Rango’s Smash Column – Post-CEO Dreamland, Roy, and New Matchups.

Smash Column 3/19/20 – Using New Characters

Welcome to this week’s Smash Column on All Cool Things™! In this entry, I’ll be going over my time at CEO Dreamland and what I’ve learned involving character matchups. You can read about CEO Dreamland here.

Long story short, I lost to a Pichu and a Palutena in my bracket. After that, I challenged multiple players to money matches, which I won several while losing others. Moving forward, this helped give me a fresh start on what direction I should approach while picking my characters.

Counterpicking

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a counterpicking game. One character alone will seldom win tournaments at high-level play. It pays to know your options and work on learning other characters. As an Ike main, I’ve made matchup charts looking over his best and worst matchups. This month, however, I learned – the hard way – that he actually has more struggles with more characters than I was willing to admit. Chalk that up largely to online experience. Without playing against high-level players, who use Palutena, Peach, Donkey Kong, and Zero Suit Samus, I was not ready for the top tier character meta.

-2 means heavily losing matchup while +2 means heavily winning matchup.

Always keep in mind that matchup charts are neither gospel nor absolute. The meta evolves and character mains can learn new tech to stay in the game. These matchup charts are merely estimates of a character’s advantages and disadvantages against the roster. With that being said, I’ve used multiple secondary characters to counter Ike’s worse matchups. Most recently, I’ve been using Terry and Wolf. After CEO Dreamland, however, I made a chart on how I approach my matchups using which character.

I’ve used Terry to moderate success over the past few months. Since his release in November of last year, what I initially thought was a low-tier character ended up saving my hide from several of my bracket rivals.  I’ve used him to counter ROB and Daisy while knowing they could seriously damage Ike and put me at a disadvantage.

Here’s an example of counterpicking in action.

However, after my matches at CEO Dreamland, I can’t say for sure that Terry is the right call to use against certain matchups. Even though his neutral game and high damage combos make him incredibly effective, his glaring weaknesses keep him from being up to par with much of the current meta. His lack of range, poor disadvantage state, and poor recovery render him an extreme example double edged sword. Either he wipes out stocks quickly or gets taken apart before he gets a chance to return to stage. Unfortunately, I couldn’t rely on Terry to take down some of my harder matchups after losing a round with Ike.

Roy’s Our Boy?

Meanwhile, Georgia’s #1 ranked player, Kola, has made impressive waves using Roy. Known as a high-tier character, Kola’s performance with Roy has helped him win a number of matches against high level players. His most recent placing includes taking 2nd place at CEO Dreamland, eventually losing to Samsora‘s Peach in grand finals. Going over my counterpick chart once more, Roy seems to cover a number of matchups already listed in Terry’s section, including ROB and Fox.

As I’ve been practicing Roy – and his Echo Fighter, Chrom – I’ve been considering using him as a counterpick choice. Much as I would hate to look like a copycat player, Roy suits my own playstyle well with his approach options, edgeguarding, close and mid-ranged combat, high damage combos, and high KO power. Plus, I can allocate some of those threats, such as Peach and Daisy, to Roy or Wolf if I must. One thing I learned from my opponents is how effective Wolf would be against some of Ike’s tougher matchups.

The Benefit of Counterpicking

My parting notes for players is to not be afraid to counterpick. Sometimes, Smash culture will involve players telling you to solo-main. If you’re losing to someone who knows your character matchup, repeatedly facetanking with that character will not help you improve. Learning new characters will help you improve as a player by opening your mind to new methods and techniques. Not only will this grow your knowledge of playing new character, but you may pick up on new methods which can affect how you play your main as well.

They say “you’ll never be ready” and that couldn’t be more true. If you feel like your first character won’t beat a tough opponent, not allowing yourself to switch to a different character means sticking to your main with a high possibility of losing. While some players feel comfortable solo-maining, the most adaptive and flexible players will surely seek new tools in order to secure their victory.

Learning a secondary character will definitely take hours of play. You’ll have to learn them online and at tournaments. Sometimes you’ll lose matches you could have won with your main. But that’s the price you might pay due to inexperience. Eventually, you’ll master that character and have a new tool to work with against tough opponents by throwing them a swerve. Don’t limit your potential when you can expand it with newfound knowledge.

If you enjoyed reading this article, leave a comment with your main and secondaries. Let us know how you’ve sorted your character choices!

CEO Dreamland: What You Missed at Orlando’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Tournament.

CEO Dreamland

For the first time since 2017, Community Effort Orlando (CEO) hosted its Smash and platform fighter-oriented event in Orlando this past weekend. I had the pleasure of attending the event and competing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate singles. While I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, I can’t deny I had a great time at the event. With the Coronavirus saturating the media, this was a nice excursion from the news, and I’m looking forward to sharing it all with you!

The Tournament

We arrived Friday night around the time Smash Ultimate doubles ended. Having only signed up for singles, I eagerly anticipated my singles pools (brackets) on noon of the following day. As I showed up, I got a few matches in with players before calling it a night.

Upon entering the venue, on Saturday, to begin my tournament rounds, I managed to win my first two matches. However, I lost to Rideae (2-1) and Geez (2-1), a Pichu and Palutena respectively. I’ve known Rideae for a few years now and I’ve known he’s been quite a capable player. But what caught me off-guard was the Palutena waiting for me in the loser’s round of our double-elimination bracket.

I hadn’t heard of Geez and ended up getting crushed in a matchup – which I was not familiar with – at high level play. I quickly learned why this character generally sits at the top of the tier list. Even after a recent balance update, the character still proved to be quite a threat. Overall, I took 97th. Not my best performance, but one I took as a lesson to learn more about the game. Even after my loss, my journey continued.

Outside of the Tournament

The time I spent throughout the weekend included “money matches,” or matches played with $5 on the line – winner take all. I challenged myself against many players, most of whom were, of course, from Florida. Among my matches, I fought tough players including LingLing, Shine, CPU, CD, and others. I learned I struggle against Palutena, Zero Suit Samus, Shulk, Donkey Kong, and Wii Fit Trainer, all of which were played by capable opponents. After each loss, I took the time to ask them about what went wrong and what I could learn from it. One of the best parts about this community is that players are always willing to instruct and educate. We’re all seeking to improve and our ability to help others grow means both as people and as competitors. Likewise, I happily explained my knowledge to willing opponents after my wins.

Many players said my ledgetrapping was one of my finest assets. I strongly suggest watching Poppt’s video on ledgetrapping and using that to improve your methods if you’re seeking to compete in Smash tournaments. Plus, I’ve begun sorting out my characters even further to compete in matchups more wisely. I’ll be training my Wolf, Roy, and Chrom along with my Ike for the future.

The Venue

Held at the Wyndham in Orlando, FL, this venue holds a history of hosting CEO for the past decade. While the last two years were spent in Daytona Beach, returning to the Wyndham felt like a homecoming. The resort hotel is located right by Disney World, Universal Studios, and a plethora of restaurants in-between. Among those include a Red Robin and a BJ’s. Getting to go to the latter twice, I strongly recommend their Italian Market Pizza. I was quite convinced that was some of the best I ever had. We also stopped by Pollo Tropical, which blew me away with its amazing wings and chicken soup.

Overall

Days before the event, CEO Dreamland faced closure. In under a night, 600 attendees dropped out of the event due to the Coronavirus scares. Event organizer, Alex Jebailey, however, continued to run the event despite the looming threat of cancellation. During this time, he sent out his plea on social media and asked attendees for donations.

Players from all over the scene chipped in with what they could afford. For those who love CEO and feel at home within this community, the players responded with the type of love that you could only be proud of in the Smash and Fighting Game Communities.

Sunday, the Super Smash Bros. Melee and Ultimate tournaments, won by Hungrybox and Samsora respectively, concluded. After the event, Jebailey sent out one last video thanking the fans and attendees.

When it’s all said and done, I couldn’t be more proud of my scene. I love watching our players come together and boost our scene up. Even in spite of this crisis, we will stand together. And when that time comes, we will be back when CEO and CEO Dreamland return. #CEOStrong

What can SNK do to ensure that The King of Fighters XV succeeds?

SNK’s Future Lies with The King of Fighters XV.

2009 began the renaissance of fighting games. With the release of Street Fighter IV, the gaming industry would see a drastic change in the approach to fighting games over the course of the next decade. That generation would see the first balance patches for fighting games, DLC, large numbers of players entering major tournaments, and even developers supporting their respective communities. Netherrealm Studios would sponsor $10,000 pot bonuses for tournaments while major figureheads and developers, like Tekken creator, Katsuhiro Harada, would attend EVO and Final Round. SNK never had the following of Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, or Tekken, at least not in a America. Certain regions of Asia and Mexico value the King of Fighters as one of the most prominent fighting games. Meanwhile, many players in the west got their taste of SNK through the heavily successful crossover title, Capcom vs. SNK 2. Featuring Terry Bogard, Rock Howard, Kyo Kusanagi, and many others, CvS2 would introduce these players to SNK franchises for the very first time. Despite this, SNK would still maintain only a niche following in America. The King of Fighters XIV released in 2016. Despite SNK trying to capitalize on the modern successes of fighting games, The King of Fighters XIV’s momentum never quite picked up in the U.S. Most prominently, the visual models were not considered appealing. From King of Fighters ’94 to King of Fighters XIII, all used animated sprites. XIV was the first to use 3D modeling. Even after SNK released a patch, the game had already made its impression on the players and would fade into obscurity. Also of note, EVO 2017 featured the game, but notably, only one American player made it into the Top 8. Compared to other games, the Top 8 of KOF XIV featured global talent with only one American player. Most recently, however, SNK released Samurai Shodown for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The first Samurai Shodown title released in many years, it offers a unique gameplay style. Featuring slower combat, with hits that deal massive amounts of damage, it quickly gained a following. As a result, the title was featured as an event at EVO 2019. Despite the game’s poor online netcode driving many players away from online matches, it maintains a following for local tournament scenes. Furthermore, SNK will release the title on Nintendo Switch later this year. But perhaps the single most prominent element of this topic is the inclusion of Terry Bogard in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Revealed as the 4th DLC character for Nintendo’s popular fighting game franchise, Terry Bogard brought with him not only his fighting style, but Terry’s King of Fighters Stadium stage with his DLC pack, many character models from the KOF series, and music from Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, Athena, Psycho Soldier, Ikari Warriors, Alpha Mission, and even Metal Slug. Furthermore, Smash creator, Masahiro Sakurai, elaborated heavily on the importance of SNK in fighting games and even how much their games influenced Smash with its mechanics.

Point #1: Make a Visually Appealing Title

Samurai Shodown uses an art style similar to Street Fighter IV and V. They’re going with what has proven to work in the market. Bandai Namco has stuck with beautiful character models for SoulCalibur and Tekken, while Arc Systems Works sticks to its animated sprites featured in Dragon Ball FighterZ and BlazBlue Cross Tag. Notably, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite received heavy criticism over its character models. Among Dante, Chun-Li, and others, the game’s lack of visual appeal helped keep it away from EVO, among other reasons. Despite Marvel vs. Capcom being a longtime mainstay at the EVO championships, EVO 2018 was perhaps the first time the series missed out. Even though these character models would later be fixed, perhaps this was a case of, “too little, too late.” SNK would benefit greatly from revamping their direction on visual models and animation. While one can argue “graphics don’t make a game,” these arguments help solidify that games that garner low reception for their visuals will not reap the benefits of its competition.

Point #2: Make the Netcode the Most Efficient Possible

As mentioned earlier, Samurai Shodown features less-than-stellar netcode. It’s bad enough that you’re likely to never find a random match online despite the game being out for only a year. Whatever keeps online fighting games active for years hasn’t worked for SNK thus far. Netcode is important for the online players who want to consider getting into competitive tournaments. Without reliable online play, players will give up on the game. If they have no local, offline scene, they will simply move onto the next game to play. Keep in mind, however, that SNK has already begun using rollback netcode with thanks to Code Mystics for porting their games to modern systems.  For a long story short, it’s better than the standard netcode used in online fighting games. With that being said, Code Mystics began updating their ports of classic SNK games for Steam and PS4. Garou, KOF 97, SamSho V Special, and The Last Blade 2 all feature rollback netcode.

Point #3: Capitalize on a Nintendo Switch Release.

Consider that Samurai Shodown is coming to Nintendo Switch. Now also consider that Terry Bogard is in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. For those unaware, Super Smash Bros. serves as a fantastic marketing tool for game franchises. Perhaps the most notable example would be the inclusion of Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Despite the Fire Emblem series being exclusive to Japan at the time, fans demanded Fire Emblem come to America out of curiosity for these characters. Two years later, Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade would come to America. This would begin the series’ journey to the west with nearly every installment being released overseas. Moreover, it would continue the tradition of new Fire Emblem lords getting into Smash, most notably with the release of Byleth in Smash from Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Even Sakurai himself admitted that Byleth’s inclusion for Smash was part of marketing on Nintendo’s part to promote the game. Another example of Smash marketing would be the release of Hero in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Immediately after showcasing the Hero trailer at E3 2019, Nintendo showcased a trailer for his home game, Dragon Quest XI S. This was timed purposely to garner interest among fans to try the next big game on Nintendo’s console. By marketing Hero, they market Dragon Quest. The best possible thing that SNK can do is to capitalize on Terry’s inclusion in Smash. It goes without saying that this would include a brand new fanbase of Nintendo fans, many who are new to The King of Fighters, to try the latest release in the series. As Joker’s release in Smash even garnered prominent members of the Smash community to stream Persona 5, releasing King of Fighters on Smash’s console would not even necessitate players to get another console just to try the game. Now you have Terry players and curious Smash fans trying The King of Fighters and ensuring the game becomes successful.

Final Thoughts

I played Capcom vs. SNK 2 back in the day. I was never a competitive fighter, though. I just enjoyed the characters and stories. Eventually I tried The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match on Xbox 360 and really enjoyed it. I loved the music and character animations. But the release of Terry completely caught my attention in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I ended up using this character competitively in brackets and fell in love with his moveset. But I also became enamored by all the music and SNK lore that came with his inclusion. It prompted me to download several King of Fighters titles and even some of the titles included from Code Mystics’ ports on PS4. I would definitely consider myself a newer KOF fan in that regard. But I would love to watch it succeed. I want SNK to capitalize on the foundation Nintendo has already given them through Smash. And I want the loud criticism from unsatisfied fans to help guide SNK into crafting the best fighting game possible. It’s a beautiful thing to know that they support local tournaments that host their games. But I would love to see their investment capitalize into a fresh start and introduce a new generation of fans to their stylistic character designs, battle mechanics, and fantastic music. If you would love to see The King of Fighters XV come to Nintendo Switch, let us know in the comments below. What is your favorite SNK game memory?