By Paul Kainoa Vigil / June 26th, 2015
I think it’s reasonable to say that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker coming to the Wii U in HD was not entirely expected but also not at all unwelcome. At the time of the Wii U’s release, other Legend of Zelda games like Ocarina of Time had already received remakes or ports. However, Wind Waker‘s release came at the right time for diehard fans of a certain game, as it invited an interesting discussion.
There is this other Nintendo GameCube game, Super Smash Bros. Melee, that found its way to the world’s biggest fighting game tournament series in Evolution 2013 after years of community reconstruction and a successful charity fundraising campaign. For those that do not know, fighting games are often played in a competitive setting for modest amounts of money. Melee (and Smash Bros. Wii U) is one such game, and a game as old as it is surviving to this day is astounding. Anyway, since 2013, Melee has made a breakthrough that fans of other older but beloved games Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 might envy. Sponsorships and a healthy amount of large tournaments (and smaller, local tournaments,) — it defies reason, and the trajectory of the game’s scene suggests continued growth is certain. And even stability at current levels is nothing to scoff at.
That’s where “Melee HD” might come in. Were such a game to exist, it would be quite significant. For one, Nintendo has been apprehensive in the past about competitive Smash for a number of reasons — its inability to convey how the competitive setting represents Smash as a franchise, the fact that competitive Smash is a different and much narrower paradigm than the free-flowing chaos it is generally advertised to be, fear of the ramifications of bad relations between casual and competitive players, etc. I’d like to take some time to explore the benefits of what Melee HD could do, what it should do, and what problems may lie ahead for it. I’ll preface the following statements by saying I’m by no means a competitive player but, rather, a student of the game and its community, and so corrections and differing opinions can be a great thing for this writeup.
Melee HD’s existence would be a logistical gift for tournaments. We would no longer need older CRT TVs, which will become more limited in availability over time and may cause headaches for tournament organizers that want to hold Melee events, but have no CRT TVs of their own. If a tournament has limited venue space or limited ability to transport equipment, all of that tournament’s games can simply switch between the same TVs. The GameCube wasn’t designed to graphically output to the HD TVs of our time. When we do attempt to play this game on HD TVs, the visual output is delayed by a varying number of frames and isn’t 1:1 with controller inputs. While insignificant to some and not earth-shatteringly relevant to every matchup or game that is played, it’s a difference that is observable by more seasoned eyes, and considering there are moves that activate almost immediately or tools that require precision, output lag is not appreciated.
Melee HD introduced with new features would be helpful for newer players. Online fighting would enable more practice opportunities for those who don’t have the option of playing locally. Local play was integral to the creation and nurturing of scenes during the game’s initial foray into the competitive world and it continued to be a key force while Melee wasn’t as active but later broke through to the resurgence that we see today. With the community that we see now, especially in the United States, this added opportunity to play will offer a supplement to the tournament atmosphere. There will never be a replacement of the face-to-face tournament environment, and online play, tournament play, whatever mode of play — none of them need to conflict. But this must be stated: online Melee will heavily benefit from having a dedicated server (see Splatoon) as opposed to peer-to-peer matchmaking. Lag is minimized in the former configuration. In addition, it is important that Nintendo create a system that enables a player to set match rules, like game type, stage availability, and time limit. The ‘For Glory’ and ‘For Fun’ options in Smash Bros. Wii U are completely incongruous to competitive Melee (and don’t really capture competitive Smash Bros. Wii U that well, either.)
There are other treats that might entice new players and even some older players. Perhaps Nintendo could explore saving replays and screenshots of matches. Miiverse being what it is, it would be welcome content. In addition, the existence of Miiverse could serve as a good base for more casual or beginner-level Melee players looking to share the experience of getting their feet wet or playing for fun. Sharing content, asking questions (“how to wavedash!!!!!!!”), the Miiverse integration potential is solid.
In addition, I feel that another tool that may help newer players is the inclusion of a handful of tutorials for game mechanics. While Masahiro Sakurai only partially envisioned the competitive capability of Melee, with more than ten years of serious play, Smashers have established a lot of each character’s tools even if some characters do have untapped potential. I’m personally thinking of some straightforward advanced-technique or game mechanics tutorials that are universal to all characters (some combination of L-Canceling, Directional Influence, Wavedashing, Dash Dancing, Short-Hopping and Fast Falling, weak/strong hits, Out-of-shield, Crouch-Canceling — and that’s still not everything.) Since the list is long and can be overwhelming, it would be best to present them in an incremental, or structured, format, so that the sense of progress or understanding can be more easily felt. It’s not that players need to learn how to perform these tricks to win or need to enter tournaments, but these concepts are additional supplements for players who want to explore something a little more than basic Smash gameplay.
Besides that, it could include just a couple of tutorials specific to each character. Perhaps each tutorial would explain a certain character feature or technique, demo this feature, then ask players to replicate it. Learn to Auto-Cancel Fox and Falco’s lasers or Peach’s Float Canceling. Some tutorials might even be focused on an important move a character has, like Jigglypuff’s Rest, Pikachu’s Up-Air, or Yoshi’s Parry. Even the characters who aren’t top-tiered have some things that could be taught: Roy’s attacks knock opponents back further than normal if he hits them with the hilt of his sword, Samus and the Links’ Bomb Recoveries and Tether Recoveries, Luigi’s Super Jump Punch, etc. It’s a lot to ask, but Nintendo directly conveying these concepts in the game could make the ideas feel less impenetrable. With such a beefy offering like this, the added content would feel quite differentiated from the original Super Smash Bros. Melee package. Arc System Works’ Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- and SEGA’s Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown have put in absolutely stellar tutorial/new player assistance features; they show that this arduous task can be done for sure.
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