Smash Ultimate: 2019 game, 1999 netplay
The dominance of Japanese players at certain large Smash Ultimate events is further evidence that Nintendo are currently failing to provide the training tools required by top players. The game, which was released nearly two decades after Super Smash Bros Melee, is at risk of becoming extremely regionalised and divided as a result.
For those who don’t follow the greatest fighting game ever made, Super Smash Bros Melee has been dominated by North Americans for the longest time thanks largely due to a couple of factors. First, with the title released for Gamecube, the only way to practise is in the room, with no official online matchmaking system. This put European and Asian players at a disadvantage for years, and still does to this day, with many of the best having to bootcamp in Southern California if they want the best practice.
Now, over the course of Melee’s history, various heroes and halfwits (depending on your point of view) have spent time putting together an online service for people to play with each other, to get to a point where there is a serviceable online play option. Sadly, and incredibly, the same is not true of Ultimate, with the online netplay service being virtually unusable for high-level play.
As an example, within Ultimate there exists a mechanic known as parrying, which requires you to block a move with your shield and release at a precise moment. If performed correctly, it can give you a crucial advantage, but requires a fairly precise input timing to get it right. Sadly, the latency in the online servers is so consistently poor that it just does not get used in online play, making it impossible to practice the way you intend to play on LAN.
This is far from the only problem with the online service, but it is indicative of the serious flaws Nintendo refuses to address with online play. As a result, playing with people from different states, let alone nations or continents, is basically very difficult for pro players, which is not the case for most modern esports titles. This means the evolution of Smash in Japan and the US is basically separate.
Now, that does make for some cool clashes in styles, but it is always better for a game to be played globally and the meta to advance in that way. Online competition will come second to LAN for a lot of reasons, but for a company of Nintendo’s size it is either unacceptable to treat the online playerbase that way if it really wants a competitive scene. Whether Nintendo wants that, nobody really knows.
Image credit: 2GG