One thing about competitive Super Smash Bros. that most people are surprised to learn is that the definitive version used in tournaments around the world is Super Smash Bros. Melee. Gaming fans may be thinking “Isn’t Melee the version that came out for the Game Cube?” Yes, yes it is. Although there are two more recent installments to the Smash Bros. series, 2001’s Melee is seen as the most competitively viable version.
What is wrong with the more recent 2008 release Super Smash Bros. Brawl? Nothing if you are playing in a casual setting, but in a serious tournament where players and teams are earning a living, there are simply too many RNG factors to make the game viable. That coupled with slower gameplay, a lack of advanced counterplay, and several other headaches, have kept Melee as the top version when it comes to competitive Smash.
Although there are several reasons why the world’s top players prefer the now 15 year old installment, this article is going to focus on one very particular aspect. The issue which has recently been illustrated beautifully by modder, Dan Salvato: Tripping.
Yes, tripping is a part of the more recent Smash releases and has been present in the games since 2008’s release of Brawl. Tripping is exactly what it sounds like, at seemingly random times while playing, instead of moving the direction you wanted or executing the move you were attempting, your character will instead trip and fall to the ground. Tripping not only makes your character faceplant, but also causes you to momentarily lose control as if you had been hit by an enemy’s attack.
The big issue players have with the tripping mechanic is its inconsistency. Here’s how the game mechanic works: Whenever a character begins to dash, turns while running, or performs any button input that involves tapping the control stick (like in a forward smash), there is a 1% chance that the character will trip and fall instead of performing the intended move.
In simpler lingo, any time a player uses a directional input, there is a 1/100 chance that they will fall and become immobile for half a second. In a fast-paced competitive environment, that 1% chance could be the difference between victory and defeat.
Here’s a quick video of the Melee mod in action:
In Brawl, having your character slip and fall every once in awhile was not as punishable because of the slower gameplay. Although it would obviously not be favorable, the trip was less costly. In Melee, however, losing control for half a second could mean losing a stock and consequently losing the match. Melee pros are conditioned to take a small advantage and, through combinations, punish their opponent hard. That punishment coming from a small mistake is one thing, but taking a huge chunk of percentage or even a stock for an unlucky slip, that’s a whole different issue.
As mentioned previously, tripping was introduced in Brawl, so Dan’s mod has the sole purpose of bringing the frustration of trips to a much more familiar world in Melee. Regarding his mod, Salvato even sarcastically says “For years, Melee has been missing out on many of the new mechanics that makes Brawl a deep and complex competitive game. The wait if finally over!”
Although Dan has not said specifically why he had built the mod, the mod is not currently released to the public. It seems safe to say the mod’s demonstration is a kind of protest. A way of showing the developers and esports public why Melee is the better choice for competitive play. Also, a way of showing just how absurd a mechanic like tripping is.
As esports continues to grow into a massive industry and competitive games need to have as level a playing field as possible, random in-game events (like your character falling to the ground for no apparent reason) are frowned upon by both the players and fans. No one wants to see a final match between two titans of the game decided by luck. Making sure that a game is about skill is not only important to those who play for a living, but also to the legitimacy of competition in esports as a whole.