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Apex 2012, one of the competitive Super Smash Bros community's biggest events ever, was supposed to bring back the hype and excitement that, according to many community members, had left the scene over the past couple of years. It certainly did just that – the event brought in over 700 unique Super Smash Bros Brawl and Super Smash Bros Melee players, as well as several hundred more individuals that entered Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Mortal Kombat, Super Smash Bros (for the Nintendo 64), and Pokemon. However, what Apex 2012 also did was cast a shadow of doubt across both of the major Smash communities. For Melee, this was due to the grand finals of the Melee singles competition. In the final match-up between two of the best players the game has ever seen, Armada of Sweden and Hungrybox of Florida, what was hoped to be a chaotic showdown of skill and merit became a slow match that progressed for more than an hour, an excruciating amount of time for any game that isn't Starcraft 2, League of Legends, or games of that nature. The hype was certainly there. This was because Hungrybox used Jigglypuff – while this isn't usually a problem, it was for Armada, who's character (Peach) has trouble dealing with Jigglypuff. Thus, Armada switched to Young Link, a projectile-based character, for grand finals, turning a hype match into a morbidly slow camp fest that lasted way too long than it should have. On the other hand, the Brawl community didn't have a problem with one particular match, but the result of the entire tournament itself. Some foreground: Apex 2012 marked the beginning of the end for the best character in Brawl, Metaknight. As of the end of the event, the American community banned the character from all tournaments using the “Unity Ruleset.” Any tournament part of that movement can not have Metaknight legal during competition, though non-Unity tournaments can still have the character legal if they so choose. Going into Apex, this didn't seem to be a problem. The pro-ban group was strong and growing in numbers, but then Apex came to a close with the 1st and 2nd place finishers being Japanese players. In Japan, the rule set is much different from the one found in the United States (heck, even the ones found in other parts of the world, as well). In Japan, Metaknight is legal, but also the timer is longer and most stages are banned from competitive play (on the other hand, the US allows over a dozen stages to be played on in some areas). The American community, seeing Japan's proficiency in the game, has now somewhat turned on its heel. Many players are now supporting the anti-ban movement, even some going as far as to advocate the US picking up the Japanese rule set for all tournaments, especially because many American players are now interested in attending Sun Rise, a tournament in Tokyo this August. The players definitely want to be prepared, no matter what it takes. Ocean was one of the many Japanese players to take down American greats like Mew2King. For Melee, some are advocating change to avoid slow game play For Brawl, players want to see change to stand up to the apparently superior Japanese players. But which side is right? Melee is certainly in a tough position here, especially because, besides from the grand finals, the entire tournament ran smoothly and matches were completed on time without any hassle. Grand finals seemed to be just a fluke. Though it is certainly reasonable that lowering the amount of lives, or “stocks”, each character has in a round (competitive Melee currently allots four stocks to each player per game) could create a better competitive experience, it doesn't seem like one match is enough proof to change a system that has been in place for around ten years or so. Then there's Brawl. Obviously if Nairo, the fifteen year-old Metaknight player from New Jersey who placed third in singles, had beaten out the top two Japanese players and took first place, there wouldn't be any discussion of unbanning Metaknight and mirroring the Japanese rule set But what happened, happened, and many players are certainly not ignoring this issue. It's certainly not a guarantee that non-Japanese players will get better just by adopting a new rule set or keeping Metaknight legal. And considering the American community just banned Metaknight, unbanning him immediately without properly evaluating how his ban would change the metagame of Brawl would be a very knee-jerk move. While it seems like the Melee community may not make any changes at all, attempts to change things are certainly breaking the surface in the Brawl community. Whether these changes become concrete within the next few months or not remains to be seen, but what we do know is this – the Melee community has been around for around ten years and will do anything to keep itself alive. And the Brawl community will do whatever it takes to grow and avoid becoming stale, and the American Brawlers specifically will pay any cost to take out the Japanese on their home turf. With that in mind, the games we play competitively may be drastically different in the next year or even in less time. And not many are completely sure if the routes being taken are the right ones to explore. Images courtesy of Robert Paul. Check out his Apex 2012 gallery at: http://robertpaul.smugmug.com/Events/APEX-2012
Since the Wii 2 was rumored, then finally confirmed, everyone has been crazed not only about the system itself and what it entails, but also the games coming out for it. Would the fabled Pikmin 3 finally be released, showing itself on the oddly dubbed "Project Cafe" successor to the current Wii? Will Zelda: Skyward Sword be pushed back to become a launch title for Wii 2? And what about that weird controller with the tablet in the middle? How will the streaming work and can it run with the 3DS? So many questions, but for Smashers like me, we want just one thing answered: Is there a Super Smash Bros 4? At this point, it's safe to say that we have absolutely no idea. Unlike the confirmation of the appearance of Wii 2 at E3, many of the game rumors have not been confirmed. PureNintendo.com recently gave a huge list of specs and concepts for the Wii 2, as well as a ridiculous amount of games that apparently are going to appear in trailer or playable form this year at the huge game expo. On that list, marked with a "playable" stamp, is Super Smash Bros 4. We may be seeing this sometime this June. So, I mean, what can we think of this? And what will it be like? To address the former, essentially this rumor is claiming that the next Smash Bros will be playable this year at E3. As much as this would be awesome and amazing for everyone, we have to think both realistically and logically here. Brawl was announced in 2005, which was quickly paired at E3 with the first launch trailer that confirmed Metaknight, Pit, Wario, Zero Suit Samus and Konami's Solid Snake to be playable characters. Just thinking of that, by the way, makes me giddy. There's nothing like anticipating a new Smash game. Anyway, when it was announced, it wasn't playable, and wouldn't become playable for a while. Brawl didn't actually begin its development stage until 2005, several years after the release of Melee, and wasn't even released until 2008. So, being realistic here, we really can't expect a true playable demo of the game yet. If anything, Nintendo will probably keep the game's gameplay, save for any that shows up in a release trailer, quite under wraps. Smash is one of Nintendo's hugest franchises and the last thing it wants to do is show all of its cards too early. Plus, this is if the console even has any playable demos in the first place - as far as we know, the confirmation of playable demos of any game for the system has not been announced, and if/when it does, it's doubtful Smash will be part of the playable category. When the Wii was announced, Wii Sports was the big game that was played, and even then we didn't see all of what the Wii had to offer back then. Putting that aside, let's be optimistic and say that there will be a Smash 4. We all want it to happen, even though we really don't know who will be making it in the first place. Sakurai was essentially begged to make Brawl and now he's all up in the Kid Icarus franchise as of late. That's not to say Nintendo lacks any capable developer; I'm sure Retro Studios wouldn't mind adding the best Smash Bros ever created to their resume. So, with that said, assuming it is being made, what kind of game will it be? As in, well, what kind of Smash will it be? What kind of Smash should it be? A better Brawl or a better Melee? Which is...better? With the Smash community, it seems like the two most viable options have appeared: It will be a "true" sequel to Melee, or an upgraded Brawl. And, in my eyes, I'm actually leaning toward the latter. Everyone knows I'm a huge Melee fan. I love the hype, the community, the overall amazing quality of the game. I've spent countless hours playing it by myself and even more with friends. There was nothing like a good game of Melee late at night back in the day. However, do I really just want a Melee 2.0? Not necessarily. Brawl, in it of itself, is a solid title. Yeah, there's things wrong with it, but it actually introduced a lot of things I do enjoy. I love the roster, save for a few spots; I'm a big fan of the stages; the campaign actually wasn't that bad; all of the cool things to unlock were pretty, um, cool. There's a lot that could be better, but to be completely honest, just because a game isn't "Melee 2.0" doesn't mean SSB4 can't be a good mix of what Melee was, what Brawl is, and what a new Smash game could bring. That, my readers, is what is the truly best option. The great thing about what we have here is that there is so much we can take from previous games, as well as create with new additions. There's nothing wrong with change. I love Melee, but I don't want to buy a graphically-updated replica of it. I want a new Smash, one that brings the best of all the previous titles, as well as changes up things that makes it separate from all the other titles. Sure, I'll still buy it regardless of whatever it turns out to be, but this seems like the smartest thing to do, and I'm sure the developers behind it, if they are behind it, are completely aware of this. With that said, I really have confidence in the next Smash. I don't want Brawl 2.0, Melee 2.0, or even 64 2.0 (though that would probably be as ridiculous as MvC2 in terms of craziness); I just want Super Smash Bros 4. I want to keep the best of the old, and bring in the best of the new. That's the clearest goal I can see for anyone that decides or decided to take on the franchise for the new console. And please, I beg of you, whomever is developing this game, please make Ridley and King K. Rool playable!