Improvement in Smash 4 II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups

**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.

Repeat after me: “MUs aren’t just numbers”.

If you were to ask me, “Kappy, what prevents players from improving?”, I would say without hesitation that one of the top things are, “match ups” (or, as everyone refers to them in text format, MUs). MUs describe the likelihood of a character beating another character, strictly speaking. The way it usually goes: If two players of equal skill play, character X has a XX:YY MU with character Y. This is usually categorized in this way:

50:50 – Even
55:45 – Small Advantage
60:40 – Advantage
70:30 – Big Advantage
80:20 – Huge Advantage
90:10 – Gigantic Advantage
100:0 – Guaranteed Win

I think there’s something inherently flawed about discussing MUs like this. Let me be perfectly clear – numerically showing how character X does against character Y is fine; in fact, I agree with it. The problem is how it’s discussed and approached.

Let me craft a scenario for you. Say you go up against a player who places the same as you in your local scene. You two seem to always get the same place, but you two have never met in bracket. This time, it’s different. You’re going up against him, and he’s using a character that has a 100:0 MU against yours. You two sit down to play, two supposed evenly-matched players, and you emerge the victor.

I’ve seen this happen before.

What’s happening here? The biggest problem approaching MUs with numbers is that character takes over player. It should be flipped. Player trumps Character. It might be an uphill battle for your character, but it’s not so simple as, “Character X walls Y. It’s hard for them to get in.” No, it’s not so cut and dry. Even with an equal skill level, a player’s tendencies can change how the MU actually is in practice.

What if you spun it as, “I struggle against hyper-defense. I find it difficult to approach.” This not only spins the blame to give you something to practice, it gets rid of blaming your character or the MU for losing. A number doesn’t define who you’ll win and lose to, who you’ll struggle and not struggle against.

So what can you do to stop thinking this way? Combine Player and Character into a single unit.

Combining player and character gives way to two distinct ways to view a MU, and both are essential to improving: Play Style and Character Interactions. What are these?

Play Style refers to how a player makes decisions during a match. Do they apply pressure, grab a lot, camp, etc… This is usually categorized further for generality – aggressive, defensive, etc… I won’t get too into that, but Play Style also encompasses a player’s reactions, emotions, etc… their style changes as they play, and if they don’t – well, if you can counter play it without them adapting, then you’re going to win no matter the character.

Character Interaction refers to on paper interactions between characters. This is usually discovered through experimentation on the player’s part. Let me list what I think this consists of:

– Move Priority
– Kill %’s
– Punishment Options

Move Priority refers to the interaction between two character’s moves. A good example would be Kirby’s Dair vs Marth Up Tilt. Marth’s Up Tilt beats Kirby’s Dair, so it wins and Kirby will (most likely) get hit.

Kill %’s are just that. When does X move KO at Y percent on character Z?

Punishment Options refers to options your character has to punish character X in any given situation. Can you shield grab an Fsmash? A Ftilt? Can you punish a whiffed move with a Smash/Tilt/etc…?

When I approach a MU, I think about these things instead of the numbers. I think about what I’m going to need to do to overcome any adversity the MU presents me with. If my character struggles against projectiles, I need to find ways to counter the player’s style with those projectiles. Do I have a move that’ll just outright beat the projectile? Does the player panic when I get too close? When should I start looking for a KO? (Notice how this is basically Adaptability)

——

Obviously, some characters do beat others. It’s the way a game like this works. And in a game like this, some characters have a lot of “bad” MUs. And they will struggle, and you can clearly see how a character struggles. However, simplifying the MU to the point where you’re going in expecting it to be incredibly hard or maybe impossible is neglecting the fact that there’s a person controlling that avatar. You’re forgetting about human error, human psychology, even human physiological responses during a set. This is stuff that you need to think about when it comes to MUs, and it’s reflected in their play style.

If you wanna use numbers when sitting at home thinking about MUs, fine. Don’t let me stop you. But you best believe that you shouldn’t be oversimplifying MUs when you’re about to play someone. Treat them as complex as they should be – it’s a character controlled by a player, not the other way around. Remember that.

When you’re giving advice, don’t just use the character. That’s for tier list/character interactions/theorycrafting discussion specifically. Otherwise, think about the player, too. Don’t let players ask, “how does X do against Y?” Demand they be more specific. No two players play the same way – acknowledge that in how you ask for and give out advice.

Repeat after me: “MUs aren’t just numbers.”

Just Sayin’

Link to the Chicago Smash 4 Facebook group: Clicky

Check out my other posts on improving in Super Smash Bros. Wii U!

I – Fundamentals
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
XV – Game Flow

REVIEW: Super Smash Bros. 3DS

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted! I’ve been meaning to write this review but I was having so much fun with the game that I forgot to write it!

So, the new Super Smash Bros. game is out. While most of my friends in the competitive area of Smash aren’t exactly enjoying it, I am enjoying it a lot. Now that I have the full game let’s go into what I’m excited about and what I’m looking forward to with the Wii U version.
The Good:
 
Smash Run
 
I have to start here. Smash Run is probably my favorite mode of Super Smash Bros. I’ve ever played. Collecting power ups and duking it out in quite a few different varieties of mini games (including racing, climbing, and various versions of Smash) is awesome. I loved Kirby Air Ride’s City Trial (which is basically what Smash Run is), and so I instantly took a shine to this mode. I think the only problem is you can’t interact with the other players besides a bomb you can throw into their screen.
All-Star Mode
 
The new All-Star mode is really cool. Instead of grouping characters together by game, they’re grouped by time period. This makes some really interesting variety of characters and stages while fighting. The mode is a little on the easy side for me, but I really enjoy it nonetheless.
Music + Graphics
 
Super Smash Bros. 3DS (and the Wii U version) has the best music in a Smash game to-date. Really digging the remixes, and the game looks fantastic. I think the only problem here is you can’t change the music like you could in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but that’s a minor detail I can look over.
Teams
 
So you can now be whatever color you want in team battles. That’s the best. Now you have team outlines, which is way cooler and way better. Seriously, forced colors was never something I enjoyed about teams. I’m glad they changed that.
Stages + Items
 
These are, hands down, my favorite stages in the franchise. The Paper Mario stage is definitely my favorite. All the new stages offer something really cool, and I LOVE the new old-school Mute City stage! To add to the craziness of the stages, the new items are a blast. The Galalga Boss that sucks you up, Cuckoos, and the new Pokemon and assist trophies really make for a hectic item experience. It’s fun!
Characters
 
The new characters rock. I love them all. In fact, Villager is my main! I actually don’t mind Dr. Mario, Lucina, and Dark Pit, either. While I will never play Dark Pit, I really enjoy Lucina and would rather pick her over Marth, so I’m glad she’s in the game. Also Dr. Mario is a boss and actually has different moves so I wouldn’t consider him a straight-up clone.
Custom Moves
 
Are probably the best part of this game. I am loving some of the custom moves the characters have! They give the characters some much-needed flavor or just help their kit in general. For example, Luigi has an ice ball – how cool is that?!
The Bad:
 
Controls
 
I’m actually very used to the controls, but as a competitive player (who doesn’t really play Super Smash Bros.), I really miss the c-stick. Being able to do a falling Up Air is something I have taken for granted, and while I can still do it, it takes a lot of precise manipulation of the joystick, and to be frank, the 3DS’s joystick isn’t incredible. I wouldn’t say the controls are awful, but there’s definitely something left to be desired here.
Classic Mode
 
Is still kind of boring.
Online + For Glory
 
Okay, so every For Glory mode stage is basically Final Destination with the stages usual blast zones. Some of the have walls that go down to the blast zone. This is fine, but I really wish some of the stages (I’m looking at you, Paper Mario stage and Rainbow Road) had their original design in For Glory mode, just minus the hazards. It’d make some of the levels way more varied and interesting without it just being flat. This ties into online.
You see, Final Destination is a horribly balanced stage. It gives characters with projectiles a clear-cut advantage (unless you’re Little Mac), and that’s hardly fair to slow characters. I think Battlefield is the most balanced stage, but I’m digressing. It seems that the cast is balanced around Final Destination, and that’s…not great. Granted, I think the game is incredibly varied right now and a lot of characters have untapped potential, but it sucks that online every stage is basically Final Destination,  giving some characters inherent advantages. That’s not too bad if you’re really good, but I think a lot of players who want to become competitive aren’t going to enjoy their character suffering as they try to practice their character.
Also the lag can be dreadful sometimes. At least the game has decided to dish out “No Contest” where neither player receives a detriment or plus to their record if the game lags for too long. It can detect intentional DC’s though, which is awesome. Other than those few complaints, though, online is incredibly fun. I’ve played just about 100 1v1 games and a few 2v2 (both For Glory) and they’ve been really fun. I have yet to play the “For Fun” mode or 4 player For Glory, and I probably won’t for a long time. I enjoy 1v1 the most.
Equipment
 
I’m not really a big fan of equipment, and that’s because they only give out stat boosts. I’m okay with the changing stats of characters. It’s a cool concept and it’ll make your Amiibo CPU’s way more fun to watch. However, it’d be nice if there were some pieces of equipment that only gave effects, no stats. I’m a big supporter of custom moves for official tournaments with this game, and I would’ve loved to include equipment in there, but alas. Equipment will be no more than a side tournament option.
And that’s about it. I could rate this game on my usual criteria but there’s so much content in the game I won’t do that. With that said, my rating for this game is a solid 8/10. If you’re a fan of the Super Smash Bros. franchise, you will love this game, even if it’s on the 3DS. I wouldn’t wait for the Wii U. Having Smash on the go is incredible.
Just Sayin’

Coins in Mario Kart 8

After 1 month, I’m finally done with summer camp! And while it was an awesome month, I’m glad to be back home, sitting at my computer and typing this blog post up. I was originally going to just do a little update, but I’ve been wanting to write about this since I left for camp: coins in Mario Kart 8.

I’ve enjoyed almost every game in the Mario Kart series since its inception, and Mario Kart 8 is the first one that I don’t really enjoy playing. I’ve only really played it once. There are a number of reasons why I don’t like this game (all gameplay related – the visuals and music are phenomenal, I think the biggest reason is the re-inclusion of coins from Super Mario Kart.

For those of you who don’t know, in Mario Kart 8 you can have up to 10 coins. These coins increase your maximum top speed as well as your boost speed. If you are hit or you fall off the map, you lose 3 coins. This opens up a couple problems right off the bat:

Speedier Karts/Bikes/Characters are better:

I love Toad. He’s one of my favorite Mario characters. However, he’s a light character, so he’s pretty slow. Normally, this is offset by having better acceleration and off road speed. With coins in play, having less coins than a speedier character/kart almost always results in me trailing farther and farther behind. Without coins at least I can try and get some items or do some skillful drifting to catch up, but that’s more difficult when you have 4 coins and they have 7 and are cruising on ahead considerably faster than you.

Rubber Banding (or same place syndrome):

Because of how significant the speed boost is from coins, the rubber banding from items is diminished in its effectiveness. Given two characters of same character and vehicle, one with 10 coins can go about the same speed as one with 0 coins and a Star/Mushroom. That’s absolutely ridiculous, and can sometimes lead to what I call Same Place Syndrome. Let’s say you’re in 2nd place, and you get hit with a red shell and a green shell at 10 coins. You now have 4, and people speed on by you with more coins. If this happens, you may find yourself in 6th/7th/8th place for the rest of the race. This has happened to me and a bunch of people I’ve observed playing a lot, and it’s incredibly frustrating when you feel like the items can’t help propel you forward just because you’ve got less coins.

Conversely, if you’re in first with 10 coins, sometimes you can rocket so far ahead of the pack (assuming they’re not collecting coins like you are) that being hit with two blue shells won’t even come close to putting you in 2nd, especially since one of the items you get commonly in first place are a coin item that gives you two coins.

The first lap becomes a coin collecting contest:

The first lap, I think, is pretty crucial. The players that collect more coins will stay at the top (unless combo’d hard by items), and those that don’t will find themselves struggling until they collect more for the whole race.

It’s disappointing that a game I was really looking forward to has, in my opinion, an awful mechanic for what the series stands for. It looks great, plays great (controls are amazing), and has a memorable soundtrack, but coins really take a lot of fun out of the game for me. I will say that I think coins are an amazing addition to Time Trials, as I think strategic collection of coins leads to increased depth in that area, but otherwise, coins need to go.

Just Sayin’.

My Super Smash Bros Wii U/3DS demo consensus

E3 has come and gone, the Super Smash Bros. Invitational has passed, and I got to play both the 3DS and Wii U versions of  the new Super Smash Bros. game (which I will be labeling as “Smash 4“). Here’s my take:

NOTE: This game is not in its final stage. It is still in development! Mechanics can (and probably will) change.

What is it like?

It’s like Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Brawl). It felt less floaty and faster, but it definitely retained the Brawl feel. The music and the overall look is great. The move streaks are an awesome touch, and I’m loving some of the new characters. I only got to play as Kirby (my old Brawl main) and Villager, but I had fun playing both!

Also Smash Run is going to be the best mode of all time.

Game Mechanics:

The Good:

– A lot of people were complaining about aerial landing lag, but I didn’t see a lot of it. With both Villager and Kirby, landing on the ground with an aerial felt exactly like it did in Brawl. I was still able to link Kirby’s Back Air -> Forward Tilt, which requires little landing lag on the Back Air. Some characters have a lot of landing lag (See: Marth), but overall the game didn’t look like a total lag fest when landing with aerials. I have no idea why everyone’s complaining when it seems to be only a few characters.

– The hit lag, while more than Brawl, feels really satisfying when you hit. Grabbing someone also feels satisfying.

– Air dodging into the ground produces significant lag. This is great because it used to be an incredibly safe option in Brawl, and now it can be punished. Also they appear to be much shorter, which is great.

– The jab finishers are really cool. I hated all the rapid-jabs, so I’m glad they’re gone.

– Hit Stun can’t be canceled with an air dodge. Combos do exist!

– The new ledge mechanics to prevent sharking are cool. I’m actually on board with the whole “kick-off” mechanic, too.

The Bad: 

– No dash dancing. I think this is something Smash 4 needs so that the primary movement isn’t air-based.

– Throws are really odd. It’s very hard to follow up with them and it doesn’t really put the thrown opponent in a bad spot so it feels like they’re always the less superior choice. A few characters, however (MegaMan and Villager are the two that come to mind) have some follow ups out of throws.

– KO’ing takes a very long time. I saw people live up to 150% from Smash attacks.

– Auto sweet spot ledges with Up B.

And that’s really all I have to say about it. Overall, I’m really hopefully for Smash 4. I was worried I wasn’t going to like it, but after watching the Invitational and playing both versions myself, I can confidently say that I’m very excited for this game!

Just Sayin’

My thoughts on the Super Smash Bros. Invitational

A few days ago, Nintendo posted a video about the Super Smash Bros. International, a tournament hosted by Nintendo at E3 this year to showcase the next installment of the Super Smash Bros. series. It will feature 16 players that receive an invite from Nintendo, and feature casting by well-known competitive Smash Bros. casters Prog, Scar, and D1. I think this tournament is awesome, and to see them including Prog and D1, my two favorite casters, is really cool. Really, the whole idea that Nintendo is trying to embrace competitive Smash Bros. is a good feeling. Other competitive games are usually supported by their creators; it’s nice to see Smash Bros. is finally getting some of that support.

I’m not going to dive into the players invited, but there are a lot of big names and I’m mostly happy with Nintendo’s choices. A lot of the players not only help with the community but are long-time players of competitive Smash Bros., with a few new names thrown in there that I don’t know at all.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the Invitational: the rules.

Draft:

Basically, there are 20 characters and 16 players. Each player picks a number and then picks a character in the order of the number (starting with 1). The player’s aren’t allowed to switch characters – they must use the same character throughout the duration of the tournament.

Here’s a quick list of the characters (in alphabetical order):

– Bowser
– Donkey Kong
– Fox
– Greninja
– Kirby
– Link
– Little Mac
– Mario
– Marth
– Mega Man
– Pikachu
– Pikmin & Olimar
– Pit
– Rosalina & Luma
– Samus
– Sonic
– Villager
– Wii Fit Trainer
– Zelda
– Zero Suit Samus

So that means that 4 characters will be left out. That’s nice because then the last person still has characters to choose from rather than just being stuck with whichever character isn’t picked. I’m predicting that some characters like Mario, Pikachu, Link, Donkey Kong, Fox, and other old names will be less favored than the new characters. At least, I hope they choose the new characters over the old ones.

Gameplay:

– Single-Elimination
– 4 player Free-For-All (FFA), 4 stocks, 5 minute timer (top 2 advance)
– Winner is determined by score?
– A tie-breaker for second involves most KO’s, and if that’s a tie, then by a fan vote.
– Quaterfinals have Items on Medium
– Semifinals and Finals have Items on Low
– Grand Finals have no items.

And taken directly from Nintendo’s E3 website with the rules:

Grand Finals is a 4-stock, 8-minute, 1-on-1 match on Battlefield as an homage to the competitive Smash Bros. community.”

How cool is that? That’s a really big deal for me as a competitive Smash Bros. player.

So, the rules aren’t exactly crystal clear on how the winner is determined. Is it the last player standing, or the player with the most KO’s? I don’t know, but I’m going ahead and assuming it’s whomever is last standing. Also I have no idea whether or not the matches before Quarterfinals have items on or off. I’m pretty sure it’s on, all things considered, but we’ll see. The stages used will be shown off at the event, which I’m okay with.

There’s also this “Fan Favorite Bracket”, which is basically fans wanting their favorite players to play again in a separate bracket where the second place winner is determined by a vote. The Fan Favorite Bracket matches are timed FFA’s instead of stock, so the winner is the person with the highest score. Items are always on Medium.

All in all, the rules are looking good. I didn’t expect any kind of hyper-competitive rules, so the FFA matches are fine with me. I’m just happy they’re paying an homage to the competitive Smash Bros. community.

I’m very excited for this tournament. If you want to check it out, it’ll be streamed on Nintendo’s Twitch channel next Tuesday, June 10th, at 4 PM PT. I’ll be tuning in and probably updating my Twitter as I do, and I’ll (hopefully) be going to the Best Buy Smashfest in my area to write a post about my thoughts on it in the next couple of weeks.

Just Sayin’.

Link to Nintendo’s E3 website: http://e3.nintendo.com/

Link to the Super Smash Bros. Invitational Rules: http://e3.nintendo.com/invitational/info.html

REVIEW: Super Mario 3D World

Apologies for last week; school has just started and so I was a little preoccupied with transitioning into school mode. But, enough of that, it’s time to review Super Mario 3D World!

I won’t bore you with the plot or characters. It’s standard Mario fare, except Peach is a character you play and the victims are a group of fairies. What’s really important is the gameplay.

Gameplay:

If I were to sum up the gameplay of Super Mario 3D World, it’d be “wow”. With this addition each character (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad) has different properties – Mario is the most balanced, Luigi jumps the highest (but is a little slippery), Peach can float (but is the slowest), and Toad is the fastest (but jumps the lowest). This allows for some pretty interesting gameplay choices within each level, as some characters have a vastly easier time with certain platforming elements depending on the level.

Speaking of levels, the level design is fantastic, and you can see the thought put into the 4-player co-op with each level. While the worlds are pretty standard (Grassy, water, desert, lava, etc…), I loved most of the designs, some of them proving to be quite challenging.

Because each level doesn’t brutally murder you for having 4 players (like New Super Mario. Bros), playing with friends is very fun. The twist to playing with multiple players is that, instead of everyone having their own lives, the players are share them. That means that playing with friends, while more fun, is also much more dangerous. Expect game overs, even if you’re experienced with Mario games. My brother and I probably accumulated 3 or 4 game overs throughout the main portion of the game due to us sharing lives.

Thankfully, unlike in New Super Mario Bros., you cannot bubble in the air. This is great because it means you can’t just haphazardly attempt to make a jump and just bubble to safety. I always hated that feature because it decreased the game’s difficulty while playing multiplayer. I like how punishing it is now, because it forces cooperation. The ONLY problem with bubbling is that you can get out yourself, and sometimes, the bubble will hover above an abyss and you’ll pop out yourself and die again (I can’t tell you how many times this happened to me). Even near land, the bubble would literally hover just off the ledge and so you had to wait until you popped out. I would rather get back to the action as fast as possible, not wait 10 seconds for the bubble to be over land so I don’t die again.

Oh, and let’s not forget the new power up, the Cat Bell, which transforms Mario and co. into a cat that can dive and climb walls. This is, without a doubt, the best power up Mario has ever used. Platforming is a breeze once you master how to use the cat suit. It’s an awesome power up, and the little “meow!” that Mario and co. say after beating a level is absolutely priceless.

Atmosphere:

There’s not a lot to say, unfortunately. Pretty standard Mario fare, although I liked a lot of the level designs and the art. Nothing really captured me, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it.

———

All in all, Super Mario 3D World is a fantastic game, especially for co-op. If you’re a Mario fan that still loves the series or even someone who’s been a little bored with the series, I recommend it. It’s a breath of fresh air to the Mario franchise co-op wise, and that’s something, I think, a lot of Mario fans have been yearning for since New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Gameplay: 10/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Final Score: 9/10

Just Sayin’