Finding a spot for Super Smash Bros. Melee at Evo

Super Smash at Evo? No way!

(Nintendo, Capcom / DraftScene.com Illustration)

Is the rage from the fighting-game community against SSBM justified?

By Nick Orpilla, @NickTKO on February 14, 2013
Editor-in-Chief

Are sports games like Fight Night and UFC Undisputed considered fighting games? They’re games and you go one-on-one against another player and you fight each other. There are life bars, even though you can’t see them, a cast of different characters and there is a certain level of skill it demands. Those games should be at Evo.

In fact, if you’re going to go that far, how about a WWE game? Just no chairs, no steel cage, no Hell-in-a-Cell, no No DQ or any other wacky wrestling rules.

Of course, none of that is ever going to happen even though it makes some sense. But maybe, just maybe, Super Smash Bros. Melee making the main stage at Evo 2013 is the beginning of a slippery slope that challenges traditional convention of what a fighting game is.

There’s a large segment of the FGC that doesn’t want fighting games to go mainstream. There’s a following that wants this niche to remain a niche. Nobody plays SSBM except for a small niche following who play competitively. That’s a small group of people in an already small group of people.

And now there’s this backlash against Melee trying to gain some legitimacy alongside every other fighting game. Of course, this negative response is one of the stupidest things you’ll ever hear.

Style

This is what some proponents of the FGC are saying. SSBM is a “children’s” game with children’s characters and in Brawl’s case, it’s played on a “children’s” console. Mario, Kirby, Pikachu. These guys don’t belong in a fighting game. But just because we associate these guys with our childhood, does that mean we should write them off? This is really just a lame excuse to write-off the game as a whole. And it’s something you can do with the other games.

Nothing says adult and cool like characters like Dan Hibiki, Mr. Karate or a giant Grizzly Bear. Look at the entire cast of games like BlazBlue or Persona 4. Look at Skullgirls. Are the rosters significantly better that they should warrant more support?

Let’s say you think so anyway. The only game that’s allowed to look down upon the others in terms of aesthetics is Mortal Kombat. You’ve got a bunch of characters ripping each other’s legs off and beating each other with them.

This is just an issue of character design. Is that why people play fighting games? No. The game comes from the strategy and the mind games and the pressing of the buttons to execute commands on-screen. Does anybody even care about the animation of an Ultra combo anymore?

Target Audiences

The people who play SSBM are kids. After all, it is a kid’s game. But is that really the case? Why would kids play a game that’s come out more than a decade ago? Let’s see.

This is what a Smash tournament looks like:
SSBM Tournament getting hype!

Now out of context, you’re gonna laugh. I understand that. But it’s really not that surprising. Just a bunch of random guys in their 20s, in their late teens at youngest, who look like average gamers. But definitely not children. Maybe at heart.

Now let’s look at what a Marvel tournament looks like:
MVC3 tournament getting hype!

The Marvel tournament wins automatically because there’s actually a chick there. They’d probably get more points if Infirit (left) wasn’t too lazy to spike his hair up and Filipino Champ (right) wasted some money on some beats by Dre.

There is a difference. That much you can see. But is it that much greater? It’s just some gamers, a few (a lot of) dorks/nerds sprinkled-in and they’re all playing a video game. This isn’t a modeling competition… even though sometimes I wish it was because it would be hilarious. Moving on.

Gameplay

The real issue that the purists have with SSBM is the gameplay itself.

SSBM is a party game. It’s designed for you to get a bunch of people together and just mess around. It’s four players. There’s a bunch of game-changing items, cheap stages and the characters aren’t balanced because they’re given moves based upon the games they’re originally from. Balancing the game was never a priority with this game.

When you make Smash competitive, you gut items, certain stages and two whole players. You have to change the game around completely and even then it still isn’t properly balanced.

No fun and unbalanced. What a crappy game, right? Wrong.

Because when isn’t the FGC complaining about balance issues? When are they not complaining about buffs and unfair match-ups and lopsided tier-lists? When are they not asking for a patch right after a patch comes out? No game is truly balanced and if a game is broken, why not take advantage of it?

And boring? Watching two guys play footsies for 5 sets, even at the highest level, can be just as boring. Capcom threw-in a polarizing mechanic like X-Factor into Marvel just to see someone come from behind to the delight of the audience and the chagrin of the guy who outplayed him for the majority of the match.

The case for Melee

It requires a certain level of skill to play any fighting game. Melee is not an exception. So what difference does it make?

Mortal Kombat was never taken seriously as a competitive fighter. NeatherRealm Studios went out of their way to make it a legitimate fighter and threw a bunch of money in sponsorships to get people to take their game seriously. Now it’s a regular at Evo.

And guess what? People still hate on MK and don’t consider it a real fighter. Why? Because it’s different. The mechanics aren’t like the traditional mainstays Street Fighter or Tekken or King of Fighters.

All of these games take are difficult to play, practice and master. Nobody can argue against that. Every single game has its detractors but there’s this vibe against SSBM that’s nothing but irrational.

Wacky fighting-game characters Rocket Raccoon, Teddie and Hakan

Smash is a game for children. Evo should be home to more mature fighting games like the one with a talking raccoon, a guy in a teddy bear outfit or a guy who rubs lube all over himself to do combos. (DraftScene.com Illustration)

The community

SSBM won the charity drive. It doesn’t matter where they got their money from. It’s not taking the spot of another, more important game. If those games were more important, they would have garnered more support from the community and this whole discussion wouldn’t be happening in the first-place.

Assuming you hate the game, SSBM raised nearly $100,000. The Paris Hotel ballroom is going to be full of a bunch of slightly nerdier, slightly smellier, slightly younger gamers than before and it’s going to be a spectacle. Not one that is particularly good-looking and probably in need of a shower but on the stream, it’s guaranteed there will be a large contingent to bring some hype.

Isn’t that the reason anybody watches in the first-place? Last year, after a close and competitive KOF and MVC3 Grand Finals, how anticlimactic was it for Infiltration to just steamroll his way to the championship? The crowd was half-awake and it wasn’t nearly as exciting as what preceded it.

Balance and gameplay issues don’t matter if you’re not playing. And if you’re not playing, you’re watching, so don’t you want to see something competitive and something different? How is variation a bad thing? There are seven other games there to do the traditional fighting game thing.

Nostalgia

I know you all played Smash Bros. at one point in your life. It’s the reason some people bought a Gamecube or a Wii. Everybody has fond memories of getting together with a bunch of friends and playing a wacky party game.

Now it’s come all this way, after more than 10 years, to the biggest stage in the world for fighting games after previous failed attempts. Even if you think it doesn’t belong because it’s a game for “kids,” you were a kid once. And now these “kids” are getting their chance to shine. Why would you hate on that? How much of a fighting game elitist do you have to be to complain that a game, a game you probably played and enjoyed at one point in time, is going to be on the stream when you’re probably gonna be taking a piss break anyway?

Jigglypuff

I don’t know anything about high-level Smash Bros. play. In fact, just typing-out “high-level Smash Bros. play” made me laugh and that’s partly due to Evo and what “real” fighting-game culture has ingrained in a lot of people’s heads. But it exists.

I’ve seen some of these videos. They look nothing like how I played Smash Bros. I’m not even talking about how they’re completely better than me. I don’t recognize anything they’re doing and everything looks completely foreign to me. It’s like they completely broke the game and are using every unintentional gameplay mechanic to their advantage. Just like every other fighting game.

But there’s one thing I do recognize: Jigglypuff’s Sleep.

The crowd gets hype over come from behind X-Factors, Ultras, X-Rays. Now you can add Sleep to that list. If for any reason, any reason at all, for me to care, this is the one. Even if it’s just a little bit.

Jigglypuff. That’s funny.