scene or are just naturally competitive and play much more than their casual counterpart, or are players who are part of the competitive scene but don’t have a burning desire to improve (AKA ME).

At this point your style has been refined. You probably can recognize how you play and are able to pinpoint which characters suit your style. If you’re not worried about how you place or if you want to develop a character that’s not top tier, go ahead. If they suit your style, go for it!

The bottom line for this level and the other level is that you shouldn’t sweat who your main is. Pick who you like and who you have fun with! Try and further a character’s meta along. Who knows? That character might become the next top tier fad.

If you want to win and really improve results-wise, however…

Competitive

Pick a current high – top tier character. You want to win and to improve. You want results. If you don’t, you’re Casual-Competitive, and that’s okay. But for those that want glory, pick a character that’s high on the tier list and that fits your style. Don’t try to mold a character – pick one that flows with the style you lean towards naturally – you’ll improve much faster when you’re not battling your main’s preferred style. And don’t try to change your own style yet – wait until you’ve got some experience. You want a character that lets you lean towards your own style, which means you can utilize their tools effectively.

Characters like Mario and Sheik are all great characters to pick because they mesh well with basically all three styles of play and allow you to lean towards any style and not feel like you’re battling the character.

If your character falls out of favor and is deemed less than high tier? Stick with it for at least a year (as I mentioned in my improvement post about character loyalty) and then consider changing. At that point you’ve got enough experience to make a solid decision yourself, provided you’ve been improving often and not hitting a plateau.

———

Your main is a part of you. Don’t take picking one lightly, but also don’t put too much thought into it. It is just a character in a game after all. I suggest, for every skill level, you play around with the characters available to you and feel each one out. Then you can make an informed decision about which one you want to pick.

And if you’re competitive: stick to the main you’ve chosen. That means put in the appropriate time to pick one and not regret it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone – have fun Smashing with family and friends! 🙂

Just Sayin’

Improvement in Smash 4 VIII – Character Loyalty

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

This will be my last official post on improving in Smash 4. It’s been quite the journey, but I’ve had fun writing these for you guys, and I hope you’ve taken something from them and improved because of it. While this will be my last official post, fret not! I still have plenty of content aimed at improving in Super Smash Bros.: there are a few collaborative posts in the works, I’ve got some topics I received from the Chicago Smash 4 community after asking about topics they’d like me to cover that aren’t necessarily improvement-focused, and I’ll be starting a video series aimed at improvement to supplement this series. This will all be coming in the following months, so stay tuned for that!

And now, without further adieu, let’s talk about character loyalty!

Character Loyalty is a term generally used for a player that will stick with their character, no matter what. Maybe they love the character’s franchise, the character themselves, or the style of play the character provides. Either way, the player has their reasons for sticking with them. I’m going to go over another kind of character loyalty: the kind that will improve your play.

Your Main

The character that you eventually choose as your main is the character you’ll be spending the most time playing, watching, studying, and experimenting with. After all, you’re trying to win tournaments with this character. Now, while Smash 4 is a game that benefits from playing at least one other character (having a secondary), it’s a good idea to master your main before you even think about picking up a secondary. While a veteran can adapt to new character MU’s and player MU’s on the fly, it’s hard to stay consistent if you keep switching characters. Even veterans can become inconsistent if they keep switching for months because they’re struggling.

Let me lay this out for you plainly: you have not mastered your character until you’ve been playing for at least a year.

If you’re playing as many different people as possible, traveling out of state, and attending whenever out of state competition comes, it takes about a year to accumulate all the knowledge you’ve gained as a player to master your main, and that’s assuming you’ve only been using your main in tournament.

All the research, techniques, and intricacies of your character that you need to learn for every single character MU and to adapt well to players takes a long time. Add onto that the general techniques you need to learn to execute if they help your character, and you’ve got quite a lot on your plate to practice. And then, you need to be able to utilize all of those techniques and information in a tournament settings. Being able to do it in Training Mode alone isn’t enough. And that’s why it can take so long to master your character.

If you switch your characters, you’ve effectively barred your progress. And no, playing another character isn’t going to transfer over to your main. Smash 4 is in a stage where learning new things is still very possible and currently happening. When you return, you’re not suddenly going to be performing better because you don’t know every nook and cranny of the character to begin with: how can you possibly transfer skills from another character over when it might not even be effective?

You could transfer over play style knowledge, but be wary that you might start playing the character in a way that’s really not efficient. For all the efficient ways to play character X, there’s also very inefficient ways.

Now, most of these rules apply to new players who have picked up Super Smash Bros. when Smash 4 came out. Veterans, generally, have the fundamental know-how to switch a character and still perform decently, although they, too, will have to put some practice in before they achieve mastery, although it will take them a significantly less time to do so.

My bottom line is this: if you’re new to the scene, stick to character loyalty before making the switch. At least master your character. You’ll gain valuable knowledge that will help you when you finally decide it’s time to pick up a secondary or change your main entirely. If you really can’t stand using your main now and want to switch, then you switch and you don’t look back. Do NOT use your old main in tournament. You’ll run into the same problems.

Be loyal to your character, and you’ll succeed far more than juggling characters.

Just Sayin’

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow