Remember how I said I would eventually make a blog post about Smash? Well I didn’t think it would come so soon…
This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Dreamhacks, a tech convention, 72-hour game-apalooza that downright blew my mind. There were hackathons. There were live oculus demos. There were tournaments galore. Heck, there were even giant brownies! Unfortunately for me, my time was limited this weekend, so I was only able to attend a small subset of the events (which didn’t include eating brownies :( ).
First up on my agenda: Super Smash Bros. Melee Top 8. Despite being an avid fan and exceedingly mediocre player of Smash, I hadn’t ever been to a live tournament. I had seen plenty on YouTube, but not until I saw my first match did I understand the vast difference between the two experiences. That first game wasn’t super high stakes, but I found myself cheering on every kill and wincing at every nearly-missed opportunity. The first face off was between Wizzirobe (an extremely cool and technical Falcon player) and Laudandus (a Sheik player I had never hear of). Wizzi takes the match handily, but not without a few nervous flops.
Next up was Leffen vs. Mew2King. Leffen was the only Swede left in the tournament. He’s a cool and collected Fox player that plays like a demon. With an aura of intimidation around him, the “god slayer” goes into matches knowing that he can beat anyone. Yet he’s not the favorite of this match. Mew2King is one of five said gods. Unlike most players, he can play masterfully with nearly any character on the Smash roster. His Marth is known to be unbeatable on some stages, and his Sheik is an entirely different beast. These two monsterfully skilled players don’t waste any time and dive directly into their match, Leffen with Fox and M2K with Marth. Right off the bat, Leffen grabs the ledge, only to plummet immediately into the bottom of the stage. It was the quickest self-destruct I’d ever seen. But Leffen doesn’t go down that easy, and with the support of the crowd (including my friend Naeem, fervently cheering his lungs out), Leffen quickly takes the stock without any damage. 3 stocks left each. Both players get a few quick hits in and Leffen SDs again! He takes a pause. After resuming, he works his magic again and brings it right back. M2K takes the 3rd stock shortly after, but Leffen is quick to follow. WIth one stock left each, the pace begins to slow down. Both players realize the importance of this match: the winner gets momentum, a huge advantage in Smash. The hits become few and far between as both characters rack up damage. As both characters get into the 100% range, M2K feels the pressure to finish the match. Marth, with an excellent combo game and powerful finishing moves, has difficultly killing his enemies when starting a combo from a highly damaged opponent. Although his hits are hard, they won’t kill, knocking the other player far enough away to escape. To avoid this problem, M2K grabs Leffen and throws him off stage. Leffen recovers quickly, but only to be thrown right back off. Desperate to get back, Leffen attempts to recover high above the ledge, but M2K reads this perfectly. Leffen flies right into M2K’s sword, struck into a quick defeat. With his momentum broken, Leffen struggles much more in the next two games. As he becomes more and more desprate, M2K has an easier and easier time predicting his next move. As a result, M2K takes the next two games in a crushing 3-0 defeat.
Next is a pair I didn’t quite expect to see: Mang0 vs. Chudat. Chudat is a silly guy whose stage presence reflects the happy-going nature of his character: ice-climbers. Until recently, he hasn’t been too high in the rankings, but has been putting on quite a show. Especially against Mang0. Another one of the 5 gods, Mang0 is a master-of-hype Fox player and always has the crowd on his side. Yet despite this huge difference in ranking, my up-to-date friends told me that Mang0 had actually lost the past 2 times he played Chudat. I couldn’t believe it. And yet before I knew it, Mang0 had lost the first game. And hard too. Nothing Mang0 tried seemed to counter the ice climbers ultimate tool: the Wobble. This move allows ice climbers to rack up infinite damage, killing off of a single grab. There are some ways to escape it before it starts, but Mang0 certainly wasn’t finding them. Crushed, Mang0 starts the second game only to arrive at the exact same result. Well, almost the same. This game, things got a bit interesting: Mang0 started actually finding those escape routes! Despite the loss, this improvement hyped up the crowd. Mang0 had the momentum. In the 3rd game, he was able to kill Nana (one of the two ice climbers) quickly and reliably. With this strategy, he dominated. Mang0’s Fox barely takes a scratch when finishing off the second ice climber, and he solidly wins the game. However, as loser, Chudat now has his choice of stage. With the stage advantage, Chudat doesn’t let his Nana die so easily, and begins hitting all his Wobbles again. The game is close, but Chudat clutches it out. 3-1 Chudat.
After a toughly-contested win of M2K over Mang0, and after a crushing defeat of Chudat by the hands of Hungrybox (I’ll talk about him later), Chudat and M2K face off in losers finals. Again, M2K is the big favorite here. With his vast knowledge of Smash, M2K decides to go with Peach, countering Chudat’s Ice Climbers. But Chudat gets the right to pick characters second this game, and he goes with a surprising choice: Jigglypuff! At this point, I hadn’t seen many of Chudat’s maches, and I certainly hadn’t seen him play Jigglypuff ever. But Jigglypuff is a HUGE counter to Peach. Now remember: I told you before that M2K was a master at nearly every character in Smash, so it technically wasn’t a lie. Turns out that Peach is one of the few characters he has yet to master. With lack of experience and a poor match-up to deal with, M2K takes a hard loss. But now M2K gets second choice for characters. Chudat goes back to ICs, so M2K sticks with Peach. Seems like a good move, right? Well, I learned something this match that I won’t soon forget: Chudat is really good. Despite the insane matchup disadvantage against A GOD of Melee, Chudat 4-stocks M2K (meaning Chudat didn’t die a single time)! M2K goes back to Marth and takes a close game, but with next stage choice, Chudat wins the final game of the set to take it 3-1. Now for the finals.
Chudat had come so far - farther than any of the people in the venue would’ve guessed - but he still had quite a hill to climb. This is because, Hungrybox, a Jigglypuff player, was not gonna go down easy. Another one of the 5 gods, Hungrybox is an expert at getting into your head. He’ll regularly take an early lead and wait on the ledge until the clock runs out if that means a win. And against Ice Climbers, Jigglypuff had a huge advantage: she was too light to get Wobbled! Earlier in the tournament, Chudat had already gotten a taste of this in a sad 0-3 loss that Naeem described as “a grown man kicking a puppy.” It was brutal. And yet, just as we were getting ready for another puppy kicking, Chudat plays his heart out and wins game one! It’s clear from the expression on Hungrybox’s face that this was more of a warm up for him, but Chudat will take it anyways. Running with the momentum, Chudat gets some good combos right at the start of game 2. He can’t get any Wobbles, but he can do some cool hand-off combos with his two ice climbers. This time though, Hungrybox puts up much more of a fight. He has no trouble killing Nana quickly, and Popo (the second ice climber) is no match for Jigglypuff all by himself. With both players at their best, the stocks are down to one-a-piece. After racking up some damage, Chudat clutches it out with a kill to take game 2! Things are looking good. That is until Hbox gets serious. Abusing the Nana-killing strategy even more, Hbox slowly but surely whittles down Chudat’s stocks over the next two games, making the count 2-2. Final game of the set. Chudat has to win here to survive. He’s got his pick of stage, but the pressure gets to him, and he quickly loses the first stock! He takes a while to counter with a kill of his own, but Hbox follows shortly after with another kill. Up with a stock lead over Chudat, Hbox goes in for his signature strategy: playing the waiting game. He holds the ledge and stays there, nearly impossible to hit. 5 minutes left on the clock. Chudat makes attempts at Hbox, but to no avail. He gets a hit! But it’s nothing… Hbox comes right back. 3 minutes left. Hbox comes on stage. Now’s Chudat’s chance. But now Hbox’s motives are clear: to kill Nana! And sure enough, she’s dead. Hbox goes back to waiting, facing only a single ice climber. 2 minutes left. Chudat realizes he can’t get anywhere without both ice climbers, so he intelligently SDs to get Nana back. Now the competition is on. Chudat takes ledge, forcing Hbox off, but Jigglypuff is extremely mobile in the air. Hbox easily evades. 1 minute left. Chudat is getting desperate. He makes a few hits. He’s got Hbox on the ground. He’s got a grab! 20 seconds left. Hbox breaks free… Chudat continues the chase. 5 seconds left, gotta make something happen. And something does happen! Just not exactly what we all hoped for… Hbox gets a last minute Rest to send Chudat flying off stage, sealing in his victory. The tournament ends. I’m sad.
My sadness will not last long though! I don’t have time now to tell you about the rest of Dreamhacks, so I’ll save that for later. Let’s just say it was magical.