(Words by Simon Gordon)
When I saw the flyer for a local upcoming Super Smash Bros. For 3DS tournament, I felt an instant flashback to my childhood. The first game in the series was released in 1999, and it was instrumental in my early progression as a fighting game fanatic. The second and third entries (Melee and Brawl) are the only two games I’ve ever seriously competed in a tournament for. The chaotic, deceptively complex collage of different Nintendo franchises has always held a place in my heart as one of my favorite series. All of these reasons and a spontaneous need for a new hobby/distraction pushed my decision to participate in the tournament, and these are my random insomnia-influenced notations on the journey and final outcome to this endeavor.
After a solid four hours of having to restart my download due to some of the spottiest Internet known to man, the new Smash Bros. 3DS title is waiting to be unwrapped onto my SD card.
I immediately begin unlocking characters while testing out the new engine. Feels incredibly smooth and a great deal faster than Brawl. Biggest change I’m getting used to are the new edge-hogging mechanics.
Loving how balanced this game feels compared to Brawl. Like any game, there are some characters that feel shitty, but overall there’s a much wider feeling of “oh I can see them being used competitively” than I’ve experienced with any other title.
Considering using Mario or Dr. Mario as my main for the tournament. Used Mario heavily in the weeks I had the special demo and got a decent bit of practice with him. Lucario is also looking like a possibility as he/she/it has gained huge buffs since Brawl. Really think Nintendo was keeping an eye on Project M.
Now that I’ve unlocked all of the hidden characters, my biggest goal is finding a main character for the tournament. I immediately focus on my two mains from Brawl: Ike and Ganondorf. While Ganondorf feels surprisingly fresh, if still low-tier, Ike feels severely impaired, especially while swinging his sword. Moves that used to easily kill now have pathetic knockback, and the man who fights for his friends just feels overall unwieldy.
Another favorite of mine, Marth, still feels like his usual self, even if not as dominant as his Melee iteration. Been enjoying using Lucina due to the ease of not having to worry about tipper range.
My slow Internet connection is going to be a somewhat-huge hindrance to my ability to practice. While online play isn’t exactly the greatest way to practice because of input lag, fighting the computer on level 9 isn’t much of a better option.
Another week goes by and another level of stress is added to my decision of whom to main. While Lucina feels nice, I’ve been enjoying using Zero Suit Samus, a character I’ve had absolutely no experience with before. OG Samus was always a character I was terrible with since the pre-teen days so I had never given her less-armored version a chance until now.
Been experimenting with Dark Pit, another character who’s entirely new to me having never used Pit before. While fun to play as, I can immediately notice how hard it is for me to kill with him. Meh.
Gave Kirby, quite easily my best character in the first game, some practice time. Loving how he plays again. His attacks seem to pack much more punch than they did in the last two games.
Been doing my best to get in at least a few Omega Mode (no items, final destination-esque stages) matches a day, but time has been a huge constraint as well. Working a job while finishing an EP and running a label leaves little time for gaming at the moment.
It’s the day of the tournament and I still don’t have a main. I’m still not incredibly confident in my playing due to a lack of practice time. I know myself. This is not going to go well.
I get to Save Point a little early and see that there’s already a small crowd amassed. A young kid who insists that I play a few matches against his younger brother, Anthony, who is participating in the tournament, immediately greets me. What little confidence I had left is sent sailing away on the bat that Anthony’s Ness used efficiently against me. I now understand why people who are older than me hate losing to me so much. It is infuriating.
I spend the next hour walking around the small body odor-filled room with other challengers decked out in video game-inspired costumes for the Halloween-themed event. Feels as if this one-hour of practice against other actual human beings is helping me far more than the hours spent playing against the CPU.
The tournament begins. Fifty people show up for the 64-player max tournament. I get a bye for my first round, which is a double-edged sword that leaves me moving ahead while giving my anxiety more time to grow and fester. Dozens of people from different age groups, cultures, and backgrounds sit and stand around hunched over their portable systems. An occasional scream of fury and/or triumph cuts through the noise. My name is called. My first match is here.
I make the grave last-second error of using Ness, a character I had been experimenting with before the tournament. My opponent’s Zero Suit Samus destroys me with ease, aided by a self-destruct after an overzealous attempt at a spike. This is not the epic start I had hoped for.
After pacing around outside for some fresh air, I’m ready for my next round. I’m matched up against a kid in a Dr. Mario costume complete with stethoscope and pornstache. I switch to Sheik and use her mobility and hit-and-run tactics against his Dr. Mario nailing my first official win of the tournament.
I feel my confidence bubbling.
The room has cleared significantly from when the tournament started as people have been getting knocked out left and right. I notice an overall higher win percentage for people with 3DS XLs over the smaller original versions like the one I own. It has been my first time seeing the game on the bigger sibling and it looks amazing.
I greet my opponent with a handshake and a hello. All the cordiality goes out the window as soon as he picks Greninja, one of the characters I have the most issues dealing with (and using) in this game. I pick Sheik again and prepare for the worst. He’s the first person I’ve gone up again who is using custom moves, which throws me off significantly. I’ve never used any of Greninjas before so I take large amounts of unnecessary damage due to my ignorance.
The match is still relatively even until I kill myself on my second life. Another attempt at punishing my opponent gone awry, he easily cleans up and wins knocking me out of the tournament. The journey is over.
It would’ve been nice to have a Cinderella story, Rocky-esque underdog win at the tournament but I made some crucial mistakes. The biggest being not finding a character that I was truly comfortable with and sticking with them throughout the tournament. The second was not practicing nearly enough against any solid competition. Overall it was a great experience, and the thrill of participating in tournaments again has me playing now more than I have in months.