All sports evolve over time, with new rules and standards incrementally changing the way the game is played. But what happens when the entire game fundamentally changes?
Such is the question Super Smash Bros. players are trying to answer with the advent of the highly-anticipated new installment of the series, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, for Nintendo Switch, which releases Friday.
Ever since the first game’s launch in 1999, the series has been celebrated as “the most ambitious crossover” of the video game realm. Although Super Smash Bros. is widely enjoyed as a party game for millions of casual players across the world, the series also has an intense competitive scene, one that many believe has been largely ignored by Nintendo in recent years. Because of elements introduced in recent titles that were considered by some competitive players to be alienating, there is still a fervently intense following for the second installment on the Nintendo GameCube, Super Smash Bros. Melee, released in 2001.
At Ohio University, there is a competitive fighting scene for both Melee and the newest entry in the series as of the time of writing, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, commonly referred to as Smash 4, which launched in 2014. Both groups have their reasons for playing their respective installments of the series, but many from both sides are eyeing the fast-approaching Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with fervent anticipation.
Adam Maslowski, a senior studying information technology and strategic communication, is the ex-president of the as of two weeks ago, although he is still involved with the team, currently guiding the new president. Maslowski, who is a former Post reporter, is now the director for Bobcat Esports.
“We used to have really, really good players back in the day, like a year or two ago,” Maslowski said, referring to those playing Melee competitively. “We had some really decent players who could hold their own against pro players, but then they all graduated. So now that they’re gone, it’s kind of just us left.”
Despite the intense praise the game receives from those who dedicate themselves to it, both admit that the game isn’t the most accessible to those trying to get into the competitive scene.
Aaron Barte, an undecided sophomore, is a vice president for the OU Smash Team, in charge of the Melee tournaments.
“The skill floor is so hard to hit, to be good in any way,” Barte said. “It’s just so fast, and there are so many technical aspects that it’s just so hard to access for new players. To be good, you have to put in at least a year of work. And that’s just to be competitive with people who are also very good.”
Because of this, many players are driven to play Smash 4. Doug Wait, a sophomore studying math education, is a vice president of the OU Smash Club alongside Barte. Wait is responsible for organizing Smash 4 tournaments, but he and the rest of the club will switch over to Ultimate once it launches on Friday.
Wait was able to play around 15 minutes of Smash Bros. Ultimate at an event after standing in line for about an hour. He is exuberant about its upcoming release, believing that it will win over nearly everyone playing Smash 4 and potentially even some playing Melee.
“(In Melee, they) made it super easy to move around the stage in weird ways. And then they took it away,” Wait said. “And now they’ve brought them back. So for Melee players, I feel like that turned a lot of heads.”
That feeling is shared by both Barte and Maslowski. All three agree the movement is appealing to Melee players, and the roster and level of polish present in Smash 4 seem to be converging in Ultimate, potentially making for a game that is appealing to both crowds.
However, Wait displayed some regret at having to say goodbye to what was his favorite Smash game.
“I love Smash 4. That’s the game where I felt I could express myself the most in,” Wait said. “[But] Smash 4’s not going to be around for much longer.”
Likewise, Maslowski is nervous about the effect Ultimate could have on the Melee side of the OU Smash Team, especially since there are so few top-tier players left as it is.
“We only really have three good players,” Maslowski said. “If one of the three of us decides to play Ultimate instead of Melee, I don’t know how good our scene will be in terms of quality, honestly.”
Barte admits that Ultimate might distract him and other Melee players temporarily, but believes that nothing can truly replace it, and that fans of the game will recognize that.
“I think until they make “Melee HD,” which is kind of a Smash meme, I don’t think Melee players will drop Melee,” Barte said.
Wait is both nervous and excited about the possibilities that the unprecedented number of viable fighters in Ultimate could bring to the competitive scene.
“But the size of the cast also really markets it to eSports, I think. Because there’s going to be so much variety in the characters that are played,” Wait said. “So I think we’re going to see a whole lot of new characters, a whole lot more variety in top-level play that I’m excited about.”
Until last year, there was no big competitive scene for Smash 4 at OU. Last year, five team members started playing the game. This year, that number has grown to between 20 and 30. Wait is enthusiastic about how the success of Smash Ultimate could significantly grow the club.
“So hypothetically, if we advertise right and get everyone on the same page, I could see us getting 50-plus people per night, “ Wait said. “So I just want to see us grow. I want us to be as big as those other scenes.”
Maslowski is optimistic about the future of the OU Smash Team in a post-Ultimate world.
“I think there’ll also be a lot of influx of new players, and since we have new leaders, it’ll definitely be interesting to see how they handle that influx,” Maslowski said. “I think they have enough passion and ideas to smooth it out and make it look not too bad. So I’m optimistic.”
Super Smash Bros. is a series that is beloved in the hearts of millions of players, whether they play the version that came out in 1999 or is soon to come out in 2018.
“It’s everyone’s favorite characters from everyone’s favorite games playing together. So it’s like every kid’s dream come true, and every adult’s dream come true in one game,” said Wait. “It’s awesome. It’s the most ambitious crossover. It’s magic.”