Recently, a fan of Super Smash Bros. Brawl decided to try out the game online, but was disappointed. Why? Because none of the players seemed interested in having fun. None of them played with items on, and they all used highly defensive strategies rather than the more varied and frantic button-mashing that made the game unique and fun in the first place.
The fan was so dissatisfied, he wrote to series producer Masahiro Sakurai, who responded that he shared the fan’s frustration, and was hoping to address that by enriching online play in a way that’s more fun for everyone. Check out the full exchange by clicking below.
The other day, I had my first run at Smash Bros. Brawl online play. What I found was that nobody ever went on the attack; it was like everyone was taking the approach of waiting for the other guy to take the offensive. There were no items, either. I wanted to shout at them ‘This isn’t how you do Smash Bros.’! As the producer, what do you think of fights like this?
The idea of Brawl’s ‘carefree brawling’ motto was to get rid of as many restraints as possible and allow people to choose whatever play approach they liked. I’d like people to take some freer approaches with their gameplay, but the sort of battle style you describe in your letter is not interesting or fun. That’s why I’ll probably be thinking of a way to deal with that in the next game. We’ve learned a lot about net play since Brawl was released, after all, so a lot more is possible. I suppose the fact that we’ve still got no-fee online battles available in a game that was released five years ago is another cause of the problem. It would have been nice if we could have revised the game rules as appropriate, but with the system we had, that wasn’t possible.
I’m inclined to agree. While I definitely can understand that there’s a place for competitive play, I’m not a big fan of the idea that you need to somehow change the game’s rules and leave out options to make it appropriate for competition. This isn’t like Pokémon, where certain monsters are banned because they objectively outclass other monsters to the point that those smaller Pokémon are practically useless. We’re talking about getting rid of random and frantic elements that technically affect all players equally and can be overcome with the right strategy.
I find the fact that some players and even the series producer believe the trends of “hardcore” competitive play are bad for the game to be quite interesting. I made the point in a recent article that Nintendo fans tend not to really be into the truly “hardcore” games (okay, that’s putting it lightly; I said they outright despise them) – this phenomenon seems to go one step further by demonstrating that hardcore players can even make non-hardcore games like Smash Bros., which are designed around pure, unadulterated Nintendo-like fun, into an un-fun borefest.
What do you think about the trends of competitive play in Smash Bros.? Do they make the game better, or should they be swiftly eliminated before they destroy the series’ potential to have an awesome online experience?