Checking in with the top Smashers
Deep within the core of Super Smash Bros fanbase exists some of the most devoted, hardcore fans in all of gaming. Sure, Smash caters to a wide audience--its a wacky game that brings out everyones inner Ninten-child. But pros and theorists of the devout competitive Smash community play the game at a whole other level. They take the inherent goofiness and chaos of the games simple formula and turn it into this.
The competitive Smash community is eager to see what Super Smash Bros. for 3DS--often shortened to Smash 4 online--has to offer them. Its still too early to set character tiers in stone, but what youre about to read is the current consensus among the people that measure frames and landing speed, and analyze every exploit available (if any). These folks already have some interesting opinions, so heres the early word on what the enthusiasts and the pros think about the games current state.
Its faster than Brawl, Smoother than Melee
More than a decade later, Melee still holds the title of most competitive Smash among the hardcore. When Brawl was first released, there were many expectations those same hardcore felt it didnt deliver on, but you cant argue that Brawl wasnt a clean game. In fact, Melee only holds competitive merit because its riddled with glitches and exploitable mechanics--mechanics Sakurai never intended to exist. Competitive gamers want something similar to Melees depth, but Nintendo deliberately replicating glitches didnt make sense. The developers needed to find a middle ground, and the competitive players seem to think thats finally happened.
According to the community, Smash 3DS is the love child of Brawl and Melee, combining the feel of the former with the speed of the latter. Some of the games mechanics have changed and enthusiasts argue the lack of combos and weird float physics will be a detriment. But most agree its too early to make a call on Smash 4s competitive future--especially with the Wii U version still not out. However, if you were wondering whether wave-dashing is possible in Smash 4: it isnt.
Characters rage with the player
Its bad to get hit in Smash Bros. Every punch, banana, or laser beam you take to the face increases your knock-back rating. Its a simple trade mechanic that nullifies the idea of health and gives every player a fair chance to make a wicked comeback no matter how hurt they are. In Smash 4, however, not only does damage increase your knock-back rating, but also slightly increases the amount of force you apply to others. Yes, added strength in the face of pain isnt just for characters like Lucario anymore.
A lot of competitive players alreadynotice a rage effect on every character. Every time their percentage goes up, they increase the knock-back effect of their character. The competitive scene is uncertain if this will impact the game in a huge way, but it provides room for error when taking too much long-ranged spam to the teeth.
North America leans towards Bowser, Zero Suit Samus, and Duck Hunt
Competitive metagame and tastes in strategy tend to differ from region to region, and it looks like thats the case for the early phases of Smash for 3DS. Thats usually a good sign. In fact, many see it as evidence that theres no definitively superior character at an immediate glance.
I first checked with some high-level North American Smash players on their early consensus. As far as characters, I think theres a few that seem really strong right now: Sheik, Bowser, Zero Suit Samus, and Duck Hunt Dog come to mind, says Team Curse Smasher Chillindude. Top-ranking Smash pro Mew2king concurs, stating, Bowser, ZSS [Zero Suit Samus], and Duck Hunt Dog seem to be the Top Tiers at the moment. But whats the feeling in other regions?
Japan values Sheik, Rosalina, and Yoshi
Shinonome Gaming, or SHI-Gaming for short, is a group of Japanese streamers and tournament organizers who have already started making a tier-list. Unlike the western experts, SHIs brackets places Sheik, Rosalina, and Yoshi on the top with perfect scores. Both Yoshi and Sheik are agreed to be powerful with Rosalina listed as has potential in the books of most NA pros.
Remember though, tier lists constantly evolve, changing months and even years after a game is released. While these characters are considered formidable right now, some unseen weaknesses could eventually be discovered and exploited by newer fighters.
Bowser dominates the arena
Bowser spent the last two Smash titles neglected by the most dedicated players, but the Koopa King gets a chance to redeem himself in Smash 4. Hes a strong pick at the moment due to his insane 2-hit damage combos and his ability to knock most characters outside the arena when their damage rises above 35%.
Heavy characters have almost always been at a disadvantage in previous Smash games, so this is good news for the games balance. Perhaps the difference for eSports viability simply comes down to speed. Though hes still a hulking beast, Bowser is hardly as slow as in previous iterations of Smash Bros.
Duck Hunt Dog can poke for days
While its definitely still too early for any comprehensive tier-lists, Duck Hunt Dog is widely accepted as an early powerful pick among pros and the community. His long-ranged poke and zone control makes him one of the best camp-style characters, who can spam pokes and cause fighter fatigue for their opposition.
Still, the infamously annoying canine isnt without his shortcomings. His style of play requires that you stay at max distance. That doesnt mean smashing someone with a duck wont hurt, but Duck Hunts better off shooting from range, just as players do in the light gun games that inspired his character.
Yoshi returns to the top
SHI-Gaming lists Yoshi as one of three top-tier characters in the game, and their reasoning seems sound. In Smash for 3DS, Yoshi acquires a few new combos and can now spike enemies away with little effort. Of course, his newfound popularity could also be due to a few of the potentially game-breaking glitches that have been discovered.
D1, a popular Smash shoutcaster, confirms the super jump glitch that sends Yoshi sky high. These bugs are almost good enough to propel the dinosaur straight into the God-tier, and thats not good. However, you never know when a patch or bug fix will go live and excise those from the game, or if theyll even appear in the Wii U version at all.
Little Mac is not for the greedy
Little Mac is an incredibly strong ground fighter. Japan lists the classic boxer as a viable niche pick in the right hands, but you really need to have a good understanding of Smash to avoid getting greedy with kills and stick to territory control.
Other regions put him lower on the tier lists for his lack of versatility--Macs best with both feet on the ground--but most players acknowledge his one-Hit KO as a move that can completely turn a fight around.
Sheik is better off on her own
Based on whats been discovered thus far, Sheik is awesome . Despite some players missing their conjoined status, Zelda and Sheiks separation seems to have paid off for one party at least.
Director Masahiro Sakurai stated that the hardware limitations of the 3DS are behind the severing of the long-time tandem of Zelda and Sheik. The result leaves poor Zelda in the dust while her alter-ego shall go down as one of Smash 4s top-tier characters. The speed and zone control Sheik brings to the table as a stand-alone character is amazing; the mystical ninja can get you off the stage and crush your dreams in an air battle relatively quickly.
Greninja is top-tier
According to Zero, the winner of the E3 2014 Smash invitational, Greninja has no clear-cut weakness since he has strong combos, good edge guarding, and decent poke. And anyone thats fought him online knows his aerial down attack should not be taken lightly. Those factors make him a rising star among the newcomers.
Zero's expert analysis on most of the characters in Smash 3DS is worth checking out if youre planning to attend any Smash tourneys in the near future. You can see many of the observations right here.
Smash 3DS signals the end of Super Smash Fox: Meta Knight
Melee is infamous for how outmatched most characters are against an experienced Fox McCloud fighter. Meanwhile, Meta Knight ruled the roost among Brawls elite players. It would seem that both characters imbalances have finally been taken into account for Smash 3DS/Wii U.
According to SHI-gaming and other Smash theorists, Fox has dropped several tiers in Smash 4. The same can be said for Meta Knight, with both depowered to some degree. Typically, when Fox drops a few tiers, his buddy Falco carries the torch at tourneys, but not so this time. In Smash for 3DSs current state, Falco is getting a lot of negative heat--but again, its too early to make a definitive call.
All-in-all, tier lists are less relevant this time around
SHI-Gaming says there arent any S-tier (aka insanely overpowered) characters included in their current tier lists for 3DS. At the moment, no character in Smash 4 is in a class above the rest. Take this with a grain of salt, but some recall that Meta Knight was already seen as overpowered during Brawls beta phases. Its a good sign when the tier list can get by without concrete mention of a particularly powerful character.
SHI-Gaming mentions that the game's tiers are quite close this time around. Seemingly any character from the A to C tiers could potentially take the winning spot in a tournament. I await the day I can say 90% of the roster is viable in tournament play, but lets wait and see if that actually happens this time around.
The maps arent competitive
Dont hold your breath on seeing a lot of stage variety at any upcoming tournaments. As far as stages go, most of them are not at all viable for tournament play unfortunately. Well have to stick to Battlefield and Final Destination for the most part, Chillindude told me.
Most levels with random, terrain-based obstacles pose a threat to the competitive merit of any eSports game, and thats true once more on 3DS. Smash is a fun party game that comes to life because of its sheer unpredictability, and that includes any sort of aggressive Arwing thats out to blast you from the other side of the screen. Chillindudes response is no surprise, given his competitive background. The rest of us can enjoy the occasional free kill via ground spike while the pros can stick to the many variations on Final Destination.
Smash Bros. Wii U: The same fundamentals, but with a controller
Fundamentally, [Smash 4 Wii U] is supposed to be the same game as the 3DS version, so Im not sure how much will change at that point, says Chillindude. Being able to use the GameCube controller will be a huge control difference of course, but Im not sure how much it'll affect the metagame.
Most of the competitive scene mentions the Wii Us overall fundamentals will be similar to that of the 3DS. That means most of what people are feeling now should stay the same once the future edition is released. And expect it to become the dominant version in the pro scene. Nintendos flagship console will get more love solely for the ability to play Smash with a GameCube controller--which for some is the only way to play the game.
Enjoy Smash the way you want to
There you have it, folks! Pro opinions on Smash Bros. for 3DS. The game is still young, and theres no way to accurately measure where 40 characters stand in the tier-lists. What the pros say is merely what they see as good from their many hours of experience. For the rest of us, we shall enjoy playing every character and bashing our friends faces in with hammers. Perhaps you can use this data on top-tier characters to play try-hard with your friends... but remember, its never too late to consider the competitive scene.
And if you're looking for more, check out Super Smash Bros. Wii U and 3DS roster and 12 amazing things Super Smash Bros. will teach you about Nintendo.