Today, Smash daddy Masahiro Sakurai announced that Dragon Quest’s Hero fighter will arrive in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate today as part of the version 4.0 update.
The Heroes, referred to as “Hero” in-game, are from Dragon Quest XI S, Dragon Quest III, Dragon Quest IV,and Dragon Quest VIII—each expressed as different skins for the base fighter. Along with them, six Dragon Quest songs are coming to Smash, including two from each released game, as well as a Dragon Quest stage called Yggdrasil’s Altar.
Players can buy the fighter pack for $5.99 when it’s online today, Sakurai announced in a video this morning:
Also announced today in the 4.0 update, fighters’ final smash meters now have a time limit. “That will make it harder to use your attack range to play a waiting game,” Sakurai explained. Smash Ultimate’s adventure mode is getting a “very easy” difficulty, too, and now, players in “spectator mode” can bet on who they think will win in exchange for points.
Lastly, Smash Ultimate is getting an online tournament mode. Finally. And yet, in proper Smash online fashion, it seems a little wonky: The rulesets will change periodically.
After Hero, Smash players will get the long-awaited Banjo & Kazooie this fall. Then, there are just two unannounced mystery fighters left. Perhaps one of them is Goku-shaped?
Nintendo is giving Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fans something they’ve wanted for a long time: Banjo and Kazooie from 1998’s Banjo-Kazooie for the N64. Today, Nintendo announced that the bear and Breegull partners will land in Smash fall, 2019.
In a 2018 poll of 20,000 fans, Banjo and Kazooie ranked number one among most-desired fighters in Smash Ultimate. Nintendo’s been on a roll adding in fan favorites, as the Banjo and Kazooie announcement rides on the heels of long-requested fighters like Ridley and King K. Rool’s inclusion in the 2018 game.
In 2018, a fan tweeted at Xbox head Phil Spencer—Microsoft has the rights to the characters—asking whether he’d lend Banjo and Kazooie to Nintendo for Smash. His response was short: “Yep.” (Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts and Banjo-Tooie are receiving Xbox One X Enhanced updates, Microsoft announced yesterday.) Looks like Spencer followed through.
We didn’t get a thorough look at how Banjo and Kazooie will fight in-game, unfortunately, but what we did see looks really interesting. We did see Kazooie mow down opponents from inside Banjo’s backpack and shoot out little balls. We also saw Banjo slam Kazooie down for what looked like some major damage. Kazooie can help Banjo fly, too.
For a lot of fans, Banjo and Kazooie’s Smash debut isn’t a surprise. Last week, well-known leaker Shinobi602 posted on the gaming forum ResetEra, “Been a while since we saw Banjo in anything. Hope we’re in for a smashing good time.” Lots of Smash players took Shinobi602’s statement very seriously. Bolstering it was another leak: A new design Banjo-Kazooie merch.
Hopefully, the animal duo will live up to fans’ expectations. If Ridley and K. Rool’s super fun gameplay is any indication, though, Banjo and Kazooie will.
In the “Thanks, I hate it” category, Nintendo gave us Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in virtual reality last night. Nobody asked for this, and yet here we are—swiveling our heads left and right and withstanding gut-sinking nausea just to land a couple aerials on a computer-player Peach.
Earlier this year, Nintendo introduced a VR kit for the Switch. It’s a cardboard headset with two lenses, and in lieu of a head strap, players must hold the thing up to their face with their hands. Nintendo recently added VR support for Super Mario Odyssey and Zelda: Breath of the Wild, both of which my boss Stephen Totilo tersely described as “not good.” Those two games, plus Smash Ultimate, now have special VR modes where players can dizzy themselves to their heart’s content, following a wandering camera to play games that are plainly more enjoyable in handheld or docked mode.
After loading up the mode in Smash Ultimate’s “Games & More” section, the game suggests players watch the CPUs duke it out before joining in themselves (“You can move the camera around to enjoy the battle from different angles”). If bot voyeurism isn’t your speed, you can challenge a CPU or three on about half of the total available Smash stages. Smash Ultimate VR is single-player only. Those aren’t the only restrictions. Timed mode is the only game option, and there are no Smash balls or items.
There’s a lot of debate over the best way to play Super Smash Bros.—GameCube controller, Pro controller, handheld, connected to LAN—but there will be no debate that VR is the worst. In a game of Smash Ultimate VR, the player must either crane their head to view fighters on a stage’s fringes or push in the C stick, which often fires off an involuntary smash attack. On the Pirate Ship stage, for example, the ship docks on a shore with its bow jutted up into the air. The bot I was fighting refused to leave the bow and fight me on the shore for a long time, forcing me to nod my head up and down for a full scope of both fighters or continuously up-smash. If your character is battling on the bottom levels of a stage with depth, looking down on them through the headset’s Gods’-eye-view may inspire some unwelcome vertigo or nausea.
Somebody more generous than me would compare Smash Ultimate’s VR graphics to Smash 64’s. Yet as one person on Twitter put it, “If you think I won’t use that to look at Samus’ butt you are mistaken.” To that end, Smash Ultimate’s VR does succeed as a cinematic mode for viewing two bots fighting each other in trash graphical quality. Needless to say, holding your hands up to your face to watch that or to rapidly button-mash Smash combos begins to strain your arms after a couple of games. Smash Ultimate encourages you to take breaks.
The supposed appeal of VR is immersion and omniscience, but in my view, the technology is still in its gimmick phase. I’m not creative enough to imagine a version of Smash Ultimate I would regularly play that benefits from the VR treatment. Why the cynicism? In my view, Smash Ultimate is a near-perfect video game which I have played for hundreds of happy hours. It’s great. It doesn’t need VR.
And so I ask: Why did Nintendo make this? Why would we want to hold a cardboard scuba mask up to our faces to fight bots, or watch bots fight, in 1999 Nintendo graphics?
“We used to have the perception he didn’t care,” said Super Smash Bros. pro Gonzalo “Zero” Barrios at Nintendo’s first tournament for Smash Ultimate last year. “He,” of course, was game director Masahiro Sakarai, the Smashdaddy himself, who was watching from the sidelines. Barrios had just won a glistening crystalline trophy, and holding it in one hand, he continued: “Obviously that’s not true.”
Nintendo has always leaned into a come-as-you-are marketing strategy for Super Smash Bros., which a hard emphasis on high-level competition can run against. Smash, said Sakurai years ago, needs to be novice-friendly first and foremost. Yet in the year since that tournament, held in a former burlesque theater in downtown Los Angeles, Nintendo has slowly been rolling out more Nintendo-sanctioned Smash tournaments, including one slated for E3 on June 8. They’re a little weird, though, as far as Smash tournaments go. They have items. They’re governed by strange rulesets and competed in by some relatively unknown players. As an independent and hugely popular competitive Smash scene roils on in the foreground with little help from Nintendo, the big question surrounding these official tournaments is simple: Why now?
“Obviously with something like Smash, there are already a ton of tournaments out there,” said Bill Trinen, Nintendo of America’s senior product marketing manager in an interview with Kotaku. “We’re trying to find ways to make it easier for people who are everyday Smash players to get a taste of participating in tournaments.”
In 2019, as big game publishers like Blizzard are salivating over the #esportshype and rolling out hundred-million-dollar leagues, Nintendo is swerving. Let’s not forget they’re the company that looked around at all of its VR-obsessed competitors and decided to release its own line of cardboard “make believe” gaming accessories. Their plan with these sporadic official tournaments isn’t to replace or overshadow Smash’s pro scene. “We want to keep the grassroots base community healthy and sustainable and the way we want to do that is to bring in fresh blood,” said Trinen. Essentially, he wants to leverage Nintendo’s brand to nourish Smash’s player-driven esports ecosystem.
Nintendo has had a fraught relationship to Smash’s fierce competitive community for about a decade. For the most part, Nintendo ignored the contingent of Smash fans who, like an on-task ant colony, carried many times’ their weight in organizing tournament circuits, prize pools and artists alleys for fan-made Smash merch. On one hand, it wasn’t an issue; Smash’s esports scene was organic and hype, even for all of its relative messiness without the polished treatment of a big-money developer. On the other hand, pros wanted to make some damn money for all their hard work, which, some argue, helps extend Smash’s mainstream relevance. Some even considered unionizing.
“We don’t view ourselves as really even now dipping our toe into esports,” said Trinen, following that up with a bit of a marketer’s rhetorical spin: “I think our approach is less of one of competition and it’s really more about the competitive fun.”
In a way, Nintendo’s tournaments feel a little like your dad throwing you the sort of birthday party he thinks you’d want. It’s got most of your friends, including beloved Smash commentators and a couple pros. It’s got all the glitz and glam. But weirdly, he’s set up pinatas (Smash Balls, in this metaphor) and other games you haven’t played seriously since you were little (2 vs. 2 timed battles in the upcoming E3 tournament). It’s fun and you’re grateful—it’s just not what you and your buddies might do on your own.
Trinen says Nintendo is trying to bridge the gap between ardent Smash fans and the pro community (who have their own idiosyncrasies). They don’t allow items in tournaments, and each game is a stock battle that must take place on a tournament-legal stage. “We want to bring the casual Smash player into the competitive scene and the existing competitive community,” he said, citing how over 60 percent of 10,000 players participating in online qualifiers for the last official Smash tournament had never played in a tournament before. Nintendo’s upcoming E3tournament will still be inundated with items, and split between 1 vs. 1 and 2 vs. 2 matches—sometimes timed and sometimes stock. It’s a more mellow vibe, and it’s to be seen whether it whets players’ palates for a weekly local tournament at their nearest card shop.
“We don’t want to compete with the competitive scene,” said Trinen when I asked what the thinking is behind Nintendo’s tournament ruleset. “We’re using items on partially to differentiate from what the competitive scene is doing and partially to make it easier for a more casual audience to approach.”
Lately, there’s a lot that Nintendo has been doing to appease its competitive fans on top of these tournaments. Commentators like Victoria “VikkiKitty” Perez and Phil “EE” Breezy are getting gigs from the publisher. Yet when I asked whether there’s a future for aged-out pro Smash players among Nintendo’s salaried ranks, Trinen politely answered, maybe, for people with the right skillset, but hopefully they can pursue streaming or YouTube content creation. Similarly, Nintendo now issues detailed patch notes for Smash, which means pros aren’t meticulously picking apart the game for any iota of insight they can find. Yet according to Trinen, while developers “look at general trends in the competitive scene” when balancing the game, “I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re tailoring the game for one particular audience of another.” It’s a tightrope act, I gathered.
Nintendo is smartly finding ways to funnel newer fans into Smash’s already-existent network of competitive players and the infrastructure they’ve hammered out over the last decade. New blood’s closeness to the Smash gods at these tournaments will inflame their ambition to one day sit among them. The competitive mindset stokes their passion and, importantly for a game with slow-release DLC, invites them to continually buy in. And relative to the Riot Games and Blizzards of the world, it won’t cost them a whole lot.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
I’ve begun to think of my weekly, local Super Smash Bros. tournament as a sort of doctor’s appointment for my ego.
Regulars tell me that it’s normal to just win one or two games at these things, yet selection bias mandates that the people who attend a lot tend to be confident that they’re really, really good or that they’re on the pathway there. The only way to learn, the wisdom goes, is to get pummeled over and over by people better than you until—through smarts or osmosis or telepathy—you identify and absorb why they win. Better yet, they might just tell you to your face.
I met a guy at one of these things whom I’ll refer to as “Inkling senpai.” He and I main the same Super Smash Bros. fighter—Splatoon’s Inkling—except he’s on another level. He always places third or fourth in the total standings, beaten only by possessed Smash players whom I assume sacrificed something to some demon.
He’s also all about feedback, always offering it in an upbeat tone with a lot of smiles and encouragement. “You need to throw an ink bomb every time your opponent is off-stage,” he told me once. “You’re not adapting; you’re being predictable.” Once, he said, “I downloaded you.”
I graciously accept Inkling senpai’s feedback and do my best to hold it in the top of my mind even while, on the ground floor of my brain, my impulses are firing off faster than I can consciously keep track. Slowly, I honed my back-airs and edge-guarding until my toolkit became more menacing. I’ll fling an ink bomb off-stage and, sometimes, it’ll knock the opponent into the ether, earning me a win. Last night, I placed fourth.
In my experience, competitive gaming meetups are one of the only venues where people (complete strangers, even) give each other clear, cut-and-dried feedback. Not just the basics like “you suck” or “great job”—thoughtful analyses of what you’re doing and whether it’s getting you where you want to be. In other situations in life, people might not give it to you straight. If you really flubbed your lines in the school play, your parents might say that it wasn’t even noticeable. When your going-out outfit is too much, your friends might laugh, telling you, “What a look!”
I’ll never forget when, at my first Magic: The Gathering tournament, an opponent who had just beaten me meticulously and tonelessly pointed out every single bad move I made before taking my deck in his hand and pulling out the cards he thought weren’t helping. At first, I was offended, sorting some of them back into my deck. That’s not a normal thing to do, I thought, even though he clearly meant no harm. Then, as I moved to sit across from my next opponent, I remembered some of his advice—leaving my mana untapped until after the attack phase—and ended up beguiling this new challenger into my first win. It’s hard to say whether the stranger was right to offer unsolicited feedback, but it’s arguable that, just by entering the tournament space, he and I shared the same goal of improving. In the end, I left the hobby shop that day with a score that made me proud.
Rare are the circumstances where nearly everybody in a given room is there to grow, sincerely and whole-heartedly. It’s like living through a montage training scene in a shonen anime, but real life includes all the mundane feedback that the video editing skips over. You have to put aside your ego, and so does whoever’s offering counsel. Feedback can be as toneless as your doctor checking your blood pressure, as thoughtful as your best friend telling you that going blonde would clash with your wardrobe.
Then I log onto Overwatch, a separate realm where unsolicited feedback is king, despite the fact that few people can accurately pinpoint why their team lost. Most of the feedback isn’t helpful, or isn’t coming from a place where that matters. It’s a team-based first-person shooter, so players don’t always have a great vantage point on what their teammates are doing. And because it’s six versus six, a player might not die because they suck; it could be that their healer wasn’t healing well enough, that their tank wasn’t adequately positioned, that their damage-dealer wasn’t taking down their targets. On top of this, Overwatch is an online game. Anonymously and physically distant, players can be needlessly rude without having to see their teammates’ crestfallen faces. Regularly, I hear players elevating “blunt feedback” onto the level of straight-up harassment.
Prescribing rules around feedback is tricky, since it depends on a given person’s tolerance for criticism and personal gaming goals. (Competing online as opposed to in-person, however, does seem to make a difference from an empathy standpoint.) There’s a way to do it with love that makes your gaming community more supportive and more powerful. There’s also a way to do it spitefully, with an overtone of superiority and abuse.
For me, the sweet catharsis of knowing what I did wrong fills my losses with purpose. Just make sure to ask me if I want to know first.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
Long-established is the purpose of friends. When you feel like you can’t do anything right, they remind you of the times you did. When you feel like the world’s against you, they loyally stand by. And when you triumph, they celebrate your successes alongside you. All of this, it turns out, it crumpled up and tossed in a trash can overflowing with lighter fluid when you’re choosing your main in Super Smash Bros.
One truism about Nintendo’s universally loved, hyper-malleable fighting game is that everybody wants to be the best player in their friend group. For hours every week, my friends and I compete against each other, comparing ourselves between at-home grinding sessions where we sharpen our top fighters’ strategies and reflexes. The problem, as it is with any fighting game, is choosing which fighter to main. The straightforward calculation for a main fighter includes factors like time played, fun had, franchise fandom, strength against friends’ mains, playstyle comfort, and maybe tier lists. I’ve learned, though, that the input of the friends I’m competing with should not be one of those factors.
I was a Zelda main. As a kid playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, I picked her up as a strong counter to my brother’s Samus, since she can reflect Samus’ projectiles. In Brawl, I mastered beguiling opponents with her teleport ability, persistently showing up behind them and doing immense damage—a skill I carried through to Smash 4 even though Zelda was decidedly low-tier. All the while, I’d been cultivating some skill with Lucas, Mother 3’s little psychic boy. It was a winning combination. Opponents who hadn’t played against Zelda much, since nobody chose her, were baffled by my strategies. My Lucas, I believed, was simply very good.
Then Super Smash Bros. Ultimate came out, and with it, 76 fighters. Our previous mains received heavy balance changes and nerfs, changing them sometimes irredeemably, while new ones possessed persuasive charms. In an effort to become the best, we all picked through this new buffet of fighters and plopped some main courses on our dish for taste tests. I settled on Zelda, Lucas and, newly, Smash Ultimate’s Inkling. It would be just a couple of weeks before one friend confided in me that my Zelda wasn’t working: the first trigger for the existential campaign that was coming for my Smash mains.
He could, he said, easily predict my teleporting strategy and counter it, completely neutering my gameplay. His argument strengthened later at a tournament, when he would convince me that others I played with felt the same. Crap, I thought. I need to win. Thinking fast, nearing the tournament’s quarter-finals, I chose to play my Lucas against another friend, a dedicated Mega Man main, who ended up crushing me. “Thank God you didn’t play Zelda,” he would later tell me. “I have no idea how to deal with her.”
Hm, I thought silently. Hm.
One main down.
Inkling would be my main, I thought. It had become my strongest fighter as I alternatively showered opponents with ink and buried them deep into the ground, a frustrating-to-counter mechanic that players complain about ad nauseum online. Burying an opponent means they have to button-mash to get out, which, according to another friend I play with often, is unfair and not fun. Every time I chose Inkling against them, they would whine and whine and whine about the burying until, of course, I was forced to drop Inkling against them. What’s a main if it’s situational?
Two mains down.
At the same time, in a fit of indecisiveness, I had been leaning hard into my Lucas. I mostly won with him, at least online. Then came the fateful day that I stopped. “Your Lucas is free as fuck,” another friend told me, to the agreement of one more friend present. To prove them wrong, we placed a bet. If I lost, I’d be forced to display a pornographic image of Yoshi as my phone background for a week. Confidently, I took the bet. TL;DR, I lost, and wrote all about that in a previous Kotaku Game Diary. I was mortified, although it was just one week later that I would be two-stocking my friends with Lucas again. At this point, I should have noticed a pattern, now that the stakes had risen to being greeted by Yoshi butt every time I opened my phone.
Still, a voice inside me told me to trust my friends. They knew what was best. Three down.
It had been several weeks of this—the ping-ponging, the back-and-forth, the false advice, the cruel deceptions and insults—before I discovered Palutena. Oh, and did I discover her. Palutena is decidedly top-tier in the game, a fact my friends remind me of constantly when she dances over their bleeding corpses with three stocks remaining, and difficult to counter, a fact my friends complain about as I rocket them into the sky. She’s also, according to them, unfair, overpowered and cheap. Any good friend would tell me to stick with her.
If I were the type of person who had an ounce of trust left in me, or an iota of concern for my friends’ feelings, I would comb back through Smash’s 76 fighters, spend weeks honing a new main and trot her out at our next tournament. But I’ve learned over the last few months that, standing on a precipice between a good and bad decision, the people you play Smash with will not pull you away and set you right; they will push you and you will fall and they will laugh. In Smash, there is no friendship. Do not ever let your friends pick your Smash main.
While the majority of people who tune into Super Smash Bros. tournaments are in it for the nasty spikes and pop-offs, this fighting game’s grassroots community also has some comedy chops to offer. The best surprise from last weekend’s Smash Ultimate Summit tournament was a hilarious, Interstellar-inspired skit from some beloved pros about the difficulty of leaving old versions of Super Smash Bros. behind.
The video begins with top Super Smash Bros. for Wii U player Gonzalo “Zero” Barrios lovingly caressing the outdated Wii U. Then, the number one Smash Ultimate player, Leonardo “MK Leo” Lopez asks, “What are you going to do with it?” The two players look off into the distance. “We need a new console,” Barrios says. “This game is so good, but there have been no patches for a while now.”
Smash Ultimate’s Interstellar is a beautiful and strange thing, but Smash Ultimate Summit’s most stand-out (read: gross-out) promotional video goes to Ezra “Samsora” Morris Jr., a Peach player, who made his “famous” gumbo recipe—actually an unconscionable creation involving flour, bananas, carrots and some type of stock.
Please, Smash pros: Never stop doing these skits, even if it means sacrificing time honing your edge-guards.
The only thing less fun than losing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is getting buried.
Nine of the 76 fighters in Smash Ultimate fighters have the ability to rudely push you halfway into the ground. When you’re in that state, you’re vulnerable to everything. If they’re nice, your opponent might throw out a mean-spirited taunt. If they’re not nice, they’re going to knock you into high heaven with a charged smash attack. When you’re in this position—half-buried and disconcertingly frozen in time—you have a choice: You can wait, or you can rapidly press the buttons on your controller, which will get you out of the dirt faster.
Button-mashing is a great way to throttle your heart rate and destroy your controller. Typically, the way people go about it is to hit as many buttons and triggers as possible, as quickly as possible. This can feel immensely frustrating because, while your fighter is paralyzed, you’re randomly thrashing about in hopes of hitting some secret, ideal button combo to save yourself, at maximum, the second or two it would take for your opponent to take your stock.
But just because you’re button-mashing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be smart about it. Here’s some free advice. If there’s any strategy to button-mashing, it’s all about what counts as an input. You might want to ignore the joysticks, because they’re finicky about counting inputs. Your taunt buttons won’t help much, either. Instead, focus on mashing your A, B, shield, and grab buttons. Also, some bad news for the real chaotic mashers: Pressing a lot of buttons at once may only count as one input, so make sure you’re alternating presses.
You’re going to want to hit as many inputs as possible within as little time as possible. That means that, ideally, these inputs will be close together on the controller. You could just sort of wave your hand over all the buttons on the right of your controller. You could also ignore the buttons entirely and just do a ton of 360s on your joystick—even if some of these inputs don’t register, it might still be the fastest method for you. You could also plan ahead by going into your controller settings before the match and mapping A, B, shield, and grab onto your D-pad, then move it in circles to try to escape the dirt.
Here’s a great video that goes more in-depth:
Fair warning, though, for those who will heed this advice: If you’re the kind of Smash Ultimate player who whines about playing against Inkling or King K. Rool because you hate getting buried, knowing how to get out will completely erase your right to complain.
Right after the world’s most blah Super Bowl mercifully wrapped itself up, 124,000 viewers tuned in to Twitch to watch something way more exciting: the Oakland Super Smash Bros. tournament Genesis 6. The event was one hype moment after another, and its players looked so capable that, at times, I wondered what devil they’d promised their firstborn to.
Over the course of the past three days, 2,100 Smash Ultimate competitors went head-to-head, whittling the event’s enormous player pool down to one. Unlike the game’s prior iteration, which by the end of its competitive life was dominated by just a couple characters, a huge variety of Smash Ultimate fighters featured over the weekend. The top eight players chose characters like Pikachu, Fox, Captain Olimar, Peach, Pichu, Lucina, Ike, Wolf and Inkling. Recent data from Nintendo has backed up to fans’ theory that the game is excellently balanced across its 72 fighters and, if you’re still waiting for more proof of that, add Genesis 6 to the pile.
But who won? The tournament finals were between Mexican Ike-slash-Lucina player Leonardo “MKLeo” Perez and California Pichu main James “Void” Makekau-Tyson. Makekau-Tyson arrived at the Finals with an undefeated run through the bracket and a terrifying concentration face. Perez, who had won the prior two Genesis tournaments, had gotten thrown into the losers bracket by Peach player Ezra “Samsora” Morris Jr., who has been raging through local tournaments. Perez annihilated the rest of his opponents in the losers bracket before finally encountering Makekau-Tyson in the finals.
At first, the match looked almost even, except for Perez showing some early dominance by capitalizing on every small vulnerability he could ecke out of Makekau-Tyson. Sometimes, he created the vulnerabilities himself, as in this moment where he broke Pichu’s itty bitty shield:
Pichu often wins when she gets enough damage on an opponent by landing small-damage, relentless combos, after which she can polish them off with a well-timed smash attack. That led to some incredible combo streaks from Makekau-Tyson, which often put him one or two stocks ahead of Perez. Here’s Makekau-Tyson taking two stocks off Perez within the span of just a couple seconds:
Perez’s Lucina, on the other hand, has to be looking for any opening she can to land a big aerial attack—especially when her opponent’s trying to come back onto the stage. Although Makekau-Tyson kept landing delicious combos, Perez almost always found a way to follow up:
In the end, Perez’s consistency won out. Perez won in the grand finals three-to-one, one stock ahead, earning him his third Genesis championship:
Of course, there’s more to a meeting of a game’s top players than the Finals. 15-year-old Zackray, a relative unknown who flew in from Japan, plowed through the tournament with Wolf on a chair so oversized that his feet didn’t even touch the ground. Over the course of the tournament, the crowd fell in love with him. He didn’t drop even one game until he encountered Makekau-Tyson in the winners semifinals. They tied at two and two, with Makekau-Tyson eventually pulling ahead with a lot of difficulty. It was some of the best Smash I’ve ever seen:
Another excellent game was Inkling player Brian “Cosmos” Kalu’s fight against Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby, who was switching between Palutena and Captain Olimar, the latter of which was controversial among fans. No shade from me, though. I live for bonkers recoveries like this:
It’s hard to pick a favorite match from an event this exciting, but mine might be Perez’s match against William “Leffen” Hjelte, a Melee player who, in Smash Ultimate, is playing left-fielder Pokemon Trainer, who can summon Squirtle, Ivysaur and Charizard. Hjelte was pulling off moves with the fighter that most people probably haven’t seen before.
Here’s Hjelte reaping the benefits of a mid-air Pokemon switch:
And here’s Hjelte dodging a huge blow from Perez’s Ike by switching Pokemon mid-air:
Smash fans who missed out on Genesis 6—busy sucking on corn cobs and mourning the fact that, yet again, the worst people won the Super Bowl—should cleanse their palates with these vods.
Last night, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate got Mario’s Piranha Plant, the platform fighter’s first downloadable fighter, and it’s a doozy. Piranha Plant’s moveset is a radical departure from what we’ve seen in prior Smash games, but thankfully, unlike those games’ downloadable fighters, this one isn’t overpowered.
Smash Ultimate players can get Piranha Plant by following our instructions here. The character is not part of the game’s Fighters Pass, a subscription service for downloadable fighters, so Piranha Plant is free to download for anyone who unlocks it before this coming Friday.
Last night, I gave it a spin and Piranha Plant’s toolkit is totally weird and, somehow, works. The first thing to know is that it’s not a fast fighter and has low mobility (hell, it’s bouncing around in a clay pot). It’s got some heavy hits that are, unfortunately for it, easy to see coming and a little tricky to aim properly. Most important though, it’s a super fun fighter that adds something fresh and leafy to Smash Ultimate’s roster.
As a toothed head at the end of a long, potted stem, Piranha Plant has moves that are all foliage-themed and, often, are directed vertically by default. Pressing B, Piranha Plant spits up and suspends a spiky metal ball, which it can throw a little ways left or right. Its down special pulls Piranha Plant into its pot like a spring before it pops outward to bite an opponent—an attack that can also be directed up, right or left. Its side special charges a putrid cloud of poison breath, which does some pretty massive damage when an opponent is stuck in it for several seconds. (Like other charged attacks, Piranha Plant can store it for a long time before using it.) Its up special, or recovery ability, has Piranha Plant turn into a little leaf propeller, which flies around the sky and does damage to opponents stuck in it. The range on that is long and it lasts a significant amount of time.
Here’s his final Smash, Petey Piranha. Our friendly foliage friend becomes an enormous Little Shop of Horrors nightmare who traps opponents in his cages:
Piranha Plant’s toolkit is great for controlling space on a stage and defending against enemies in the air. Tossing spiked balls, littering poison clouds and preparing long-stemmed bites are all useful for keeping opponents at a distance. That’s all also excellent for edge-guarding opponents who are coming back on-stage.
That can work like so:
And like so:
Piranha Plant also has some pretty deft ways to defend itself when it’s off-stage:
What’s really exciting is how well Piranha Plant’s moves interlock to form combos. They’re not inescapable combos; in fact, for fighters faster than it, they won’t be too difficult to avoid. That said, they’re super fun when they work:
Some bad news for folks considering Piranha Plant as a main: It suffers from a lot of landing lag, making its aerial attacks risky to pull off. That makes off-the-ground combos a bit of a struggle.
Even if we may not see Piranha Plant scale the ranks of pro tournaments any time soon, the fighter is adding something a little more significant to the Smash tradition. Smash Ultimate offers a bevy of new fighters whose toolkits resemble no one else’s before them, like Inkling’s, Simon’s and King K. Rool’s. That Smash Ultimate is continuing this momentum with its first downloadable character just goes to show its developers are still innovating [and] keeping things weird.