By Kevin “PPMD” Nanney of Evil Geniuses
Hey there smashers! I’m going to write about some different topics in the coming installments because of all of the commotion circulating in the Smash community right now. Today my post is about negative aspects of SSBM as a game. Taking aside arguments such as “Melee players are stubborn and don’t like new things” for now, I think it is best to inform people of more correct arguments to use against the game and not just the players. This post was inspired by a discussion I had with a Brawl Backroom member in a Twitch chat the other day when he told me that no one seemed to be allowed to talk about Melee’s faults as a game. I am personally either ambivalent toward the faults or even like them so I certainly have no trouble discussing them here in the interest of fueling more intelligent discussions about smash games. I hope we can make and read posts like this with an open mind and encourage a greater informed opinion in the smash community. Anyway, let’s get to the weaker aspects of SSBM as a game, starting with the most common arguments and moving to the least common arguments.
To begin, I generally see people bashing L-canceling and Wavedashing (WD’ing) calling them unnecessary mechanics which make the game harder “for no reason.” L-cancel is much less defensible as a game mechanic than WD’ing is since L-canceling does not necessarily confer more advantage as opposed to the same lag-reduction for no input. It feels like technicality and button-mashing for button-mashing’s sake, essentially. Regardless of how one feels about each game mechanic, it is very true that SSBM’s technical barrier to entry is very high. This is especially true for the space animals, or Fox and Falco. One cannot even begin to engage with an opponent mentally without putting in at least several weeks of practice just to move and attack. This technical requirement never really gets much easier either, as top-level players often struggle with technical ability even after intensive training for events. A game that is extremely difficult in just the technical requirement, leaving other attributes such as precision alone for now, is very discouraging for newer players and even those who have been playing for years. When choosing between a game where the attacks and movement are the same for everyone on day one or day one thousand and SSBM, it should come as no surprise that difficulty of execution will play a crucial role.
Easily another factor that can and should affect players’ game choices is balance. Balance is related to how many viable characters there are, typically relative to the cast as a whole. If only half the cast is worth using in tournaments ever because matchups are too uneven beyond a certain tier point, then that game might be said to be relatively unbalanced. If every character could be played successfully in tournament, then that game would be relatively balanced. In SSBM, there is some debate on proper viable criteria, but suffice to say that the typical number of given viable characters is 8 out of about 26, with only about 4-5 having consistent major tournament-winning potential. This would make Melee very unbalanced. An extension of this fact is that players have less tournament-typical matchups to learn in order to be successful. This fact can also affect the game’s spectating and how fun it is if players are playing and watching the same few matchups in slightly different combinations rotating throughout an entire, multi-day tournament. When choosing a game to play, it may be helpful to consider how much a tier list will truly impact which character you play and if you can still pick one you like and win with it.
Lastly, for the most uncommon argument against Melee – Crouch canceling (CC’ing). To define the mechanic quickly, CC’ing(or its partner, ASDI down), works by punishing someone for hitting you. Essentially, if you CC then your character does not get knocked back as far and is much more likely to not leave the ground or go into stun at all when attacked. The mechanic varies by percent and whether your character was in crouch animation or not, but consider the effect on gameplay this mechanic has. Hitting someone when they make a mistake suddenly becomes a guessing game instead of a free opportunity for outplaying someone at times. How can I know if someone is holding down when they mess up? This creates strategy in avoiding CC punishes, but it arguably reduces depth by having to space around CC punishes or using moves (such as small-range grabs) to punish opponents instead of combo-starters. Ultimately, CC’ing attempts to violate a fundamental fighting game principle of punishing the opponent when they are outplayed and converting that opening into an advantage.
It is my sincere hope that these arguments against SSBM can and will be used to give potential and current smashers more information to choose a game they really want to play. It is also my hope that in the upcoming arguments about which game people “should” play and how to even put forward love of one’s own game that these discussions and statements are made realistically and rooted in game understanding. Talking about the balance, technical barrier, and CC’ing elements of Melee is something not to be ignored but to be accepted no matter which side of the pro-SSBM or anti-SSBM fence one comes from.
Follow Kevin on twitter @EG_PPMD