Real Talk By: Rickayyyyy
I would like to preface this article by stating one fact: I love Nintendo. They have given me countless hours of joy throughout my entire life. However, they have done things recently that have made it substantially harder for me to love them. I can handle that they’re now doing DLC and have made games that are substantially easier because those are more a troubling development in the gaming industry in general, but there is one thing that is truly testing my ability to love them: they destroyed one of my favorite games ever, Project M, simply because it’s a mod for one of their games. First of all, let me explain to those who don’t know what Project M is:
Project M 3.6
Project M is a fan mod for Super Smash Brothers: Brawl. In the competitive smash community, there is a general agreement that Brawl was not a good game. It’s horribly imbalanced and doesn’t have much in terms of high level technical skill for more competitive players. So that’s why a group of programmers decided to make a mod for it that has all the technical skills of Super Smash Brothers: Melee with all the characters of brawl. It is also extremely well-balanced, in a recent poll of higher-skilled players, Bowser was voted the worst, but even despite that my roommate is a bowser main who can keep up even with competitive players.
Additionally, they have even added some characters that weren’t straight up in brawl, they added Mewtwo and Roy again, and have split the Pokemon trainer into 3 characters: Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Charizard. They also balanced several maps and added new ones. All the melee characters play like they did in melee (though some have been nerfed/buffed), and all the new brawl characters are super interesting. They have changed several moves that were truly terrible in Brawl (What was Mario’s water backpack even supposed to do, it didn’t even do damage or anything special), and have balanced the originals.
This game reignited my love of Smash. I played Melee from 2001-2011, and started playing again solely because of Project M. In my opinion it is straight up the best smash. I probably wouldn’t have even bought Smash 4 if it weren’t for Project M reigniting my passion, which is a point I’ll talk about later. That is why what happened to it was so terrible. Now, I’ll explain what happened.
Project M started catching on pretty fast once it started getting into a good state. It started getting streamed, and lots of people started playing it. However, it soon began to draw the ire of Nintendo. People streaming it would sometimes get taken down at Nintendo’s request, streaming websites that streamed Project M had to fear Nintendo’s lawyers, and the developers themselves had legal trouble with Nintendo. Many streaming websites said they would stop streaming Project M, and many people switched back to Melee (not many switched to Brawl, some also went to Smash 4, but most returned to Melee). There was a substantially long period where fans of Project M were afraid of Nintendo killing Project M.
Finally, one day there was a message from the Project M developers stating that they were stopping development of Project M. There wasn’t a solid explanation on what happened, but it was pretty obvious what happened: they had to stop or they would have gotten in serious legal trouble from Nintendo. There were changes to the code in the week leading up to the announcement, and there was no final release, so clearly it had to be sudden. Have no doubt, the only reason they would have had for stopping was fear of legal action. It was the saddest day I’ve had in a long time. Now I’ll explain why this was such an injustice.
Why it’s so uncool
So this was very uncool of Nintendo. All the competitive community wants is a successor to Melee. Project M could have been that successor. There are still Project M tournaments, but most aren’t streamed and in general it seems the Project M community is dying. It’s so stupid they would kill a mod like this. It really doesn’t make sense. Imagine if you will, if Sierra (now Valve) had shut down Counter Strike right as it was becoming popular. Can you imagine the billions of dollars they would have lost out on? CS was a Half-life mod. Team Fortress was a Quake/Half-life mod. Dota was a Warcraft 3 mod. Can you imagine if their respective game companies had killed them, how much worse the gaming industry would be and how much money they would have missed out on?
Logically, Nintendo shouldn’t have killed Project M, what they should have done was offer the Project M people jobs. That’s right, they should have legitimized them. Their opinions would have been invaluable to new versions of Smash, and they could have released Project M as DLC and made tons of money from it. However, Nintendo refuses to listen to its community. Actually, they straight up insulted the competitive Smash community instead. The creator of Smash, Masahiro Sakurai, released an article about the future of Smash, which was pretty much just a giant middle finger to the entire competitive community. It shows that Sakurai really doesn’t understand what his game has become culturally. He is in denial about the true competitive nature of his game, and isn’t going to give us the game we want. Based on the treatment of Project M, he also is showing that he won’t let anyone else give us the game we want, either. In fact, his article was so supremely upsetting to me that I am now going to break it down and point everything wrong with his argument. Alright, here we go, this was a long time coming.
There is so much wrong with this article, it upset me really badly when I first read it. Before I get started, there’s one thing that Sakurai has said a lot that is simply ridiculous: he keeps insisting Smash isn’t a fighting game. Let’s be real here, Smash is clearly a fighting game. You choose combatants and then fight each other. Just because it doesn’t play like a traditional Street Fighter style fighting game doesn’t make it not a fighting game. You can say that a banana is an orange but that doesn’t negate the fact that a banana is totally a banana. Alright since that’s out there now, I’ll start critiquing his article.
“There’s no point in making the game more balanced if it decreases the fun factor. To give an extreme example, I could make all the characters perform similarly to Mario and achieve perfect balance. However, that probably wouldn’t be very fun at all.”
Well he’s right about one thing: A game with only Marios in it would be very boring. That is a very extreme example as he said, so why would he even say it. There are countless games out there with extremely varied casts but still very balanced. Most balancing changes don’t affect the fun factor. In fact, many improve it and most wouldn’t even be noticed by your average player. You know what I’d have loved to do in any smash game? Play Link. I would simply love to play Link, but he has been so consistently terrible in every Smash that I couldn’t have played him and had fun. What is fun about having characters that can’t do anything to a player with any semblance of skill? Nothing at all.
“The playtesting team is only composed of several people. After all, truly skilled players are hard to come by. “
I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware we were in fantasy land. Fantasy land, where there aren’t hordes of truly skilled players who could easily be called up by Sakurai to test the new smash. It would be incredibly easy to find truly skilled players; I know several personally in my hometown alone. He could just post on Smashboards and get thousands of candidates who are easily vet-able. There are innumerable smash players in the world, countless of which are well-known in the community whom Sakurai could easily contact. They would probably do it for free, too. If Sakurai didn’t want to piss off the competitive community, he could just not straight up lie to us. Also this could be easily construed as an insult if you really think about it.
“Another problem we have to consider is that battles can take on many formats in Smash. There are moves that are completely useless in a 1v1 battle, but in a four-player free-for-all those moves might prove quite useful.”
OK so I don’t understand how he’s trying to justify not balancing much by pointing out the game needs balancing. The fact that there are multiple formats you have to balance for means you have to balance MORE, not less. So he’s saying that essentially because he has multiple formats to worry about, he shouldn’t have to worry about keeping characters balanced in all the formats. Also, why would there be moves that are useless in a 1v1? It seems to me the problem should be that some moves may be better in four-player free-for-alls, not that there are useless 1v1 moves. There are several examples, like Samus’s Missiles or many of the Ice Climbers’ moves. I can’t think of a move that is usable in a free-for-all that isn’t usable in a 1v1.
“Fundamentally, my goal with Smash has been to create an “enjoyable party game”. If you want to enjoy thrilling tactical gameplay, you might be better suited for other 2D fighting games.”
This is a very uncool thing for Sakurai to say. Even if he did mean to create a party game, that isn’t what his game has become. It has become a competitive game ever since Melee. In all honesty, if it weren’t for the competitive nature of it, Smash would be nowhere near as popular. So essentially, he’s telling us that we’re not playing the game the way he intended, so we should go play another game. The thing is if everyone were to follow this advice, he would lose the majority of his fan base.
Another thing is that there is no true alternative to Smash. He says this like we could just go play Mortal Kombat and get the same experience as we can get with Smash. Mortal Kombat is not equal to Smash. Such a game does not exist. Also you know how Sakurai keeps claiming that Smash isn’t a fighting game? Doesn’t this statement contradict that? Doesn’t the fact that Sakurai thinks the alternative to Smash are 2D fighting games demonstrate that Smash is a fighting game? Here is Sakurai contradicting one of his own assertions. It’s as if Sakurai has no respect for a large portion of the people who love his game. Sorry if the way we play harms your pride, Sakurai.
“Recently, there was a tournament featuring the top Japanese and American players. In 1v1s, the natural tendency is to use low risk moves to gradually deal damage to the opponent. Smash attacks rarely came out, and the matches were prone to becoming long, drawn out affairs.”
Have you seen Smash 4? You know, the game where most people think 2 stocks is the best format with an 8 minute time limit, yet games sometimes still go to time? Smash 4 is in general long and drawn out, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a serious match of Melee go to time. In higher level Melee, deaths can be insanely quick. Ever been shine spiked at 20% before? I know I have. There absolutely is no tendency to use low risk moves in competitive play, I dive off of the edge all the time to get sweet kills. Sometimes, they result in my death. Melee is absolutely, 100% not drawn out, Smash 4 is.
So this seems like a lot of reasons to be mad at Nintendo right? Well guess what, there’s more! There’s also the matter of the constantly changing decision by Nintendo to allow Melee to be played on the competitive circuit. It’s completely insane. The fact that a game company would actively try to prevent their own game from being played in public is ridiculous. These people just wanted to play their game competitively, but for some crazy reason Nintendo absolutely hated the idea. Isn’t streaming Smash free advertising? It really doesn’t make any sense to me. They made the Smash community essentially go underground during the periods they weren’t allowed on the competitive circuit.
Here’s the thing that really bothers me: all these people are people who love Nintendo. All they want to do is play one of their games the way they want to. People playing Smash competitively doesn’t hurt Nintendo at all. In fact, it helps them. We buy controllers, games, systems, and various other accessories just to play this game. Streaming Smash essentially advertises their game for free. If it weren’t for Project M, I wouldn’t have had the interest to pick up Smash 4. I definitely wouldn’t have purchased a Wii U just to play it (which I did do, by the way). I wouldn’t have scoured the local game stores in a futile attempt to buy the stupid Gamecube controller adapter before giving up and buying it online.
Alright this will be a tangent, but why would they not have Gamecube controller slots on a Wii U? The Gamecube controller is a great controller that they still manufacture to this day and they knew they would need them for Smash, so why not just put them on the console. That way you get backward compatibility for old games, and you can make new games utilize it. I personally think the new controllers are a step in the wrong direction. The new controller is essentially a bad Xbox controller, since when does Nintendo steal ideas from other game companies? It’s not groundbreaking in the least, Nintendo is supposed to be an innovator. If they’re going to stop using Gamecube controllers they should replace it with something better, not just copy Microsoft.
All the competitive community wants is a real successor to Melee. It doesn’t have to be exactly like melee. Nintendo is showing no intent to give us the game we want, so of course someone was going to do something like create Project M. Project M could have been the successor to Melee, but Nintendo killed it. The fact that a game made in 2001 is still heavily played is a testament to how great it really is. It appears Nintendo didn’t really learn all they should from it, though. It’s such a tragedy. I frantically want to love Nintendo, but they wound me at every turn and keep twisting the knife. I’m hoping that Nintendo starts caring about their competitive players, because no matter how they try to ignore them, they do exist. I hope this was informative for you!