Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mewth24's Smash Bros. 4 wishlist - part three

Now comes the part of this series where I talk about the stages where the fighting will actually take place. Keep in mind that some of the new stages I would ultimately like to see are dependent on the inclusion of the characters I previously mentioned in my roster wishlist. Most of the following points are simply arguments I wish to make about the design of a few stages from previous Smash Bros. titles as a collective.

Personally, I've always been a fan of stages that include environmental hazards and moving platforms. I know not everyone is a fan of these, and there are some that I feel are more enjoyable to play and just plain better designed than others. I certainly don't hate Melee's Rainbow Cruise, but it requires that you constantly be on the move, which is obnoxious in comparison to the breaks between vehicles in Big Blue that require you pay attention to your footing. I could certainly see a Sin and Punishment stage designed after the second level of that game, where the characters are stable on a platform that moves about the armada of ships, in a style not unlike past Star Fox levels or even Brawl's Battleship Halberd. A few standstill cannons or other methods for the stage to fire upon players in the midst of a skirmish makes fights all the more entertaining.

That said, I realize that many players prefer the standard stages with a few platforms and zero influence from the environment itself. Battlefield's design is tried and true, and even Shadow Moses proved relatively tame with little more than destructible towers on either side of the stage. Again, I enjoy these stages, and I feel that Nintendo has delivered a solid balance between the standard stages and those with environmental hazards in each Smash Bros. release. However, there are a handful of stages that I find incredibly annoying due to their size and layout. Specifically, I'm talking about Hyrule Temple and New Pork City. It is true that there are other stages in Melee that are quite large, like Fourside and Brinstar Depths. But the former is rather open and the latter constantly rotates, discouraging players from sticking to one spot. Hyrule Temple, however, is a stage that - due to its design incorporating platforms, a tunnel, and pillars for players to hide behind - caters primarily to campers and cowards. The whole point of a four-player fighting game is for the matches to be frenetic, and designing a stage with so many hiding spots/escape routes removes this fun factor. On the other hand, New Pork City seems to have been designed as some sort of successor to Fourside, but the stage is in fact so large that once characters spread out far enough it becomes difficult to track one's own character.

The option to construct your own stages in Brawl was a really neat and unexpected inclusion on Nintendo's part. However, there were only so many pieces allotted and a limited number of ways to place them on a stage. While the stage builder should be retained, Nintendo can certainly do a lot more with it. Aside from new pieces, they could include both new color palettes/themes for the environments (as Brawl only had three to choose from) and the ability to include timed environmental hazards (like the lava spouting forth in Norfair and) or slight/temporary changes in the stage's design (like the extra floating platform that shows up from time to time in Smashville).

With regards to the story modes/single player experience, Subspace Emissary was a great way to springboard off Melee's Adventure Mode. Though it did not feature a perfectly crafted story, a game like Super Smash Bros. does not necessarily need one, as the experience is meant to cater to fans of all Nintendo franchises. Keeping the story simple, yet still creative and fun is great, while offering up the option to revisit Classic Mode caters to fans of the original Super Smash Bros. Boss Battle Mode was quite fun and carried a decent challenge factor, while Home Run Derby and Multi-Man Brawl were only altered slightly from their previous iterations. I can really only complain about All-Star Mode, in that it lost some of its challenge factor during the transition from Melee Brawl. The game did not spawn new foes fast enough during the matches where you were to take on three or four opponents, and not a single one of them felt overly powerful, even on the harder difficulty settings.

Now comes the issue that many a Smash Bros. fan has debated over since Brawl's release: what to do with the Final Smash moves? Personally, I like the idea of Final Smashes from a conceptual stage - they make matches more exciting as players scramble to grab them and simultaneously attempt to keep one another from reaching them. However, they are incredibly unbalanced in Brawl. Pit's Final Smash is basically unavoidable, and will instantly kill most anyone on screen, regardless of how much damage they have already taken. Meanwhile, R.O.B. and Donkey Kong have very underwhelming attacks that can only gain a moderate range and deal relatively little damage in comparison to everyone else. Assuming Nintendo is going to keep the Final Smashes at all, they need to be evened out - either everyone gets an instant K.O. move, or they simply get a temporary power-up of some sort. Frankly I'm more inclined toward the latter. While a tussle over Final Smashes that instantly clear the stage of fellow fighters would be fun for a while, I think many players would ultimately get fed up with them and simply turn said items off. However, a temporary invincibility (ala Ghirahim's ultimate form, which I mentioned in the previous part of this series) or limited use of a powerful attack (ala Travis Touchdown's tiger form) would allow the strategic element to be retained and decrease the likelihood that players become flat out frustrated with matches. If Nintendo decides to completely remove the Final Smashes, it would not completely alienate players - there were two games prior to Brawl that functioned well without them. But I think that Nintendo and Namco could really make the experience fun and fresh by toning down these Final Smashes and evening them out.

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