Thursday, March 17, 2016

Smash Brothers, The Fighting Game

  I'll continue my streak of Smash related articles with yet another subject. This one is a subject that I've somewhat tackled in my previous article regarding Sakurai's philosophy but wish to expend more. Why? Because understanding Smash more and what genre it pertains to is a step closer to improving the game in my opinion and also, because there is a tremendous amount of misconceptions going about what genre Smash belongs to. It's often annoying when people spread misinformation regarding anything, really. So this article is essentially a bullet point-style rant on why Smash is, in fact, a Fighting game as an attempt to put this debate to rest once and for all. Understanding where all the misconceptions started is a way to get closer to the truth so let's dive in!

  This belief all started with a 2008 interview with series creator Masahiro Sakurai. When asked about what were some of the tweaks he made for Brawl, he answered saying that Final Smashes were the brand new inclusion in Brawl and further down said: "But really, my vision of Smash Bros. is that it’s a party game, really." From there on, every now and then, he would always clarify that to him the series is designed as party games. Given his status as game director and series creator, none really questioned that view. I mean, he made the game, surely he knows what he's saying? But what if this belief people had for so long was wrong? This is why I am making this article. Let's begin with our first point.

Game Creators do not determine genres

   Right off the bat, this needs to be understood. As much as a game creator wants his game to belong to a genre, that does not mean that their games belong to that genre. Genre classification does not work that way and does not abide by the wishes of someone. To classify a genre, in general, this genre needs to follow a certain criteria to be part of said genre. For instance, you cannot be a Racing game and not race in the game nor can you be a Platforming game and not have platforming sections. This is pretty basic as far as classifying genres goes. If George Lucas decided the next day that Star Wars was a comedy because it has funny moments and not a science fiction series, would you truly believe him? All the science fiction elements are there, should we ignore them? The same applies with Smash Bros. The series revolves around characters fighting each other and someone has to come on top. Be it Free-for-all, 2 vs. 2, 1 vs. 1, the goal is pretty much the same, to beat the enemy by KO-ing them. Just like a Fighting game. This is core elements we're talking about, things you can't simply turn off. The series also has footsies, neutral game, mix-ups, anti-airs, elements normally found in the most basic of Fighting games are an indication of its true genre classification. To further dismantle the argument, let's compare what Sakurai, creator of the series is saying to what the developers of Rivals of Aether, a smash-like game, is saying. On one side, Sakurai says it's a party game but on the other, Dan Fornace, creator of Rivals of Aether says it's a Fighting game. If game creator/directors determine genres, we have one hell of a dilemma here.

Party game isn't even a genre

    Yes, I do not consider the party game to even be a game genre. Why? Let me explain. When comes to what a Fighting game is, you'd say that it has to do with the fact that in the game, you have to fight to win. The same thing goes with Racing games. In Racing games you pick a car and you run laps around tracks or courses. With these examples set, let's look at what makes a party game a party game. Party games are defined as games played at social gatherings to provide entertainment. Have you spotted what's wrong? The main determining aspect of the party game genre is a factor OUTSIDE of the game and not from inside. Look at what defines Fighting games and Racing game. Elements that are within the game. It does not help that the party genre is pretty broad. I mean, if I bring friends at my house and we play Street Fighter together taking turns, isn't that a party game? I invite friends at a LAN party and we play League of Legends or Counter-Strike together, aren't they party games? You can't just make exceptions with genre classifications, this is objective territory. The genre itself is way too varied in its core elements and game design for it to be taken seriously. Take a look at this. Mario Party, Super Smash Bros. and let's say, Rayman Arena. All three games are vastly different from each other. There is something wrong. When you take a look at the Fighting game genre, you have Street fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Guilty Gear, Blazblue, etc. Sure they have slight mechanical differences like how Mortal Kombat has fatalities but the core elements are the same.

Historically, it is a Fighting game

   History points to Smash being a Fighting game. A long time ago, before Smash Bros was the series we know and love, compiling characters from Nintendo's rich history, Smash went by a different name. Do you want to know what it was named? Dragon King: The Fighting Game. The Fighting Game. It could not be more obvious and more straight to the point than this. It's in the name. And the core gameplay hasn't changed a bit. It only got an aesthetic make over. Do aesthetics speak louder than gameplay or the other way around? But it does not end there. During an interview with Sakurai, he had this to say: "Well, I wanted to offer an alternative to the two-dimensional fighting games that were crowding out the market." Straight from the mouth of the creator himself. The very reason Smash came to life was as a response to Fighting games. Not beat-em-ups like people say when the Party game card gets destroyed but to Fighting games. Nintendo themselves on the back of Brawl cover pretty much states clear as crystal that it is a Fighting game. And under which genre do you find Smash Bros on the Nintendo eShop? Fighting games.

Mechanically, it is a Fighting game

   At their core, Fighting games have all the same elements. In them, you have to select character and the stage you want to fight on. Once this is done, the fight begins and will only end when someone KOs the other fighter. Isn't t that what you do in Smash? Yes. And yet why do we persist in not calling what it truly is and instead act like it's a Beat'em up which it isn't. Beat-Em Ups are games where you travel from point A to point B while fighting weak enemies along the way. Final Fight, Streets of Rage, River City Ransom and Turtles Back in Time are all examples of Beat'em ups. Is Smash similar to these games in objectives? No, because you don't win Smash by going from point A to point B, as if it even has a point B. You win by KO-ing your opponent(s). The game is essentially composed of offensive option such as Jabs, Smash Attacks and Special Attacks as well as Defensive moves such as Shielding, Dodge Rolls, Air dodges. You have the anti-airs like up-tilts. Jabs, tilts and Smash attacks are the Light Medium Heavy attacks that we know so well in Fighting games. Some people would probably say that because the game has items it is a party game but items are optional and a game can't rely on an optional factor to justify it belongs to said genre.

   Having made my point, I think it is essential that people stop spreading misinformation regarding things they might not understand. When saying things like "Smash is a party game" you are speaking for an entire genre, not just Smash. You are speaking for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Rivals of Aether, Brawlhalla, WaveDash Games' new IP. While you may have held on to a belief for many years, it may not mean that it is correct. Sometimes, we have to question things. With all of that said, I hope you enjoyed the article and hopefully you have understood why it is wrong to assume Smash is party game because its creator says so.

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