Three-Card Monte: A Melee vs. Smash 4 Analogy

When reading comments from devoted fans of Super Smash Bros. Melee, certain aspects touted as strengths are things I can appreciate as well. Just like theme, I can enjoy the dexterity, devotion, game sense, and speed required to compete in high-level Melee. However, what I find complicates matters is that elements of the game that would be normally be considered a matter of taste are argued as “objective strengths” by its most ardent supporters.

As a result, I’ve wondered why Melee fans love their game to this extent, and why it might appear to them be strictly better to the extent that such a view would be presumed to be “unbiased.” Why do some argue that a game like Smash 4, with a slower-paced neutral but a higher emphasis on more traditional “footsies,” is a disappointment? Why is the idea that a game that emphasizes reads above all else, especially physical skill, is argued to be a simpler and thus less competitive endeavor?

There are two key points that I see come up repeatedly. First is the idea that, because Melee has fewer neutral interactions per game than its sequels, Smash Bros. Brawl and Smash Bros. for Wii U, this means each neutral interaction matters more. When it’s pointed out that having more resets to neutral means having to predict the opponent more often, this is considered a knock against other games because their neutrals are “less complex.” This then extends to everything else. The punish game is deeper because it has some sort of goldilocks level of just enough control on the part of the opponent being combo’d, but not so much that they can reset to neutral easily. In short, arguments in favor of Melee often come down to the idea the game has more to do at any given moment and is faster, and is therefore better.

After some thinking, an analogy occurred to me. Imagine that you’re playing two different games of “guess the right card.” The first one is Three-Card Monte. The dealer shows you the three cards in advance, tells you that you get to play five times, and your goal is to find the ace of spades. Then the dealer starts to move the cards around, shuffling them and employing various forms of sleight of hand to trick you into picking the wrong one.

In the second version of the game, the dealer simply presents you with three cards face down, and again, you have to find the ace of spades. No shuffling, no movement, just “you have a one in three chance of guessing the right card.” However, instead of playing only five times, you get to play 20 times.

In the case of the first example, Three-Card Monte, the fact that there is a process by which the player is allowed to observe the dealer rearrange his card implies that, if a player is observant enough, they can completely circumvent the need to guess. If their eyes can correctly follow the movement of the ace of spades, even through all the tricks, then they will win 100% of the time. Though trying to figure out the dealer’s decision-making quirks can help, and if you’re not fast enough then the game pretty much becomes somewhat “random,” there is a kind of physical/technical ideal that a player can potentially reach that guarantees a path to a right answer. This, I think, is the appeal of Smash Bros. Melee to many of its diehard fans. That is not to say that it requires no thinking or prediction, but the possibility that one can always pick the right choice if one is fast enough and sharp enough, makes it feel like the sky’s the limit when it comes to competition.

This is where I think many Melee fans start to lose sight as to how “simpler” games can go about still prioritizing certain factors that a game that “has everything” might not necessarily be able to achieve. Going back to the second example, the “face-down, guess the card” version, it can appear as if the game just has less to do. After all, the “only” thing you’re doing is making 1-in-3 guesses, and there are no extra layers of interaction such as trying to see through the dealer’s chicanery. But the fact that there is no upper ideal of being able to see “through the game” means something. Even if there are fewer avenues for improvement, the very fact that your ability to dissect the dealer’s decision-making based on past turns changes the dynamic of what skills and abilities are prioritized by the game, especially when one is given more chances to win. With 20 tries instead of five, the player must rely on their ability to pick up on any tendencies the dealer might possess. They also must understand that, no matter how far they’ve read into the dealer’s mind, there’s also a chance they might be wrong. In other words, your main tools are the ability to make reads, and your ability to make decisions even knowing that in some cases you will inevitably be wrong.

This isn’t to say that the Three-Card Monte approach is bad, or that it isn’t something games should strive for (if they choose to go in that direction). Neither Melee nor Smash 4 actually fall into the two extremes listed above. Both games require some degree of physical skill, and both require at least a certain amount of getting into the opponent’s head. Because Melee has that Three-Card Monte appeal, where a sense of uncertainty in one’s decisions can be washed away with enough technical prowess (at least up to a certain point), it encourages the active building of physical skill that can make training feel more directly rewarding. In the end, it’s not a matter of which game has “more”, but rather how the values of gameplay and competition emphasized in each game attract players differently.

The Smash 4 Tier List, and the Chaos of Viability

4brtierlist2

Smashboards recently released its second ever Smash Bros. for Wii U tier list, which comes after a string of big summer tournaments. With movements throughout the rankings both big and small, Tier List 2.0 notably features the inclusion of Corrin and Bayonetta (both of whom were previously absent), and the dramatic rise of both Mewtwo and Marth thanks to a slew of patches as well as advancement in their development by the players themselves. It’s also worth mentioning Mega Man would find himself in high tier. As a character that has been rated both well and poorly throughout the game’s life, it’s quite interesting that Mega Man has barely had any direct buffs.

For the most part, I’m not here to argue placings of characters. If pressed, I’d say the only placings I’m unsure of are Mr. Game & Watch and Charizard.

One thing that this tier list brings to mind is just how balanced Smash 4 is, especially compared to its official predecessors in Smash Bros. Melee and Smash Bros. Brawl. Now, the roster is not perfectly balanced by any means. There are some characters who are clearly better than others. However, there are just as many where their placement is up for debate, and the fact that you’ll have multiple top players disagreeing greatly with the power level of any given character means we have a long way to go in understanding the game fully.

What makes Smash 4 so balanced? While Melee is often touted as the technically more complicated and advanced game because of its strict mechanical curve and plethora of options for constantly threatening the opponent, and I will disagree with anyone who says this makes Melee an inherently better game, the fact that there is no “sky’s the limit” character like Melee Fox or Brawl Meta Knight helps to restrict the possibility of such a dominant character running so roughshod over the weakest characters that you might as well put the controller down. Bad match-ups exist, but you know that Sheik or Diddy Kong are a couple levels below ridiculous.

Moreover, even when you look at some of the characters frequently cited as being terrible, you can often find that they can go toe-to-toe with some of the characters way above them. Take Shulk, who according to the 4BR tier list is the 12th worst character not counting Mii Fighters. Though his flaws are well-known (slow startup on attacks, dependence on Monado Arts that don’t ever fully solve that lackluster frame data), a number of top players on both sides of his match-ups place him as going even with Mewtwo and Cloud, ranked 10th and 2nd respectively. This is just because of how their tools interact, and how their strengths and weaknesses—again, none of which are ever to any utter extreme (no, not even Cloud)—play against each other. If you look at the lesser characters in Melee and Brawl, the best they can hope for is maybe one matchup against a top tier where they don’t get wrecked five ways from Sunday.

Smash 4 is currently seen as having a very volatile competitive scene, as players can be on top of the world one moment and then drown in the early stages of a tournament the next. While some argue that this is a sign of the game being competitively robust while others argue it being a flaw, I think that either argument is too simple and too rooted in whatever individuals value most as “fostering competition.” Rather, I think that a 58-character roster and a balance that’s good enough combines with the fact that not everyone goes to a tournament aiming for 1st to create an interesting formula that leads to volatility.

If everyone was purely dedicated to being the best, they would be pick the characters they believed to be the strongest. As more and more people play these characters and advance their development, the pool of “best characters” would likely narrow. For tournament-goers, it would become more and more necessary to study only a handful of matches to maximize your limited time for practice and study. However, because there are people who want to use their character for reasons other than pure victory, and those characters aren’t abject failures, the top players’ attention is inevitably divided, leading to the greater potential for upsets.

Put differently, imagine a world where everyone maximizes their chances for winning in any given endeavor. Now, let’s say that, one day, a visitor comes whose goal is not to make himself win, but to create as much uncertainty as possible in others. It would end up disrupting the metagame between the original inhabitants, leading to more unpredictable results.

It’s a beautiful place to be.

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Godhood is Fleeting: Power in Video Games and Super Smash Bros.

Fire_Mario_Artwork_-_New_Super_Mario_Bros

Mario nabs a fire flower, instantly transforming into an engine of destruction. Enemies that previously gave the plumber pause are dispatched with ease as Mario rains hot death upon them. Yet Mario is in a rather fragile position, and brushing up against a single enemy will instantly revert Mario back to a lesser state. Even so, for that brief moment Mario experiences an exhilarating sense of power.

Mario appears in another game: Super Smash Brosfor Wii U. Here, the fireball is a permanent fixture of his arsenal. He cannot “lose” his fireball. However, what he can do is combo his opponent repeatedly, using a variety of quick moves to keep them pinned down and begging for mercy. However, when he’s ready to finish off his opponent, many of his combos are no longer as feasible, and he has to take risks to achieve the KO, changing the power dynamics of the character.

How does the feeling power influence how we play and perceive games?

When the Good Outweighs the Bad

In recent years, the Super Smash Bros. series has arisen to be a very popular competitive franchise. The most current game, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (aka Smash 4) is generally considered superior to its predecessor, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but not everyone agrees. PK Blueberry, a Brawl Lucas player, contends that Lucas in Smash 4 is less satisfying to play with because the character is less pleasing to control and fight with. Brawl Lucas had a lot of tricks up his sleeve, such as “Zap Jumping”–a technique that could double Lucas’s jump height. “But wait,” others might ask. “Wasn’t Brawl the same game where Lucas would get demolished by characters like Marth, whose grab release infinite made the matchup virtually unwinnable for Lucas? Didn’t this basically sabotage Lucas’s competitive viability in a major way?”

The rebuttal is that, while that is all true, Brawl Lucas was still more satisfying to play. Praxis, the developer of the Smash Pad app, has frequently likened Brawl to a wine with a strong, unpleasant flavor but an amazing aftertaste. The idea is that, once you got past all the nonsense, the crazy things you could do in Brawl were amazing and made it more complex and satisfying. Thus, while there are a lot of ridiculously unfair things that can cripple your character, having just small moments and situations where you can feel immensely powerful is considered by some to be more valuable than just being consistently “okay” and lacking any debilitating weaknesses. Other characters fall into this category as well: players of Ganondorf and Jigglypuff (two of the weakest characters in Brawl) who made the transition to the newest game will sometimes lament the loss of certain amazing attributes or techniques, even though their power levels are closer to the rest of the cast in Smash 4.

Will Power

Another game in the franchise, the immensely popular and competitively long-lived Super Smash Bros. Melee, is one where players, when sufficiently skilled, feel like they can do anything (provided they use the best characters). For example, Fox McCloud is so versatile and powerful that some players and commentators have started using the term “Fox Privilege” to describe the range of strong options available to the game’s best character. Recently, two members of the Smash community have made efforts to describe what Melee‘s feeling of power is like relative to other games, and their descriptions work very well together.

In the video above, ESAM, a top Smash 4 player who’s also skilled in Melee, says that Melee is a game where most matchups come down to how well you can implement your character’s tools against the opponent’s, whereas Smash 4 is more about learning how to fight against characters by avoiding their strengths. In other words, Melee is how much you can do to your opponent, and Smash 4 is how much you can prevent them from doing stuff to you.

Similarly, in an an episode of The Scar & Toph Show, Melee player and commentator Scar compares Melee to Ultra Street Fighter IV, describing Melee as a game where you can easily impose your will upon the game and the opponent unless playing at the very highest level. However, Scar mentions, trying to do the same in Street Fighter is impossible, and that learning to respect the opponent’s options and play that mental game against them is a requirement for even basic competitive play. In contrast, Melee is a game where you can do decently without having to truly “think” unless you play the best of the best.

Together, ESAM and Scar paint an interesting picture of Melee as a game where the player is almost like a force of nature that can only be stopped by colliding with an even greater force. This sense of power is visually evident whenever you watch a game of Melee, and I think this goes a long way in explaining why the game has developed such a diehard fan base. When you play Melee, you enter the realm of the five gods, so to speak, or at least you end up feeling that way.

Desiring Power

In a conversation about fighting games with Dave Cabrera, creator of Kawaiikochan Gaming no Corner, he brought up the idea that while combos are often perceived as something that “top players do,” in terms of game design they offer much more to mid-level players. He quoted an interview with a game designer, who basically asked, “What’s harder to do, successfully performing a complex and intricate combo, or sweeping Daigo ten times in a row?” The latter is about the most mechanically simple thing to do in a fighting game, “down + button,” but one can only achieve it against a player of Daigo’s caliber by being similarly strong. Difficult combos, on the other hand, can grant a feeling of power to even those who lack it, because they can give a sense of accomplishment that motivates players forward. There is a more clear-cut feeling of reward. Without being able to grant power to lower-level players, they very well might stop playing at all.

Conclusion

It would be no understatement to say that Melee and Brawl are actually very different games to their competitive communities, and yet the two games share something in common, which is how they are often perceived relative to Smash 4. Again, while Smash 4 is praised by many as a superior game to Brawl, a frequent criticism of Smash 4 from players of previous games is that the characters lack “teeth.” Even if it is a more balanced game, in the Wii U iteration character power levels (and the range of options and techniques available to players through them), are unsatisfying to some players. Of course, there are plenty of players (including myself) who love the power dynamics of Smash 4, but as I hope is clear, a satisfying level of power in games is very much a personal thing.

Not every player who seeks power does so in the same way, or to the same extent as others. For certain players, power is at its best when constantly generated, especially when the opponent is of similar make. For others, memories of even the most dire of lows can be overcome with even the briefest of highs, such as when their character controls in such a way as to make them feel vibrant and overwhelming. Power can be self-centered, ignoring the opponent almost entirely. Power can be interactive and dynamic. Like water, power is a versatile “substance” that manifests as two immense waves crashing against each other, or the ebb and flow of the tides. How we gain satisfaction from power through games depends on a lot of factors, but when it is considered insufficient, even a mechanically solid game can be perceived as lacking “soul.”

Abadango, Smash 4’s First Major Mewtwo Champion

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Abadango vs. Ally Pound 2016 Grand Finals

This past weekend was the international Super Smash Bros. tournament known as Pound 2016. There, in the stacked, 500-man bracket for Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U, a Mewtwo took home the gold for the first time ever at a major event. To a Mewtwo player such as myself, this is undoubtedly the most significant result thus far in the history of the game.

The player behind Mewtwo was Abadango, who at this point is a well-known name in the Smash 4 competitive community. He’s used a great number of characters throughout the life of Smash 4, and whether it’s been his creative Pac-Man, his dangerous Wario, his punishing Meta Knight, or now his Mewtwo, Abadango’s play turns heads. As someone who values deadly powerful combos and setups, the recent litany of improvements to Mewtwo have made the character an enticing choice for Abadango, though he has also expressed concern on his stream over its unforgiving nature. Nevertheless, Mewtwo’s worked out for him. Cutting through a sea of difficult opponents including VoiD’s Sheik and Ally’s Mario, Abadango made Mewtwo look deceptively simple, but anyone who knows the character is well aware that Mewtwo is anything but.

Mewtwo’s history in Smash 4 is a wild one. Designed from Day 1 to be a “glass cannon,” a character that is strong offensively but light and easy to KO, Mewtwo has benefited both from dedicated players pushing the character forward (such as LoF Blue, Mew^2, Killer Jawz, Rich Brown, and The Reflex Wonder) and from the “hand of God,” as the Genetic Pokemon might be the most buffed character in Smash 4. Mewtwo is now faster, hits more reliably, combos better, and more. The number of improvements that have been bestowed upon Mewtwo are nothing small, though it’s worth pointing out that among many fans of Smash for the past three months (since the buffs started happening) that people still doubted Mewtwo’s prowess. How could Mewtwo possibly be truly good, when the character is still very large, extremely light, and easy to juggle? The answer is, with an amazing versatile kit that allows Mewtwo to exert pressure at almost every point during the game.

Don't underestimate Mewtwo's Down Tilt

Don’t underestimate Mewtwo’s Down Tilt

Even in its darkest days, I never believed Mewtwo was truly a terrible character. Due to the unforgiving nature of its design (second lightest character in the game), Mewtwo makes you feel terrible for your mistakes. One wrong move and you can end up questioning your own existence. A Mewtwo played to perfection would still have been a force to be reckoned with even before the patches, but reaching that point and maintaining it was easier said than done. Now, I believe that a sub-optimal Mewtwo is still going to feel the sting of their mistakes (only Mewtwo now has more tools to avoid those mistakes in the first place), while a refined Mewtwo is easily high or even top tier. The fact that the top Mewtwo players present such a range of play styles—aggressive, defensive, technical, slippery, mind game-oriented—shows just how much potential the current Mewtwo holds.

That said, I think that the biggest change to Mewtwo that has come with the improvements both in the players and in the character is that Mewtwo now has access to a powerful ingredient that it lacked previously: fear. At first, Mewtwo could not instill fear in opponents, and that meant Mewtwo was always on the back foot because of how easy the character is to KO. Now, things are different.

It’s not just any fear, however, but more of a fear that’s mixed with the sweet scent of opportunity. When you fight Mewtwo, and you’re on your last stock while Mewtwo has a 60% lead, you’re aware of how good Mewtwo is at dealing damage and sealing stocks.

Then you remember, Mewtwo’s light and easy to kill. Opportunity knocks. “All you need to do is capitalize on one or two mistakes and the game isn’t just even, it’s arguably in your favor due to the weight disparity!”

The temptation is there, but so is the terror. Case in point, in an interview after winning the weekly tournament Wii Bear B-airs, LoF Blue mentioned that he switched from Sonic the Hedgehog to Mewtwo because the threat of Mewtwo’s myriad kill options forces the opponent to play differently at key moments.

A similar pressure is also placed onto the Mewtwo players, who are aware of how fragile their character is. If you’re down as Mewtwo it’s possible to make it back, and all you need to do is to not get hit, ever. A good Mewtwo draws strength from this tension, from teasing that glimmer of hope while still emanating a threatening aura.

If you’ve decided to pick up Mewtwo after Abadango’s win, I have one piece of advice for you: Be prepared to cry into your oatmeal as you die at 65% off of one critical mistake. Half the battle is a mental one. You have to maintain your composure as you’re getting bodied, or else the psychological damage you take just gets worse and worse. If you still stick with the character even after all that abuse (or maybe you’re kind of a masochist), then you’ll find a strong ally.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more, check out Dabuz (the best Rosalina in the world) and his analysis of Abadango’s Mewtwo:

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Mii Fighter Arguments are Ultimately Arbitrary

Out of all of the new characters introduced in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U (aka Smash 4), the Mii Fighters are among the most contentious in its competitive scene. Based off of Nintendo’s official user avatars, Mii Fighters can look like anyone, wear unique costumes, be any size (within certain limits), and have access to a full range of special attacks, more than any other characters by default. Ever since they were introduced, there has been an on-going debate as to what extent Miis should have access to their full range of customization (size, visual design, attacks). Recently, EVO 2016 announced its Smash 4 ruleset to include only 1111 guest-sized Miis, locking them into a specific size and a specific set of special moves that many Mii players deem unfair.

However, I’ve noticed a tendency on both sides to try and pass off some often small, minor detail as a deciding point that completely negates the opposing side’s concerns, when in fact many of these points have holes to them.

In my opinion, trying to build some watertight argument about Mii Fighters is ultimately futile because they’re mostly arbitrary. In showing this arbitrariness below, however, my goal is to actually direct the whole discussion towards the subject of the characters’ emotional resonance. The decision to #FreeMiis or not is ultimately about a base of players who want to play the character they want, and the discussion should go towards an emotional compromise.

Keep in mind that I am neither for nor against full Mii Fighters, so I have no hat in this race. Also, I’m coming from the perspective that, as far as we know, Mii Fighters do not have any extremely unfair advantage against the rest of the cast.

1) The “Menu” Argument

Aside from DLC, all characters in Smash 4 can get custom moves just like the Miis. Previous tournaments have tried custom moves for the entir ecast, but the general trend has been away from that direction. This is the reason why many tournaments that allow Miis require a single moveset and default to 1111.

Mii players point out that, even in a Customs Off environment, you can select Miis with non-1111 special moves. Thus, the argument goes that, if the UI deems it correct, then so it should be. The fact that customized Miis are also available in non-Customs online tournaments supports this idea.

The problem with this particular argument is that the Smash Community has never based its decisions on what the menu or standards tell them is correct. For Glory is played with 2 stocks/5 minutes, and Online Tournaments impose a 3-minute time limit on matches with “amount of damage done” being the criteria for a tiebreaker. Actual tournaments on the other hand go either 2 stocks/6 minutes or 3 stocks/8 minutes (that’s a debate I won’t go into), and handle tiebreakers differently.

Along these lines, the menu argument can be turned against the Mii Fighters just as much, because they by default do not appear on the character select screen, and must specifically be created in order to show up. Moreover, when you create a Mii Fighter, their attacks also default to 1111 and you have to specifically choose different ones.

The ability to twist the menu argument in either side’s favor is why I think it’s a point of disagreement that should just be dropped. It’s unproductive and kind of silly to begin with, especially because of how it’s used as “scientific” proof.

As an aside, Super Street Fighter II Turbo had hidden characters called “Old Characters,” alternate versions of the existing cast with different properties that could only be selected by navigating the character select screen in very specific ways to input a code. Ultimately, only one character out of these was controversial, and for the most part they are an accepted part of the game.

2) The “Adapt” Argument

There are three Mii Fighter archetypes: the Brawler, the Swordfighter, and the Gunner. Each of them has access to 81 possible combinations of special moves, though some are clearly superior to others lessening the number somewhat. One point of compromise is forcing Mii Fighter players to use only default size pre-made Miis that come with Smash 4 to avoid having to upload Miis to the system and create delays at large tournaments, but if size differences are allowed the amount of combinations goes into the thousands. There are small differences in frame data, endurance, reach, and power when adjusting size parameters that can make a difference in competitive play, where even shaving one frame off of a move can be the difference between it being useful or useless.

One argument against full custom Miis is that the ability to pick whatever moves you want is an unfair advantage when other characters cannot do the same. Why should a player have to prepare for all of these combinations of Mii Fighters, and why should the Mii player be able to cherry-pick their moves? Instead of that, it is argued that Mii Fighters need to learn to deal with having one moveset.

Full Mii supporters argue that players are already dealing with 55 other characters, and that having a lack of knowledge as to how Mii Fighters work is ultimately the fault of the opposing player. According to this point of view, Mii Fighters changing special moves is not nearly as drastic as someone who goes from Mega Man to Bowser, two characters that are different in nearly every aspect), so it’s arguably easier to adapt to that than a full character change between sets.

On either side of this fence is the implication that the opposition needs to learn how to “adapt.” In an age of balance patches for competitive games in general, where players will frequently complain that they need an official update in order to use their character competitively, it has become increasingly common to admonish newer players for their inability to roll with the punches and take the advancement of their characters into their own hands.

Just like with the “Menu Argument,” both sides can twist a this philosophy to their advantage. Why shouldn’t players adapt to new patches just as much they should adapt to a lack of patches? Similarly, the Limited/1111 Mii side argues that Mii Fighters need to learn to fight effectively with a locked moveset, while the #FreeMiis side argues that those against Full Miis should be able to handle the variations. Adapting has to happen at some point. I feel that if only there could actually be some compromise between both sides, it would go a long way towards settling this issue.

3) The “Mii Gimmick” Argument

This argument is derived from the idea that each character for the most part has some unique feature that defines them and their gameplay. Little Mac has KO Punch, Cloud has Limit, Ryu has Special Inputs, and so on. A lot of these features are not part of the standard Smash character, and so it’s argued that the variable movesets of Mii Fighters fall into the same category. In past games, you could even choose to transform into different characters, so why is that allowed but not full Mii moveset options?

What I find odd about this stance, however, is that it works ever so conveniently in the #FreeMiis contingent’s favor. When it’s pointed out that Palutena is built around a similar principle, it goes all the way back to the “Menu” Argument, that the simple press of the “Customs On/Off” icon is the dividing line that prevents Palutena from reaching her full potential but allows Miis more or less free reign. There are also some players who don’t just want to have custom moves but want to be able to switch their moves in between tournament rounds or even within individual matches, all under the umbrella that it is the “Mii gimmick.”

The idea that the spirit of the Miis is lost when you’re unable to play them exactly as you want them might be to some extent true, but competition isn’t necessarily looking at how the characters align with their players on a personal level. The use of Guest Miis already puts a damper on everyone who wants to be Proto Man or James Bond or any other custom Mii design, so at the end of the day it really is about the moves.

This does not mean that Miis should be restricted to 1111, but the idea that they should be allowed their full range of moves at nearly all times is as arbitrary a line as 1111, or, say, making it so that all characters have to use 1231 regardless of which Mii Fighter they’ve chosen. The question I want to ask here is, do Miis lose all purpose if you can’t customize their moves, and if so, is that a problem?

4) The “Moveset Synergy” Argument

It is objective fact that fully customized Miis have greater potential to succeed competitively than 1111 Miis, by virtue of the fact that, not only are many of the non-1111 moves significantly better, but the ability to pick just the right moveset for the character you’re facing allows you to maximize the effectiveness of your special moves. If you are a Mii Gunner and you are fighting a character without a projectile, you have less of a reason to use your Echo Reflector special move. If you’re a Mii Brawler, who normally is good at racking up damage but has trouble killing, getting access to Helicopter Kick gives the character a potent kill option, thus making them more rounded in general.

I think anyone who looks at Mii Brawler’s 1111 moveset will notice that it’s pretty bad. Why do they have both Soaring Axe Kick and Head-on Assault, when those attacks are pretty redundant? This potentially points to the idea that the Mii Fighters are not designed for 1111 at all, or even if they were the game is ultimately not hurt by them having their best special moves.

The problem with this position is that not all characters have perfect synergy in their movesets either. It is not necessarily an oversight, or something that is supposed to be ripe for the changing. Characters are generally designed to have pros and cons, and while they can’t totally erase many of the physical properties of a Mii Fighter, having special moves synergize better can be used to shore up their weaknesses. However, to go back to the “Adapt” Argument, the idea that it’s not right for Miis to have flawed existences can apply just as much to other characters. Maybe Mii Brawler is supposed to have trouble killing. Maybe Gunner is supposed to have holes in the projectile and range game. Who’s to say they’re not meant to be like Ganondorf, with very clear and extreme upsides and downsides?

Final Thoughts

I think the core of the Mii Fighter problem isn’t that Miis are too good, or they’re too bad, or anything actually having to do with competitive viability or fairness. The issue at stake is that Mii players do not feel much gratification playing 1111 versions of their characters. Without the right moves, they become emotionally empty vessels, perhaps all the more appropriate that they’re supposed to be combat-oriented versions of personal online avatars. That being said, I have to wonder if Mii Fighters could potentially provide “just enough satisfaction.” Mii Fighter users all seemingly want their preferred movesets no matter what, but perhaps it could be enough to have 50% or 75% a the preferred combination. For example, if everyone who cares about Miis were able to vote on a common moveset that had just enough appeal to all of the various Mii contingents, then maybe that sort of compromise is worth looking into.

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Getting Along: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for February 2016

With Go Princess! Precure finally over, I feel like this is when the winter anime season truly begins. I hope that you’ll enjoy coming along the ride with me.

I’d like to thank the following Patreon supporters this month.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

In particular, I’d like to welcome back Johnny Trovato. He was the source for many past topics through Patreon, including posts on the Tokyo Olympics and CensorshipTouhou vs. Kantai Collection, and the rise and fall of Saimoe. If you’d like me to write about a specific topic on Ogiue Maniax, it’s a perk you can get for the highest reward tier on Patreon.

This past month has brought a lot of interesting changes for me. Outside of Ogiue Maniax, I recently started contributing articles to a site called Apartment 507. They were looking for someone who communicate with the hardcore Japanese pop culture fans that comprise their audience, and I’ve been happy to oblige. The main reason I got this gig was because of my efforts on Ogiue Maniax, so I am grateful to my readers here for reminding me of the value of writing and that, simply put, anime and manga are awesome.

I decided not to include those posts on the Patreon page itself because they’re not technically being supported by my patrons, but I have been linking to them on the blog itself. Just look for the [Apartment 507] tag in the title if you’re wonder which posts are which.

As for the blog proper, I think I’ve written some of my best work this past month. I wrote a response to another blogger where I talk about some of the problems that come with evangelizing sakuga, a review of the powerful new film The Anthem of the Heart, and of course the latest Genshiken chapter review. If you haven’t been keeping up with Genshiken, or even if you have, this chapter is a big deal, so I recommend you check it out! By the way, I’ve noticed that my Genshiken reviews are some of my most popular posts. I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise but I’m actually really happy that I’ve established myself as a source for interesting insight into Genshiken.

January also marked the return of the Fujoshi Files with a historic Fujoshi #150. I have to confess that these might get more sporadic as I don’t have as much time to research fujoshi-themed anime and manga as much as I used to, but I do strongly believe that we’ll hit #200.

In addition, I decided to do something a little different and interview a Super Smash Bros. for Wii U competitive player. Earth, the world’s best Pit, is actually also a mahjong and The iDOLM@STER fan, so I had to ask him a few questions.

The last thing I want to say is that I’ll be traveling to Japan in May! I’ll be releasing posts the whole way through, and when I get back I’ll have plenty more to talk about. And yes, I will be getting all of the dagashi (have you been watching Dagashi Kashi? I highly recommend it).

Smash Bros., Mahjong, and The iDOLM@STER: Interview with Earth, Smash 4’s Premier Pit Player

earthinterview

In the competitive world of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, the Japanese player known as Earth is widely considered the best Pit main in the world. Over the past couple of months, he’s placed 13th at Genesis 3, one of the largest Smash tournaments ever, defeated Ranai (the best Japanese player) to take his first championship in Japan at KVO, and has even gotten engaged!

KVO Grand Finals Set: Earth vs. Ranai

It turns out that Earth’s not just a skilled Smash player, he’s also a competitive mahjong player and a fan of The iDOLM@STER! Given that his interests align quite a bit with my own, I decided to ask him a few questions over Twitter, which I’ve translated and transcribed below (with some small edits for flow). Remember to follow him on Twitter at @earth_tyt!

Why did you become a Pit user? What is Pit’s appeal to you?

Earth: I like characters with no glaring weaknesses and an orthodox style of play with plenty of possibilities, so that’s why I became a Pit user.

Pit appeals to me because he’s all about observing your opponent’s actions and exploiting their weaknesses in neutral. In this respect, he has good moves you can throw out such as dash attack and up smash. I also just like his visual style. :)

Do you have any advice for other Pit users?

Earth: I think that Pit is a character that rewards a player’s hard work and effort. That’s why I want more people to use Pit.

Earth vs. SlayerZ at Genesis 3

So you’re not only the best Pit player in the world, you’re also a mahjong player!

Earth: I love mahjong as much as I love Smash Bros.!

Where do you play mahjong online? Or do you prefer to play at mahjong parlors?

Earth: Tenhou! I also go to mahjong parlors! (* ‘-‘) b

What rank are you on Tenhou?

Earth: I haven’t played much as of late, but I’m a 5-dan* on Tenhou. (´△`)

How has your experience with mahjong influenced your play in Smash Bros.?

Earth: I’ve competed in a lot of mahjong tournaments, and it’s taught me to have strong nerves. In a good way, it’s made me into someone who doesn’t get shaken emotionally. That’s something I’ve brought to Smash as well.

You’re also a fan of Yayoi from The iDOLM@STER. What do you like about her?

Earth: I like everything about her! But if I had to choose, it’s because Yayoi always tries her best and is always thinking about her friends and family. (´ー`)

Thank you!

*NOTE: Ranks on the Tenhou ladder go from 9-kyuu to 1-kyuu, then from 1-dan to 10-dan. 5-dan is quite difficult to achieve and typically requires a great deal of skill, practice, and dedication.

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