Gaming My Way

19 Dec

Items in Super Smash Bros.

This seems to be quite a contested topic. Some people love items in Smash. Others hate them. Despite my own preferred playstyle of no items in competitive play, there are actually quite a few good reasons to keep them around as well. Also, bear in mind I’m generalizing to the series, not any one specific game. I’ve played Melee the most of the three games though.

Now, the reason I don’t like items in competitive play is a reason that is heard quite often: they introduce an unnecessary amount of randomness to the game, and this randomness tends to favor the person who is losing. While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it usually seems to be the case. For a casual game, this makes perfect sense, as it keeps games close to the end even if players have a variety of skill levels, and that tends to make games more exciting. In competition though, you care about who’s the best first, exciting matches second.

However, there is still a case for keeping items in competition as well, and sometimes, I’ve found myself drifting towards this idea more often. First off, items can act as a balancing factor to bring the highly disparate tiers closer together. In a way, items provide a common moveset to all the characters, and learning to use items skillfully can complement a weaker set of abilities. In the cases of characters with no ranged options, items give them a few limited options at range. In the case of generally weak characters, explosive items give them some extra power. And in the case of slow characters, items like the fan and bunny ears give them a bit of speed. In short, items allow players to cover their chosen characters weaknesses, while still making use of their strengths. In general, I imagine this could make tiers matter less, and allow more characters to have interesting matchups against characters who would normally dominate the match against them.

Now, I have to say, I find the series very fun to play whether items are on or off. With items off, the game feels a lot closer to a traditional fighter, in that it’s just you versus an opponent, and you make the best use of your moveset to earn victory. Knowing what your character can do is more important without items than with items, as is knowing your opponent, since with items disabled you don’t have the common moveset provided by items to cover any glaring weaknesses your character may have.

Items add randomness, as stated before, but also add an extra element of controlling the stage. Since items can spawn anywhere, and they tend to spawn closer to the losing player (at least in Brawl), items require players to be able to control a large amount of space, instead of just specific parts of the stage. This forces players to think more holistically about the fight and stage. In addition, items could likely prevent most stalling techniques some players like to use.

In the end, I don’t think this will change how competitive play works, nor would I like to see it change, at least for now. The point is more to show that both sides have merits to them, and that we shouldn’t demonize one side or the other just because we like one playstyle over another. In any case, the tournament rules can change, and likely will change as the game evolves. Whether or not items are revisited will be another story, but reintroducing items might fix other issues that come up as the game evolves. Whether or not that would be the equavalent of putting out a fire with gasoline, I don’t know. Somehow, if it came down to doing so, I think it would work out better than that though.


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