Improvement in Smash 4 BONUS X – Practice Methods I

**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.

Before I begin, I have a quick but very exciting announcement! Sage of Unrivaled Tournaments and I are starting a new video series called “Better Buttons”! It will be a video series aimed at improving in Smash 4. We’ve already got a few episodes recorded and just need to be edited, and will be featured on Unrivaled Tournament’s YouTube Channel. I’m really excited for this because this is a great way to not only help Unrivaled Tournaments grow their content base, but also get this information out there.

I’ll be linking Unrivaled Tournaments stuff at the end, so be sure to check them out 🙂

Okay, onto the post!

Practice makes perfect, right? Not if your practice the wrong way. In this little mini-series, “Practice Methods”, I’ll be going over ways to practice and train. This’ll be about 3-4 entries, so get hype!

In order to improve, you need to do more than just play – you need to be aware of how you’re playing and dedicate time to improving your play and not just playing the game. However, we all can’t just grab a friend at our convenience and play. Sometimes, you have to practice on your own. So let’s learn how to do that!

There are a couple things you can practice – Match-Up knowledge, your technical ability, and your fundamentals. You need to practice all 3 to be a great player. While I went over how to practice them very briefly in my post about creating a Training Regimen, this post will expand on those concepts.

Let’s start with MU knowledge.



Here, you want to practice the more objective aspects of a Match-Up – KO %’s, moves that trade, moves that lose, moves that win, range differences, etc…

You can practice bad DI/no DI KO %’s in Training Mode. You don’t need to play a human to know when Back Throw KOs at center stage or either side of the stage. If you need good DI, either enlist the help of a friend or just grab a second controller and do the DI yourself. Write these %’s down and remember them.

When you’re recording these, I would record with and without rage, and with and without staling. The point here is to create a KO % range that you can then reference as you play. That way you don’t run into situations where your opponent is living insanely long and draining your patience.

For move interactions, this can be accomplished through playing a CPU or a human player. If you’re looking for a very specific move to test against, you’re better off grabbing a friend. Otherwise, just take notes when fighting CPU’s of the results of the move interactions you notice.

For range differences, I suggest you shadow box against a standing opponent or a CPU. Shadow boxing is a style of training where you visualize a standing opponent to be moving. The goal is not to hit your opponent, but rather pretend they’re attacking you and you responding to that. For example, go into training mode and visualize an MK dash attack and try and space around it. What’s a good range to be at to react safely, what’s not? Then go fight a MK CPU and stay at the maximum ‘safe’ range you have for Dash Attack. Is there anything else you’re feeling safe from or threatened by at that range? Do you feel you can punish effectively by always staying at that range?

Technical Ability

This is something I feel you need to practice by yourself before you start practicing with others. Like performing a choreographed dance, when you first start attempting these techniques you’re going to find yourself thinking about the inputs you’re making. If you attempt to use a new technique mid-match, you’ll most likely fail it and you’ll probably stop thinking about what’s currently going on in the match.

You need to commit all movements and inputs to memory, to the point that it feels like second nature and you can perform the technique flawlessly without error under stress.

So, there are three phases to perfecting a technique.

First Phase

Training Mode only. You should spend more time practicing the technique and starting to commit it to muscle memory. Don’t use it in friendlies. Don’t use it in a tournament set.

Once you can perform it near-flawlessly in Training Mode, it’s time to move onto the next phase.

Second Phase

Play against a CPU opponent. CPU opponents allow you to simulate an actual match and practice utilizing the technique as you move around in a relatively stress-free environment. This allows you to use it against moving opponents without feeling the pressure to win/impress/etc… and you can be fully concentrated on finding spots to use it most effectively. Once you can do this almost flawlessly, you move onto the final phase.

Third Phase

Play friendlies. Now that you’ve basically mastered this technique’s execution, it’s time to use it in friendlies. Friendlies incur at least a little bit of stress, which is what you now need to practice executing the technique under. I recommend playing a few higher-stakes money matches to help you even more. Again, the goal is to be able to do this almost flawlessly.

Once you’re feeling comfortable in friendlies and ONLY then should you start using the technique in tournament. You’ll find your use of it to be incredibly consistent utilizing this method, and you’ll be able to summon it in very stressful situations when you need it the most.


If you need a refresher on what fundamentals are, go check out my very first post on improving in Smash 4.

Fundamentals are tricky by yourself. A lot of it you can’t practice without a human opponent, but before we get to those let’s get to the two facets of fundamentals you can practice by yourself: Reactions and Punishes and Option Coverage.

To practice Reactions and Punishes, fight a CPU and focus on reacting, not preemptively striking, the CPU. No reading, no throwing out moves to cover space. Just try and react to what the CPU does. If they’re in a knockdown, try and react to how they get up. Same as when they air dodge, roll, spot dodge, or do anything from the ledge. CPU’s have been coded to be perfect defense machines (in most close-range combat situations), so take advantage of this.

To practice Option Coverage, play a CPU and try and cover as many getup and ledge options as possible when they arise. Try and frame trap their air dodging. Throw out moves to cover space and see what option the CPU uses successfully and unsuccessfully. What’s nice about these two is you can combine practicing them. I wouldn’t recommend doing this until you’re a little proficient at both, but it’s quite effective.

As for the others, I recommend watching videos with a specific fundamental in mind. Watch, say, ZeRo vs. Dabuz Grand Finals at Genesis 3. First, watch it focusing on how the two space. Then watch it again and focus on how they position themselves. Then watch it again and focus on how they adapt. Watch it one more time and watch how they combine all the components of fundamentals into their neutral game.

Once you’re more proficient, try analyzing every component with just one viewing. If you watch it and found yourself lost while analyzing, watch it again.

This can take some time, but it will not only help you become a better player, this has the added bonus of helping you become a more analytical commentator (which we have very few of in the Chicago Smash 4 scene).


As you can see, there’s a lot you can do on your own. Next time, I’ll be covering how to practice these methods with a human opponent!

Just Sayin’

Unrivaled Tournaments:
Sage’s Twitter

Check out the rest of the series!

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
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow




REVIEW: The Devil is a Part-Timer

*SPOILERS: Don’t read this if you don’t like being spoiled.*

One night, I was in the mood to watch some anime. I started browsing through Netflix and came across The Devil is a Part-Timer, which said it was a comedy about Satan working part-time at a fast food restaurant. I was intrigued and up for some light-hearted comedy, and it was only 13 episodes, so I gave it a shot.

Man, do I wish it had been longer than 13 episodes!


After being defeated by the Hero in Ente Isla, Satan retreats to Earth, where he winds up in modern-day Tokyo with his most trusted general, Alciel. After realizing that magic doesn’t work, they decide to find a place to live, change their names (to Maou and Ashiya), and bide their time until they can return to Ente Isla and conquer it. Little do they know that the Hero, Emilia (Earth name Emi) has cahsed them down to slay them once and for all and save Ente Isla. It’s a really good premise; simple, to-the-point, and best of all, has amazing potential. But does it deliver?

Plot Direction

Oh yes. Yes it does!

So, this show is a comedy. And it’s a comedy about Satan, an almost omnipotent being, working at a MgRonald’s (yes that is a blatant reference to McDonald’s!). Just thinking about it is pretty chuckle-worthy, and really, the comedy is pulled off great, but what I really want to touch on in this review is where this anime goes in (sadly) only 13 episodes.

There’s a lot of development in character and story in this show, and it does that really nicely, even though almost every single episode feels like a filler episode. What this show is really about, to me, is what if the roles of the Devil and the Hero were (somewhat) reversed? Sure, there’s a lot of stories where the enemy is misunderstood and trying to do something for the greater good, but there’s always something that leaves you wanting them defeated. In this show, Satan is the protagonist, and he’s the protagonist not because this show is about being evil – no, it’s about role reversal.

Emi, the Hero, is actually an anti-hero, as you find out. She has that perfect tragic Hero backstory – she was taken away from her family to be trained as the Hero, she finds out her father dies from a general of Maou’s army, and then swears vengeance on him. This is flipped into being an anti-hero when it’s revealed that there is no “destiny” to slay the Devil King. The church in Ente Isla fooled her as part of an elaborate plot to take over. Unfortunately, this whole backstabbing isn’t explored nearly as much as I would have liked, but that’s because there’s only 13 episodes. If there’s a second season I really hope they go into more detail about this, because it’s something I’d love to see more of.

So the show basically puts you in this weird spot where Emi continues to try and stick to “being the Hero”, even though there was no grand destiny, in order to justify her wanting to kill Maou because his army killed her father, while Maou continues to bewilder her and others who come into the show trying to stop him (because he’s the Devil King) when he does nothing but good, even when he momentarily regains his demonic power due to the negative emotions elicited by people.

Frankly, this is one of the best role reversal plots I’ve experienced. It’s all pretty subtle save for a few episodes, and it’s garnished with a hefty helping of comedic frosting. While I’m sure others can, I can’t find anything I disliked about where the show went or its plot as a whole, and that’s in part due to how well these characters develop.


This is, hands-down, the best part of this show. In particular, Emi stands out as the pinnacle of a developing character.

Maou develops, but it’s more that he opens up to you like a friend becoming closer to you than him really changing. You find out that he only attacked humans in Ente Isla due to misunderstanding them, and that he actually prefers living on Earth because the people there have been kind to him. It’s this living in modern-day Tokyo that Maou comes to understand, appreciate, and respect humans. It’s weird to see someone who’s supposed to be evil be so kind, especially when it involves Emi.

This isn’t in the anime explicitly, but while looking the show up I came across the light novel (which it started out as), and there’s a scene where Maou tells Emi that she has to keep an eye on him and stop him because he’s going to take over Ente Isla someday, even though both of them know that’s not going to happen. It’s an incredible scene for both of them, with Maou selflessly lying just to appease the distraught Emi. Again, it’s somewhere waaaay down the line in the light novel, but I think it’s worth mentioning because that kind of perfect role-reversal is very subtle throughout the anime, whereas it’s a little more clean-cut in that scene.

Speaking of Emi, she’s probably the most developed character. She goes from the Hero, hell-bent on taking out Maou, to a girl who doesn’t exactly know what she should be doing concerning Maou because her only desire is to exact revenge on him for her father. She bluffs that she needs to take him out because she’s “the Hero”, but she values him as an unlikely friend. She even goes out of her way to talk someone of the church of Ente Isla into holding off on slaying Maou despite all the horrible things he did in Ente Isla, claiming that it was her duty as the Hero.

The rest of the characters all undergo some sort of development, and really, I’d like to write about all of them, but in this review I really wanted to touch on the dramatic role-reversal that’s subtly masked under an anime labeled as a comedy, and how brilliantly it’s executed. Trust me when I say that pretty much every character is enjoyable and undergoes some form of character development. It’s fantastic.


The Devil is a Part-Timer was a show I randomly decided to watch on Netflix, and it rocketed into the top 5 for me. This show has it all for me – action, great comedy, character, and plot, and to top it all off, the animation is really good. The only really glaring flaw is that it’s only 13 episodes. Still, If you’re looking for something to marathon through and get way more than you expected out of it, check this anime out!

Animation/Art: 9/10
Music: 7/10
Plot Direction: 10/10
Character: 10/10
Final Score: 9/10

Just sayin’