Posted by: joekiklis99 | September 17, 2012

Smash Bros 101

For something that’s the whole basis of our group here, we don’t seem to appreciate or know a lot of what goes on in it.

As of late I’ve noticed what I think may be a divide between myself and most others in MYM when it comes to Smash Brothers, specifically how it exactly works. I mean, sure we all have the fundamentals down: everybody can jump, has ground moves/air moves/smashes/specials/grabs, the higher % your foe the easier it is to KO them, etc, etc. But how many of us can truly grasp the importance of spacing? How many options are there out of shield? Why is movement so important? What determines shield health? What does charging a smash really do? The list may go on, but here I’ll attempt to share my knowledge from both a Smash Player and Smash Researcher prospective to try and bring these subjects to light in the community, as well as show why being in-smash can be a good thing for a set!

In-Smash: Is it really bad, or are we just jaded?

I feel like touching on this first as it seems to be a bit more relevant now that we’re in the Smash4 forum, as well as noticing the term pop up more and more. In a nut-shell, “In-Smash” refers to moves or playstyles that have been deemed generic, bland or just without “purpose” within the so called standards of modern day MYM. An example of this would be if a character had a Sex-Kick attack (the typical one being the Nair so Mario/Fox/etc, where it has a strong hitbox as first but then a weak hitbox that lingers) said move would be deemed in-smash, but why is that? It could be seen as generic sure, if it followed the same style as Fox’s and was the “dragon kick” Nair everyone and their mom uses, but a move can still have sex-kick properties without being the actual kick, like Squirtle’s Bair which is a tail attack. Some may argue that it’s bland and serves no real purpose to the set when they may have a bit of terraforming in their specials for example. Sure it may seem boring compared to the special move (for example, lets say they can create a wall from the floor), but keep in mind what the sex-kick does: It provides a lingering hitbox with sweet and sour spots, as well as timed features depending on when in the duration you hit the opponent. That doesn’t sound “bland” now does it? As for purpose, say the character can make the wall high enough that foes -must- jump over it somehow in order to approach. When the foe eventually reaches the wall, your character could use the Nair as a multi-faceted tool based on the approach: Use the strong hit and counter the foe directly and reset the spacing, short hop and let the hit linger so they are inevitably either struck or pressured to react in some way, while literally with their back to a wall, or use the strong hit to knock the foe into the wall and continue pressure from there. I don’t really see how that lacks purpose, especially when the same move can be used like that in other situations like jumping up under a platform, edge-guarding, etc and it doesn’t seem too bland given what it adds to the characters offensive and defensive game. though for the sake of argument it could still be kinda “generic” depending on what the move is, especially if it is a copy/paste or Fox’s.


Perhaps it is an issue of perception when it comes to things like this, as most MYMers have come to expect all sorts of crazy interactions and whatnot from nearly all inputs that they merely glaze over “in-smash” maneuvers without looking at what it brings to the character’s actual gameplay (you know, the dynamic parts in between landing the crucial moves or setting up). Even without the terraforming example above, a character can still prove to be fun and unique with mostly in-smash gameplay and attacks depending on how it’s presented and set up since the moves themselves may add together as a whole to make something that has surprising depth and flow. Just imagine a character where every single move (besides throws due to obvious reasons) had sex-kick properties, but at different intervals and strengths. Some attacks were weak then strong, others have a period of strength mid-move, and vice versa, etc. The moveset would probably be seen as tacky, unoriginal and all that due to not having anything really “special” shoehorned in, but think about how a character like that could fight: it’d be a menagerie of hitboxes you’d have trouble predicting and acting against as an opponent, which combined with the character’s stats/movement and specials, could actually lead to a very unique gameplay style (different from Playstyle we all talk about) that would be entertaining to both imagine and play. Even though it doesn’t do anything revolutionary, have special mechanics out the wazoo, or in general have scripted interactions, it shouldn’t be seen as less creative than the sets that do that kind of thing. The writer is simply using moves shown to work in practice in a way that is beneficial, or even in ways not seen before in the context of the set’s whole, and whats wrong with that?

Gameplay-Style vs Playstyle, the flow of Combat, and “Good Moves”:

After saying my bit on how in-smashness can be done creatively, I want to show why the stigma against these kinds of moves should really be put away. Starting with Gameplay-Style that I mentioned in the last section, Playstyle and Gameplay-Style differ in that the former encompasses the specifics that make the character stand-out (Fox’s playstyle would be that of a glass cannon with high offense, KO power, ranged utility but with little staying power) with the latter encompassing the whole of the character (Fox’s gameplay-style is that of a “Space Animal”,  having high fall speed, great momentum building abilities and general movement, good KO and Combo moves, but very limited gameplay offstage, while onstage his standards and throws flow into his aerials very well, with his aerials in turn generally flowing to his smashes).  Notice the difference in the parenthesis there, how his gameplay-style noted how he actually fights and moves about, instead of just saying he’d usual run till he gets a grab or whatever, and that it mentions how his movement and attacks flow into each other, something I don’t really see too much mention of in MYM sets (which may be just because we section each part of the set off from one another so it becomes kinda natural to isolate each part of the set a bit instead of thinking “how can Dair move into Fsmash?” outside of forced interaction, either loose or literal). Stromboli is a good example of a recent set with good GPS as beyond his PS revolving around coins and puppets, you get a good feel of how Stromboli would behave with how you’ll want to remain stationary or at least grounded, only going to the air as a defensive measure or escape due to his air speed to hop over puppets (kinda like the example with the Sex Kick!), and all that good stuff that is kind of brushed to the side when the spotlight is put on his grab and specials.

This is where true depth comes into play, as well as the concept of “the flow of combat”. It pains me to admit, but many of our moves that we think may be creative are the ones that fall short when you think about GPS and flow, since that Nair that interacts with the trap you have on a platform? Guess how many times you’ll actually pull it off successfully in a match. “Creative” moves nowadays seem sort of shoe-horned in the PS with having important, but easily predictable purpose: the Nair is either keep away or makes your trap flip over/turn into a minion/whatever. Unless you’re fighting a CPU or somebody who has never encountered your character ever before, they will know what to expect from that move, A or B, and will know how to likely avoid or counter it. More traditional moves, such as the sex kick, shine in these moments as they present the foe with multiple problems at once: I can either be hit by the strong hit, and be KBed and have to reset my approach, or he could then use the time to approach me and now I have to go on the defense, or they could use the soft hit to then go into a combo, or the soft hit to go into a kill, or the soft hit to go into a grab which is a set up move that I now have to worry about X/Y/Z for, and also feeds into their grab mechanic, etc. While bland on their own, in-smash moves are spectacular when you think of how well they can flow into each other in terms of either messing with the foes options or straight up comboing, you can think of them as the “glue” between other aspects of your game. Using Stromboli again, his Dthrow (a simple slam) has great flow in-combat as it sets up multiple paths and options for both Stromboli and the Victim to pursue, which creates real depth that keeps matches with Stromboli fresh and fun for both parties, instead of expecting the same thing every time from his interactions or whatnot. The same can be applied to Fox and his Shine (reflector) and Dair, both moves have their stated use (reflection/defense/minor KB, Damage/Gimping) but when taken in context of the rest of his set with his high fall speed and quick tilts allowing him to “drill” shields to force foes into unfavorable situations, or his high dash speed and the KB angle of Shine allowing him to reset bad situations for himself to turn the tide of battle. One of the things Sakurai got right in all honesty is the variation on nearly all the character’s moves due to their innate properties allowing them to flow into the rest of their gameplay at various %’s, which is why playing over and over again with the same characters/match-up even usually isn’t boring, especially when the two parties know what they’re doing.

But what makes a good move you ask? Well, as said before a good move is one that either flows into or from other moves, or one that stands out so well on it’s own or as a follow up that it pulls it’s own weight. In general, a good move is one that covers a reasonable distance, is useful in multiple areas (namely anti air or further offense/defense, like Fox’s Utilt or Usmash), and isn’t just there for an interaction (Like Stromboli’s aerials beyond Fair and Nair) as those get stale very quickly. The biggest thing is to keep in mind how smash is actually played out for the most part: it’s 50/50 ground and air, meaning ground to air and air to ground are equally important as ground to ground and air to air, they aren’t exclusive concepts! Smash is also fast paced, meaning most characters (sorry MYM) that require set up probably would get steamrolled by the “basic” sets we already see in game just by them being able to approach and pressure before the all important set up is complete (to varying degrees depending on that “require” bit as a summoner set may be overwhelmed fast if they need to summon to fight, whereas something that has like a single trap or charge mechanic can probably get away with setting up when they’ve got space).

How to play: A refresher course + Insight into high level fights

Like I said way back at the beginning, everybody knows the fundamentals: do damage, knock the foe out, touch fuzzy, get dizzy, etc, etc. But getting to that point where you can KO (every set’s objective) has a few set paths that everyone follows, although how they walk the path is different for each and every character.

No matter the mode, no matter the character or even the stage, the first order of business is what you do first in a match. Do you approach? Do you camp out? Do you move to a higher/lower area? These are the kinds of things that rush through your mind in the first few moments of play, but for both you and your opponent it usually boils down to one thing regardless of skill level: are you approaching or being approached? Yes or No.  Depending on the character this can immediately set the pace of the match and how you play from there on end. In a classic Camper vs Rushdown scenario, the camper wants to keep the Rushdown away while he wants nothing more to get up and in his grill. Now there are several ways both can achieve their goals here:

  1. The Rushdown can approach from either ground or air. Seeing as every stage but FD has platforms (making it rather an anomaly to think of your characters always fighting there, don’t you think?), the Rushdown has various options on how to get to his prey, either by staying on the ground and shielding/dodging incoming projectiles, or jumping on the platforms and forcing the camper to rethink how he himself will move so that he can take advantage.
  2. The Camper can abuse the air or ground. On the flip-side, the Camper can also control the Rushdown’s actions based on what he chooses to do by sending hitboxes along the ground (make him go airborne) or into the air (make him stay grounded) which he can then use to lure him into a trap (Anti Air starting a juggle or reset, or the grounded meeting a trap in the form of a grab or running away via platforms).
  3. The Rushdown can force the Camper to approach! Yet another option is for the Rushdown to actually *gasp* slow down and limit the Camper’s options by reacting to what they’re tossing out, say by going halfway to them and just being a pest by proving they aren’t gaining any ground by camping. The Camper will have to react in some manner which then can be capitalized on, unless they want to be simply rushed into, usually by trying to get to the open stage behind the Rushdown character to try and reset.
  4. The Camper can camp while approaching! Picturing the camper having a strong projectile (duh), it’s not hard to imagine them using it to inch forward with while keeping the Rushdown at bay, and turning the tables by limiting what space and options he has to work with.

While basic yes, most if not all combat boils down to that in the end in the world of Smash, even in MYM. We just happen to be awesome in the ways we go about it (H). Anywho as you might have noticed, playing smash turns into a spacing war as you work to limit the foe’s options (using whatever options you have as well) to eventually get them KOed off-stage, or into whatever objective you got. And once you manage that, the spacing is even more complex as you now have free reign of the stage with your foe coming down to reclaim lost ground!

What does this mean for our sets? Well, it’s really something to just keep in mind again when combined with the kinds of moves you’re making as well as the flow you’re setting up for your character. Even something as simple as a “pew pew” Nspecial can work wonders for your character as it puts the pressure on characters that need to camp as well to get their steam built up, and having a projectile at all is a huge boon combined with how it can control space for you to approach or regain control as stated above. Sure you can always get fancy, but just try and keep in mind that smash is all about flow from ground and air, option control, and spacial control at it’s core to use as kind of a “frame” to hang your work of art in.

Offstage:

Touching on this a moment since this is also an important aspect of many sets, as well as smash in general, you have just two reasons to be here: you got knocked off or you are chasing somebody who got knocked off. While standard gameplay happens on the stage and platforms, and the air above and between, this is where the unique Edge-Game of smash comes in. Generally you have somebody trying to recover and somebody trying to edgeguard or gimp them (they are honestly the same thing, just the latter is the term when you chase them offstage as opposed to sticking to the edge more), much like how you have an approacher or camper in the previous segment. In this case there is an obvious party with the advantage/disadvantage though, but still it isn’t as easy for the edgeguarder as it seems due to the various options one has to both recover and play off the ledge. The defense in this case can be packing their Double Jump, Up B, a secondary or even tertiary recovery special, projectiles to clear you from the edge for a safe return, or even aerials that can turn the tables if you try to gimp them! Again it boils to options as you can either chase them off and try to push them beyond their recovery distance, spike them, or just occupy the edge so they cannot return.  Despite all the action, it really becomes a game of wits when you take it all in which is where high level play begins: once you got the actions and all that down, it is mind against mind to see who can pressure the other to make a bad call and open up an advantageous option for you, rinse and repeat until you manage to get the KO!

Techniques you need to know, and things you’d like to know:

Now that all the philosophy of the in-smashness is out of the way, I figured I’d share some stuff that can be really cool just in general that you probably didn’t now about in the smash engine!

  • All Smash Attacks can be charged a maximum of 1 second exactly, and deal 1.4x the damage at max charge.
  • You can interrupt your dash within the first few moments with a Forward-Smash to get a small boost forward or backward depending on how you input it, extending the range of your smash quickly in either direction.
  • Most aerials have a point in the animation where if you land, you have no landing lag at all. Some have this at better times though, such as midway through the move! In Melee and 64, you could manually reduce the lag with the Shield Input the moment you land with an aerial, called L-Canceling. Some MYMers still refer to this technique in their sets.
  • All Neutral B’s can be done in the opposite direction if you press said direction within 1/3 of a second of inputting it, called a “Turnaround B”.
  • If you press the direction you turned with a Turnaround B after the special is done while mid-air, you will reverse your momentum to the new direction instantly. This is called a “B Reversal”
  • If you do a B Reversal and a turnaround B at the same time, you will perform a “Wavebounce” which completely reverses your momentum, and has you facing your original direction.
  • DACUS pertains to cancelling your Dash Attack with an Up Smash to boost forward, but did you know you can also cancel Dash Attack with Grab, Pivot Grab, and Tossing Items? They all give you the boost too!
  • Speaking of items, you can also cancel a Dodge-Roll with an Item Toss, performing a “Glide Toss” that boosts you forward slightly. This can also be done with Air Dodges!
  • You can cancel an Air Dodge with a Zair Attack and nearly any point during the dodge. Useful in Melee when directional air dodges existed, allowing some characters to increase their recovery’s distance even more.
  • Directional Air Dodging allows characters to extend their recovery at the cost of going into special fall afterwards. By Dodging diagonally down while landing, it’s possible to slide in a Waveland (useful for platform play) or Wavedash (done close to the floor, this allows characters to slide back and forth). While both are useful when Directional Air dodge is a thing, Wavedashing’s actual use varies from character to character.
  • You can force grabbed victims to ground-release by pummeling fast, and air release by pummeling slow.
  • Dodges make you Intangible instead of just Invincible, meaning you do not interact with hitboxes -at all-.
  • Super Armor means you can take damage, but not Knockback, Heavy Armor allows you to withstand Knockback either up to a certain % dealt, or a certain amount of Knockback is applied from the attack (The “pitfall” effect has Knockback-Based Heavy Armor, whereas Snake’s Up B has 7% worth of Damage-Based).
  • There are 3 kinds of Knockback: Base Knockback is what the move does regardless of the foe’s %, Knockback Growth changes based on the foe’s %, and Weight-Based-KB changes based on the victim’s weight.
  • A Fully staled move deals around 2/5th’s its normal damage, where a fresh move actually deals 1.05x more damage than normal.
  • Electric attacks cause 1.5x longer hitlag.
  • Using both the control and c-stick together will double the effectiveness of DI (Directual Influence), allowing you to move your character much more effectively when they are tumbling from hit-stun.
  • A Full Shield has exactly 177 “frames” of Shield HP. 1% of damage from an attack = 2.5 “Frames”, meaning it takes 70.8% to smash a shield.
  • Moves with bonus shield damage multiply the amount 1% deals in “Frames” instead of adding on to it.
  • The heavier you are than your opponent, the faster your throws are when you throw them, allowing you to act faster than them as well as react faster when you yourself get thrown. The reverse is also true.
  • Smash runs at 60 frames per second, meaning 1 frame = 1/60th of a second.
  • Shield Stun is the attacks damage / 3. So if you hit a shield for 15%, not only did you just deal 37.5 shield damage to it, the foe is also stuck in their shield for 5 frames (1/12 of a second), allowing you to keep pressuring the shield!
  • IASA = Interruptable as soon as, a frame-window on any given move that allows you to cancel the end lag/move entirely into a different action. Many infinite jabs and jabs in general work like this (Jab1 can IASA into Jab 2, etc)

Well, still think being in-smash is bland and uninteresting? At the very least this is all good for discussion!

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Responses

  1. Never knew there was only one second of charge for the Smash Attacks. Huh.

    At any rate, do appreciate what you have to say here, though. Been a little disturbing how few hitboxes we see in MYM sometimes(or lack of fighting ability, I’m looking at you Oogie Boogie) and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say the vast majority of sets suffer from it, I do think it’s a relevant point.

    Oh and that last bit will occasionally come in handy. I’m pretty sure we can come up with neat tricks to utilize a lot of those things(and it may occasionally be handy to remember how exactly certain things work, such as keeping that in mind while making a grab game on a lightweight).

  2. OH GOD I LOVE YOU JOE! HAVE MY BABIES.

  3. the real darthmeanie has no space in his name

  4. Was talking to him on Steam, he actually does really love the article. Very likely that actually is him.

  5. Oh, lol… why not just log in then? :p

  6. Smash attacks are actually chargable for 120 frames or two seconds, not one second.

  7. I saw both 60 and 120 frames used a lot, 60 by the smash lab, 120 by the wiki usually. I think the general rule is like, if you charge it you can go: one-mis-sis-sip-pi *smash!*

    :p

  8. Necropost incoming:
    When editing with PSA or BrawlBox, a Smash Attack’s charge time can be set for however many frames of duration you want by changing the number of frames in the Hold animation. (ex. AttackS4Hold is the FSmash’s charge animation.) You could give a Smash Attack a 1-frame Hold animation and instantly have a fully-charged Smash Attack simply by inputting using the Control Stick and A button instead of the C-stick. I’m not certain about the specifics, but it seems like it might be possible that modifying the charge duration also somehow affects the amount of boost the Smash Attack gets from charging.

    • It WILL affect the boost, or it only CAN?

    • I don’t know. As I said, I haven’t done research into the specifics, and I haven’t found anyone else who has. I recall someone complaining that a Smash Attack couldn’t be charged, and it turned out that was because the Hold animation was only 1 frame. But I also recall them complaining about how ludicrous its damage output was, which suggests it still had the standard 1.4x boost. So as I said, I really don’t know.

      Regardless, it’s possible to have a Smash Attack change in appearance at different charge levels. So you could make a Smash Attack that takes longer to fully charge in exchange for actually turning into a different move with a different base damage at a certain level of charge.


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