Historian Oliver Lee Bateman discusses how the latest version of Super Smash Bros. has already broken the hearts of its most devoted fans.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a Wii game that has given me and my friends thousands of hours of joy, is widely regarded as a dismal failure by the competitive gaming scene. Its predecessor, Super Smash Bros. Melee for the GameCube, had become a competitive gaming success almost entirely by accident, with players DIY’ing a sophisticated metagame built around its broken mechanics. Now Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is upon us, visible in all its 1080p glory at E3, and of course it too has proved nothing but a pale imitation of a golden original, viz.:
1. Looks like Brawl, only a LITTLE, and I mean A LITTLE LITTLE, faster. It looks completely shit and if you’re getting hyped for this it’s because you’re a blind fucktard that doesn’t know a thing about good games.
2.this game looks bad. They’re getting knocked so far at such low percentages that you’d have to CHASE after them to get more hits off. Brawl wasn’t too bad. This seems even worse.Not even from a casual point of view do I think I could find that fun
3. The one thing I’m noticing is that vertical movement and horizontal movement are not really proportional. Seems pretty clunky to move on the ground, and aerials seem to have a lot more landing lag than I originally thought. I would imagine that these things would contribute to making it harder to tech chase or combo. I would imagine that the metagame would be more similar to Brawl (walling, Hit & Run, timeouts, etc).
4. I am actually having a perpetual headache myself; I was severely disappointed for the same reasons, albeit [game developer Masahiro Sakurai] was not the only disappointment. I thought the Digital Event was creative and cute, but it was certainly lackluster. I wasted the entire day, and I regret it. That was not supposed to happen. I was so very excited yesterday, I could not even sleep because I was so hyped. I suppose I will learn to never expect great things for no apparent reason.
&c., &c. Ten thousand more examples of this kind of criticism could be adduced to make my point, but why bother? It’s clear that something glorious and pure has been sullied. As opposed to Capcom’s Street Fighter series, each new version of which consists primarily of graphics and balance fixes, this installment of SSB boasts many innovative features that will appeal to casual gamers, young children, and anyone else seeking a less violent, less bro-ish, and less dreadful alternative to all the “angry teen male playing an avatar with a big gun and Beats Headphones” shooters debuted at E3.
The unveiling of Palutena as a playable character failed to please the diehards, who considered her welcome inclusion a fait accompli.
But what does it matter, huh? Hearts were broken because this game wasn’t a game that was already made, a game that was already perfected, a game that will be played for as long as TVs can support it. Not to mention how it already failed by including Miis (a violation of an implied contract between Nintendo and its fans, to be sure!) and not including every other character who “deserved” to be in there–a list ranging from minor Kirbyland character Broom Hatter to Final Fantasy X’s beloved Tidus. One competitive SSB player even challenged Masahiro Sakurai to a 1-on-1 game of Smash, in the hope that a victory would convince Sakurai to allow him to playtest and balance the game. Sakurai, of course, dismissed this challenge, asking the gamer if he’d ever actually made a game–a glib remark that only further disappointed hardcore fans.
Iconic video game character Pac-Man also joined the fray at E3, much to the chagrin of players who campaigned for Nintendoverse originals such as Broom Hatter, Bandana Dee, Funky Kong, and King K. Rool.
Perpetual disappointment as a critical phenomenon has existed semper et ubique, but the instantaneity of the blogosphere (“wherever you go, there you are”) now makes it an unavoidable fact of life. Movies and games that are sequels are FAILS because they aren’t the same as their predecessors; new and completely different movies and games are FAILS because who the hell has the time to learn all these new mechanics/all this new backstory?; and pure remakes are FAILS because reasons.
Consider comment #4. That poster, who claims to be having a “perpetual headache,” ended up “wast[ing] an entire day” watching the unveiling of SSB at E3. So great was his disappointment upon seeing SSB in action that he “will learn to never expect great things for no apparent reason.” But what was he, or anyone else in the so-called “Smash community,” expecting here? Judging from the criticism, it appears that each person was holding out for the reincorporation of various beloved tidbits. One player hopes against hope for wavedashing–a physics exploit that, once noted by the developer, has little reason to be kept in an improved version of the game. Another prays to his gods for L-canceling. Both have their expectations dashed (but not wavedashed, alas); neither now has any reason to play the game, regardless of how fun it appears to be. To individuals so fixated on such minutiae, to individuals who can be so disappointed by a game reveal that they will “never expect great things for no apparent reason”…can anything ever be enough?
The mockumentary “The Smash Pros” satirizes the world of competitive smashing.
And it’s not just in the world of video games that this is so. Although some fanboys have reconciled themselves to the fact that Marvel Comics movies are standalone entities and divorced from the oft-rebooted comics continuity, others have probably never forgiven the casting of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury over, say, Patrick Warburton or someone else who more closely resembles the newsprint version. For these folks, the wait for a game/movie/book to be release is what matters–the actual release merely constitutes a point of no return. Whatever is released could never hope to equal what wasn’t. Even we academics revel in such behavior, with the result that most book reviews amount to little more than tedious recitations of what the author didn’t do; e.g., writing another, better book that wasn’t the one that the reviewer had to read.
Every moment of one’s existence, at least an existence beset with #FirstWorldProblems (a hashtag that simultaneously condemns and excuses omphaloskepsis of the worst order), constitutes an insignificant tragedy more worthy of gentle Seinfeldian skewering than grand guignol Aeschylean dramatizing. Here, for example, is the champion gamer L3ff3n’s take on the commentary being offered by a pair of generic radio-voiced MCs announcing the Smash Brothers Invitational:
Can I just say, shame on Scar for not learning about Brawl before commentating a thing on this scale….
— William Hjelte (@L3ff3n) June 10, 2014
Oh yes, shame on those arrant fools! Shame, shame, shame! How dare they not know the name of a few random assist trophies in a THING OF THIS SCALE?
Step back and assess that: L3ff3n described a video game tournament as an event of staggering importance, which of course it isn’t. And deep down he must know this, the same way 60 Minutes knew that serious investigative journalism actually isn’t (hence the six decades of Andy Rooney) or that the NFL knew that literally anyone could spew hot air during its broadcasts (hence the six decades of John Madden, a towering figure almost as easy to mock as pompous foreign policy doyen Thomas Friedman).
Nothing game developer Masahiro Sakurai does could possibly please SSB’s small but vocal competitive gaming community.
L3ff3n’s next few years will be marred, I’m sure, by the failure of Nintendo to deliver on the promise of a game they never promised to deliver in the first place. That time will contain a thousand other disappointments besides: Starbucks beverages not quite as good as Starbucks beverages from days of yore, significant others whose facial features are slightly inferior to the facial features of a previous significant other, air conditioner settings in rooms that are a bit warmer or cooler than desirable (75 degrees here, 73 there, but never that optimum 74!). You, he, and I can all vent our rage at the universe for these failings, taking to the net to savage/denigrate/write off films, books, games, and people who savage/denigrate/write off things that shouldn’t be savaged/denigrated/written off (i.e., “blog post writing 101” or “the career of Armond White“).
Each moment of the here-and-now contains the possibility of future deliverance, relayed endlessly through a real-time promotion apparatus that has no truck with reality. Those deliverances that do somehow manifest themselves in the here-and-now, insofar as they are recognized at all, bring only disappointment. In sum: Nothing will be beautiful, a few things will be whatever, and everything else will kinda suck.