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"Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

~Ephesians 5:16

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Salt, the Cheese, and the Tiers: On Super Smash Bros. -The Concept and Falsity of Tiers

I remember being at a Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament awhile back. Before the actual matches began, there was friendlies being done. I was utilizing Mario and holding my own against two others. One onlooker told his friends something along the tines of, "You guys are letting a Mario survive all this?" That statement always bothered me, but I knew it was a joke since Mario is typically not known as one of the better characters in that particular game. This is the concept of "tiers," which in a nutshell states who the best characters in a game are and the worst. But what makes a character better than another? This concept is especially popular with the latest installment in the Smash series, but is it a really true concept and something that should be followed?

In video games, often there's such a thing has characters having unfair advantages. In Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 for example some characters literally have far inferior heath bars and nothing backing them up. Krillin for example has so little health in comparison to Goku it gives the latter an extremely unfair advantage. It's games like this when the disadvantage is so obvious that one simply has no reason to play characters like Krillin or Yajirobe, even if the player likes them a lot. This type of stuff doesn't exist in Super Smash Bros. Yet, many will say that there's such a thing as bad characters in the game. Sheik at the moment is known as the best character. So, a much lower tier character such as Dr. Mario should have no shot against her. As evidenced here, this is simply not the case...

Some might say that a single battle isn't enough to gauge this type of thing, since "flukes" can happen according to many. Well, let's pit Pac-Man, whom has never been known to be a fantastic character, against someone whom is constantly being put up in the tier list: Zero Suit Samus, in 3 battles back-to-back.

My opponent obviously knew what he was doing, but my Pac-Man was just simply better here. Stuff like this tell me that that people really think too much about tier lists and the like. Players abandon their characters to play as top tiers just because many claim they're the best. Isn't that just a little disappointing? Let's say for example you've been playing with Samus throughout all the games. And when the new one comes out, you're still playing as her. You enjoy her moveset, and find yourself mastering all the different things she can achieve. You've even beaten quite a few Sheiks, according to many the best character in the game. Then someone comes along and tells you Samus is actually the worst character in the game. You're great with her, but because you find out that most agree she's the worst, you abandon her. Sound fishy? That's because it is.

Let's take two characters: Pac-Man and Sheik. They have vastly different movesets and can achieve quite a bit. On their own however, they can't do anything. They are immobile; they need a person controlling them. All characters are equal in that sense. Then we grab two people. An expert Pac-Man will almost always beat a rookie Shiek, and vice versa. What if you pit two people whom know their characters pretty well? I was listening to the narration for EVO, and one of the broadcasters made the statement of this match-up as "unwinnable for Pac-Man." As we can see, this is simply not the case...

A person can train their character to beat anyone. For example, just a few days I managed to beat the word champion of the game, ZeRo, in a match on tourney mode.

Many will be quick to point out that he wasn't using Sheik, his main, rather he was using Little Mac. Would the battle have gone differently? Let's hypothetically say it would have. That wouldn't be because Sheik is inherently a better character than Little Mac. Rather, it'd be because ZeRo has mastered Sheik so well that it's just supremely difficult to overcome him.

There is such a thing as bad match-ups. Mega Man against Rosalina is a fight in the latter's favor due to her being able to absorb whatever Mega shoots at her. This doesn't make her a better character than Mega Man, she just has the advantage. A classic example is the original Pokemon anime. Near the finale before Advanced started, Ash had his Charaizard battle Blastoise. Both Pokemon are equals; they are the final form of their species and both trainers have been on similar journeys with them. But Blastoise has the edge due to being a water type. Does this mean he is better than Charizard? Not at all. Then in a surprise turn of events, Charizard takes the win, showing that even having the advantage doesn't guarantee a win.

Sheik, Rosalina, and Zero Samus are great characters, but I believe every character in the game has the capability of being the best. Unlike many other fighting games, there isn't an obvious unbalance here. And when an anomaly seemingly appears, Nintendo has been quick to fix it. (Meta Knight being much less over-powered, Robin becoming slightly faster, etc.) If you find yourself doing well with say Duck Hunt and like the way he plays, don't feel like you should switch just because many say your character is more on the average side.

Of course, if you find yourself liking Sheik's moveset for example, by all means grab the character. The problem is that people give up on their mains just because many say certain characters are superior. Then there's this illusion that losing to certain characters means the player isn't quite that good. If say Luigi lost to Mewtwo, many would question Luigi's player skills, no matter how impressive Mewtwo looked, simply because Mewtwo is known as one of the worst characters in the game. This kind of thinking hurts the competitive landscape as less and less diversity is seen since everybody is flocking to characters people claim are the best. Then the other characters aren't taken seriously when in actuality they can be equally impressive.

Here's a saying to remember, "Tier power is all in the head. It's really all about the person playing the character, building a connection, learning their moveset, and being creative. Every character has the potential to be the best. You just have to make them the best."

1 comment:

  1. Your blog ate my comment once again >_> Still, while I mostly agree that determination and a solid player can overcome the power of tiers, I think they are still as real as KFC's new Chocolate Chip Cookie. What can a Jigglypuff hope to do against a Sheik? Sheik has better short range options, long range options, better speed, better attack power, better range, better combos, better grabs, and can effectively do anything that Jigglypuff can do, but better? Aside from those extreme cases though, it's definitely up to the player to surpass his/her opponent and just reach for the top!