If you’re a casual Super Smash Bros. player like most of us, it can be pretty interesting to see how the Smash Bros. franchise operates from the vantage point of the best players in the world. Yes, the announcement of Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo Switch is still fresh in our minds, but that’s more than enough time for professional players to formulate a running wishlist of changes that, in their perfect world, they’d love to see made to the new project, regardless if the game is a port, brand new, or something in between.
We understand that the art of balancing a game takes far more into account than the top 1% of skill set, but viewing development from the top, at its most granular level has the potential to offer the best insight we have towards what lead Smash Bros. developer Masahiro Sakurai and his team have actually been doing in secret for some time now.
So with that in mind, Nintendo Life asked several professional Smash players exactly what they wanted to see in the new Smash. Here’s what they shared with us.
Time and time again, the desired change we heard most often involved the 'rage' mechanic. In Super Smash Bros. For Wii U and Smash for 3DS (often referred to as 'Smash 4'), rage is a gameplay device seemingly invented to promote more situational awareness in how you play, to add a bit of roster balance, and maybe even to foster a few more exciting comebacks.
“In Smash 4, characters deal (slightly) more knockback the more damage they have. This adds offensive value to staying alive, which gives a bit of help to guys like Bowser and evens out the character balance between elimination and the other game modes," reveals Kyle 'Thinkaman' Brockman, a moderator for the online Smashboards community. “The oversight is that rage should never have applied to base knockback, as that messes up the consistency of low-% combos; this means that with some characters, the person losing might have fewer viable options,” he adds.
'Dabuz', a perennial top ten Smash 4 player, agrees with this sentiment. “It's a great mechanic because it prevents fishing for KOs at specific damage percentages, but it scales largely with the base knockback of a move (that means the amount of knockback a move delivers at zero percent, basically.) This makes multi-hitting moves such as Zero-Suit Samus’ 'up-B' attack extremely powerful because high base knockback ensures one hit leads into all of its 'hits', which causes the opponent to pop out and die at very low percentages, largely due to rage.”
However, Brockman thinks it could be fixed relatively easily. “Applying rage to only knockback growth (like all other damage/knockback modifiers in the game) is the number one thing that I'd like to see fixed in Smash for Switch,” he argues.
There are other technical changes we heard from players too. In relation to 'teching' (the term used by many fighting game players that refers to quickly triggering a standup recovery via a timed button press), Brockman calls the ability to tech grounded hits as, “the weirdest addition to Smash 4,” and vouched for its removal. Other players mentioned upping the speed of rolling onto the stage from the edge and fine-tuning 'tilt stick' controls.
Top player Larry Lurr hopes for the return of 'DACUS', which is a technique that enables you to cancel your dash attack animation and do a sliding up-smash. One player suggested bringing back the mechanic of shoving off a platform by activating your shield while being hit. However, nobody suggested they wanted Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s tripping mechanic to ever return. There were plenty of suggestions to the contrary.
It may also come as a surprise that 'wavedashing' and 'L-canceling', the game mechanics from Super Smash Bros. Melee that often find controversy exclusively outside the professional Smash community, were rarely mentioned. But top player EchoWolf did invoke them when he suggested that Smash 4 may have ultimately still been too slow in his estimation, with many characters being too often rewarded for, “doing nothing.”
There’s a stereotype that professional Smash players are a little too picky (you may have heard this one).
Talking to several pros didn’t dramatically change that perception, exactly, but there were many thoughtful and clever suggestions as to what Smash on the Switch might benefit to include. Nintendo may be wise to listen.
Smash 4 incorporated a nifty feature called 'omega mode', which would turn any unique fighting stage into a singular flat platform. This was seemingly Nintendo’s admission that, hey, sometimes you just want to go mano-a-mano without any distractions. But what if it could be improved?
“I hope we can further develop on that with something like a 'turn off hazards' option for most stages, similar to what PlayStation All-Stars had,” suggests professional Smash 4 player 'Nairo'. “Sometimes in competitive play, to have the most fair result, we need to play on extremely conservative stages, (but) that can get stale quickly. This would liven up the stage list by a lot.”
What exactly constitutes a stage 'hazard' versus a unique stage quirk is endlessly debatable, but given professionals only utilise some half a dozen stages from a select screen of a few dozen, omega would be a welcome option to further expand.
What else might be a welcome addition? Dabuz says a more statistical training mode would do wonders for the pro community. “There's a lot of stuff missing from the current training mode (frame by frame speed, recording inputs, testing rage, etc.) so I would love to see a more fleshed out training mode. Right now, there's a lot of things that cannot be tested out there.”
Single-player and multiplayer options
There were suggestions to things that aren’t specific to tournament play as well. “I'd love to see a kind of story mode or adventure mode, similar to Brawl's Subspace Emissary,” Nairo told us. “I love seeing characters in a crossover series interact with one another, like Meta Knight, Marth and Ike.”
“The game badly needs a “First-To-X-Kills” option for multiple teams play to be truly viable,” Brockman suggests. “In 1v1, it’s the exact same. In 2v2, it is mostly the same, except games don't always end in a degenerate 2v1. But 3v3s and 4v4s really showcased how unfun and egregious the lack of this option is.”
A 'First-to-X-Kills' option might transform your huge round rumble from the inevitable ganging up on the stock leader into something more aggressive, less predictable, and in turn, more fun. Continues Brockman, “In my opinion, those modes are the most fun extra modes Smash has ever had to offer, but are held back by lack of a workable scoring system.”
Finally, it’s no surprise that tournament players would love to see these agreed upon rules make their way into the actual game. Universal clamor for some form of built-in tie breaker system, as well as a method for in-game stage striking were universally and enthusiastically suggested.
Asking professional players which characters they want in Smash Bros. is no different from asking anybody else. The hectic list we heard included such characters as Crash Bandicoot, Waluigi, characters from Undertale, perennial favorites Banjo-Kazooie, Travis Touchdown, Isaac from the Golden Sun series, and many more. A lot of pros also wished for the return of past fighters, including Star Wolf and most frequently, the Ice Climbers.
Though he did not respond to our request for comment, top Smash 4 player 'ZeRo' did tweet out his wishlist:
It should also be noted that, for what it’s worth, several players expressed the hope for Bayonetta to return, but only with a consideration for nerfs. Platinum’s Umbran Witch ranks among the precious few characters who have driven the community into heated debates of character bans, though she remains consistently allowed in most major tournaments today.
One question we posed to players was whether they would continue to play Super Smash Bros. at a high level, even if GameCube controller support was not made available.
The truth of the matter is that a recent firmware update for the Switch paved the way for Nintendo’s GameCube adapter to be recognised by the new system, so it may be a moot point. The answers were still somewhat surprising, as literally every professional we reached out to suggested they would adapt to whatever controller was made standard.
“I played Marvel Vs Capcom 3 on an Xbox 360 controller. I'm playing Dragonball FighterZ on a PS4 controller right now. I can adjust to a new controller as long as it's a quality build and comfortable,” claims Nairo.
Dabuz adds that standard or not, the idea of the Switch Pro Controller being used in mass presents some wireless property concerns. All players interviewed did ultimately believe that GameCube controllers will remain the standard for competitive play.
Finally, we asked whether or not there would finally be a mass migration towards online tournaments, given that Smash Bros. has defiantly (albeit, also largely by default) remained a grassroots, locally-played game. Larry Lurr states right off the bat, “How big the online community becomes is totally dependent on how much Nintendo can improve online play for the new game,” but few others felt differently.
“I think there is both high demand but an upper bound on this sort of thing, due to the limitations that latency has on fighting games. A lot depends on netcode, but the best netcode in the world can't break the speed of light,” believes Brockman. As some pointed out, even the slightest lag time favors projectile-gifted characters in a tournament setting.
But Nairo has hope.
“Nintendo Switch will have a paid online service soon, which leads me to think they'll have dedicated servers or just more stable ones in general. I actually run online Smash Wii U tourneys on a weekly basis and typically get over 150 entrants. So there's definitely a community for them. I trust that it'll be better with Smash for Switch, which will lead to more entrants for these kinds of tourneys.”
Is the likelihood high that a litany of changes to Smash Bros. are coming just because certain people want them? As always, and especially with Sakurai at the helm, the answer is likely 'no'. But there is a caveat.
Given that Smash for Switch will be less likely to have employed the previous game’s three-and-a-half years of development crunch time (plus more than two years of DLC), and also will more than likely not be needing the recreation of every last asset from scratch, maybe that will give Nintendo the chance to do more iteration than creation.
And even in the unlikely case that Smash for Switch locks hands with the likes of Mario Party to produce a truly non-competitive title, the game is still likely to succeed by a variety of measures, regardless of whether Nintendo fine-tunes the current formula or not. Yet this is a Sakurai-led project we’re talking about here. Rest assured, it’s wise to expect both bells, whistles, and everything in between—for better or worse.
So what do you want to see from Super Smash. Bros on Nintendo Switch? You've heard what the pros want, now we want to hear from you. Share your take with us below and get the Smash conversation going...