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

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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 III – Attitude

**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.

You’ve got your tech down. Your movement is crisp. Your spacing? Immaculate. You walk into the tournament venue, ready to take on the world…

and then you find out your first round is against a Mario player.

And you HATE Mario. You just can’t seem to win, no matter who’s using him. The second Mario enters the battlefield, you lose. He Does that stupid grab, Up Tilt combos, Uair combos, Up Smash is ridiculous, he’s such a brain dead character sakjdhenmfdenfrmewtrcnmrcewtUAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Sound familiar? I’m sure it does for a lot of you. And to be frank, most players encounter a character like this. But hold up for a second. You’re not losing because Mario’s an incredible character. No, you’re losing because of the limits you’re mentally imposing on yourself.

While I’m of the opinion that you can never be perfect in your fundamentals and tech, once you’ve got a good grasp of those it’s time to move onto the next stage – your mental game. Having mental endurance is absolutely crucial to winning. If you lose your composure, you’ll fall apart, no matter how good you are.

There are a few things I want to address in this post, and they’re all related in one aspect of your mental game – Attitude.

Here’s a definition of attitude I pulled from Google: “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior”.

Now, let’s translate this into Smash terms. Attitude is, basically, how you’re thinking and feeling about a)your level of play in comparison to others, and b)characters in the game. There’s more to it (likes how you think/feel about rules), but these two are the ones most important to improvement.

Let’s start with characters. I want to preface this by saying that your opinion of a character can change very quickly. And it really depends on your opponent’s style. You may beat down campy Luigi’s like it’s just a Tuesday for you, but the second an aggressive Luigi comes along, you’re toast. And suddenly, you’re thinking about Luigi differently. Now those campy Luigi players are suddenly doing better because you know what Luigi can really do to you, and it scares you. You start playing differently, but it’s not to adapt. You’re playing afraid, giving too much respect – that kind of stuff.

You start crying out that your character just can’t beat Luigi. It’s time to pick up someone else, but you start doing worse even if at first you felt better about it. You complain that Luigi is stupid. Why does he have all these tools? It’s unfair!

There are three big problems with this progression – the first one, as I mentioned in my post about MU’s, is that character is taking over the player. You’re placing too much emphasis on the character you’re playing, and not the player. That needs to stop. You may lose to an aggressive player playing Luigi, but those guys you were beating before? There’s no reason they should be beating you overnight just because you got floored by the aggressive one. Recognize who you’re playing, not their avatar.

The second problem here is your emotions. One of the reasons why players get so frustrated with characters like Sheik, Mario, and Luigi are that they have good ways to deal with a lot of different options. And when a Sheik hits you 5 times in a row and you feel like you can’t do anything, it can be hard to shake that feeling away. Being more conscientious of how you’re feeling is something you’ll need to work on.

I want you to think about this the next time you fight a character you despise (especially in friendlies). Why do they frustrate you? Is it a move, a combo, their movement? Do you just hate the character as a character? Is there a possibility it’s the player behind the character that’s frustrating you?

The third thing is that a lot of people have really awful, simple-minded perceptions of characters, and project these onto players. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people complain about the throw combos from Sheik/Luigi/Mario/Ness, and how “anyone” can play these characters. Anyone can play Link, too.

But that’s not what they mean. This happens the most with Mario in Chicago, so I’ll use him. Mario, at least in the Chicago Smash 4 Scene, is considered “brain dead”, and “boring”. Anyone can pick him up and do well in a tournament.

I have never, in my 6 years of playing competitive Smash, seen this happen to an extreme degree. A guy picks up Mario and beats his friends, maybe moves from 17th to 13th? Cool. A guy picks up Mario and suddenly goes from 9th -> Top 3? NEVER.

Here’s the thing… there are exceptions, but look at the highest level of talent: world caliber players. When they pick up a new character, they have to put in the work before they see any substantial results, and if they don’t need to put in work then I can only see them as gifted players. These exceptions only happen with mid and low leveled players. I find those exceptions irrelevant because of that. No one’s aiming to be mid level when they want to win tournaments.

However, this was pretty prevalent in Brawl. Top-level players would switch to MK after losing game 1, and sometimes they’d win. Now, being that MK was actually a dominant character in Brawl and had incredible tools on paper that actually translated in-game, sometimes those pockets (as it was called) would win. It was rare, but I’ve seen it. Never, though, did a pocket MK win a tournament. It just didn’t. The better player usually won anyway, especially as you went farther into a bracket; that’s very much the case in every Smash Bros. iteration, including Wii U.

So back to Mario. He’s brain-dead and boring, and anyone can pick him up and do well. Here’s the thing…that’s wrong. Yup, wrong. Look, I understand – Mario has a straight-forward game plan, but why is it that he’s brain dead and boring and Luigi isn’t? Why isn’t Sheik? What about Sonic? Or Falcon? Falcon is literally Dthrow -> Uair/Nair -> Uair/Nair. Dthrow -> Knee or something along those lines for the KO. They’re try to stomp offstage or knee. I dunno…seems pretty brain-dead to me. I know I could pick him up pretty easily. Same with Luigi. Dthrow combos, Dthrow -> Up B, fireball to control space. Bam. Done. Luigi’s brain-dead and boring, too.

I hope you see where I’m going with this. Every character has an optimal game plan depending on the player and character they’re facing. They have good moves and bad moves. They can all be broken down easily, and they can all be seen as boring and brain-dead in my eyes. But I don’t see it that way. I see a character with tools that a player can uniquely utilize. Will two players use the same tools? Sure, it’s how games like this work, and sometimes they’ll be exactly the same, but more often than not, the utilization is different, and that’s what makes every character interesting. Only when every single player would use the same tool in every situation because it is clearly the best option every. Single. Time…will I find a character to be truly “brain-dead” and “boring”.

And this is how you should see this, too. A character may be simple, but not that simple.

——

Let’s talk about how good you think you are.

You’re undefeated amongst your friends, you’re callin’ kids in the top 10 of your local scene trash. You think your opinions are so insightful. You never think you should be losing.

That’s a bad way to approach your scene, buddy.

Listen, everyone likes a few hot heads, but you best believe it’s not helping you improve. Look, thinking you’re better than everyone is semi-good. You’ve got a lot of confidence in yourself and expect a lot. Buuuut, that’s where the problem starts. When you lose, it hurts. You should NEVER lose to Player X! But you did, and now you’re lookin’ bad because you were talkin’ trash earlier. Ouch.

You start getting mad quickly, and when you don’t live up to these expectations of being better than everyone, you can start disliking the game altogether. You’re only having fun if you’re beating everyone else, and don’t get me wrong – losing isn’t fun in a serious competition. But to get so angry that you want to stop? C’mon, now.

There’s a better way to look at this. Instead of thinking you’re better than someone, just have the confidence that you have the potential to be the best. Yes, you have the potential to be better than even ZeRo, but it takes time to get there. But as long as you believe in that potential, you can use that as a motivator.

Obviously, you have to put in the work, otherwise it’s a false belief, but you can use this confidence to motivate yourself. I go into every set, no matter who I’m playing, thinking I can win. I’ll even acknowledge that it’s gonna be hard, and if you came and talked to me beforehand I’d tell you I have a good shot at losing, but once I sit down to play I’m 100% convinced that I can win. Not that I will, mind you, but that I can.

It seems silly, but thinking you’re going to win really puts pressure on yourself. Just play the best you can and think you can win. if you don’t? You’ll get ’em next time. It sounds silly to utilize the whole “try, try again” mentality, but if you’re actively putting in the work, I think this is the best mindset you can have. Eventually, you’ll get those results. I have twice achieved status as a top 10 player in Chicago, once in Brawl and once in Project M. Twice I have used this mentality to help myself.

Believe me, I was an arrogant kid back when I first started getting good at Brawl. Then I got really angry when I lost and it frustrated me. I had to take a step back and re-evaluate how I was approaching the game, and it all came together after months of hard work after realizing I had to change how I thought about the game.

———————-

So what usually happens with these bad attitudes? Well, the most obvious one is that these players tend to make excuses. Here are some common ones:

– I wasn’t trying
– I was tired/sick/hungry/too hot/too cold, etc…
– Character X is so stupid
– My C-Stick wasn’t working
– Crowd was too distracting
– Couldn’t hear the sound
– Too cramped of a venue
– My hands were cold
– It’s impossible for Character X to beat Character Y
– Move Z is broken
– I SD’d twice

These are all barriers that hold them back. These are the biggest barriers that hold a player from being consistent. These are the biggest barriers that hold a player back from being truly great.

Notice, for just a moment…that these are complaints to hide behind to take away from a player’s victory, and to bolster your bruised ego. You’re using a mid-tier and lose to Sheik. “Sheik’s so busted”. Okay. You knew what you were getting into. “I SD’d”. Okay. Maybe if you were more aware of your positioning you wouldn’t have put yourself in a situation to SD. “Physiological excuses”. Bruh. Really? Part of being good is taking care of yourself. It’s on you that you lost, still.

This mentality that players…I dunno, aren’t important? It’s ridiculous. You’re fighting another person. They’re sitting right next to you. Why doesn’t anyone ever complain about a player when it comes tournament time? Why don’t they just admit that another player is puttin’ in work and it’s paying off when they get beaten by said player? I don’t understand.

These are all things you can work on, but what I really want to stress before this ends is that there’s an intrinsic belief that character > player. I’ve been talking about this since my first blog post, and for good reason. Once you realize that it’s the player, not the character, that’s truly important, I guarantee your mindset will only improve.

Well, except for being arrogant. But we’ll let that slide.

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
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
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

Improvement in Smash 4 I – Fundamentals

**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.

Lately, my local scene (Chicago/Chicagoland) for Super Smash Bros. Wii U (Smash 4) has had a big increase in new players that are hungry for improvement. Some are decent but not quite at that high level, some are completely new, and others are old vets trying to get back into Super Smash Bros. The most common questions I’m hearing from these guys are along the lines of “Where do I start?”, “What do I need to know if I really want to push myself to the next level?”, and “What MU’s do I need to focus on?”.

I’m here to help you, players! I’m going to be writing a couple blog posts aimed at my local scene to attempt to help them improve and become incredible players. Obviously, this small little series is going to be aimed at Super Smash Bros Wii U, so keep that in mind.

For all of you Chicago Smash 4 kids who may not know me and are probably asking “who’s this nerd thinkin’ he can give us advice?”, let me give you a quick introduction of myself. My tag in Smash is Kappy. I’ve been playing competitively since Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out when I first attended a smash fest in my local area and got 3-stocked by a Ganondorf. Since then, I’ve taken a few breaks from Smash due to school and work, but when I was playing I managed to steal a spot in the top 10 of WIL’s (A combined PR of Wisconsin and IL’s Chicago scene) PR for one season after a couple years of competing (and then I took a break because school). I’ve been Honorable Mention multiple times in Brawl, and was a 2-time panelist for the official MU’s of Kirby (my main) during Tier List updates for Brawl.

After my break, I picked up Project M and played exclusively Meta Knight, where I managed to, again, reach the top 10 players in the Chicagoland area’s PR for EXP Gaming.

As for Smash 4, I’ve only entered 2 tournaments. I don’t know all the little intricacies of the game, but my fundamentals have allowed me to do well so far.

I could go on, but that’s the basic gist of my level of skill as a player. I’m no national monster, but I think I’m at a level where I could become one if I really dedicated myself; and you can definitely become a national monster! Here’s how to start that journey:

Where do I start?

Fundamentals. That’s it. You start with the basics of the game. These fundamentals are present in every iteration of Super Smash Bros.

What are fundamentals, you may ask? A lot of people may have slightly varying definitions of what the fundamentals of Smash 4 are, but here are the skills I think are fundamental to Smash:

– Spacing
– Positional Awareness
– Option Coverage
– Reactions and Punishes
– Identifying habits (Adaptation)
– Neutral

Let’s dig a little deeper into what those things are.

Spacing is the concept of throwing out a move when it is hardest to punish it, when it out ranges another move, or when it creates an advantageous situation for you. If you’re Marth, and you throw out a Forward Air close enough that Mario can use his Neutral Air, that’s a problem, especially since Marth’s sword out ranges Mario’s Neutral Air.

Another good example is spacing an aerial in such a way that you can’t be shield-grabbed even if you hit their shield.

Positional Awareness ties into almost everything. It’s about being aware of where you are, where your opponent is, and what that means for you in terms of advantages/disadvantages. If you’re under a platform and you’re against someone who thrives being under someone, you should be aware of that and position yourself accordingly. Don’t try to force an engagement when you’re in a bad position unless you see your opponent putting themselves in a position that will suddenly benefit you.

Option Coverage is simple. In any given situation, there are choices you and your opponent must make. These are options. You can choose to cover certain options and not others. Learning which moves covers the most options in a given situation is something that every player needs to be proficient in.

Reactions and Punishes is just your reaction speed. If you can’t capitalize in a mistake, you’re going to lose more than win. This also entails knowing the right punish. If Jigglypuff misses Rest, don’t just jab combo her. Charge an attack, set up a KO combo, etc…

Identifying Habits refers to being able to pick up on an option your opponent takes often in a given situation. For instance, in the first 30 seconds I notice that whenever I run at my opponent, he rolls away from me. Next time, instead of throwing out an attack or grab, I follow his roll and punish him for it with a grab combo.

Neutral is the most abstract. Neutral is a state within fighting games that refers to when both players are “safe”. Neither one is being hit, neither one is easily seen to be on the defensive or offensive. It’s basically a culmination of all the fundamental skills because you have to navigate and win neutral to win the game.

This is where everything comes together. Winning neutral refers to winning exchanges made in neutral that transition to another state. If I space a Back Air with Mario and hit, I’ve transitioned to be offensive while my opponent has transition to being defensive. I have won that neutral exchange.

Neutral is difficult to master. Being aware of what options your opponent has at certain ranges of each other and where you two are (Spacing, Positional Awareness, Option Coverage) will allow you to more accurately predict (Identifying Habits) and punish (Reactions and Punishes) a mis-spaced aerial, grab, etc…

Being able to figure out your opponent’s game plan and win exchanges in neutral based on that knowledge is referred to as Adaptation.

So how do you practice your fundamental play? Obviously, attending tournaments and playing with people is the best way, but if you’re alone? Fear not! There are two simple ways to practice everything.

CPU’s and video watching.

What do you use to practice each technique? Here’s a quick’n’dirty list:

CPU’s
– Spacing
– Positional Awareness
– Reactions and Punishes
– Option Coverage

Videos
– Identifying Habits
– Positional Awareness
– Option Coverage

Human Players
– Neutral

Notice how fighting a human is basically practicing everything, while the other two let you hone in on specific skill sets (with a little overlap).

Let’s start from the top:

CPU’s

So, here’s an old adage I’m sure you’ve heard:

“CPU’s suck and help YOU form bad habits”

This is false.

If you’re conscious while practicing, you can make sure not to auto pilot and form those bad habits. CPU’s are great to space around and practice reaction time. If a CPU techs, they’re the exact same as a human. Practice punishing rolls and spot-dodges. CPU’s are great for nailing Air Dodge punishes on reaction or covering those options. Practice combos – CPU’s will either attack you or air dodge as soon as they can, so see how far you can go with a combo before that happens.

Practice reacting to DI. CPU’s are notorious for having either bad or godlike DI, so practice reacting to it. Don’t predict, just react.

Think about your advantages and disadvantages while on the ledge, platforms, center stage, in the air, etc… CPU’s are pretty notorious for having inhumane reaction time, so sometimes you can see weird holes in your play because of their flawless execution and reaction. Try to attack them – can a move of theirs outright beat the one you’re using? If so, think of different ways to get around it.

The most important thing about fighting CPU’s is to NOT AUTOPILOT. Be absolutely conscious while you’re training and really think about what you’re doing and what you’re trying to practice. React to them, do NOT try to predict them.

Videos

Here’s where a good chunk of your mental game comes into play. Watch any match – bad players, good players…whatever! I want you to pick a player and try and find their habits. Do they tech roll to the left? Do they always use get up attack if a player is running towards them and they missed their tech? Pick apart these habits. Try to predict a player’s habits mid-match. Try to predict their adaptation mid-match.

Look at an exchange between players – I think offstage or ledge play is most effective to begin with – and see what options are being covered and what options are present. As an example, Player A is grabbing the ledge. He has the option to:

– Normal get up
– Ledge get up attack
– Roll get up
– Jump get up
– Drop down and regrab ledge
– Drop down and come up with an attack

What is Player B doing to cover these options, and how many is he covering? What could Player B do to cover as many options as possible? Think about these as you watch. Pause the videos if you have to, but ideally you should strive to analyze these as the video plays without pausing.

Look at the positions of the players. Center Stage is a highly coveted spot in Smash. It allows the most safety and is the best place to mount both a defense and an offense. See how the players interact with that. Try to spot when players inadvertently put themselves in a terrible position, especially when they have the lead. Watch how that bad position translates to a big punish for their opponent. Watch how players attempt to set themselves up to always be in an advantageous position.

A really good idea is to get videos of yourself and watch yourself play. Pick yourself apart, see where you could have made better decisions or put yourself in a better position, and see where you played well. This can really help if you’re feeling like you’re approaching a plateau.

Human Players

This is where it all comes together. Obviously, this is one of the most effective ways to get better. When you’re playing friendlies, you get to practice everything. Remember to be conscious while practicing. Don’t just mindlessly play.

Here’s a helpful tidbit – don’t get mad about losing. Anyone who knows me can attest that when I play friendlies, I suicide quite a bit. Why? Because I experiment. This option isn’t working? Let me try something weird. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but at least I now have experience about that particular decision.

Listen, you’re not going to learn what you can do just by watching others and heory-crafting about it. Try stuff out, especially when playing friendlies. Go for those crazy edge-guards. One day you might come upon a situation where that suicidal edge-guard will net you a win, especially if you’re ahead in stocks. You’ll thank yourself for having tried it out not only because you’ll win, but you’ll be lookin’ real fancy doing it.

If you’re playing on For Glory, take into account lag while playing. I don’t recommend For Glory for anything reaction-based because of lag, so if you are on it, try to predict more to practice that.

What about Match-Ups for my character?

I’m a firm believer that learning these fundamentals comes before even thinking about processing character v character match-ups. In fact, I think player v player is much more important, but I will be covering MU’s in my next bit of this series as well as stuff about picking a character and play styles.

So…how often should I be playing?

Every day. At least 30 minutes, no less. You want to get good? Play every day.

Play as long as you want, but realize that everyone has a limit before they start to burn out. At that point, STOP PLAYING. Or, at the very least, stop practicing and do something fun like Smash Tour. If you practice while you’re burnt out, you’ll become worse. Being burnt out is when you’ll start to autopilot and form awful habits. Me? I can play for probably 4-5 hours of serious play before I need a break.

——

I think Chicago’s scene has a lot of fire and potential, but not a lot of direction. I’m here to give you all who need it some direction so that you can all become amazing. Please, don’t hesitate to send me a message on Facebook or Skype (ID is ryan.klaproth) and ask about stuff like this or ask for some friendlies – I’m generally not available for them, but I’ll try to make time. I’m not the best player in Chicago, but I know how to talk about this stuff and break it down, and I can help you break down your own play styles, habits, explain these concepts in more detail, etc… And, you can always reach out to the top players in Chicago – they’ll be more than happy to help you, especially with character-specific stuff and MU knowledge.

Anyway, this is part 1. Save this post somewhere that’s easy to access and get practicing! Next time, I’ll be covering play style and anything more character-specific!

Just Sayin’

Link to the Chicago Smash 4 Facebook group: Clicky

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

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
XV – Game Flow

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’.

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’