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Nintendo finally does right by hardcore fighting fans with Smash Bros.

It's a good day to be a Smash Bros. fan--and an even better one if you love watching high-level Smash Bros. play. Today's Nintendo Direct revolved entirely around Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS--the latter coming in Summer 2014, the former in Winter 2014. And while the Internet and GamesRadar offices are abuzz with talk of new modes and character reveals, I'm actually most intrigued by the announcement of the online functionality and balance changes that minimize randomness. In particular, the new "For Glory" mode of online play sends a message to Smash Bros. players: we want to foster and cater to skilled players just as much as casual fans.

If you missed the Nintendo Direct and/or became too overcome by glee to take in new information, here's a quick refresher. Both versions of the new Smash Bros. have online functionality, divided into two modes of play: For Fun, and For Glory. For Fun is the classic Smash Bros. free-for-all, with all items enabled and randomized stages--except Final Destination. Such an iconic stage is only available online in the For Glory mode of play, which is essentially the Smash Bros. version of Ranked matches.

For Glory takes everything you know about expert-level Smash Bros. and condenses it into a single online environment. Matches can be one-on-one duels, there are no items turned on, and Final Destination is the only battlefield available. Since Smash Bros. Melee, Final Destination has been the de facto stage for proving one's skill. The flat, predictable nature of the stage lets you focus purely on the fight at hand, without shifting platforms or ridiculous items getting in the way. In an ingenious move, Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS will include a Final Destination version of almost all the stages, so expert players won't have to stare at the same in-space theme for hours on end.

While there don't seem to be any plans for a formal ranked ladder (the confusing reverse leaderboard that is Global Smash Power notwithstanding), the new Smash Bros. will include matchmaking so that newcomers won't be pitted against the best players. That's invaluable for the growth of an online community, because the best players can only get better if they're constantly playing against competitors of their own caliber. And unlike the For Fun mode, which only records your total wins, For Glory keeps track of your win-loss ratio. A dedicated fighting game player wouldn't have it any other way.

On top of the normalized settings of For Glory, game director Masahiro Sakurai emphasized that there will be repercussions for anyone who detracts from the online experience--as with any self-respecting fighting game. If you are constantly rage-quitting matches, griefing players by only attacking them, purposely killing yourself, or out-and-out cheating, you will get banned. Sakurai implied that the duration of your ban will increase with repeat offenses. Recent fighters like Killer Instinct have implemented similar punishments to great effect, so this is a welcome modern addition to the bare-bones, unregulated online play seen in Brawl.

Combined, these changes should do wonders to improve Nintendo's image, proving that it's not a company that's miles behind the curve in regards to the online gaming space. Sakurai also made a point about calling out the 60FPS frame rate for both the 3DS and Wii U versions, which sounds like a statement aimed directly at appeasing professional-level players. The average gamer appreciates the smoothness of 60FPS, but probably can't tell the difference in frames during a match. But since pro players need to know how every frame of their attack animations function, they'll definitely appreciate the high frame rate.

And changes aimed at improving high-level Smash Bros. play aren't just limited to new online modes or technical improvements. Remember tripping, the totally random Smash Bros. Brawl mechanic that everyone hated? Randomness in fighting games is awful: the person on the receiving end feels like they got screwed over by an unpredictable force, and their opponent feels like they only won by chance. Tripping is gone in the new Smash Bros., but Nintendo has gone as far as to rebalance the variable aspects out of existing characters. Olimar's Pikmin now pop up in a reliable order, and King Dedede's projectiles only come in one variety.

In addition, players won't have to worry about switching everything up while playing as or against Samus, Zelda and Charizard, now that their alternate forms have been turned into standalone fighters. All these changes go a long way towards making the fights feel more consistent, and emphasize player skill over dumb luck. (I wouldn't be surprised if Peach's turnips also get standardized in the same manner.)

So what does all this really mean? Nintendo has finally come to appreciate its most dedicated fans. This is the same company that wanted to shut down the Smash Bros. Melee tournament at EVO, the nation's biggest annual fighting game tourney, in 2013--which went on to break livestream records. Instead of making online matchmaking an afterthought, the newest Smash Bros. has given pro-level players their own mode to enjoy, all without detracting any fun from the casual fan.

If I have one concern, it's the discrepancy between the 3DS and Wii U release dates. Information is invaluable in a fighting game, because knowledge is power. If you know a match-up by heart, understanding everything that you and your opponent are capable of, you're going to have a huge advantage. It's almost forcing serious Smash Bros. players to pick up the 3DS version and train up, lest they know far less about the game's systems on the Wii U version's launch day.

But on the whole, Nintendo has done everything in its power to make high-level Smash play the best it can be. After the slapdash implementation of online play in Smash Bros. Brawl, I had my doubts--but after today's news, Nintendo has asserted that they have the interest of the players, be they rookies or professionals, at heart. For people who like to play--or watch--Smash Bros. in its purest, most skill-intensive form, this is an exciting time.

Oh, and the fact that Nintendo credits Mega Man's uppercut move to Marvel vs. Capcom is incredible. It just had to be said.

62 comments

  • bbreakervideo - April 11, 2014 10:50 p.m.

    Opps sorry bout the double posts, thought the link didn't work, damn Facebook Plug In froze, sorry didn't meant to double up on the same thing. It said it didn't post, but nows theres 3...
  • bbreakervideo - April 11, 2014 10:35 p.m.

    So people are mad about this i take it? Seems alot of the Smash fan base don't consider the 'For Glory' Mode the real game, this petition says it all..... Why are Nintendo fans always arguing? I get its not considered the real deal to play without items, but even if they don't, its no reason to remove 1 tiny mode... https://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/nintendo-nintendo-of-japan-remove-competitive-for-glory-mode-from-smash-bros-for-wii-u-and-3ds
  • bbreakervideo - April 10, 2014 8:04 p.m.

    Its strange that fans don't get Along, Theres even a petition for the Removal of 'For Glory' Competitive mode. https://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/nintendo-nintendo-of-japan-remove-competitive-for-glory-mode-from-smash-bros-for-wii-u-and-3ds I thought it would make people happy, but now people are more divided then they were before.
  • Vonter - April 11, 2014 4:38 p.m.

    People seem to care too much about what strangers think about the things they like. "OMG someone doesn't like Titanfall/TLoU/DonkeyKong, that is very mean, or the guy is a grump or an idiot." It's just one of the inconveniences of the internet, since as more things are put into discussion also petty things are constantly been argue about.
  • bbreakervideo - April 10, 2014 7:58 p.m.

    Its sad that fans are always arguing. I see some fans are angry at the change, Theres even a petition for its removal : https://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/nintendo-nintendo-of-japan-remove-competitive-for-glory-mode-from-smash-bros-for-wii-u-and-3ds
  • Swedish_Chef - April 9, 2014 8:42 a.m.

    No one's said it yet? Huh guess it's up to me then. *ahem* NO ITEMS, FOX ONLY, FINAL DESTINATION.
  • marionator - April 9, 2014 6 a.m.

    Being part of the competitive Smash Bros community, it's hard to say if this really is catering to the more competitive players. The final destination only Glory mode has the no platform problem, but there is another issue. Now all stages can have an uncontrollable element, because there is an option for just using Final Destination. There will be less stages that aren't based around stage hazards. The amount of stages usable for competitive Smash players might essentially shrink to different Final Destinations and a Battlefield for offline. Stages with hazards are a lot of fun, but there has always been a balance between hazard stages and hazard-less stages. Nintendo might have missed the point in this issue. Their "concern' for the competitive players seems like they are just pandering the the competitive Smash stereotype, which isn't true. Most competitive Smash players love Melee and SSB64 because they can be played both ways, competitively or casually, we support the balance of those two. Competitive Smashers play both ways, and these changes might ostracize us from other people who love Smash, but play casually. By catering to the competitive players in earnest, the game would be more balanced but still be fun for everyone, like Project M. That game is the most balanced iteration of Smash, there are hazard and hazard-less stages, many fun characters, many fun items and modes, and it can be played competitively or casually.
  • Arobadope - April 9, 2014 7:15 a.m.

    Competitive Smash scene in a nutshell: Complain and complain and complain (including death threats to Sakurai) to get what they want, finally get what they want....complain and complain and complain that it's now removing the fun from the game. And gamers say they know what they want lolololololol
  • marionator - April 9, 2014 7:36 a.m.

    That's just not true, we're a lot of nice people who just like to play Smash.
  • Foodperson - April 9, 2014 3:44 p.m.

    They never do. They're just gonna hack the WiiU and this game as well in order to get what they want.
  • SacredMedal - April 18, 2014 9:30 a.m.

    That's all competitive scenes in a nutshell, bro.
  • Arobadope - April 9, 2014 7:15 a.m.

    Also, lol at actually citing Project M
  • marionator - April 9, 2014 7:36 a.m.

    What's wrong with PM?
  • Jackonomics2.0 - April 9, 2014 2:37 p.m.

    You do realize your complaining when Project M is exactly the same except you turned every stage into a Battlefield clone instead of final destination.
  • marionator - April 9, 2014 2:48 p.m.

    They altered the physics engine so it plays more like Melee, with wavedashing and whatnot. Also characters were balanced. They put a lot of work into that mod actually.
  • Vonter - April 9, 2014 9:58 a.m.

    You can still set your rules with your friends, if you're a competitive player, you should have no problem setting your friends to practice on your own terms. Especially since this promises to be the first time the series will (hopefully) have decent online play.
  • universaltofu - April 9, 2014 12:34 a.m.

    I just got home and watched the direct. I disagree 100% that this is a sign of them doing right by anybody. It's Sakurai being a petty trolling jerk. 'For Fun', because there is no way to have any fun other than his way, and his accommodations otherwise were so cynically backhanded he may as well have made it Fox only while he was at it. The 3ds is killing it though with the earlier release date AND cool new mode. Wii U gets what, more music to choose from, whoopee. The custom movesets seemed most interesting for messing around with.
  • marionator - April 9, 2014 6:01 a.m.

    Ya, he was essentially teasing the Competitive Smash stereotype.
  • GOD - April 8, 2014 11:10 p.m.

    There are two kind of big or maybe just interesting problems with the For Glory mode. One huge part of Smash in the competitive scene is your edge game, and although it's technically "only" Final Destination, there's actually more that one map, and they ARE different. They're all flat empty stages, but the edges are different. The original FD has a edges that jut out, but you can end up going beneath the stage. The Mega Man stage version on the other hand, has solid vertical walls beneath the edges, which may seem like it doesn't matter but this actually can save people from accidentally moving too far forward on a recovery and ending up under the stage before jumping up to finish their recovery, leading to death. There also characters like Link who can use their chain grabs as a means to grab the side of the stage and pull themselves up to recover. My other point, is that although FD is the essential poster child for competitive Smash stages, there's a reason it's not the only one, and that's because its lack of platforms heavily favors certain characters (Marth for example, Little Mac will probably benefit greatly as well). The lack of any stages with platforms in the For Glory mode will actually probably piss off a pretty large part of the competitive Smash community.
  • GOD - April 8, 2014 11:12 p.m.

    Where's my edit button GR? It's somehow always a million times easier to proofread and find mistakes after I hit "Post." :/

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