The Challenge of Balancing Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS

Ever since 2001’s Super Smash Bros. Melee came out on the Nintendo GameCube, the Smash Bros. series has become a staple among the competitive fighting game community. Its successor however, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, received some criticism for not necessarily fixing some of the balancing problems inherent in the GameCube entry. This led to some characters like Metaknight being outright banned from tournaments for just being too damn good compared to the rest of the roster.

A while ago, it was confirmed that Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS will not be released in the Summer of 2014, but rather at a later still undetermined date. In my opinion, I’m glad they delayed it so they keep as much time to refine and perfect the game as possible. Especially when it comes down to balancing, the most important thing is to create an experience that can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of what character you’re using.

Game director Masahiro Sakurai has mentioned in the latest issue of Famitsu how he and the team will be tackling character balancing for the next game, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS:

Now that Sunday’s day off is past, I’m currently working on the character adjustment for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U,” says Sakurai. “At the moment, Bowser is very strong. He’s really strong. Fans of Smash Bros. probably never saw him as too much of a strong character, but this time, his ability to knock others out is very strong!

Therein lies the huge challenge in balancing a game with so many completely different characters, from two little Ice Climbers to a hulking Bowser to the nimble Marth. Surely there ought to be some reason to use any particular character, rather than just making one or two the obvious choice to ensure victory (-cough- Metaknight -Metaknight-)

What? Haven't you ever seen an anthropomorphic fox and a swordsman fighting before?

What? Haven’t you ever seen an anthropomorphic fox and a metrosexual swordsman fighting before?

Of course, this may mean that your favorite character may be getting an upgrade, according to Sakurai:

Rather than directly weakening an attack’s advantageous parts, we’re putting effort into keeping them strong, while adding other weaknesses to them. Like giving the attacks punishable openings, or weakening the character’s mobility or recovery rate. We’re making comprehensive adjustments to characters, even for parts that might seem completely irrelevant.

This is often one of the biggest challenges that developers must overcome when creating a fighting game. Some succeed and others fail to really deliver that balanced title that gives everyone a fair advantage. Nevertheless, Super Smash Bros. 4 is bound to be tons of fun. Sakurai said the last thing he wants to do is take away the strength of many attacks that used to feel much more satisfying, such as what happened in Brawl when the developers significantly weakened Jigglypuff’s deceptively brutal and difficult to execute Rest attack, making it a lot less satisfying to pull off.


Oh, it’s the Skull Kid in HD. Yep, still creepy.

Characters are not the only things that need balancing, however. The Smash Bros. series has always had usable items in the midst of battle, such as Poké Balls and, more recently, Assist Trophies. Both of these will be returning for Smash Bros. 4. The full list of Pokémon and Trophies has yet to be revealed, although Skull Kid, a Phantom Knight, and Nintendogs are among those that have been confirmed. Obviously, the less gimmicky fighters the better, so we’ll see how the playing field fares once the project is completed. Regardless, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to turn off the items as always. Once you do that, you can get down to the core of what makes a fighting game great: its fighters.

Sakurai then goes on to say that while they are striving to release the game as soon as possible, the quality of the product is priority. So far, the game looks to be shaping up very nicely with a big, varied roster. He has since promised that the game will definitely be released sometime in 2014, so sit tight for now. We’ll be sure to let you know when a release date for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS comes around. For now, all aboard the hype train!

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