Smashy Smashy

It was the end of my high school career. I had just completed an original one man show, directed another two act play, and was finishing all the remaining duties that remained as a member of the International Thespian Society when all the theater people decided to have a party. At that party there was a game introduced that I had not seen before (not surprising as I had no Gamecube): Super Smash Brothers Melee.

I just happened to be fortunate that when I went off to college, I ended up in the dorm that had a disproportionate number of theater folk who were all gamers. It was quite common that midnight or one AM would roll around and we’d all take a break for some Smashy, as we enjoyed calling it. At first I was at a clear disadvantage, having once played the game at a party where my focus was distracted with farewells and good cheer in a party setting.

Super Smash Brothers Brawl is the first game for which I’ve attended a midnight release (in rather cold weather). I invited friends over for when I arrived home and we ended up playing well into the next day. However, when Cap’n Perkins came to visit, I hadn’t touched the game in months.

Why?

The very simple answer is that while I still have all of my college friends with whom I played on my friend list, we’re all on different schedules (one grad school, another soon off to Japan, and one other who is dealing with some major life changes), so getting online and playing doesn’t happen very often. I also don’t enjoy the taunting texts as much as the talk that would occur in person. Those people have visited me in Chicago and we did play some Smash (and Mario Kart), and that’s the environment I want. I’m still not sure how well I’ll react to playing either an MMO or Diablo 3 with my family without being able to yell into the server room.

Reading Experience Points’ entry for this month’s Blogs of the Round Table, I think I may have finally found that source of slight ennui when it comes to playing some more Smash. First, let me clarify a few points that Cap’n Perkins and I discussed, however.

The game may seem generic to some, but it is the charm and nostalgia that grabs us. I tell other gamers who are not familiar with the franchise about Peach being able to smash her crown into Bowser’s corpulent frame and a gleam enters their eyes. As a fighter, the game doesn’t offer much wholly new from its predecessor (refinement versus revolution). What it does offer is entropy. With items on, smash balls zipping across the screen, and simple moves, the game can quickly be won by the person who is the fastest reactor in an equally skilled match. This is not a bad thing, but not a system to which most of us are experienced when it comes to the term ‘fighter.’ In opposition to the second law of thermodynamics, we are constantly trying to impose order on our experiences–this is nothing new.

This is primarily a party game in my eyes. While I’m sure there are people who relish the single player and don’t mind playing with anonymous faces online, this is a game that invites trash talk, is a source for aggression release, and is cute. It is a game that fully benefits from a party environment, with people exchanging controllers as they place fourth. Many an hour was spent after rehearsals just unwinding with the second in the series, and the third offers no less in that regard. It is also aided in the fact that it is quite easy to just pick up and play.

Which is the problem, at which I’ve already hinted. I knew my friends’ characters, strategies, and could surmise what moves they’d make if we were down to the last two contenders. Sometimes chance would play into the game, but after a certain level of expertise, one learns how to dodge and outmaneuver in even the most seemingly hopeless situation to provide some sliver of a chance. It is that level of familiarity that I enjoy about the game–it’s a bonding exercise of sort, as many a good game can (perhaps arguably, should) be.

I could pick up new friends with whom I play, and that is a distinct possibility. As of yet, however, the game has not provided that for me.

In summation? The game is fun, but it greatly benefits from people being in the same room and playing against each other. While it is an easy game to pick up, it does take considerably more effort to master–though the lack of having to learn an archaic system of button combinations for every move is a boon. This all comes from someone for whom fighters are not among his first go-to games, however. The last one I truly enjoyed before this series was Killer Instinct (how enamored I became with that little black SNES cartridge). Oh, and it also serves as an excellent Nintendo library.

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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One Response to Smashy Smashy

  1. Scott Juster says:

    As you probably have guessed, I feel largely the same way about Brawl. I don’t have the time to invest in it the way I did with Melee, and my main competitors (like my brother) are now dispersed.It’s here that I think the game could really benefit from live communication between players. Maybe I can set up an elaborate system of skype/ichat enable computers so that I could both play with, see, and hear my competitors even when not in the same room?

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