Smash 4 is hard to play

This past Saturday I entered a Super Smash Bros. Wii U (Smash 4) tournament. Being primarily a Project M player and being part of the competitive Smash scene in general, there’s a lot of hate against Smash 4 for its “easy” play in terms of technical ability.

But dammit Smash 4 is hard! I play Mario, one of the more aggressive characters in the game, and it’s painful sometimes how hard it is to get in on another good player. In Project M I can rush down someone with Meta Knight’s great pressure tools and feel relatively safe near someone’s shield. I don’t feel safe at all when I’m near someone’s shield in Smash 4, and it’s so stressful when you’re trying to space around it!

Really, I think it’s harder than the technical barrier Melee/Project M have for new players. Sure, you can pick up and play Smash 4 easily, but to be able to get in on someone good, especially a more defensive player/character? That’s not gonna happen for a while. At least in Melee you can Nair someone’s shield with Fox and be almost completely safe as long v as you L-Cancel and Shine. That kind of input skill can be committed to muscle memory and performed without even a second thought after like two weeks of practice. Obviously it gets a little harder during an intense, heart-pounding match, but I think that can apply to really any game that has even a tiny amount of technical skill involved.

Maybe it’s just harder for me to play Smash 4 than it is Project M. Maybe it’s just more stressful because during a combo in Melee/Project M you can relax yourself for a moment (at least, I do). I dunno. All I know is that Smash 4 is hard to play.

Just sayin’.

A call to Smash Bros. players

I’m writing this because I’m not about that multiple tweets in a row life.

Listen. I’m no community leader in the Super Smash Bros. community; I don’t have crazy insights on the Smash community at large; I don’t own or operate any respected Smash content group like Melee It On Me; I’m not part of any Smash organization; I’m not even a player whose skill has put me into a spot where I’m really noticed; I just play Smash. I don’t compete in Brawl, Melee, or 64, but I play every single Smash game and love every single one.

Which is why it completely baffles me that people not only bash each game in the series, but that some are such awful people that they’ll lodge death and rape threats at others because a game in the series wasn’t included in a tournament.

It was very recently announced by Alex Strife, tournament organizer of one of the bigger international Smash events, Apex, that Project M, a very popular mod of Brawl, wasn’t included in Apex 2015’s lineup, despite being told that it would be, despite it’s insane attendance last year. Every official Smash game is included. While Project M is my main game, and I’m disappointed that Apex isn’t including it even though I thought it was going to be, I’m not angry. I’m definitely not angry enough to hurl insults and threats of rape and death to Alex and his staff.

Whatever the reason that Project M isn’t included, it’s safe to say that the initial reaction by a small minority of the Smash community was wrong. I’m angry now because this outburst reflects on a community I’ve invested a lot of time in, and that community now has to deal with it, me included.

So I’m here to do what I can. I’m writing this small post to try and raise some awareness like Smash community leader Prog did earlier today.

Listen, if you’re part of this community and you were at fault for this, you should be ashamed. I love this series. It’s home to many good memories. I can’t recall ever having a bad tournament experience because I’ve met some incredible people and forged some great friendships through this series. How can you be part of something so awesome, forge awesome memories with new and old friends, and then do something so horrible? It doesn’t make sense to me.

If I knew you, our friendship would stop right there. I don’t want to associate myself personally with those kinds of people, and neither should anyone else in the Smash community. To add on, I don’t want to associate myself with anyone who just hates on one of the entries in the series. I may like PM and Smash 4 over Melee, Brawl, and 64, but it doesn’t take away from my respect for the players of each game.

I see people commenting on how Project M is trash, why is Smash 4 even being considered for a spot at Apex, Brawl should be dead, etc… and it leaves a bad taste after reading. Why would I want to interact with someone like that? Why would any of you want to interact with someone like that? I may dislike something and express that, but I’m not going to just hate on something without a good reason to.

I think everyone who hates on a game in the series or is throwing death and rape threats at others in your own community need to take a step back and think about the damage you’ve done and the damage you’re currently doing.

And then stop it.

Just Sayin’

Fundamentals

Before I get into the meat of this post, I just want to do a quick little update. I hopped on the Yo craze a few weeks ago (if you don’t know what Yo is, go look it up!) and just saw made an account for this blog. No longer will you have to wait via email or social media updates to know when the next post is out – if you have Yo and add this name to your list of Yo contacts, a Yo will be sent out (with the url to the blog) from the account! The name is JUSTSAYINBLOG!

Okay, time to get to the real post!

Time to turn on the heels of my last post about execution. I want to talk about something that I see a lot of new players in any competitive game I’ve watched struggle with. Because Super Smash Bros. is the primary game series I compete in, I’m going to use that as an example.

Imagine that you’re a new player for Super Smash Bros. Melee. You’ve been watching the pros for a while, and dream of doing all the crazy technical stuff that they can do. You start to practice wave dashing, dash dancing, L-canceling, ledge hops, jump cancels, ledge cancels. You go to a tournament, ready to show off your skills, and some guy who doesn’t do any of that tech stomps you.

What happened? You’ve become proficient in all the technical skills required of the game, and this guy didn’t even L-cancel his aerials! I’ll tell you what happened – that guy who doesn’t L-cancel has a greater understanding of the fundamentals of Super Smash Bros..

I think a big problem with getting into some competitive games is that there’s so much tech to learn that you become overwhelmed and focus on learning the tech instead of learning the fundamentals of that game. Instead of learning how to properly space aerials, zone, and maintain an advantageous stage position, new players are doing tech that even I can’t do, but they have no idea when to use it correctly – they just kinda flash around the stage and get beaten.

Every game is different in their specific physics and tech, but one thing remains constant: the need for good spacing, zoning, and stage position control. Every Super Smash Bros. game requires these skills to be a good player. Once you learn the fundamentals, you can transition between games because you have the option to play smart. You have the ability to take new techniques learned and apply them in a way that helps you instead of hinders you. As a kid, I learned how to wavedash in Melee and lost a lot because I had no idea when to use it. I just thought using it and knowing how to execute it would make me better. Then I came from Brawl to Melee and Project M once I had been playing Brawl competitively for a few years, and while I struggled with execution at first, I immediately realized the effectiveness dash dancing and wavedashing had on maintaining stage control and zoning and simply thought about when the application of those techniques would achieve those goals best.

Fundamentals are the most important thing to learn when approaching any activity, whether it be writing, competitive gaming, sports, programming…you name it! Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, all the techniques you’ve been practicing will fall into place.

And you’ll find yourself succeeding.

Just Sayin’.

Closet Training

Now that I’ve been back from teaching at summer camp, I’ve thrown myself back into my local competitive Smash scene at EXP Gaming (link to their Facebook page at the bottom of this post). They hold a weekly tournament for Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Project M called “Wavedash Wednesdays”, and while I haven’t been there in months, I’ve been able to keep up with Chicagoland’s better players by playing CPU’s every day. But what, some players might ask, do I practice?

Execution, or as I call it: “Closet Training”!

I’ll admit it – my neutral game isn’t always on-point because I don’t play with people a lot. Sometimes I revert to bad habits and spacing in neutral, but I make up for it in combo and edge guard execution, meaning my punishes are hard and I generally convert a hit confirm into really big damage or a KO. Playing CPU’s is notoriously bad for neutral and habit-forming because you become accustomed to fighting an opponent that generally reacts the same way to different stimulus. You can even manipulate a CPU with movement to KO itself.

What you can do with a CPU is practice DI follow-ups on combos, bad recovery edge-guarding, and tech-chasing.

A CPU Marth and a human-controlled Marth both only have 3 options out of a tech: tech in place, tech roll right, or tech roll left. This ends up being really useful. You can practice reacting to different rolls and techs in place on the whole cast as CPU’s, and when it actually happens in a tournament, you’ll be ready for any of the 3 options available to that human-controlled Marth player.

A CPU will DI horribly , but sometimes they’ll DI incredibly well and do techs you wouldn’t dream your opponents could perform. But if they ever do, you’ll know if you can follow up such good DI and if you can, how to follow it up the most effectively depending on the character. You get to try out a ton of different combo scenarios and test your reactions on DI mix-ups because even CPU opponents will change their DI.

You’ll be able to test your reactions on hit confirms when both of you are attacking each other. You can see match-up specific interactions for moves. Can your character’s move beat a certain character’s move at this range? Can you edge guard against a move effectively?

The point I’m trying to make here is that, while you can’t really practice your neutral game solo, you can practice your execution game, which is just as important as neutral. You can practice your edge game so that you don’t suicide during a tournament match because you tried wave landing from ledge to get an invincible tilt or grab in to punish an opponent’s attempt at edge guarding you. You can practice your combo and punish game to make sure you get the most out of every hit you make. High-level Smash involves being able to capitalize on every situation that favors you – you can practice all of those situations solo.

Even if you play with others and work on neutral, I recommend players who really want to start placing high to play for a half hour every day and focus on execution and combo game. You’ll be surprised how much more mileage you get once your punish game is refined. No one wins games in Melee or Project M simply be winning in neutral for 5 minutes. That’s only half the battle, and sometimes makes the difference between a win or a loss in tournament.

Closet Training helped me finally achieve one of my goals in Smash, which was reaching top 5 at a tournament. Think of how much it can help you, too!

Just Sayin’.