Posted by: darthmeanie | November 9, 2011

Who Didn’t See This Review Coming – Miki Sayaka

Hey Kibble! You know, you and I have never really had any sort of communication before. You left just a day after I joined in MYM5 if I recall, so I never got to know you personally. A lot of people talked for a long time about your inevitable return, but I didn’t pay it all too much heed; after all, two years was a long time, you’d probably long forget this little community, and even if you did come back, you wouldn’t be a big-shot big-name big-wig like you used to be. I of course also left early in MYMX, so I never read any of your other returning movesets before this one. So this is really my first time really getting to experience one of your movesets. And I couldn’t be more excited about the character choice.

There's No Way I'd Regret This

I’m not going to mince words with you; this set blew me away. I’d considered all five of the main characters of Madoka for movesets, and had written out plans for Mami and Homura (and now it appears that all of them are getting made without me -_-), but I had never come up with good ideas for how to approach Sayaka. First of all, I’d already made a (poorly received) moveset based around littering the stage with a bunch of swords with Archer in MYM8, and second that characterization would be so difficult to properly get right with her. Her emotional fragility and fall into despair would leave so many potential pitfalls that would turn the moveset into a farce. Your approach however was thoughtful, creative, and downright insidious…

I’ll start with presentation then, because it’s especially important in a set like this. While I’m quite familiar with the series, you never had me fooled, but I was still able to appreciate the calculated tone that you had when you introduced the character; the airy writing style that introduced her as a character before as a fighter, that set up for the fall into eventual despair. There’s excellent use of BBCode here, with muted colors and an easy to read font. The use of her soul gem as bookends for the headers is a nice touch, especially when you factor in how you used it in the end… a very nice, subtle touch. Introducing the two mechanics bit by bit was not only effective at introducing her concepts slowly, but it perfectly represented her evolution over the course of the series. There was a smile on my face when I read the barely contained glee you had in describing her Berserker mode. And it’s fitting in more than just one way; this moveset is an exercise in restraint: both in playsytle and presentation. Sayaka must avoid going all out and losing herself in the process, while you carefully check your hand to avoid revealing too much before the very end. In a way, your narration reminds me of Kyubey himself. As far as the characterization goes, it’s spot-on. Those carefully chosen quotes are perfect at humanizing those mechanics (although where is an opening quote, how she won’t regret this, how dreams and miracles do exist?) and you smartly avoid bringing the nastiness of Octavia into this moveset; she just simply ceases to exist. Perhaps this is set in the timeline after Madoka made her final wish?

As far as the playstyle itself goes, alone it’s very interesting. I was very wary at first of the choice of making her berserk triggered by her own success in a fight; the lack of a clear activation trigger is something I generally try to avoid, and I thought it might be better if a near death attack triggered it. Looking at the playstyle as a whole though, you made it so that she has to actively avoid throwing too many attacks down at once and not go all out, or else she’ll exhaust her magic. I think that that’s actually brilliant, though I do think it could be refined a little bit more. THe use fo the swords to add on to extra attacks I’m a little on the fence with, in part because there’s no real reason for her to not be able to use her attacks with both swords without summoning one separately, and unlike Mami’s rifles, they’re not one-shot devices. Moves like the jab also work contrary to the stated intention of her spreading swords all over the place by giving her a reason to sort of do some close-range camping, which doesn’t seem to fit very well into anything else in the set at all. You’re also unclear as to whether she can throw swords like weapons; I presume she can, since she does it at least once in the anime and giving her opponent access to projectiles while depriving herself of them seems like a pretty significant nerf. Although in your playstyle section I think you underestimated her ability to get in on campers; she has several moves that allow her to recklessly rush forward towards the opponent, another nice piece of characterization within individual moves. Her close ranged moves all have the feeling of well thought-out, weighed construction, although combo focused characters usually have it a bit easier here. They’re all very simple moves though; Sayaka feels like she could easily step aside Marth and Ike and even be confused with a Fire Emblem character with her counter-esque Down Special. Speaking of which, does she take damage when she braces an attack like that? I’m never a fan of mirrored aerials though, even if it’s got a reason to exist in this set. I think that Sayaka is also the kind of person to always be rushing in, not back (but then again most movesets in Brawl approach facing backwards anyways).

When it all fits together, I do think she’s generally overpowered. She has free access to healing, some really strong combo tools, and berserk mode, which is not only extremely strong, but extremely hard to kick her out of. If say, she takes 50% damage while in Berserk mode she’ll still last for thirty seconds total before collapsing. With her already above average weight, a smart Sayaka player can potentially force the opponent to effectively KO her twice. On the other hand, I also worry that Berserk mode is way too vulnerable to planking; I wouldn’t want to give her some silly specialized edgeguard counter move to completely shut down enemy attempts to avoid her, but this isn’t a traditional fighter, and runaway is the predominant strategy in higher-level play, no matter how stupid that is. Maybe if she had an aerial that let her knock opponents below her up into the air before they could try to stall again, or something of that nature that would let her have a response to that kind of strategy, but not easily break it.

As a balance concern, I’d like to see two changes considered; making Berserk a little less strong, either by making it shorter or give her less of a ridiculous boost to everything, and make her Down Special use up some of her soul gem’s magic. As it is, the moveset sort of implies that she can just keep regenerating, never run out of magic, and never go berserk, when we both know that that’s not the case at all. Making it drain her soul gem should make it clearer that it’s not going to last forever. The last thing I’d like to mention is something you have to consider as part of your interpretation of the character. I don’t think that having her regenerate should take her further from Berserk. It fits into the very classical light / side dark side dichotomy that we usually have set up, but that doesn’t apply for this universe. It should at best just make her only less likely Berserk as far as her damage has gone down, and maybe not even affect it at all. But this is in the end a question of how you see this moveset as a representation of Sayaka. Is this the Sayaka that could have been? Can you play as a Sayaka who regulated herself and avoided making the mistakes that led to her demise? Or is Sayaka a lost cause who will never find salvation no matter what universe she’s in? Can she avoid falling into despair, or is she ultimately doomed to fall into darkness no matter how hard she fights? Personally, I subscribe to the latter, as Gen Urobochi said, she wouldn’t have a happy ending no matter what timeline she was in. But I won’t deny you the opportunity to choose the former.

And the fact that I was able to delve this deeply into a character’s personality and emotions and history purely out of the mechanics you made should be testimony enough of how good this moveset is. I’m gonna say, it, I’m gonna say it, my favorite of the contest yet. This right here is a contender.

A Sayakacopter is Fine Too



  1. And in other Madoka related news, THREE MOVIES WERE ANNOUNCED A COUPLE DAYS AGO

  2. “Who didn’t see this review coming?” Well, me, for one, but I’m glad to have it! 😀

    So, yes, firstly and foremost, thanks for the review. I was wondering what sort of reception I’d get from you on this moveset, considering you’re one of the few MYMers who’s a Madoka fan. I’m very glad to hear you liked it. I’ll address a few things now:

    1) The presentation, of course, was largely for those who wouldn’t expect the end coming, but it seems that even suspecting the end from the beginning as you did, it did its job. I tried to give several hints throughout the moveset that there would be something coming, and the introduction, as you noted, was meant to portray her as a girl before a fighter, something I felt was essential for an emotion-driven character.

    I really wish I had included another quote at the beginning, but honestly, the others came so quickly to mind that I just gave up on that one when I couldn’t decide /remember the wording she used. You got me there. I considered including Octavia for about half a second at one point, but ultimately decided not to for two reasons: 1) I wanted to minimize spoilers, and 2) I felt that the Soul Gem’s exhaustion point was the proper point for the player to lose control. If I were to have included Octavia at all, I would have only felt right about it if the player were somehow forced to feel the same deep, dark despair that caused her to exist. As was, it would have likely been a more empowering switch than anything, and that would have ruined all the player’s frustration at depleting the Soul Gem.

    Your concern about the two-sworded moves is certainly valid. Few are moves that she’d truly need a second for. This was really my first exercise in these type of move interactions, so I tried to be extensive with them; perhaps I went a tad too far in some places, or not far enough with the complexity of two-sworded attacks.

    I intended to make her weak to campers, and also stated in the playstyle, largely due to her fight with Elsa Maria, the witch who finally makes her snap. Elsa Maria strikes me as very campy, and while I did see it in the moveset as it fell together, I myself probably don’t believe she’s as weak against them as I sounded like in the playstyle section.

    I can see what you mean about the overpowered-ness, particularly of berserk mode. I considered actually magnifying the damage done to her Soul Gem, and having none be dealt to her damage percentage, but ultimately opted for what you see. As it stands, I still like the split, but may consider some nerds on the statistical buffs she gets. And concerning your other balance concern, I actually like that a lot. I considered making all moves where she uses magic drain the Soul Gem (which would mostly be the handling of the swords without touching them) but decided that would be too much of a hassle for the player. Her regeneration does seem to take the most out of her, though, so don’t be surprised if you see me take your suggestion there! 🙂

    As far as how regeneration affects going into berserk, I tried to opt for something relatively simple, since I felt having emotion as the centerpiece of the moveset made it naturally a bit complex. I can definitely see what you’re saying, though. I may have made things a bit too black-and-white for the truth of her emotions.

    As far as character interpretation, that’s something I hope would be left to the player. We don’t really know what happened to Sayaka in the final timeline, except that she died. For all we know, her death was like Mami’s first–caught off guard in the line of duty, never having sunk into deep despair and become a witch. The player can make Sayaka into whatever Sayaka they want–at least, that was my hope. While her untimely fate may be inevitable, it doesn’t have to happen in this battle…unless you let it.

    Once again, I thank you for the review. You approached the set much the same way I did with your ideas and analysis, so it’s been very helpful at making me take a second look!

  3. I suppose the other thing that is worth mentioning is the bit of a disconnect with the soul gem mechanic; if Sayaka has this, but no other Madoka movesets do, or represent it through entirely different systems, we’ve got ourselves a pretty nasty inconsistency, don’t we?

    This moveset and the Homura moveset couldn’t exist in Brawl at the same time, I’d think.

    That said, I would love to see all five of them worked together so that they all form a self-consistent style for what a Madoka moveset would be in Brawl… but that’s asking a LOT, isn’t it?

  4. I would disagree, I think they could both exist at the same time. Homura’s very good at managing her soul gem’s energies from what we see in the series, it never becomes a problem for her like it does Sayaka. Sure, they both have one, but I feel that it would be awkward to throw the mechanic on Homura… it wouldn’t really feel right for her since it was never a problem for her in the series like it was for Sayaka. It might seem like an inconsistency at first, but Sayaka only suffers any sort of soul gem damage when berserk anyway, and Homura doesn’t exactly berserk. I’d say if there are Madoka sets with co-existence problems it’s Kyubey and Sayaka, not Homura

    Now that I’m done trying to justify the existence of my set which you seem to think is far inferior, I admit I was impressed with this set too, it really caught me off guard for sure. I wouldn’t say it’s EXCEPTIONAL or anything, really, but I legitimately think I would have voted for it in MYMX, which is far more than I can say of Jenna or Thor… or a lot of sets, really. I kind of felt she really didn’t have enough ways to space her swords and such, but y’know, that’s the Warlordian part of me complaining and I’m sure you’ll disagree DM.

    Also, the third movie is the only one with new content from what I’ve heard, but bah. I’m excited.

  5. Oh, you completely misunderstood my intent if you thought that I was saying this to disparage Homura at all! I really liked Homura too, but I just had a lot of criticism to levy from my own thoughts when I was planning the moveset. I think they’re both very good movesets in their own rights. My point was essentially an expansion of what I said in my Black Knight review, that movesets that come from the same universe and obey the same laws should draw on their own home mechanics in similar ways.

    And I did actually consider what you were saying about Homura being better able to balance her usage of her magic, but at the same time she almost despaired at the end of episode 11, and to be clearer, what I was saying is that if any of them can be KO’d by draining their soul gem, they all can.

    And Kyubey doesn’t really work with any magical girl movesets because they’re already magical girls, so his entire first stage of his game would seem silly and redundant. The only other option of course though would be to make him unplayable against anyone else!

    As far as the movies go, I’m with you at least that I doubt that the first two movies will be too special as the series already had break-neck pacing, and that a lot of the fun was in the wait between episodes and slow development of the plot. I am curious as to what the third movie is, but movies take a long time to go through, especially in Japan. They don’t even have a trailer yet for the Nanoha A’s Movie -_-…

  6. I figured that at least for Homura, Kyubey would be able to immediately use those ridiculous status effects on her since she already has a gem. …yeah it does make the match-up hilarious lopsided at a glance, but Homura can make it nigh impossible for him to retrieve corpses and that was the only way I could think of that made sense. Probably should’ve specified that somewhere though.

    Though yes clearly I misinterpreted you, sorry dude. Yeah she was kind of drained towards the end of Episode 11, as well as at the end of the third timeline in Episode 10. So I guess I can see why… I just did not really want to tack on a Soul Gem mechanic, though in Sayaka’s case I feel it was really fitting.

    Also I will probably not ever see the movies since I don’t really want to pay money(I still live with parents… do not really want to explain to them I like a magical girl show), and I doubt it’ll be easy to find them on the internet, if possible at all.

  7. Just to be ABUNDANTLY clear. I was neither saying “Where’s Homura’s soul gem meter” or “Get rid of Sayaka’s” Both sets are fine as they are.

    I was just saying that it would be really cool if all five characters could be made with a consistent mechanism for that, but I don’t see it as a negative judgment for either set.

  8. Consistency would be fun, I’ll admit that. It becomes kind of hard though, when multiple people are making the sets, all with different ideas on how to represent the series. But yeah, thanks for clearing that up.

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