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 (opens in new tab).
The competitive Smash community is eager to see what Super Smash Bros. for 3DS (opens in new tab)--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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab). 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.