Greetings, adventurers, and welcome to yet another edition of Smash Five! This series has been going on now for about a month, covering everything from playable characters to assist trophy characters to single player game modes to characters who need reworked. See, it’s a joke because that’s literally everything the segment has cov- oh, you get it? Okay. Good.
Today’s segment of Smash Five is probably going to be the last in two significant ways. The first way is that this will be the last weekly segment of Smash Five. Until the game comes out – and maybe even after – I feel like this segment will be relevant, but posting about it weekly feels like trying too hard to create content about Smash Bros. I want to discuss features and aspects of the game that are relevant and interesting to me rather than forcing myself to post constantly about it.
That brings me to the second significant change: this will be the last Smash Five based on readers’ votes. That’s nothing against you of course, adventurers. It’s simply a matter of practicality. The most votes I’ve received on any one Smash Five post is four, which to me says that either folks don’t care about the segment itself or folks don’t have a strong opinion about what I discuss on the segment. Based on likes and comments, I feel like the latter is more likely. You all trust me to come up with my own content the rest of the time, so in future Smash Five posts I’ll just talk about whatever I think is cool and interesting and chances are you’ll get something out of it anyway.
Alright, so with all of the practical stuff out of the way, let’s talk about punching stuff. In Super Smash Bros, versus mode is the bread and butter of the game. Sure, that time you beat Subspace Emissary on Very Hard is really impressive or whatever, but the real stories shared about this amazing series are the neck-and-neck battles in multiplayer with your friends. Local multiplayer is what makes Smash Bros sing, and to talk about a fifth installment in the series without talking about what kind of versus modes might be available would be a crime.
With that in mind, let’s jump in and start discussing my top five ideas for versus mode in the new Super Smash Bros!
#5: HORDE MODE
The timed battles in Smash Bros already give players an arena to see who can get the most kills, but those kills have to be against player characters who do a pretty good job of fighting back. It’s about survival as well as lethality, and that’s all well and good. But just like Splatoon has Salmon Run and Call of Duty has zombies, sometimes you just want to use your abilities to crush wave after wave of goons better than the other players.
I imagine this like the classic mode battles in the other Smash games where you fight a team of dozens of weaker versions of a specific character. Like facing the Yoshi team in the original Smash Bros, for example. Based on the difficulty you set, the horde is harder to take on, and choosing an opponent with particularly dangerous abilities will make the battle that much more difficult as well.
The goal here is to defeat way more dudes than your opponent. Simple, elegant, and potentially very fun. I can just imagine playing as a character whose attacks have a grand sweeping range and sending three or four opponents whirling off of the screen all at once, or strategically shooting a party ball loaded with bob-ombs and blasting a horde of Pikachu off into oblivion. This mode is fifth on my list because while it certainly seems like fun to swat a bunch of bad guys like flies, it could be kind of a boring versus mode and doesn’t necessarily take any level of skill.
#4: CAPTURE THE FLAG
One day when I was staying at my grandmother’s along with my sister and cousins, we were all outside playing Capture the Flag using some washcloths from the bathroom. This was in January not too long after Christmas, so we were all bundled up in our coats as we ran about the yard, pretending to be our favorite video game characters and fighting each other while we chased some rags around. When we came inside later, my grandmother commented that she should have just gotten us a pack of washcloths for Christmas because we played with them more than we did with the toys.
I wasn’t into a lot of stereotypical kid things, but I loved Capture the Flag. As a young teenager, my cousin Jon and I would play for hours on Jedi Outcast 2, running back and forth with that deep blue flag as we defeated the forces of evil again and again. But while it’s all well and good to play as characters from Star Wars, it’d be even better to play as Nintendo characters – just as we imagined when we played with washcloths during our childhood.
As much as I enjoy playing Capture the Flag, it isn’t higher on this list because I imagine it would be pretty terrible on Smash Bros. The way the screen is set up, you can always see the opponent’s flag, and most stages don’t feature a good, defensible location for a flag to be placed. I suppose it would be possible in a Smash Run type mode on huge stages with mazelike tunnels, but ultimately a melee fighting game is not the place for a game of Capture the Flag, no matter how much I fantasized about it as a kid. Sorry, Mario.
#3: KING OF THE HILL
Weird how childhood games make great versus modes for video games, eh? If you’re not familiar with the concept of king of the hill, basically you want to be the kid on top of the hill. That means if you’re on top, you gotta keep all of the other kids from getting to the top. If you’re not on top, you gotta get there however you can. And in Smash Bros, the “however you can” is what makes this such an interesting prospect for a versus mode.
I could see this mode working as either a literal interpretation of the game where the players fight for the highest position on the map, or a figurative one where killing the gal in first place puts YOU in first and paints a target on your head for the other players to fire at. Both of these would ultimately be timed matches and, particularly with the height one, if this game was never made into an official mode you could fabricate it on your own by simply playing a timed match and giving the “real victory” to whoever has the highest point on the map when the time runs out.
This mode scores a little higher than the others due to adding a different kind of challenge to versus mode while also making sense within the context of Smash Bros. Unlike a horde mode or capture the flag, the game’s current mechanics allow for this type of play pretty well and it could be pretty fun to try king of the hill for awhile. However, I think there are other changes that more players would find desirable for their Smash Bros game, so let’s move on to second place.
#2: TAG TEAM
We’re getting into stereotypical fighting game territory with this one, but seriously – tag teams in Smash Bros need to happen. Being able to play with three friends as two teams, switching out mid-battle to try and gain the advantage when your partner is flailing; it’s the ultimate battle experience! Playing on teams can be really fun, but not every player excels in a big arena where lots of characters are fighting – tag teams allow you to fight with an ally but still get the one-versus-one experience.
Of course, not everyone has other players to tag team with, so this mode of play could potentially be viable as single players as well. Each player picks two characters and each one has a single stock – or perhaps each stock counts collectively for both characters so each time one gets knocked out, you can only use the other until that character falls as well. This could even carrier over into classic mode, allowing two players to play through classic together in a tag team format.
I think this mode could offer some interesting defensive options, too. Does the opponent have an item that poses a particular threat to one of your characters? Just switch out and let your other character either avoid or tank the item before switching your original fighter back in. Or maybe your partner is playing the best character to hard-counter a fighter that you are weak against, so you can switch out in order to have the optimum advantage during battle. The only real flaw with this method is that it could be taken so much further. After all, why have two characters on your team when…
#1: VARIABLE STOCK
The big selling point of Super Smash Bros is the huge selection of great Nintendo characters from across the company’s history. After DLC, the fourth entry in the Smash series had something like 60 characters to choose from. That’s a pretty impressive selection of fighters to enjoy, but there’s just one problem: there are way too many of them to get to meaningfully experience them all in one sitting. You have to play through a battle or two as one of them, change characters, battle some more, change again – while experiencing different characters is part of the game’s meat and potatoes, the current structure doesn’t allow for very much of that.
Enter the variable stock approach. When selecting your fighter for a stock match, you simply choose a different fighter for each of your stock. You can have a team of Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, and Yoshi, each one coming into the battle when their predecessor is defeated. Instead of only using one character in a match that might take up five minutes, you can play as five different characters and get the full range of their unique quirks and abilities.
I personally would love to play this way because it gels very well with how I like to play Smash Bros. I don’t play a ton of matches as my two best characters over and over again. Rather, I jump around between different members of the cast that I either do well as, enjoy playing regardless of my skill, or want to learn to play properly. In this kind of match, I could lead off with those more experimental characters and then fall back on my best fighters if needed. It would add so much fun and variety to the game without making a lot of significant changes to the formula.
That’s gonna wrap it up for me today, adventurers. I appreciate you taking the time to read, and if you have your own thoughts about versus mode for Smash Five, please feel free to share them in the comments! Remember that next Friday I won’t be continuing the trend of Smash Five being a weekly segment, and this time around there won’t be audience votes, either. I think these changes will be best for my drive when it comes to writing, so I appreciate your reading and understanding. Be sure to check out the other Smash Five posts if you’ve missed them, and thanks for reading, adventurers!