Evo 2013 has been the culmination of a long struggle for the competitive Super Smash Bros. community. For the first time in a long while, the strength of the Smash community was met with the coincidental open, welcoming arms from not only the Fighting Game Community as a whole, but from the gaming scene overall. Even when all hope seemed lost, almost $95,000 raised in charity donations to bring Melee to the grand Evo stage only to be stopped by Nintendo, the immense community support not only made Nintendo completely reverse their decision but brought a ton of new eyes and faces to the community. As a result, Super Smash Bros. Melee at Evo 2013 was one of the most watched fighting game competitions of all time, only being beaten out by the Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 tournament later in the day.
Now, with Evo 2013 over, everyone is jumping back into the lab. Metagame discussions are starting up again. Skype chats are buzzing. Forums are imploding. Practice sessions are starting again. It’s time to get back on the grind. The progress toward a bright future for competitive Super Smash Bros. has not only been revitalized –- it has taken on a whole new form that we’ve never seen before.
Thanks to Evo, the competitive Smash community has been super-charged, now primed for not only next year, but the release of new Smash games for Wii U and 3DS. With so much to look forward to for competitive Smash Bros., I’d like to take the time to bring even more people into the fold. Nintendo Enthusiast’s coverage of the Melee competition at Evo brought a new perspective to many a gamer. I’d like to continue that by showing you not only more of what competitive Smash Bros. is like, but what Evo meant to us and where we are going from here.
Fox Only, No Items, Final Destination
Early in Super Smash Bros. Melee’s competitive lifespan, just as gamers were getting a hold of what would make Melee such a deep and intricate game we see today, many casual gamers took to the internet in droves to call out the “overly-strict” standards of the competitive community, joking that it all led to “Fox Only, No Items, Final Destination” in every single match.
In reality, the competitive Smash community is a diverse, dynamic, and very welcoming community. Super Smash Bros. Melee continues to be one of the most active competitive gaming scenes in the world, bringing in players from almost every region and continuing to keep pace in number of entrants in most tournaments compared to its successor, Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii.
Despite the divide in the Smash community due to the differences between Brawl and Melee, the Smash community is strong and tight-knit, mainly due to local tournaments every weekend allowing players to get better and better with each passing Saturday. Practicing for major tournaments like Genesis in California and Apex in New Jersey involves long hours in front of old TVs, discussing strategies and the metagame (how the game is currently being played competitively in tournaments) with other players and late night Ihop trips when its all over.
Our competitive settings — a certain amount of stocks and time, no items, certain stages, etc. — are meant to provide the most balanced and fair competitive arena possible to allow players to fight each other with minimal distractions. While we ban stages — for example, those that have a ton of intrusive hazards — we keep the more neutral stages even if they have some dynamic stage interactions. We understand what makes Smash Bros., well, Smash Bros., and part of that is the stage variety.
We have a lot of fun – even if we don’t have items or crazy stages, the competitive drive, the tournament weekends, the long hours practicing, it’s both fun and rewarding for us. That is how competitive Smash has lasted so long thus far.
You may ask: “why was Melee at Evo 2013 and not the newer Brawl?”
EDIT: Yes, I’m aware of the Facebook poll. This is more about why Melee was even considered and/or a candidate in the first place. This is to discuss some fundamentals of why Melee is what it is today, what makes it different from Brawl in some aspects, etc. This is not to disregard any significance of the poll (it has a lot), but rather that there’s more to be discussed from this bit of analysis rather than stating the poll’s existence.
First and foremost, Super Smash Bros. Melee is accepted as the most competitive of the three Smash games. This is mostly due to the speed of the game – players can be very offensive and aggressive thanks to the quicker accelerations, movement speeds, and fall speeds of the characters compared to Brawl. Furthermore, defender’s advantage is stronger in Brawl, creating slower and less impressive games because opponents need to be more careful and cannot follow up on many of their attacks.
Brawl suffers from low hit stun. Hit stun is when a character is attacked, they are unable to do anything except adjust their movement when being hit back (called Directional Influence). A combo is successful when a player can follow up their first attack with another one before their victim falls out of hit stun. Melee has a lot of hit stun, meaning players can combo and be more aggressive than in Brawl.
Brawl also removed many of the advanced techniques that made Melee an ever faster game, like wavedashing and l-canceling. These terms, for casual players, also seemed intimidating and further distanced them from competitive Smash.
In reality, these techniques are merely just more ways to move faster in Melee, as well as to open up more opportunities to approach or defend. Wave-dashing, for example, allows players to use their air dodge momentum to slide across the stage, allowing for better mix-ups and approaches. Wave-dashing can also be used to bait opponents or move just out of their range while still being ready to attack. On the other hand, l-canceling is when the player presses the L button just before hitting the stage after using an aerial non-special attack. This removes much of the landing lag that results from using an attack in the air, allowing the character to get moving into their next tactic quicker than usual.
In culmination, Melee makes for a spectacle of a game and a very deep and execution-laden experience. Designer Masahiro Sakurai intends for Smash for Wii U and 3DS to be between Brawl and Melee in terms of focus – that may mean we will get a game that is just as fast as Melee, but just as accessible as Brawl, which would be a reasonable compromise.
Melee at EVO 2013: The Fountain of Dreams
As Fox and the Ice Climbers landed on Final Destination to start what would be the very last game of the entire Melee competition, almost 135,000 unique viewers were glued to their streams to see what would happen next. Super Smash Bros. Melee reigned supreme in viewer count with only Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 maintaining another ten thousand or so viewers during its Grand Finals. Nevertheless, Melee’s audience was a phenomenon that was as sweet a victory as could be.
Then again, it wasn’t too difficult to expect a massive crowd for Melee. The controversy caused by Nintendo only further added to the hype being generated by the Smash community donating nearly $95,000 toward breast cancer research to get Melee at the tournament in the first place. The multitudes of media coverage following the stream drama was a perfectly timed boon for the successful event.
For Smash players, there was certainly reason to tear up a bit when Mango clinched his victory. Competitive Smash has long been neglected by Nintendo and directly bashed by many in the general gaming community. With Brawl not living up to the expectations of a true Melee successor, along with Brawl being barred from being streamed during Major League Gaming’s 2010 Pro Circuit, Smash continued to be the butt end of joke after joke.
Legitimacy is what we’ve craved. The competitive scene longs to show the rest of the world what we are about and what we are made of. Evo 2013 finally gave Smash the much needed exposure that has been dreamed of for over half a decade.
Finally, others have realized what competitive Smash not only is, but what it can be – a proper eSport. With Smash coming to Wii U and 3DS, hopefully with a tuned focus that will allow for a competitive game that is both accessible and capable of maintaining a high skill ceiling, we may hopefully get a game that appeases not only casual fans of the game but hardcore and competitive players, as well.
Evo 2013 has set a bar for everyone in the Smash community to reach for; we want to attract more of Nintendo’s attention and improve our relationship with them. At the very least, we hope we can get them watching next year more than they did this year. It’s almost impossible to think how we could top Evo 2013, but it’ll be done somehow.
Competitive gaming continues to grow every day. With Smash’s success at Evo, Smash may soon be at the forefront of competitive gaming and will hopefully continue to be a high quality franchise in Nintendo’s library.