By Isaac Espinosa
In this time of self quarantining and isolation, it’s best to look toward the games that allow us to lose ourselves in the fun, and temporarily forget about what’s going on outside. For me, Super Smash Bros. has always been that game. I mostly play from a competitive standpoint, meaning I go to tournaments when they’re being held, and I take the game fairly seriously. Even when I face someone that’s not on my level, such as when I faced Rudy Blanco at the BX Start space, or some of the students at the Lower East Side Critics Circle, I never hold back. As someone who’s relatively confident in his ability to perform well in Smash, I get angry whenever I lose in a tournament setting. It shows that I have a long way to go before I can reach the top, but whenever I perform well, it proves that I have the skills to be considered a good player. While I have the drive to win, tournaments are mostly about testing my skills and seeing what else I need to learn, whether it would be play style or character matchups. I miss going to them during this time of isolation.
When I compete, I use a good amount of characters on the roster. Most of the time, I play Ridley, the vicious Space Pirate from the Metroid series, and Byleth, the main protagonist of Fire Emblem Three Houses. While Ridley’s powerful attacks and quickness make him a fun heavyweight character to play, I also love playing as Byleth because it forces me to be methodical and calm and to space out my slow, bigger moves. When it comes to more casual matches, though, I tend to use a variety of characters, like Banjo and Kazooie, Joker, Bowser, Marth, or even the occasional Random pick. Having a wide assortment of characters to play, whether for competitions or simply for friendly matches, ensures that the game never gets boring. It’s good to have so many options.
Despite my love for competitive Smash Bros., I have the most fun when I’m playing with my friends. So much of what makes Ultimate exciting is prohibited in competition, like the inclusion of items such as the Pokeball and the Hammer, along with the more chaotic and interesting stages like Hyrule Temple and Garreg Mach Monastery. I distinctly remember when my brother, me and our childhood friends would take in the mode called Smashdown, where each character we picked would be no longer available the next round. We all picked random, and set our stamina to 10 HP, so each match was hilariously tense since we were getting characters none of us had used. Combined with how easily we all were dying, it ended up being a pretty fun time.
Now, there’s one question that I often get whenever I talk to other Smash players, or people within the general fighting game community. They wonder if I play other fighting games, and if so, why I choose to play Smash Bros Ultimate over something like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. First, as a huge fan of Nintendo, my love for Smash Bros stems from a love for the company rather than for fighting games in general. My ability to play as all these storied video game characters full of personality in this wild and party-esque brawler gives Smash Bros. a special charm that not many fighting games can replicate. And second, Smash was a much easier game for me to learn and understand than Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Those have specific button inputs and combos that need to be executed in order to improve your skill in the game. While there’s definitely a gap between the competitive and casual audience for Smash Bros., it’s easy to be a part of both, which isn’t true for other fighting games, at least in my opinion.
The Super Smash Bros. series has always been near and dear to my heart. Whether it’s playing with friends and making memories, the competitive rush that I get from going to tournaments to play Ultimate, or the thrill that I feel whenever a new character is revealed for the game, I’ve only been able to obtain these levels of excitement from this amazing series. So it’s no surprise that Super Smash Bros. will always be a game that I hold near and dear to my heart – now, when we’re isolated, and in the future when we can all be together again.
Isaac Espinosa is a New York Videogame Critics Circle senior intern. He’s the founder of the Lehman College Videogame Critics Circle.