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SSB4: How Nintendo could turn the (competitive) beat back.


Every year, I've made it a tradition every mid-June to feign sickness to skip class, turn on G4TV (My computer is too crappy to stream anything reliably), kick back with their annual showing of "The King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters", and be emotionally swept away by whatever the hell Nintendo has to offer at their conference. It's pretty much replaced Christmas and my birthday for my yearly dose of "giggle like a schoolgirl and jump around in excitement." Lately they've been pretty disappointing, but they more than made up for it since their amazmagasmic E3 2010 showing. (Christ, has it really been almost a year since then!?)

But that's besides the point. What really matters here is that with the tides of E3 slowly seeping it's grubby hands in, the only thing I can really think of is Nintendo's new fancy-pants HD thingamajig, the Project Frappuccino or whatever. As we all know, Nintendo is usually in tip-top shape when showcasing new hardware, and with some of the absolutely insane rumors going around with this machine, such as it having essentially an NGP for a controller, being aimed at a core audience again, and being able to cure diabetes and raise your grandmother from the dead, my frothing demand for valid information only increases. But even more importantly, a new Nintendo console always brings with it a brand spankin' new Super Smash Brothers. And while it's not too certain, or even likely, that a next-gen 'brothers could be unveiled at this point, it certainly could chug the Project Double Mocha Espresso hype train quite a ways for the hardcore Nintendo gamer.

Time for an extremely brief history lesson with me and Smash Bros. While 64 was great and all, I still list Super Smash Bros. Melee as one of the greatest and most significant games I've ever played. It was one of the first games I really started playing on a competitive level, and introduced me to the exciting and terrifying world of competitive gaming. (Of course, I never was good enough to make a big splash in the SSB world, mainly because I was but a tiny little tyke back then.) While it probably wasn't the most balanced fighter out there, it still had loads of wicked tricks of it's own. Even today, it plays quite unlike any other game out there, and has always been an endless source of wonder for me that I still don't get out of any game nowadays. Seriously, everything about that game is pure fuckin' miracles.
When Super Smash Bros. Brawl was announced, I mostly expected more of the same. My hopelessly optimistic self expected an even sexier version of Melee with more characters, secrets, surprises, and hopefully better balance. Sadly, that wasn't meant to be in the end, for reasons I'll explain later.

But nonetheless, with a new Smash potentially over the horizon, I feel bored enough to make yet another cliche wishlist for the game. Not just any cliche wishlist though, as I won't get into character selection or any nonsense like that. No, this is all about core gameplay, and the potential for Nintendo to deliver a true competitive follow up to the Smash experience I've waited ever so long for.


On the .0001% chance you actually know me, you should know that I tend to complain about Sakurai's rather...questionable choices with the Smash Bros. series. But in all honesty, I don't think he's a terrible game designer. He should just probably be limited when it comes to fighting games. After all, it's said that Miyamoto wanted more of a multiplayer experience with Melee, while Sakurai wanted more of a single-player shindig. Miyamoto's vision gave us one of the greatest fighters of all time, while Sakurai's vision gave us... well, Brawl, lol. Honestly, while a lot of people tend to decry Sakurai as "hating" the Smash competitive scene, I really do think his heart was in the right place with Brawl. He just did a terrible, terrible job at it. I don't think he completely despises the competitive scene, but rather, he wanted to make the gap between Casual and Hardcore much less imposing. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as pretty much all recent fighters have been doing the same thing. But doing things like completely random tripping, limiting gameplay and character control to a parody of it's former self, and deliberately removing positively received techniques in the name of "DEAR GOD, THINK OF THE CASUALS" is simply going too far. If Sakurai simply must direct this next game in some way, I personally believe he should be given less control.
And on that note, there's also the much less talked about issue with Game Arts. We're not exactly sure how much Game Arts had to do with the general direction and basic gameplay of Brawl, but they seemed like a rather odd choice for developing an action game. While Lunar and Grandia were great and all, those were all JRPGs, pretty much as far away from an action title as it gets. Sure, Dimps was also an odd choice for developing Street Fighter 4, but at least they were experienced with, y'know, action games. But still, we really don't have any idea how much they had to do with the core gameplay. However, they did have their own chance to shine with the purely Game Arts developed TMNT: Smash Up, and OLOLOLOLOLOLOLROFL HOLY CRAP THAT GAME WAS BAD LOL. Yeah, I don't really like you that much GA, now get out of here before you make me feel even more uncomfortable, and get on that 3243983498535th remake of Lunar or something.

Now, who would I get to develop the next Smash if I had things my way? Hell, I'd just about choose anyone as long as they had some sort of experience with fighters. Personally, I'd choose Capcom, but that's wishful thinking. If Capcom was making SSB4, it would have been leaked 3 months ago. But hey, speaking of Capcom....


SSBB was released at a time when fighters were rather floundering, at least in the global market. Of course, that all changed when Street Fighter 4 hit the scene, introducing a resurgence of fighters to the mainstream market. And guess what? Street Fighter 4 didn't have to do things like random tripping, removing combos or supers, make everyone super-floaty, and remove advanced techniques to appeal to a mainstream market. HELL NO! Sure it was a made a bit easier compared to SFIII, but it retained all the things that made it competitive-worthy, and it actually didn't cause the heads of casual gamers to invert into a series of black holes, dooming the universe! And let's not even stop there, with the domination of multiplayer games like (ugh) Call of Duty and other fps pew pew crap, it's that people want competition! Even the lowliest of casuals do! And now that fighting games are a new hotness in mainstream gaming again, the time couldn't be better for a real, competitive Smash! One to really tangle with the big boys, like Street Fighter, MvC, and (ugh) Mortal Kombat! What, you think that any partially competitive aspects will somehow turn casuals away? Once again, look the hell over at Cawadooty. The crap sells like hotcakes, despite being a *gasp*, competitive multiplayer game. Now, would anyone care about CoD if your guns could randomly jam, you had no way of identifying other players, and used the core gameplay engine of Wolfenstein 3D? HEEEELL NAAW! But now you're wondering, if SSBB did so much wrong, how did it sell so well? Well duh, as long as you stick Mario on the cover, it's sure to sell somewhere within the Metric Fucktons, no matter how mediocre the product is. (See: New Super Mario Bros series, Mario & Sonic, SSBB(hehehe))
And driving the point home once and for all, do you know what the best selling game for the 3DS so far is? Is it that super-casual-friendly game, Nintendogs + Cats? HAHA, no. The first 3DS game to break 1 frickin' Million is none other than SUPER STREET FIGHTER 4: 3D EDITION! On a NINTENDO SYSTEM! YOU HAVE NO FUCKING EXCUSE ANYMORE NINTENDO. A PORT OF A YEAR OLD GAME TOPPED THE 3DS CHARTS, DESPITE BEING A TITLE BASED PURELY ON COMPETITIVE GAMEPLAY! People DO like competition Nintendo, so stop fooling around!
And on a very related note....


Note that I simply said "Acceptable Online." That's because I can easily describe SSBB's online experience with one word: Unacceptable. Everything about it's online is simply unacceptable. I'm not even talking about the crippling amounts of lag, that's kind of a given thanks to the Wii. But no organized match-ups? Unacceptable. No way of seeing who you're fighting? Unacceptable. No rankings? Unacceptable. Pretty much no options whatsoever when doing a random match? UNACCEPTABLE. Having to punch in somebody else's friend code every time you want to so much get an organized battle with them? UNACCEPTABLE. Not even any OPTIONAL methods of communication through the game? UNACCEPTABLE.
Hell, no records whatsoever? UNACCEPTABLE
Hell, get a load of THIS timeless quote from the SSBB website!
If you think of your opponent as a simple scarecrow, any psychological barriers may melt away.
lololol, can you believe this guy? I mean, WHAT'S THE FUCKING POINT!? If I wanted to play with SCARECROWS, I'd pretty much play with CPUs. That's it! They might as well be even dumber CPUs! (I say even dumber because there's no way any half-decent nor sane player would ever bother with SSBB's with-anyone online play)THAT'S PRETTY FUCKING COUNTER-INTUITIVE IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF! It's like this guy only recently heard of the internet, and only got his information of it from Fox News! And yes, I purely blame Sakurai for this monstrosity, since even Nintendo's Mario Kart Wii had online options that look like freaking Xbox Live compared to SSBB. Hell, even TMNT: Smash-Up had decent online play, so Sakurai has no excuse. Now stop being stupid Sakurai and give us the proper online play Smash Bros. deserves.
Now, how would my ideal SSB online experience be? All we really need are the essentials, like proper match-ups, actual rankings, profiles that EVERYONE can see (And if Sakurai is really that paranoid, at least give the option of making a profile private.), hell, just the basic SSF4 online structure will do. Just make it, and say it with me folks, ACCEPTABLE.


I've heard multiple times that if Sakurai were to make a new Smash Bros., he would like to make it "different" in some way. This could go in pretty much every possible direction, both bad and good. While it is pretty much the opposite of what every Smash fan wants, I'd personally much prefer to start anew rather than have another dumbed-down game like Brawl. IMO, a "good" kind of different game could be something that adds a neat game-shaker like MvC-style team battles, or a modified version of the Koma system from Nintendo's Jump Stars series, or even shifting between layers of the stage like in Fatal Fury and Ultimate Ninja. However, a "bad" kind of a different could be....well, this is Nintendo, use your imagination, lol. That said, this should be an option that requires much caution, even if the idea does sound good on paper.


Now this is some real hopeful thinking, and a bit detached from the topic at hand, but listen up: I think one of the biggest flaws of the SSB series is that it simply is not whoring out enough. They just release far too sporadically for their own good. And for a fighting game, this simply isn't enough. So screw this whole "Once every console" BS, make SSB a yearly thing like Mario Party or Cawwadoody. What, you think you'll just oversaturate the series? Hogwash, NOBODY can get enough SSB! Really, if SSB was released anywhere close on a CoD-like basis, that would do far more good for the series than bad. Even if the next game DOES suck, at least ONE installment will get it right! If you could afford to release a Mario Party every year until it's untimely death with 8, and eventual reincarnation with Wii Party, you sure as hell can afford to speed up releases of one of your best selling franchises ever! Okay, maybe a once-yearly thing like CoD is pretty insane, and is probably only a good idea in my crazy little head, but hey, I'd at least like some slightly more frequent updates. Besides, this is a fighting game series we're talking about here, so you obviously have an excuse!
But even if that isn't an option, you could always use the Project Starbucks Trenta's enhanced online capabilities to deliver more updates and DLC. Some balance issues? Just patch it! (Hey, Capcom's been doing it with MvC3, and the same kind of stealth balancing is going on with the new Mortal Kombat, expect it to be a new genre standard.) And imagine all the $$$ you can make with DLC Stages and Characters. Just give us MORE SMASH BROS., and we'll kindly fork over the cash. AS LONG AS you don't use this service for evil, like say you accidentally make another Melee and you eventually patch it to make an even dumber-downed version of Brawl without the ability to switch back because OH GOD THINK OF THE IMAGINARY, NON-EXISTENT IMAGE OF CASUAL GAMERS WE HAVE IN OUR HEADS!

And hey, speaking of additional characters...


Okay, let's go off the main topic for a moment. SSBB had a surprisingly conservative roster for a game of it's type. I mean, only about 36 characters? Hell, during speculation of the game, people were expecting a bare minimum of 40. I suppose it could be justified for the sake of balancing, but LOL@ Brawl's "balance." That crap was all for nothing, was it? This time around, SCREW balancing! You know what we want? CHARACTERS, man! I want characters EVERYWHERE up in this b**ch. I want to CHOKE on the sheer amount of characters. I want new characters, old characters, male characters, female characters, big characters, tiny characters, cool characters, lame characters, asian characters, black characters, green characters, demon characters, robot characters, even dead characters if you're into that kind of thi- okay, I'll stop now. I want some crazy crap like MvC2 man! What, you think it'll just lead to MvC2 levels of imbalance? Hell, MvC2 is actually pretty good if you ignore Storm/Magneto/Sent/Commando assist. And even then, hey, those stealth balance patches I talked about there? Yeah, get on that. NO EXCUSE NINTENDO, GET ON THAT.


Alright, back to the main topic on hand. With SSBB, about half the game was devoted to it's single player. Most of that consisting of it's massive adventure mode, The Subspace Emissary. Which, despite all the effort put into it, was pure horses**t. I went through it once and never wanted to suffer through that repetitive snooze-fest ever again. Yet this giant tumor of a mode was so big, it demanded SSBB to be shipped on a dual-layered disk. Enough of this crap, I say. Miyamoto was right, SSB should be a multiplayer-focused franchise, and leave that fluff out of it. Loads of dev time went into that mode that could have gone into more characters and other things that relate to core gameplay. Smash Bros is much more suited for the smaller, more bite-sized single player modes like Break the Targets, Multi-man battles, and Events. If there absolutely must be an adventure mode, at least make it a smaller deal, like Melee's. Otherwise, don't bother, and focus on the core game.


At this point, it sounds like I have nothing but unfathomable anger towards SSBB. And actually, I do. While it's fine if you enjoy the game, I simply don't think it has the depth that Melee or even 64 had, at least competitively.(SSBB is still a somewhat decent casual game I guess, but I personally thing Melee pulled even that off better.) Surely, it never would have gotten what forced competitive scene it got had it not been for the last 2 installments. Games like, well, all the ones I was talking about, prove that you don't have to destroy more hardcore elements to appeal to a wide market. Hell, all casual gamers couldn't care less about how the upper tiers of players can L roman cancel or waveshimmy or shuffleboard and all that crap. In fact, all this competitive stuff only increases the long-time appeal of the game in the end, as we all know. While I certainly don't expect Nintendo to so much as consider this,(This post is, after all, just another internet wishlist in a sea of internet wishlists) I sure hope they'll have enough common sense to notice the recent successes of competitive multiplayer and hardcore fighting games, so they don't feel the need to dumb down SBB even further. I am, after all, a very optimistic guy, so no matter if I think the next Smash is a winner or a bust, I'm at least highly interested as to what the future of this franchise holds. As for now, happy E3!
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About tirkaroone of us since 6:30 PM on 07.11.2009