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Roager avatar 3:18 PM on 11.26.2010  (server time)
Fighters: Philosophy, Design, Execution, Community. Also, Smash Bros. (Part1)

So, a little over a week ago, I posted this, more or less on a whim. I felt like blogging something, Street Fighter and Smash Bros came to mind, and then as I wrote it, I realized the damn thing was too long, and I'd not yet touched on two of the four things I wanted to. So, instead of dropping it, I chose to make it even LONGER, but release it episodically (see what I did thar?) and devote one post to each of the four. But instead of actually talking about one of them, I just said “LOOK I'M DOING SOMETHING” and people went “yay.”

Then I started writing this son hof a beetch (Bison?) and ran into some troubles. Between Thanksgiving madness, losing my work, rewriting it, and realizing I actually still had it all along, and other non-writing-related mishaps, I'm late on my self-imposed one-week deadline. I apologize to myself, and to you.

So here I am, in the first real post, and dammit if it isn't harder than I thought it'd be. Not only because of life, but because suddenly I realized that I know more about Smash than I do about Street Fighter. That's unfortunate. So I had to do a little looking. (WIKIPEDIA HO!)

We'll need some history. For perspective. Capcom released Street Fighter in 1987 to arcades, in which the player, as Ryu (or the functionally identical Ken, on the 2p side) fights up the ranks of the tournament, ending in a match against Sagat. Don't ask him about it. His scar still burns occasionally.

Like Harry Potter's spider sense.

Anyhow, the main draw for a lot of people was the two-player ryu-vs-ken fight. Street Fighter 2 was redesigned to focus more on the multiplayer aspect, offering multiple playable characters, each unique in moveset and control.

From then on, it was all about making that competitive fight better. Making sure no character was unbeatable, making sure no tactic was unbeatable. While each new Street Fighter sub-series throws in new game mechanics, each revision/update/semi-sequel/whatever you wanna call it puts balance and competitive value at top priority. In theory, anyway. There have been some missteps, but the point stands.

Super Smash... well, it was kind of an accident.

"We don't make mistakes here, we just have happy little accidents."

See, basically, Nintendo wanted to put something out there to fill space. So, this guy, Masahiro Sakurai, around 1998 or so, decided he wanted to make a 4-player fighting game, but realized he needed something unique. So he built himself a prototype and presented it to Nintendo, who put a small budget towards this little dick-around multiplayer fighting game in which Nintendo's flagship characters beat the hell out of each other. It was never meant to be anything more than that. It was never even meant for a stateside release.

But then people liked it. A lot. So they realized “OH HEY we actually got something here” and brought it to us dumb westerners, marketed with the one thing we love most: Violence.

Because it's a game with competitive value that doesn't totally suck, we looked into what we could do. And that led to the discovery of Z-cancel combos, the OP nature of “spikes” (think volleyball if you're unfamiliar), and how important items were to the game, since they could easily sway the entire tide of the fight.

Smash Bros has always held one thing above all else: fun. The kind of fun you experience when you can just let loose and have a ball. And when that's the attitude from the devs, it makes sense that it would pervade the minds of the consumers, and color how we see the game. I think this is the biggest reason so many people see the game as a more casual game. That's what it was designed to be.

I think it's really disappointing that so many people write off the game so quickly thanks to the marketing. Because the reality is that even without trying to build a rival to Street Fighter, Sakurai started a series that survives as the premier alternative to traditional fighting games. And damn, does it do a good job of it.

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