In the fighting game community, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is nearly unparalleled when it comes to roster size. Nintendo’s livestreams revealing upcoming DLC had Smash Bros. players dropping everything to find out who’s appearing next. The extended support, which carried over from the previous title, has helped keep interest high while also shaking up the meta with balance patches. However, Nintendo announced that Sora from Kingdom Hearts would be the final DLC, and there would be no longer be balance patches. So how has the Canadian scene shaped itself during Ultimate’s lifespan so far?
The genesis of Smash on the Switch
When a game is released, the player base will run with it and push it far, adjusting for what gives them the best chance of victory and the best chance to have fun. It’s no secret that DLC characters have had quite an impact on the scene, but we have to look at who was strong initially to understand Ultimate’s journey. Notoriously powerful from the beginning, Wolf and Snake returned from their first appearances in Brawl. Strong zoning capabilities, great neutral for offense and defense, as well as strong tools to get out of combos, all lead to these two being strong from the start and lasting throughout the game’s meta.
Grabbing out of shield was nerfed from the previous installment, Smash 4, and these two characters had strong anti air options to combat people attempting to approach through the air.
Speaking of grabs, both Snake and Wolf have strong pressure, leading them towards getting grabs easily. Snake can even get a guaranteed kill if he lands a throw on an opponent with above 160 per cent damage.
Other characters came out of the gate hot, but have since slowed down and lost representation for one reason or another. Ike, Donkey Kong, King K. Rool were all popular in the game’s early stages, but over time, people realized that their strength levels were a bit overhyped.
Riddles took these FGC characters to new heights when he picked up Terry and later Kazuya. 2nd at CEO, 4th at Pound 2022, 4th at Collision 2022, multiple high ranking results at majors such as Smash World Tour, Pinnacle, Genesis, all point to his clear dominance when it comes to placing as a Canadian. His background playing multiple FGs mixed with his pure ability and hard work gives him supreme understanding of what these characters can do. Riddles is opening people’s eyes to how powerful these characters can be. He makes Kazuya look like Smash 4 Bayonetta with combos that can kill off one opening.
The strength of DLC doesn’t begin or end there; however, the first DLC released during the COVID-19 pandemic, Min Min, almost perfectly encapsulated the “Wi-Fi era” of Smash Ultimate. A character that was extremely powerful, not only in general, but even more so when playing online. Her strong zoning is even harder to deal with over Ultimate’s subpar netcode.
This speaks to the difficult and unstable environment that is Ultimate’s online meta. Many players cite it as “not the same game.” When your reaction ability is slashed, some characters, such as ROB, Sonic, King DeDeDe, Min Min, etc, become very difficult to deal with.
Switching suddenly from the peak conditions that come from playing offline was tough for a lot of players. Characters that took precision were much harder to play on netplay, due to hiccups in the connection. Online adds delay to a game that already has higher native input delay.
The previously mentioned characters are strong online due to their offensive tool sets that are much harder to defend against in delay. With huge hitboxes that you usually have much more time to react to offline, it’s difficult to make the best of tight situations against them. Characters who can throw out projectiles that control the screen such as Ness and Zelda were everywhere during online tournaments.
With the entire world shutting down, locals couldn’t be hosted. Players were forced to play online and deal with the poor netcode, but a truly strong player will shine no matter the conditions
How it all shakes out now
Characters in Smash are so varied, and scenes have such bright talent, that it’s hard to pin down exactly why characters pick up steam. Unlike team games which might sacrifice some playstyle diversity for numbers, each smash character is wildly different, and there’s over 70 of them. Take the scene around St. Johns, Newfoundland for example.
Getting insight on the trends of character representation in Smash Ultimate’s lifespan here in Canada has been an interesting journey. One of the most fun things about comparing regions is seeing which characters get picked up and fleshed out, becoming seen as “strong” in said regions. Canada has always been a home for great players, with solid camaraderie between its scenes. Ultimate isn’t out of the cycle yet, and we look forward to seeing what characters will get the spotlight next.