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Third Impressions: Lots of Lists

Some are still unconvinced. For whatever reason, when they look at Brawl they can't help but count up all the things that have been removed to support the argument that Brawl is less deep or even dumbed down than its predecessor. As game designers, or people who think like designers, we know that it is not the number of features or options that can change a game significantly, but what function these features have in shaping how the game is played.


A friend of mine submitted a list of commonly viewed elements that have supposedly been removed for the worse in Brawl. I would like to take this time to clarify how these options functioned in Melee, perhaps why they were removed from Brawl, and what Brawl has instead. That's right, I'm making a list too.


No L-Canceling

  • As I have said before, in Brawl air A attacks have the "l-cancel" built right into the moves. Not only is this better for online play, but for casuals and pros alike. The game inputs are less manic now, which reduces the stress of high speed play. If you're upset that you don't have to hit a button to achieve such levels of play, then I suggest letting this one go. If you wanted online play, then this is the first thing that had to get the boot. In the end, the game still plays like we can L-cancel, so what is there to complain about?
No Wavedashing
  • There is wave dashing in Brawl, or maybe it's more aptly described as wave sliding. It works the same way too: simply air dodge diagonally into the ground and you'll slide a little. Of course, this isn't what most would consider a wavedash. So in effect, the ability to scoot around a playing field in short bursts while facing the same direction is apparently gone. But this is a good thing. Not only did wave dashing look unnatural, but it significantly increased the level of non commitment between players. At any moment when walking or dashing, the play could quickly slide back and away from their opponent. This often ended up dragging matches out as both players are tried to get close but not too close. Wave sliding had other uses as well. Falco worked wonders with it, his dash, and down air.
  • This is not to mention that wave dashing also increased the speed of moving onto and off of platforms. But once again, this unnatural movement and characters speed stretched the game in strange directions. Have you ever seen a Gannondorf perfectly wave dash on and off of the platforms on Yoshi's Story. It is so fast, it's silly. Brawl has plenty of new defensive and offensive options that help with speed and spacing that don't compromise the visual form of the game. If you're looking for the function of wave dashing, then keep reading.
No Crouch Cancel
  • Not only do I generally dislike cancels in game design (especially fighters), I really dislike crouch canceling. Because of this extremely easy to execute counter, many moves at many percentages when successfully landed can put the attacker at high levels of risk. Peach, Samus, and Marth could do very effective counters just by holding down and then smashing. I've even crouch-canceled-countered a few good hits as Kirby when at 130%. That's not right. If anyone is upset about losing this, then they need to wake up and smell the function (sorry guys, had to say it). By taking out crouch canceling, we now have access to more moves at more percentages than in Melee. And if you're the kind of player that is still upset that the L-canceling is automatic and thus "dumbing down" the game, consider this: crouch canceling and down smashing was one of the easiest and most effective counters in Melee. Many jokes were made about it in fact. Just hold down and repeatedly hit the c-stick down for the win.
No Light Shielding
  • I, KrazyKirbyKid, am the biggest proponent for light shielding in Melee. After all, I invented the Marth trick and several other advanced techniques involving light shields. However, light shielding wasn't balanced correctly in Melee. The drawback for having a bigger shield was supposed to be a more brittle shield. Using a light shield should result in a greater opportunity for the opponent to break your shield. However, light shields weren't very weak compared to the heavy shields. What this does functionally is it gives the player more shield for free. If you're feet or head are poking out of your shield, just light shield and everything will work out. Sure, you'll slide around a little more, and you won't be able to shield grab, but who needs those things when you can jump out of shield and wave slide, jump and attack, or do a side dodge. The new shields in Brawl not only fade much more quickly, but they make poking feet and heads more viable because these areas can't be covered up so easily. Brawl has more defensive options that Melee, so a less effective shield is a good thing to prevent an overly defensive turtling game.
No Dash Dancing
  • Dash dancing is just like wave sliding: rapid repeated inputs for spacing that add to the non commitment style of play that ultimately drags out matches and stretches the games ability. In Brawl we still have up smash out of dash, pivot grabs, and pivot smashes. If you're the kind of player who wants to quickly stay just out of range of your opponent, then use the new features Brawl has. And if you missed dance dancing that much, you can still do little ones in place. Go ahead, increase the chances of tripping.
No Directional Air Dodging
  • Air dodging as been significantly altered. You can do it multiple times, there's no lag for landing on the ground, and it goes with the player's momentum. Because of the former two attributes the last one had to follow. Not only is it better for online play because the computer can track the players position using havok and physics calculations, but it also allows the non air-dodging players to counter this new and highly versatile approach. If you could dodge in any direction in addition to having no lag when landing, then the player would have too many ways to trick up their approach making this move highly unbalanced. Now, even when you airdodge, everyone knows where you're going to be/land because you're still affected by the same gravity that you were subject to before. It's new. It's genius. And it's balanced. No complaining.
No Ledge Games
  • This one is the most rash. I believe this statement was created in response to how most characters will "zip" or "snap" to the ledge making the end of their recovery extremely safe. Well, all characters don't zip to the edge. Kirby and Dedede are just two examples of characters that don't zip to the edge coming up with their recovery moves. Though most characters do have this zip ability, it is more complex than that. The characters that can zip only do so when facing the edge and moving towards it. This means if they're recovering while moving away from the ledge (as in from underneath the stage), or trying to take advantage of how characters can now grab the edge while falling backwards, you can hit them away or spike them like we always have. What this new zip has prevented is characters dominating the ledge because they've found one attack that wins in the majority of situations while never leaving the ledge. I'm looking at your Marth, Peach, Falco, and Fox. I'm not sure where the complains are coming from on this one anyway. Fox, Falco, Mario, Peach, and other characters had magical zips when sweet spotting in Melee. We dealt with it then and moved on. If you're upset that because most characters can do it instead of the few, the overpowered, the high tiers, then get over it.
  • Furthermore, you can still grab the ledge and hold on to it to make the opponent fall to their doom when recovering. Also, you can roll up from the ledge preventing the opponent from grabbing it if you're good enough. It just take more skill this time. Isn't that what everyone wanted, more skillful tactics? Many of the options from Melee are still in Brawl. The only difference is, one tactic doesn't rule all forcing players to be aware of more things and mix it up. Additionally, the game has been out a week. Chill and and give it some time.
Freedom to Tether Walls
  • This freedom from Melee was too good especially for Samus. She could bomb jump to recover, up B with high priority and a sweet spot, walk kick for invincibility and height, and to top it top it all off, she could tether the walls for even more versatility. Playing against Huggs was a nightmare. I locked out option after option trying to knock that guy out, and when I did out play him, Kirby's attacks were so weak, I would have to do it all over again many times. In other words, this freedom was an unbalanced special ability that only 3 characters had in Melee. Now, in Brawl, tether recovering characters are in a class of their own. To help balance this recovery method, they auto aim for the ledge. If there's someone there, they fall. If not, they can latch on the the ledge from amazing distances away. Taking out the freedom to tether any wall anywhere balances the game.

As I have mentioned several times, Brawl is built for balance. Perhaps the people who are most upset about Brawl at this point played a little to many high tier characters for a bit too long. Fox. Shiek. Marth. Falco. Peach. Captain Falcon. High tier lists like that is one list I can live without. 


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Reader Comments (2)

Hello, KirbyKid! I'm a fairly new reader, but I thoroughly enjoy your blog. I have been an avid gamer from a very early age, and the transition from passive player to critical analyzer seems natural to me. I hope to one day enter the video game industry myself, hopefully as a game designer or producer, and your blog offers some great insight into game design and balance. Now, on to the topic at hand!

I, like yourself, cannot understand why people consider Melee the superior installment in the Smash franchise. Having played Melee extensively (not at a competitive level, but thoroughly nonetheless), it is painfully obvious that Brawl is better in... basically, every regard. L-Canceling, Wave Dashing, and all those other techniques don't seem like intentional aspects of gameplay, but rather circumvention of the game's mechanics. The fact that they no longer exist in Brawl is no cause for disappointment.

Brawl is more friendly towards casual players, but I fail to see how strategy or depth has been sacrificed in the process. There are thirty-five completely unique characters, a multitude of stages, and the same Smash gameplay as always, albeit more balanced and less reliant on frantic button mashing. The changes made in Brawl have made the overall experience much more enjoyable.

I am curious as to your opinion regarding the future metagame. Will competitive Brawl see the dominance of fast, "guerilla" characters, as in Melee? Or will the modifications and additions made to the other character "classes" ensure that player skill will be the sole determining factor in victory? Is it even possible to create such a situation while providing different styles of play? I am very eager for your input.

I look foward to your response, and I eagerly await your next blog post. Critical-game on!

March 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKyle

Yo Kyle:

Thanks for the comment...

Now about that future metagame:

Toning down the tiers and buffing the losers was a great start to making all the character viable. Speed will always be good, but Sakurai and team have found some clever ways to not make it so dominant.

Take the new C.Falcon. Sure he's still fast and therefore very aggressive, however, because his air approach is mainly limited to the neutral air, up air, and back air to maintain speed, his approach options are limited. The knee and down air are harder to hit, and from a short hop, can have a lot of lag on the end. Because you can't waveslide around, there's a sweet spot to using the speedy jumps now accurately.

Because the general speed of the game has been unified among the characters, perfect shielding is a highly versatile counter, and everyone has an air dodge, things should be much better this time around.

It has also been about player skill. Even when playing low tiers against high tiers. It's just that the high tiers have many more, sometimes absolute advantages. But there's more skill to fighting than just crunching the numbers.

The more unique the characters are, the harder it is to balance the game. But as long as the characters stick to the rules, things should be ok.
Some jokers seem to already be breaking the rules. Game and Watch and Snake. Watch out for these guys. I'm not too worried now because it took me 4-6 months to figure out that Mario Strikers Charged for the Wii was actually balanced.

Oh and L canceling and wave dashing were simply the use of the game's mechanics. It was unfortunate that they also allowed many characters to circumvent the structure and balance as well.

March 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKirbyKid

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