Super Smash Bros. remains as one of my favorite game series of all time. From casual matchups on the original Super Smash Bros. to achievement hunting on Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it is the series that keeps evolving.
For those unfamiliar with Smash, it is an unorthodox fighting game where instead of attacks depleting a health bar, attacks knock players off a centralized platform. If a player is knocked far enough from a stage, they are KOed and lose a life, until one player remains.
Starting with Brawl, I began to hone my competitive skills through numerous online matches and custom challenges, such as completing the story mode on the highest difficulty and beating every boss in the game consecutively with a character handicap. Yet, I wouldn’t take my game to the next level until the release of the latest iteration of Super Smash Bros., where I attended my first public tournament.
During my college breaks, I would get together with two of my high school friends at one of their houses to play Smash 4. We spent hours fighting each other in one-on-ones or free-for-alls. Each match grew more intense than the last, usually ending with someone boasting or sighing on the winning move. Over time, we recognized our growing skills and one of my friends suggested that we should participate in a local Smash 4 tournament.
I was hesitant; the Smash competitive community discouraged me because of their infamous reputation for toxicity among players. Not only that, but I also main Kirby, a low tiered character in Smash 4 who’s labeled as a beginner’s choice. However, seeing how my free time would be nonexistent when my classes resume, I wouldn’t get another opportunity like this anytime soon. I reluctantly agreed with the idea.
We registered for 2GGC: Genesis Saga, a well renowned Smash 4 tournament series featuring top professional players across the globe. Anyone could enter and compete in it. However, if a player makes it to the top of their bracket, they are given the chance to play against a seasoned professional in the game. It is the perfect setting for a player’s debut to the Smash 4 competitive scene. With this much at stake, my friends and I brushed up on the competitive rules for Smash 4. Unlike normal matches, two players compete against each other in a set best two out of three (a player needs two wins in order to win the set). The stage selection is limited to a select few due to some giving unfair advantages to certain characters. Items spawning in matches is disabled and stages cannot be picked more than once in a set. By cramming in some last minute practices, we intended to put up a fight.
The next day, we drove to the Esports Arena in Santa Ana, where the tournament was located. As soon as we took the first step into the venue, I was blown away. The entire building was seeping with people, either spectating warm-up matches or playing in them. It was a chore trying to navigate through the densely packed floor. We checked in and then anxiously waited for our matches to start. Before we knew it, the first matches were underway.
Fortunately for us, we were all in our own tournament brackets, meaning we wouldn’t run into each other in early rounds. However, this also meant we were unable to spectate each other’s matches. Shivers ran down my spine when I heard my name called out. I quickly proceeded to the setup I was assigned and my heart skipped a beat when I glanced at my opponent. He looked a bit older than me and had a stern look on their face.
I fumbled with my words as I introduced myself. When I told him I needed to sync my controller with the system, he gave an annoyed look and sat cross armed aside me. His mood did not improve when my controller took eons to get detected by our system. After I hastily configured my controls, we dove right into our first match…until I realized I did not assign myself the custom control scheme I created.He let out a large scream of disbelief as I shyly voiced my mistake, and he angrily ended the match. I avoided looking at him for the rest of the match, not wanting any more confrontation unless I needed to. With that start, I was flustered, making novice mistakes that I would never make normally. To top it off, my opponent seemed to be in his own headspace, grieving heavily whenever I attacked him and whooping it up whenever he landed a hit on me. To put it simply, he resembled the very reason I dislike competitive Smash; he was loud, aggressive, and unfriendly. I was no match against him. I lost the entire set and was sent to the losers bracket.
I managed to pull myself together for my next matchup, a high school student. My other friends were still in their groups, but I had more confidence this time. Unlike my first opponent, he had a calmer demeanor, only speaking when necessary. Determined to not make a fool of myself, I made sure I synched my controller and assigned my control scheme properly before heading into the set. The first match was entirely in my opponent’s favor, as he punished my moves effortlessly with his devastating throw combos. He even knocked me straight down a pit, but I humorously dragged him with me while trying to get back onto the stage. That fiasco cost both of us a life, but he still took the first match. Despite having three losses in a row, I did not throw in the towel yet. I wanted to make sure I left a lasting mark on this tournament no matter how small.
The second match showed some promise. I was able to get my own combos in, but he kept slipping out of my reach. I managed to take his life first, but he immediately followed up with taking my life, tying the match. From there, the battle slowly resembled our first match, with me taking more damage than I dished out.
Out of sheer desperation, I snuck in an attack, which lead into three sequential hits. While he was still reeling, I reached for something I would never do in Smash, use Kirby’s hammer.
Not only does it have terrible range, any opponent can see the attack coming. To top it off, Lucas (my opponent) has numerous projectile attacks, preventing me from coming in close to land the move. My chances of winning with this move in a friendly match let alone a tournament set seemed to be just a dream. Yet, in that span of 15 seconds, dreams became reality.
Despite taking the win, I ultimately lost that set, eliminating me from the tournament. Both of my friends shared the same fate as I did: losing both their first match and the loser match. While this fit the bill for a depressing ride home, we did win something from this trip. Playing with friends, no matter how competitive it gets, speaks little truth toward each person’s skill. A person could be labeled as the best player their friends know, but still only be average toward other players. Yet, this didn’t stop us from going to more tournaments. Our experience encouraged us to find more local tournaments, since 2GGC was too much for us to handle comfortably. Being at 2GGC could become the start of something much bigger or perhaps it’s just another dream. For now…