I Figured Out Why I Hated Super Smash Bros.

I Figured Out Why I Hated Super Smash Bros.

Super Smash Bros. is a great game that lies to you: behind a user-friendly party game made in Nintendo lies a complex, counter-intuitive gameplay that requires hours of investment before you can enjoy the first few minutes of fun.

Shall we throw a little smash?” I’ve heard those five words countless times. The story repeats itself, tirelessly, from one Nintendo system to another: everyone is having fun on Bomber Man or Mario Kart, the evening enters its second part, the pizzas are consumed, and it’s the moment chosen by Michaël tolaunch Smash. Each time, this question is followed by several “yeah!” cheerful.

Pale face, joystick in hand, I don’t move my lips and in my mind is playing a completely different song : “Ah, that part of the evening when I’m going to select a character at random from 300 possibilities from universes I don’t know and press A while pretending to have fun without even seeing my fighter…“. Don’t think I’m alone: all your boyfriends and girlfriends who’ve never played Super Smash Bros. are faking it. Because they love you and are patient with you, even when you throw them a “Bah look just press here, here and here and eject“.


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate // Source: Nintendo

The following sequence is also repetitive: we, the nonsmashees, will watch you play pretending to know what we’re doing until we get bored and end up indrop fleshwhile you do the specials, parries and final moves. And we’re going to hope that every fight will be the last, fearing that someone will give the idea of turning this into a marathon where we’ll have to fill every arena.

In 2018, and because Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was well rated on Numerama, I decided to act: at Christmas, I ordered this game that I hated more than any other. To understand. And I get it.

The anti Mario Kart

It only took me a few minutes to figure out what was wrong with Super Smash Bros. The menu with a thousand corners, the dozens of modes, the adventure mode, the settings, the successes, the training, the cryptic names (trunk, spirits…)…. even before you start any game, you can see how the game’s main shortcoming is rooted in the Smash culture. It’s all messy, messy, complex, and most of all, unexplained.

So little explained that Nintendo has to post tutorials on its social networks to access the tutorials. So little explained that a player more altruistic than the others has to edit an unofficial guide of a hundred pages to dissect all the gameplay mechanics instead of the editor. So little explained that you’re likely to spend the first few hours, even at home quietly in solo mode, missing half of the controls.

Because Smash Bros. is a lying game. With the Nintendo Seal, you can expect to playMario Kart from Street Fighter, a fighting game that is accessible, simple, balanced and fun from the very first seconds, suitable for all ages and levels. That’s not true. Mario Kart 8, a masterpiece of accessibility in its Switch version that offers driving assistance and a mountain of balance in real time (yes, the best items are reserved for the last) that allows everyone to have fun is the antithesis of SSB. Smash is a connoisseur’s game and you have to spend hours to start having fun.

You’d think that gameplay geniuses like Nintendo would find ways to make the game more accessible. That’s not so: Smash is inherently counterintuitive. Hitting enemies to makemounta life bar is counter-intuitive. Knowing the right time to eject them is counterintuitive. Putting the eject keys (which are moves), central to the gameplay, on ajoysticktraditionally used for moves is counter-intuitive. Assigning the same button for multiple actions is counter-intuitive. Literally nothing is done to take the beginner by the hand or, even if it means creating a complex game, to accompany him towards mastery.

Nothing is done to take the beginner by the hand…

Even the characters and levels are traps. They all have particularities, actions that others don’t have. Some jump more. Some of them have loaded attacks. Others have hammer attacks. Others are faster. They all use objects. These objects can be opened, hit, used with button A, ejected, activated… without notice.

For beginners, arenas are also hellish: they move, they change shape, they have a different dynamic that sometimes changes the gameplay entirely. And once again,nothingallows to learn, except pain, the calm of 1 vs 1 fights and repetition, until mastering some characters and a good general knowledge of the others.

It’s a long-term job that will take several hours, even for someone who’s been playing video games forever, if he hasn’t let go of the console before discovering even the controls. As a group of friends, it creates a gap betweenthose who have already played a Smash andthose who were just there to have fun. The two worlds are profoundly incompatible.


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate // Source: Nintendo

Smash Smash Smash

Do I still hate Smash? No, on the contrary. Time off and a train ride back from Nice allowed me to spend hours playing a few characters, reading the unofficial player’s guide unlocked me on basic concepts and I now know how to have fun in 8-player fights, before I did a good part of the story, two, three and four-player fights against stupid AI. SSB on Switch lives up to its commercial cardboard and I don’t doubt for a second that I’ll love the next games against humans that won’t cause existential crises anymore.

As I climbed the ladder from hate to mastery, I vowed never to impose Smash on anyone and never to say to a beginner trapped in a party something like “just get us out of thearena”. Back home, promise already broken, I wanted to testa Smash with my girlfriend by taking 10 minutes to do pedagogy on the game, explain the commands, the goal and the different phases. It took only one round for the fateful phrase to resonate in the living room: “Okay, shall we put on Mario Kart? ».

Yes, we’re putting on Mario Kart.

Article originally published on 31 December 2018




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