Learning the Basics
So you want to join the hype train and buy Super Smash Bros. Brawl and become the champion on your block. There's only one problem: you have never played Smash Bros. before! That's quite an issue, isn't it? Luckily, Rob will be your Obi Wan Smashobi, free of charge!
The object of the game isn't to kill your opponent, but knock said fool off of the stage. The stages may be large, but the sides of the screen are very deadly. The more you hit an enemy, the more damage they receive in that percentage meter down below. The higher that number is, the more likely a player will go flying after a charged-up attack. When your enemy has a high enough meter, you attack, and said foe flies off the screen, a point is given to you and their point is lost. The most points at the end of a game wins.
Meta Knigh is a fast character,
use that to your advantage!
Each character is different, so don't expect Meta Knight to be the same speed as Bowser. Learning who you want to play depends on how quick you want to land attacks and how much power you would like. If you want a very fast character, Sheik or Meta Knight may be your best bets. If you want brute strength, King Dedede or Bowser will handle well. If you want a balanced character with no major advantages, the Super Mario characters will be best.
Once you've chosen your character, the first thing to know is how to fight. There are two types of attacks: normal attacks and special attacks. Normal attacks are your typical punches and kicks, all set on the same button. The special attacks are a little more complicated, but we'll get to that later.
The real strategy behind the game is to keep yourself from falling off the screen by staying in the center, and hit the enemies as often as possible to move them towards the outer part of the screen. When their percentage nears 100% or more, it's time to knock that enemy off.
Normal attacks are all placed on the A button, or the 2 button, depending on what game controller you wish to use for the game. You can choose from four different configurations: Wii Remote, Wii Remote with Nunchuk, GameCube controller, or the Classic Controller. Each of these can be reprogrammed in the game to best match your playing style, but buttons can be reassigned for further customization.
GameCube controllers and Classic Controllers are ideal for most hardcore gamers, whereas the Wii Remote and Remote/Nunchuk control styles have less buttons but require a lot more button combinations. Many game testers and journalists have found the GameCube and Classic Controller styles to be better than the Wii Remote, but any is fine. If you find yourself more comfortable with less buttons, the Wii Remote is always a great way to train on the basics. For now, let's train under normal attacks.
Start simple and easy with normal attacks.
Running up to a player and hitting the normal attack button is relatively easy and the best way to start learning your character. Run around a few times, press your jump button (tapping up on the directional pad, or pressing X/Y), press it again to see a double jump in the air, and see if you're comfortable with character's speed. If a character is too fast at first, the battles might be too rapid for you.
There are techniques to this normal attack button. By pressing in a direction and holding down the attack button at the same time, your character will charge up and unleash a more powerful attack - this is called a Smash Attack. Release the button and watch your enemy fly. Attacks work without holding any buttons, but variations of those attacks can be done by tapping right/left, up, or down. Whether holding or tapping the directional pad while hitting this button, there's a new technique for each.
Each character has strengths and weaknesses with these attacks. While Link may have a great move jumping in the air and pressing down+attack to hit enemies from below, his up+attack isn't as fast. Zelda has a powerful blow by pressing up+attack to make her great with characters coming from above, but her down+attack isn't anything spectacular. We'll get into specifics later, but a beginner needs to have a feel for what does what to develop a strategy and be comfortable with his/her character.
Mario's regular special attack is the fireball.
Learning the normal attacks leads us to special attacks, which are quite fun if used in moderation. Players can use four special attacks by pressing the B (or 1) button instead of the A (or 2) button, so all rules apply from the normal Smash attacks. Whether pressing left/right while using the button, up and the button, down and the button, or simply pressing the special attack in no direction at all, each character performs his or her own signature moves.
Special moves can be a vital part of a player, but beginners relying on them may find themselves hurting in the end. Newcomers love to spend the entire match throwing Mario's fireballs or shooting Fox's gun, but either can be dodged by an advanced player and leave you open for punishment. It's really important to find a balance between the special attacks and normal attacks, and learning this golden rule separates the real Smash players from the rest. Special attacks are often slower than regular attacks, and sometimes they leave your character vulnerable to be hit many times.
Overview of Characters
Now that the basics are out of the way, let's look at the characters a bit more.
Smash Bros. offers a wide variety of characters with many special moves and abilities. Sheik does not have a lot of power, but offers lightning-fast combo attacks at much higher speeds that balances out the larger foes. The rough-and-rugged Bowser has slow but highly powerful attacks, making each attack strong enough to deliver a blow but making it nearly impossible to perform combos. Characters like Donkey Kong aren't quite as good at jumping very high, but DK's weight keeps him from flying off the screen so easily. Others like Kirby can float around the stage with no trouble at all and reach tall places, but a high-flying Kirby is vulnerable to being hit in mid-air and flying off of the screen.
Bowser may not be fast, but he packs quite the claw!
Each type of character has strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to excel in one way and fall short in another. No character, no matter how cheap they may seem, is too overpowered. However, every character has the capacity to overcome their weaknesses enough to make a solid player. In my years of tournaments, I've seen people master hand-to-hand combat with Samus, strength with Kirby, and even some very accurate special attacks with Ness. These are difficult feats, but anything is possible when mastering a character. Some have spent years perfecting the right combos and in-the-air strategies, while others master the art of evasion. We will get into mastering all of the techniques over the next few days.
Mind you, each of these categories can be argued based on how long a Brawl gamer has had with each. For all intents and purposes, we'll use these classifications as reference for this feature.
Can you keep up with a Speedster?
Speedsters were touched on very briefly, so let's look at them further. They are the ones without a lot of attack power, but become great combo artists. Examples of these include Fox, Sheik, and Meta Knight. Each character is fast enough to pull off endless combinations, but not strong enough to hit enemies off of the stage until after a great number of successful attacks. These characters are great at close combat, so the best way to master them is to use regular attacks as close to the enemy as possible. When close-range attacks are mastered, Speedsters will find themselves mastering the art of evasion.
If you played Kirby's Adventure, you know this hammer. Ouch!
Powerhitters are beefed-up bad guys looking to deal some damage. These are ideal for players looking to finish off opponents with less attacks, but have slow enough special attacks that it's easy for a Speedster to knock some sense into them when they miss. Timing is everything for a Powerhitter. Examples of these are Bowser, Donkey Kong, and King Dedede. These characters are great damage dealers, but are prone to being heavily damaged themselves if not careful. Luckily, Powerhitters tend to be heavy and can withstand many more attacks.
How can you not love a living plush doll?
Lightweights are similar to Speedsters, but can't run as quickly. Instead, they can perform limited flight motions or landings. Examples of these are Kirby and Lucas. While not all of them can fly, their special attacks can maneuver them around unlike any other character. These characters are great to get out of a tight spot and have some crazy special moves, but can fly off the screen pretty easily.
You may be average, Mario, but you're not weak!
Average Joes are your typical jack of all trades, with examples like Mario and Peach. These characters have an equal balance between attacks, giving no real advantages or disadvantages. Ideal for the beginner, these players have a little bit of everything to learn the necessities as well as a few other tricks. Players can master these characters, and it takes a lot less time to do so.
Not the fastest characters, but these blades hurt!
Hack-N-Slashers are your weapons players, dealing the most damage out of a long melee weapon with an arsenal of other nifty items. Examples are Ike, Link, and Pit. These characters can hit close-range enemies without getting too close. While some have charge up attacks, others have long-range projectiles that take off enough damage for the opponent to become irritated. The trick of a Hack-N-Slasher is to utilize their primary weapon without missing too often. The regular weapon attacks don't leave too much room for fault, but a special attack has a second or two of vulnerability. Players will find themselves wanting to finish their regular attack combos off with a special attack, rarely ever the other way around. An inexperienced Hack-N-Slasher will use every special attack and open themselves up for a lot of punishment.
Even from the skies, Pikachu can launch projectiles!
Rangers are your long-ranged players. Examples of these are Samus and Pikachu. While Rangers can fight, their advantage comes from being far away from battle. Missiles, electric bolts, or anything involving special attacks will keep the players away. Rangers tend to love a good four-player melee for one very good reason: it's easy to kill a group of people from a distance when they're killing each other. Rangers tend to have wicked Final Smash attacks that blast players from across the screen, but are otherwise vulnerable when the masses catch on and eliminate the long-ranged nuisance.
Dodge, and Never be Touched Again
Take it from a Speedster: perfecting evasion can make you invincible. Imagine your opponent dishing out one attack after another, while you are dodging in a very Matrix-esque fashion. In Smash Bros., you can pull this off by holding the block button and pressing left or right (or down, but I highly advise against this on the ground). A maneuver like this can easily save your life, whether jumping behind a character, dodging a finishing blow, or even evading a projectile in air.
There's two real methods of dodging, and two not-so-encouraged methods of dodge/defense. For the intents and purposes of becoming a skilled player, shielding and using down+sheild are not the most effective means of evasion. These tend to hinder players. Therefore, evasion by air and rolling will be focused on.
Shielding can be dangerous. Roll to the other side instead!
Perfecting the dodge is critical for a player, and can only be done by playing against the highest difficulty CPU players in practice mode. While it's extremely difficult to dodge every attack on a high-level CPU opponent, dodging over 3/4 of all the moves will have you prepared to take on your friends in no time.
Blocking is a rather discouraged method of defense. While you can block against attacks, a bubble appears to show how long you can block. When the bubble disappears, a breaking sound chimes in and you will be paralyzed. Leaving yourself open like this will only hurt you in the end, so avoid using block just for blocking. Evasion will always give you an opportunity to hit the opponent from behind, and can be done as many times as you want.
When you become far more experienced, nearing expert, try working on perfect shielding, which is when you press the shield button at the exact split-second that an attack lands on your character. This will knock the opponent vulnerable for a second and allow another range of attacks. Of course, dodge can prove to be just as successful.
Triple jumping can be good for some instances,
but you can't perform an evasion on the way down!
Triple jumping, a technique used by double jumping and utilizing most of the characters' up+special technique, is evasive. However, it also kills your chance of evasion by eliminating another chance of avoiding an attack. When you use your third jump, you can no longer dodge on the way down, leaving a missed opportunity of missing that last blow. In other words, you can only use your triple jump or use your dodge while in the air. If you only double jump and attack an opponent with a regular attack, you still have the ability to evade an oncoming projectile as you fall downwards. Unless you really need your third jump, don't use it. Save that risk of coming down and being safe.
Learn to evade, Bowser!
Heavyhitters will have the hardest time learning evasion, but it's very worthwhile. There aren't many defensive moves for the Heavyhitters, so establishing a good few dodges will keep your percentage low and your feet on the ground. Knowing your weaknesses and adjusting yourself to them will make you an awesome fighter, so keep practicing even when it seems too difficult.
Close-Range Combat: Know How to Hit, Not Be Hit
Most Hack-N-Slashers will completely ignore this section. Which is fine, if you want to be humiliated by everyone who does read it. Regardless of how big your weapon may be, every character can be an awesome melee artist and overcome the greatest of swordsmen. Rangers, listen up: you can perfect your character by reading on.
Even you can master close-range combat, Olimar!
Close-range combos go hand-in-hand with the evasion lesson. Dodge left, hit, dodge right, hit, rapidly hit the attack button for a combo, and finish them off with a special attack when desired. Players like Sheik and Samus can charge up their specials from afar (unlike Melee, both Samus and Sheik will charge up their special attacks simply by pressing B, no longer needing to hold it! Press B again to unleash) and come in for a close-range kill. If the charged attack is unleashed at the right time and close enough to the opponent, there's almost no way of avoiding it. With enough practice, Samus can be an incredible close-range fighter.
If you blast your attack even closer than this, Samus,
the opponent won't have time to evade it! Use combos!
The same can be said with all fighters, as every character can manage close-range combat. Some are greater challenges than others, but enough dedication and evasion practice can have even the most serious of gamers spinning their heads. Close-range attacks also provide a great deal of damage when done in succession, so dodging and attacking will rank up a significant percentage against your opponents.
Special attacks are great, but repetition never wins a tournament. The more you use an attack over and over, the less damage it inflicts, and the more likely your opponent will anticipate your next move. By combining regular attacks with special attacks, your strength is far greater than those who cheaply fire Fox's gun over and over. Take this into account when trying to fight from far away, and remember not to retreat too often unless a group of players are after you.
The closer you are, the more effective your gun can be!
This leads us to another vital understanding of human psychology: cheap projectile players will die first. The player in the far back shooting the projectiles every few seconds is bound to annoy everyone else, leading into a gang-up attack. Avoid endless shooting, and try not to be involved in a one-on-one fight from the sidelines. Honor the Bushido and you will not be the enemy.
This may seem hard for players like Link, with bow/arrows and bombs and a boomerang, and Samus, a cannon for an arm with missiles, but there are more than just special attacks. Use these techniques only when no other attack will work, like throwing bombs down to enemies below or using the arrow to attack diagonally across the stage. These draw attention, so use them sparingly.
Try a few rounds against the CPU without using any special attacks, only dodge and regular attacks. Don't expect to win, but practice on the motions. Learning not to rely on special moves will help keep your flow of attacks smooth, and open yourself up to new ways of attacking.
In most tournaments, official rules forbid the use of items. There's a very good reason for this: they can be cheap and suck any true skill out of a match. For those looking to play some at-home games with a lot of items, this lesson will teach you how to be cheap.
Players can determine which items will and will not appear in a match, and with what frequency, or otherwise opt for random appearances. Several items in the game allow players to instantly destroy characters, such as the hammer and home run bat. Some items expire, like guns and fire flowers. Others can be close-range weapons, and some are special Pokemon or franchise characters looking to lend a helping hand. Crates, both empty and explosive, will appear on the screen to grant additional items.
So what makes them so cheap? Availability. Playing a game with a lot of items only means waiting to see who is lucky enough to have the item spawn around your character. In the case of the hammer, it is extremely difficult to attack the character using it. Some tournaments only allow certain items in the match for this reason, and likely will have similar rules for the Smash Ball. Some players argue that the items keep the game moving at a steady pace, and that's certainly valid, but hardcore players expect nothing less than real skill, not random chance, to beat others.
Home run bat versus Mr. Saturn. Snake lucked out!
Most items can be dropped, but this is never the way to dispose of an item. While running or walking, players can release the weapon to throw it at their enemies. This is especially important for the homerun bat and gun weapons, because they are easier to throw than a fire flower or parachute. After a set number of uses, items will vanish. Some items can be thrown twice or more, so watch your surroundings and determine what's best in any given situation.
In a stage like the Zelda II's Temple, there is a small, earthly passageway that moves diagonally from the top half to the bottom half. Stages like these are ideal for throwing weapons. By throwing an item like the homerun bat against the wall on top of the passageway, it will bounce downward and knock out enemies trying to emerge. Because the slope is at an angle, it's very difficult to dodge a speeding baseball bat without some excellent jump-and-dodge timing.
Best place to throw your weapon in this stage? Stand on the
flat platform on the left, throw towards the hill. Watch it bounce!
For expert gamers, pressing the standard attack button when an item is about to hit will cause the character to pick up said item in mid air! Grabbing fast-moving items can be difficult, especially without a good amount of practice, so train with a friend in practice mode. The CPU characters won't be much of help because they don't like playing catch, so throw a pokeball back and forth to see how often you and another player can toss the ball without dropping it.
Oh, and be careful with your items! Using a hammer on a floor that can break or disappear is a very bad idea. Know your items by experimenting with them. Is your jump affected? Can you deal damage if you throw the item? What advantages are there to throwing a pokeball at someone's face, or throwing it down at your own feet? These are all tricks that take time to master.
What's so special about this hammer? Know your items!
The final trick with items is opening crates and barrels. There are two ways, and only two ways, a player should open a crate or barrel: throwing it into the air, or shooting a strong enough projectile to break it. If you throw either at an enemy, they can dodge it and pick up those items. If you throw a crate downwards, an explosive crate will cause some troubling damage. By throwing upwards, players have full control over where the items will land. Stand about one inch away from where the barrel will land, prepare your guard, and dodge into the broken crate. This gives just enough space not to have the thing explode on you, and the dodge will be fast enough to swoop in for the items. Time this perfectly for the best results.
Attack Recovery and Screen Returns
Attack recovery and screen returns sound easy, but mastering them takes patience. First and foremost, your character's weight will affect many of your upcoming decisions, so be familiar enough with how the character moves before attempting any of these tricks. Switching from a Powerhitter to a Lightweight will significantly alter the gravity and balance on which you make your decisions.
HOT! Hold left and press jump, Wario and Yoshi!
Resist the impact or you're both toast!
When thrown to the far right or left of the screen, the best way to start a good recovery is to hold the control stick in the direction of the nearest platform and press jump, which tends to be the opposite direction you're flying.
If you're down below a raised platform and don't think you're going to make it back up, wait until your first jump has reached the highest point, and jump again to perform a double jump. Move the control stick towards the ledge and see if your character can grab on automatically. If you are far below the platform, try a triple jump. But if you are going to make it in two jumps, leave it at that.
If you're really talented, double jump and use
Link's hookshot, or Zero Suit's laser whip.
Some players will wait for you at the edge of the platform, hoping you return so they can give you a final farewell. In this case, it's best not to triple jump when you reach the edge. Instead, use a dodge in mid air to fly past your opponents' oncoming attack. This proves a great way to reach the ledge and pass through your enemy. Even if the enemy attacks you from the other side, you will fly in the opposite direction away from the closest screen edge.
Diddy, you're too high up! Do not try to jump, move down/left!
If you fly to the top of the screen, do not ever try to recover by pressing jump. I repeat, do not ever try to jump when you're dangerously close to the top of the screen. By jumping, you move upwards and towards the place you don't want to be -- which is losing. Even if you recover by the jump, there's a chance that jump you pulled off could send you up and off the screen, killing yourself when you'd otherwise be safe. If anything, hold down the entire time. Pressing down+attack during this helps some characters, so try that, too.
Teleports are also discouraged until you can see your character back on the screen. Some teleports boost the character slightly upwards on the screen, and that small increase in height could mean a point loss. Even if this isn't the case, a teleport is the third jump you might need later on (if you don't already need to dodge an aggressive player below) and could ruin the chances of a safe landing. When flying upwards, it's best to save all of your resources until you need them.
Reason #2 why teleports are discouraged: if Zelda already
performed one, she better hope she can grab that ledge!
Control your movements towards the ground so you are nowhere near the opponent. If you were hit that hard, you probably have a very high percentage. Don't risk your life just to land one or two hits. Instead, land far away and prepare your next few moves.
Thank goodness, tomorrow's Friday! Prepared for the weekend? We have more Brawl updates prepared for you!
Know Your Environments
What's the difference between a two-player Final Destination match and a four-player Final Destination match? Absolutely everything.
Flat stages with no platforms are ideal for two-player matches. While four players can enjoy as much fun, the battles are terribly hectic and require a massive amount of skill. Not only are you worrying about the player trying to kill you, but the other two players who might be checking out your percentage. With no obstacles in the way, every character is a threat to one another.
Touching that drawn cart hurts you! Learn your environments!
This is different from an area like Rainbow Cruise, where the moving platforms and ship are advantageous to fleeing characters. Knowing the stages are vital, particularly when some sections of the stage can disappear or flip. Without advanced knowledge of where to go and where to stay, players can find themselves eliminated all too quickly.
Large masses of area are always best. More than all other environments, the center of the largest area safeguards players from accidents. Stay as far away from the edges as possible, and reposition yourself every time an enemy tries to attack you close to the edge. On the other hand, this is the target location for throwing assist trophies and pokeballs. Keep yourself away from anything that may be thrown into the center.
Whoever said "Live on the edge" didn't play Smash Bros.
Stage obstacles are also great. Whether a pillar or a wall, positioning yourself close to these places will give you a steady advantage over the competition. Be careful: most characters can attack through smaller pillars, so don't expect a wall to block all special attacks.
Staying low is another strategy in any stage. The further you are away from the sides of the screen, including the top of the screen, the better off you are. Most attacks make characters fly diagonally, so any extensive air travel can lead to an unnecessary point loss. If there are a number of gaps in the floor, avoid them at all costs. It's better to have a stable above-ground stage than a below-ground risky platform.
Also watch for Sunday drivers.
Finally, retreat to enclosed areas when you're about to die. The more ceilings, floors, walls, and corners, the better. As you approach 200% to 300%, the slightest wind could knock your character into the abyss. Do not rely on floating platforms or any stage elements your character can jump around/through. Remaining in safe zones like these can provide a great opportunity for damaging the opponent enough to gain a lead.
What more can we cover? How about one of the most difficult to master parts of the game, combos? Expect to be enlightened in the next edition!
Combos are among the most difficult to explain, and among the hardest to perfect. Even the best players spend countless hours trying the best moves for any given situation. Unlike games such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, there's more than just learning a combo or two. Environment, items, skill levels and even character personalities change a battle.
Mind you, there's no combo meter or statistic on combos. A combo is a loose term for successive hits that keep a player hurting without losing control of the enemy. It's quite easy to lose control of any player to an evasive move, so the real trick is to keep the attacks hurting as fast as possible.
The first attack is the most important one: the piercing attack. This attack must hit the enemy on contact, preferably on the ground. Even for the most complicated aerial attacks, good combos always begin on the ground.
The most common piercing attack occurs while running towards an enemy and initiating a regular attack. Faster characters will be at a great advantage for this move, but any character can start a combination by running into the player. For slower characters, these are best done while the enemy is looking the other way.
Heavyhitter characters like Bowser and King Dedede might not be fast enough to start a combination, but players can manage this piercing attack by evading the enemy character. That's right: use your evasion to dodge towards the character, not away. Get as close as possible to ensure the combo keeps going. The farther away you are from your opponent, the less likely the combo will continue. Evasion to the other side can surprise your enemy from behind and open room for some massive damage.
Some characters such as Meta Knight unleash a fury of hits by rapidly pressing the attack button. This will be the bulk of your combos, so stay close to your opponent while dishing out the attacks.
There are two options here: you can either turn your combo into an aerial attack, or you can use a special move. The aerial attack can be done by holding the attack button while holding up on the analog stick, then releasing for a slightly-to-fully charged attack, depending on how quickly you want to move. More time will result in a more powerful attack. A special attack, on the other hand, could knock off more damage, but the combo will end right there.
An aerial follow-up attack can be performed while pressing the attack button and up button in the air. Depending on your environment, you can also hit the enemy to the left and right sides of the screen. If the enemy's percentage meter is low, don't aim for the side of the screen just yet. Wait until it seems possible to score a point.
Some players follow this aerial follow-up attack with their 'up special' attack. This adds a great deal of impact to the attack, causing enemies to fly up even higher than before. The most ideal place to kill a character is upwards, because most haven't learned good evasion skills and kill themselves by double jumping at the top of the screen. If the characters are on their way down, try to hit them with another up attack, or hit them in a direction that other players can have fun continuing the combo.
If you don't like aerials, try a combination on the ground with a projectile finisher. Samus can charge up her beam to full blast and use that as a finisher, which works wonders after enough previous attacks.
A good player knows not only how to perform combos, but avoid them. Whenever you're in the middle of a combo frenzy, hold the block button down and try evading in any possible way. The best method of avoiding an attack is dodging away from the player, not behind them.
For example, let's say that Link is attacking you with a frenzy of attacks. Chances are, Link will follow this with his spinning blade attack. Because the attack has such a long range, dodging behind him will have you caught in his attack. He can follow that by grabbing you with the hookshot, tossing you into the air with up and attack. and work out an aerial on you. Not so fun for you, but great for him. This could all be avoided by moving as far away from the opponent as possible.
Granted, it's possible that Link will follow up with his boomerang or arrow. This is why evading twice is ideal, if not finding the block and down evasion to be useful for the little that it is. Does double evasion work every time? No, depending on how well the opponent times the attack against you.
By having a 2-player CPU versus CPU match set on 20 minutes, you can watch how the game will strategize attacks against you. The same should be done with people, as most players only have two or three combos they reuse over and over. There's a trick to every attack, so study them carefully. Players can lose themselves to being angry, so stand back and wait.
This leads us to our final lesson: Practice makes perfect. Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion to the Smash Trainer series!
Practice Makes Perfect
Today, Brawl releases to North American shores. Have fun with the game, and spend the time learning your character! Also, expect some plans for tournaments in the near future, courtesy of The Wiire and its board users!
Well, get to it!*
*Our deepest sympathies to our European and Australian gamers, but Super Smash Bros. Melee really isn't that different from Brawl in terms of the fundamentals described here. Take the time to practice all of these moves on the GameCube and work yourself to the top.