Lab Notes: Adapting to Super Smash Bros. with D’Ron “D1” Maingrette

By on October 3, 2014 at 10:06 am
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We’ve got an extra-special Lab Notes today! In honor of Super Smash Bros for 3DS’ release, I talked with well-known Smash community member D’Ron “D1” Maingrette about how fighting game players new to the franchise can try to adapt their fundamentals to a very different game.

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Photo via Chris Bahn of Put That Back

Patrick Miller: What do you think the Smash learning curve is like for people from traditional 2D fighting game backgrounds? Is there anything specific that you think carries over well? Is Super Smash Bros. 4 going to be a significant difference from previous versions in this regard?

D’Ron “D1” Maingrette: The Smash learning curve can be pretty tough for people with traditional 2D fighting game backgrounds. The main things that carry over well are spacing of moves, risk management, and positional awareness. Super Smash Bros. 4 is significantly different from the first two iterations, but most similar to Brawl in terms of the ground game and air game.

PM: Conversely, is there anything that classic 2D players consistently have a hard time learning to integrate into their Smash game? Do any particular challenges or roadblocks stand out as the kind of thing you’d want to warn would-be Smashers about?

D1: The main thing they would have a tough time integrating into their Smash game is how to combo opponents, how to escape combos, grab breaks, and overall movement. The combo system in Smash 4 is like no other fighter. After a move that launches the opponent in the air, some characters may have guaranteed follow-ups, while others don’t.

You’d also have to take into account the fact that air control (vectoring) is in the game, along with air dodging, which can render a combo follow-up previously executed useless. In situations like these, players would have to react to where an opponent goes and chase them. Would-be smashers would have to get used to certain aerials having landing lag (Editor’s note: lag can also be described as recovery), especially if done really close to the ground, and air dodges having landing lag, which means players can’t spam them to escape combos mindlessly.

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PM: When someone is starting to play Street Fighter for the first time, I typically recommend they pick Ryu because his moveset is important to learn and he’s great for teaching the fundamentals. Who’s the Ryu equivalent in Smash, if there is one? Who should beginners play if they want to develop a solid base for the game, instead of picking a character good at, say, maximizing your short-term results?

D1: The Ryu equivalent in Smash is definitely Mario. He’s almost designed similarly to Ryu in the fact that he has a good close-/long-range game, easy combos, great recovery, and good kill power. When it comes to his tool kit there isn’t really much to explain; if you have an idea with Mario, 9 times out of 10 it’ll work on the field of battle. Sheik would definitely be my honorable mention, as that character is extremely easy to pick up and play as well. Great pokes, awesome zoning tools, amazing off-stage edgeguards, and stellar recovery for beginners.

PM: When learning a new character in Street Fighter, most players will usually start by finding a solid bread and butter combo, testing out some pokes, figuring out how to set up and land the Ultra, and developing a few basic knockdown mixups. What’s the equivalent in Smash? What kind of things do you need to know how to do with a character before you feel like you have the basic elements of that character down?

D1: In Smash, there are a lot of things to get used to when you pick up a character. You have to take into account the characters walk speed, initial dash animation, full dash speed, short hop height/speed, full jump height/speed, double jump height/speed, roll/air dodge/spot dodge speed/length, fall speed, ledge hop/jump/roll/get up animation/attack, and finally your knocked-down state options being the get up attack, and tech roll speed/distance. After getting down all their movement and defensive options, the next thing is to go through your movelist and learn the max distance for you moves, and how soon you can act out of them (these are called IASA frames, or “Interruptible As Soon As,” the period of time at which an attack can be interrupted with another motion).

After getting down the spacing and IASA frames of a move, you can move on to actually seeing the properties of your moves. There are a series of questions one should ask themselves as they go through their characters movelist: does it knock down further away as the percents rise or is it set knockback? Does it launch the opponent upwards for a possible combo? Can this kill at high percents? Can this knock the opponent off-stage to set up for possible edgeguard? Is this move unsafe on hit? Is it unsafe on block? Can I cross up the opponent with this move? Can you use this move as an edgeguard on-/off-stage, and more? Space control is very important in Smash, so it would be in your best interests to learn how each move interacts with your opponent.

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Photo courtesy of Polygon

PM: Outside of character-specific tech, what kinds of basic skills does a new Smash player need to master to be considered reasonably competent?

D1: There’s so much that has to be accounted for in the field of battle for Smash, and a lot of it requires character-specific knowledge unless your character has a strong flowchart. Characters with strong flowcharts have combos and setups that work on nearly the entire cast, allowing them to forsake downloading too much information about the opposing character to net a win. Depending on your opponent’s fall speed, weight class, and percentage you would still have to readjust your combos, airchases, and setups.

Also, learning how to mix up ways to get out of the corner. Most players would either full jump or roll out of the corner, but sometimes it’s best to fight your way out of the corner when the opportunity is given to you. Getting accustomed to not sitting in shield all the time, and evading your opponent’s attacks and punishing whiffs accordingly. Learning how to keep the pressure on your opponent to bait out spot dodges, air dodges, and rolls when they’re in a tough situation. Getting grabs are key in Smash over most other fighters. You can net so much damage from a throw compared to other fighters.

PM: What does your practice regimen look like? How do you personally grind Smash?

D1: My practice regimen for Smash actually consists of getting my characters movements down, trying certain combos/setups against the cast, and then testing everything out in a “guess and check” kind of fashion to see what works.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s Lab Notes! As always, hit me up on Twitter through @pattheflip with questions and feedback, and feel free to ask questions there or on my ask.fm if you want to give me more ideas for columns.