The​ ​Prodigal​ ​Son​ ​Returns:​ ​An​ ​Interview​ ​With​ ​Smash​ ​64’s​​ ​KeroKeroppi

By Brendan “Bean” Murray

In 2016, one of the top Smash 64 players announced via Twitlonger that he was quitting the game and moving on to play its sequel. Despite being ranked 10th on the 2016 SSB64 League rankings and earning The 64 Story’s “Best Sportsmanship Award,” he decided to retire, citing his isolation and the game’s meta as the driving forces behind his decision. He would compete in one last tournament, Genesis 4, before hanging up his Hori for good.

Nine months have passed since Genesis 4. In that time, KeroKeroppi has posted about Smash 64 on social media and played friendlies with other players, but has not competed in any tournaments (excluding Let’s Go!, where he competed in doubles). It seemed that Kero was truly set on retirement. Then, in the span of a month, he moved to New York City to work, started coming to locals, and re-entered the competitive Smash 64 scene. Kero was gracious enough to sit down with me and discuss the rollercoaster of a year he has had, as well as his journey to that point, his competitive mentality, and his impressive rise to the top echelon of players.

Note: This article has been lightly edited for continuity.

Brendan:​ ​First​ ​things​ ​first,​ ​where​ ​did​ ​your​ ​tag​ ​come​ ​from?

KeroKeroppi: Yeah, I don’t tell people that. I wouldn’t call it a secret, it’s just not something I go around talking about. There is this Japanese anime frog that, I guess it’s called Kerokeroppi, so I’m not denying that that exists. The thing that I got my tag from very well may have gotten it from that frog — I mean how many fucking things are called Kerokeroppi? So realistically that’s where that came from, but the thing that I got [my tag] from isn’t specifically from the Japanese frog.

B:​ ​So​ ​you’re​ ​not​ ​very​ ​into​ ​Japanese​ ​wildlife?

K: Nah, I actually f*** with Japanese wildlife.

B:​ ​And​ ​where​ ​did​ ​the​ ​“Koroshiyo”​ ​clan​ ​originate?

K: So that’s me, my brother Stranded, Czar, Maliki and Skyfire. Maliki’s my cousin, he lives like 45 minutes away, but we all pretty much live…for all of us to be playing in a room on a weekend, it wasn’t unheard of. And that’s just something we called ourselves.

B:​ ​When​ ​did​ ​you​ ​start​ ​playing​ ​Smash​ ​64,​ ​just​ ​in​ ​general?

K: I mained Yoshi when I was ten, and I would beat one-player mode every day before 4th grade, or whatever grade you’re in when you’re ten. Then I got the game [again] in tenth grade, and me and Skyfire would just dick around and play because we were friends from school. And we both were trying to one-up each other, but we didn’t know about anything, we didn’t know about Z cancelling or short hopping or anything, we were straight scrubs.

And then one day we discovered Z cancel. We just googled ‘Smash 64 techniques’ and found Z cancelling, and we were like, “Yo, apparently people actually play this game.” So I googled “Who is the best Smash 64 player” and Isai’s name came up, and I saw the word Smashboards and I was like, “Oh shit let me check out this Smashboards place,” and I found out there were all these players and there were more techniques that weren’t Z cancelling. It was crazy, I will never forget that day. I will never forget…it was, like, 7 PM on a Tuesday night and I was like, “Yo, this is crazy!”

B:​ ​When​ ​did​ ​you​ ​write​ ​that​ ​Smashboards​ ​post​ ​that​ ​called​ ​Isai​ ​out,​ ​saying​ ​you​ ​could​ ​beat him?​ ​Was​ ​that​ ​post​ ​and​ ​that​ ​day​ ​the​ ​beginning​ ​of​ ​your​ ​competitive​ ​career?

K: That was the same night, 7 o’clock on a school night. I looked up Isai’s YouTube videos, I found Smashboards, and I thought, “This guy Isai doesn’t look that good.” And I was talking to Skyfire and I was like, we can beat this guy. Let me just call him out and we will expose this fraud and we will be the best. And it obviously didn’t happen like that.

Kero Isai Callout.png

B:​ ​So​ ​that​ ​was​ ​when​ ​you​ ​discovered​ ​a​ ​larger​ ​Smash​ ​world.​ ​Did​ ​you​ ​start​ ​going​ ​to tournaments?​ ​Were​ ​there​ ​tournaments​ ​to​ ​go​ ​to?

K: This was in September of 2011. When I called out Isai, people said, dude, you’re probably, no, you’re definitely garbage. But if you are interested there’s this tournament coming up called Apex 2012. You’re gonna get beat down but if you actually care about the game you might stick with it. And nobody thought I would because at that time so many people think they’re the best players in the world, then they show up and they get beat down and they leave. So nobody expected me to turn into this actual player.

So I go to Apex 2012, I get thrashed by literally everybody. Dude, I distinctly remember Clubbadubba 5-stocking me with Jigglypuff over and over, it’s one of my memories from that tournament. And it actually became one of, probably my favorite weekend ever, up to this date, was Apex 2012, because everyone said that I would leave and not play once I found out I sucked, but I knew how much I cared about the game and I knew I was still gonna want to compete.

B:​ ​And​ ​you​ ​were​ ​in​ ​high​ ​school?

K: Yeah, I was a senior. So this was after I figured out that Isai was really good, and SuPeRbOoMfAn was a really good player, so I kinda went in [to Apex 2012] accepting my fate.

But at this point, Isai and Boom were kinda my heroes, and they still are, you know, and I remember playing Isai for the first time, playing Boom for the first time, and I remember playing all these people that I looked up to. And the crazy part is that I am better than a lot of them now, but they are still, like…I will never forget meeting JimmyJoe for the first time, or JaimeHR for the first time. It was just a really special weekend.

B:​ ​And​ ​after​ ​that​ ​it​ ​just​ ​took​ ​off?​ ​You​ ​were​ ​practicing,​ ​grinding,​ ​going​ ​to​ ​as​ ​many​ ​events​ ​as you​ ​could?

K: What happened was, I played the tournament, everyone was like, this kid is not gonna come back. I knew I would, but they didn’t. I was going away to [college], Apex [2012] was in January, so that upcoming August I was going away to school and I didn’t go to any tournaments between Apex 2012 and Apex 2013. And I met Czar at school, the first week of freshman year, and we started playing together, and nobody knew I had played, and I showed up at Apex 2013 after grinding super hard for a year, knowing I would come back. And I remember I beat BattleCow in a $50 money match, and I ended up getting like 17th, which was super good considering everybody thought I would suck. And since Apex 2013, that’s when I actively started going to locals and seriously competing.

B:​ ​You’re​ ​from​ ​upstate​ ​New​ ​York,​ ​which​ ​is​ ​relatively​ ​isolated​ ​compared​ ​to​ ​some​ ​other regions.​ ​How​ ​did​ ​you​ ​manage​ ​to​ ​improve​ ​if​ ​there​ ​weren’t​ ​that​ ​many​ ​people​ ​to​ ​play​ ​or events​ ​to​ ​go​ ​to?

K: My parents are from upstate but it’s not crazy upstate, so I can still go to Nebulous. My freshman and sophomore years I would come home fairly often, and I would be able to go to tournaments here and there. But during my junior and senior years, I pretty much never came home, for various reasons, so I would only play Czar and Skyfire. Those are really the only people I played, along with my roommate, he played too. I would only play at majors and play my friends. And towards my senior year it started to get really hard, because that’s when this whole revival of 64 happened, and my school was super isolated. To get to my school you have to drive an hour without cell service, that’s how isolated it is. I used to be afraid that my car would break down and I would get eaten by wolves on my way home. So it sucked watching all these people go to locals, it was hard.

B:​ ​So​ ​there​ ​was​ ​a​ ​level​ ​of​ ​competitive​ ​isolation​ ​you​ ​experienced?

K: Completely. And in my apartment at school, playing online wasn’t a thing unless I went out and got my own internet, but I didn’t have the money to do that. I couldn’t play online, couldn’t go to tournaments, the only thing I could do was play my friends. It got hard.

B:​ ​Was​ ​your​ ​brother​ ​there,​ ​getting​ ​good​ ​at​ ​the​ ​same​ ​time​ ​as​ ​you​ ​were?

K: Tommy couldn’t drive at the time so he was in his own sort of isolation, though geographically it wasn’t as bad as mine. He pretty much was doing the same thing I was but he was only playing Maliki. So we were both kind of isolated in our own ways. And we played each other on holidays but me and Stranded would go five or six months without playing [each other], which I think not a lot of people realize. We’re brothers, people assume we came up together, we played and trained, but we didn’t really play that much. I’d come home for Thanksgiving and I’d be like, “Let’s sneak in some Smash before our cousins come over,” but we really couldn’t play that much.

B:​ ​So​ ​since​ ​you​ ​were​ ​so​ ​far​ ​away​ ​from​ ​most​ ​regions,​ ​so​ ​isolated,​ ​it​ ​was​ ​tough​ ​to​ ​stay motivated.​ ​Did​ ​you​ ​know​ ​that​ ​you​ ​were​ ​getting​ ​better​ ​compared​ ​to​ ​everyone​ ​else,​ ​even though​ ​you​ ​were​ ​in​ ​a​ ​pretty​ ​remote​ ​location?

K: Well, there was a switch, right? I ended up leaving the game, which you’re probably alluding to. Junior year and senior year were the same, I was extremely isolated, but the mentality was different. Junior year, I knew I was getting better, I didn’t really mind that I was alone since I was doing my own thing. But I could only take so much of that. So senior year, it just became too much for me. I’m extremely competitive, by nature, and it got to the point where I was playing Smash 4 with my roommate over Smash 64 because I was like, “I can’t play level 9’s anymore!” There was one period where I went 4 months without playing a human being, because at this point, the other kids who I would play 64 with, Skyfire was playing Overwatch, Czar was playing Smash 4, and I went 4 months without playing a human. I thought, “This is awful,” so I started playing Smash 4 just to have that competitive feel, and I hated Smash 4.

So that’s when I decided that I was just going to play Melee. One of my good friends at school, coincidentally, actually was a Melee player. We didn’t even meet through Smash, he was just some kid I knew in the math department, then I just started playing Melee with these guys. I loved 64 with all my heart, but the community wasn’t where I needed it to be to fit my needs, and it sucked. I was either going to pick up another game entirely, or…I felt out of options, and it was a really dark place for me.

B:​ ​So​ ​you​ ​decided​ ​that​ ​Genesis​ ​4​ ​would​ ​be​ ​your​ ​last​ ​tournament?

K: Yeah, Genesis 4. That was in January [of 2017], and honestly, in early 2016, March-ish, I’m thinking, that’s when these first thoughts of quitting came. But I was like, “No way, this is Smash 64, I love this game.” And then, after about six months of battling this [loneliness], I thought, “I’m doing this.” Sometimes I would wake up and be like, “F*** this, I’m playing Melee,” but then a week later I would think that I was being immature and salty. And I remember one time, I really was just feeling down about 64, and I woke up the next day expecting to feel guilty for feeling that way, and I didn’t. And I thought, this needs to happen.

So after about six months of battling this whole “quitting 64” thing, I finally said that Genesis would be my last tournament, in January 2017. And I was so nervous going into Genesis. At the time, I thought it was my last 64 event, and I needed to go out with a bang. I got fifth place and I was so pumped. I got fifth place, only losing to Alvin and Boom, who got first and second, and I thought, “I will take that.” I was so happy with that, and I just decided to start playing Melee.

B:​ ​It’s​ ​interesting​ ​that​ ​you​ ​had​ ​those​ ​feelings​ ​of​ ​frustration​ ​and​ ​isolation​ ​while​ ​still​ ​being​ ​a top​ ​player​ ​in​ ​the​ ​United​ ​States.

K: Yeah, Isai wasn’t playing and I was consistently beating Wizzrobe at the time, so I was one of the top players from the United States. But honestly — and I never really thought about this — I never realized that despite me being better than all these other people, I was really unhappy. A lot of people said, “Why would you quit, you’re so good,” but I was miserable. I was so miserable.

B:​ ​Right,​ ​because​ ​for​ ​every​ ​tournament​ ​where​ ​you​ ​beat​ ​all​ ​these​ ​top​ ​players,​ ​you​ ​would​ ​go months​ ​without​ ​playing​ ​anybody?

K: Dude, before Super Smash Con 2016 and Genesis 4, I think I played another human once, in that six month period. That’s insane, this is crazy. And I ended up getting so angry, I started regretting [so many things]. At this point, I’m in my senior year, and I’m thinking, “I shouldn’t have gone to this school, I should have gone to school in New York City.” I was so angry, and it ended up pushing me to leave the game, like I said. It was tough.

B:​ ​But​ ​now​ ​you’re​ ​back!​ ​You’re​ ​in​ ​New​ ​York,​ ​you​ ​are​ ​in​ ​New​ ​York​ ​City.

K: Yeah, so what happened was, I won’t go into the backstory, but I found myself living in the city. All those years for me in Oneonta, thinking that I should have lived in New York, wishing I could go back and change what school I went to, and now I was finally at the place I wanted to be.

So at first, I lived here for like a month before coming back, and I was playing Melee. And one day I was like, “What am I doing?” For so many years I wanted [to live in New York City]. The only thing stopping me from coming back at this point is pride. I would be lying if it was anything other than that. I told people I wouldn’t come back, and I wanted to stay true to my word, but this is such a good opportunity to pursue something I’m passionate about, and I would be a fool not to do it. And I knew I’d get shit, because I said I would leave and then I came back and everyone knew it. But despite the trolls and people telling me that they told me so, this was a golden opportunity and something that I wanted for so many years. And now I have good internet and I can play online and it’s the fuckin’ best.

B:​ ​And​ ​at​ ​the​ ​end​ ​of​ ​the​ ​day,​ ​you​ ​have​ ​to​ ​make​ ​decisions​ ​based​ ​on​ ​your​ ​own​ ​feelings,​ ​not what​ ​other​ ​people​ ​may​ ​think​ ​of​ ​you.

K: Honestly, that was half of it, and another thing too. When I was playing Melee, I never had a goal, which I think is a dangerous mentality. Ever since I started playing 64 and found out I was’t the best, I wanted to be the best, that was the thing driving me. But I would play Melee, and I would go to a tournament, I would get bodied, I wouldn’t care. I’d go to my friend’s place, get bodied, I wouldn’t care. I didn’t want anything out of the game.

And it all hit me one day. I thought, “What am I doing, dude?” When I was battling whether or not I should come back [to 64], I realized that I would rather take a set off Boom than win Evo five years in a row for Melee. It wouldn’t mean anything to me if I won Evo for Melee, it would mean nothing. Taking a game off Boom is the greatest feeling in the world, let alone taking a set. I feel like I would actually cry. And I thought that on paper, Melee was always the better option. I should have played Melee, but I was passionate about 64. And I was finally in a city where I could do it, so I would have been foolish not to pursue it.

B: There’s​ ​an​ ​emotional​ ​investment​ ​that​ ​has​ ​to​ ​be​ ​there.

K: Yeah, I wasn’t caring about Melee. It felt like a chore, and when I lost, it didn’t drive me. I didn’t care. I didn’t lose sleep about going 0-2 at a tournament.

B:​ ​Now​ ​that​ ​you’re​ ​back,​ ​what​ ​are​ ​your​ ​thoughts​ ​on​ ​the​ ​state​ ​of​ ​competitive​ ​Smash?​ ​What do​ ​you​ ​think​ ​about​ ​how​ ​much​ ​it’s​ ​grown​ ​in​ ​the​ ​past​ ​few​ ​years,​ ​what​ ​it​ ​needs​ ​to​ ​do​ ​to​ ​keep growing​ ​and​ ​be​ ​sustainable?

K: To be honest, the state of the community meant nothing in my decision to come back and I hadn’t even thought about it until this moment. I thought Smash Con 2017 was a complete success, and I think it was really good for the community. It was one of the best Top 8’s we’ve had. But [the state of the community] wasn’t in the back of my mind. One of the reasons I hadn’t thought about [the community], and I’m not sure how this will come out, is I think one of the things that drove me to unhappiness was [that] when I was in my isolation I used to argue a lot. Because I couldn’t play the game, I was like, “why don’t I just go [online] and argue with people about four stocks, single Pika-Kirby, whatever,” and the game became political to me, it was too much. So I told myself when I came back that I wouldn’t care about rulesets, which characters are good, which characters are bad, y’know, Shears could tell us we are playing 7 stocks with items on, I’m not going to argue. I am just playing the game because I love it at this point. I am not trying to be, I’m not going to make ruleset posts or anything like that. I’m just playing the game because I love it. And I think that will bring me a lot more happiness. Although I’ll still argue with people about matchups all day. Some people have no idea.

B:​ ​Do​ ​you​ ​have​ ​any​ ​personal​ ​plans​ ​for​ ​the​ ​future?

K: I am actually super pumped moving forward. I gotta say, I am at the best possible place I can be in my Smash career. In terms of how I’m playing, I’m not playing great, because I haven’t seriously put time into the game in nine months. So my actual play is not the best. But everything else — and this will eventually make me play better — everything else is the best it can be. I’m finally in the city I wanted to be [in], I can go to weeklies every week, I can play online, like I said, I stopped caring about this whole political section of Smash, like rulesets and stuff, I can play console with people, I’ve honestly been working on, I’ve been putting a lot of time into a certain character that I’ve kinda wanted to play for a long time. And it’s been bringing me a lot of happiness, too.

B:​ ​Is​ ​it​ ​Samus?

K: [Laughs] Dude I’m just in a really happy place. I think about how I think about the game now versus how I thought about the game my senior year of college and they are so different, dude. I, I just can’t wait for the future. It finally feels like everything is where it needs to be, and I think I’m going to see more growth now than I ever have. I’m really happy about the future.

Brendan Murray is a smasher from NYC who joined the scene in mid-2016. He mains Samus, which he regrets every day. You can find him on Twitter at 
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Changing the Game: Cultivating the Landscape of Super Smash Bros.

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Image by Robert Paul
By David “Shears” Shears

How big is Smash? That depends on which area of Super Smash you look at. Super Smash Bros. the community is very small. Super Smash Bros. the series by Nintendo is massive. Throughout its history, Nintendo has sold over 39 million copies of the Smash Bros. franchise: 5 million copies of 64, 7 million copies of Melee, over 13 million copies of Brawl and nearly 14 million copies of Smash 4 so far. However, the r/smashbros subreddit, likely the biggest collection of Smashers online, doesn’t even have 250,000 subscribers. This is a drop in the bucket, potentially only 0.6% of people who own a Super Smash Bros. game are aware of the competitive Smash Bros. community. There are more people who love and play Smash and have never seen the Smash Brothers documentary than there are people on the planet who know of Mang0 or Isai.

I often meet people at bars, on Tinder or running into an old friend and catching up on life, and nearly everyone I talk to loves and remembers or plays at least one version of Super Smash Bros. When in conversation with these strangers or old acquaintances, I tell them about how much of my free time is spent traveling the world and competitively playing one of the most popular video games ever made. Nearly every single person is convinced they are gods at these games, but none of them know of any advanced techniques, top players or even events that happen in the cities they have lived in for years. In college you could go down the hall and run into any random dorm room and there was likely a Nintendo 64 or GameCube along with a copy of Smash. I often played people in college, destroying them with ease; it was a good way to hustle beer money. But these people who love the game exist everywhere, are part of all demographics and are thirsty to play people they know they are better than. The problem is the community is niche and inaccessible. When we look at attendance, we see numbers even worse than on reddit. The biggest events cannot break 5,000 attendees despite having over 100,000 viewers at home. These events are virtually nonexistent to Nintendo compared to its tens of millions of customers worldwide. This is why Nintendo does not care much about competitive Smash, because it fails to add any significant growth or profit margins. The entire Smash community is an obscure, small and negligible fraction of its customers.

Shears Chart I

Shears Chart II

Does size matter? For sustainability, not too much. At both Genesis 3 and Genesis 4, the convention center was shared with other events the same weekend. For G3 it was FurCon, for G4 it was NeedleArts. One is a known but very niche community, often seen as a strange fetish, and the other is a hobby I never knew existed until I got to G4. What is most interesting about both of these events is that their attendance was about the same as the number of entrants at both G3 and G4. There are two sides to this coin. These hobbies and communities exist all over the world and their biggest yearly conventions take place with comparable numbers and have been growing for years. With Smash in the same ballpark as far as numbers go this is very encouraging for sustainability. NeedleArts does not need tens of thousands of fans and neither does FurCon. They get 0 viewers on Twitch, they do not need YouTube ad revenue and with conventional advertisement, sponsorship and a loyal fan base, both of these communities thrive and stay sustainable.

In a way our Smash community is like this, but the big difference is we should not be. We should not be as small or as niche. This is one of the most popular game series in the world with loads of income sources via Twitch, YouTube, merchandise, sponsors, loyal customers, etc. and yet its competitive community cannot beat out people who like dressing in animal costumes or stitching a Christmas stocking. This is not because daddy Nintendo refuses to tweet us out or give us money, it is because we are doing something wrong and these much smaller communities are doing something right to compete with us in size. Is Smash sustainable? Yes. Is Smash significant? No. Go out to any public event whether it is a bar, carnival, music festival or whatever and ask people if they are a furry. More often than not they will say, “no,” or ask, “what is a furry?” Do the same with NeedleArts and you will be hard pressed to find a single person that has ever heard of that convention. Now compare these results to asking people if they love Super Smash Bros. and you will find just about every person you meet knows of the game and an overwhelming majority love it. So how does this change?

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Credit: Ronan Lynam.com

I have a million and one ideas on what is needed for growth in Smash and much of it has to do with local traditional advertising, viral marketing, social media ads, new event structures, better fan and competitive experiences, traditional sponsorships and more. All these ideas focus on tapping into the already indoctrinated fans of Smash, the ones who played it as children when it first came out or are still playing it but unaware of the competitive community. The random scrubs who can beat all their friends and so they must be gods. There are millions of these people out there and Smash has been struggling to bring them in. The 100k viewers on Twitch watching G4 or the 250k on reddit that saw the event page and announcements knew of G4, they knew who was going, they knew how much the trip would cost them, they knew how much fun people have at these events and they KNEW that they did not want to attend.

The current strategy in Smash is to try and convince people who know of an event and do not want to go to change their mind and attend anyway. It is shouting into the echo chamber of reddit, Twitter and Smash Facebook groups. It is like asking a girl out, her saying no and then asking again as if her mind has changed. You are not going to draw someone away from their high school sweetheart. They picked Melee as their first love, or League of Legends, or Marvel vs. Capcom. Players rarely switch to entirely new Smash games and top players from other games rarely have any interest in even competing in Smash. Instead of asking the same girl out we need to ask out the fans of Smash who have no other hobby, the ones who are not married to other games or know of the competitive scene and deliberately choose not to attend. Remember, 39 million copies sold yet Smash routinely panders and markets to the 0.6%. While these are growth opportunities, they cannot be long term efforts and reliable systems to continue bringing new players in. Influx of Smash fans depends on Nintendo’s release of the next game. There is no system in place to morph casual people into new community members and this kind of player source is what I believe to be a very important step in the sustainability and growth of the Smash community as a whole.

This past weekend I organized and played in an event that was unlike any event I have seen or been to. Many members of my region, MVP (Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania), drove out to face off against our neighboring rival region, MOMS (Masters Of Midwest Smash), meeting at a halfway point for the two scenes. Instead of a standard tournament with winners taking home cash, mid-level players attending with the hopes of just doing a little bit better than last time and low-level players having basically no hope at anything but a sad 0-2, we ran the event similar to a track and field meet. This regional dual meet was exclusive, we wanted to hit home the rivalry and really give attention to the players from each region. Instead of first place going home with 50 percent of the prize pool, they instead earned points for the team along with a handful of side events, bonus scoring categories and points via money matches and social media. The team with the most points at the end of the weekend took home a majority share of the prize pool to be divided amongst everyone.

Instead of one player taking all the money, everyone who attended and competed truly helped support the event and their region and went home a winner. It wasn’t about a top player, it was about the region and the team and everyone who helped contribute to that. Every single person who attended helped their team in some way, whether it was winning a MM versus another low skilled player from the rivalry region or outperforming their seed. The little guys were important contributors to the team just like the PR players that normally dominate regional events. Individual winners still got awards as we had ribbons for Top 8 of each event and in the end it built strong regional pride and camaraderie. We also used a portion of the budget to get pizza and soda for all attendees to socialize and get to know each other for true sportsmanship and a respectable rivalry. This new event helps build a team and a team brings people together to keep coming out and fall in love with their community and the game.

The reception of this event and how it felt for me has inspired me to start running this style event more often and push it to the rest of the community, but I started thinking about how much further this can go. The entirety of it stemmed from my own personal experiences running track in high school, being on a team, contributing to that team’s performance and traveling to face off against other nearby teams to decide who was the best. I was not in it for money, I did want victory, I did want the plaques, awards and trophies, but I did want my hometown to be respected, my school to be feared and my teammates to do well. It was about school spirit and building inward support for your team. But it was not only about my performances, it was about the team as a whole. When we won our meets and victory came down to one of the little guys outperforming their time and upsetting another runner to steal a point here or there, it became a special moment. Everyone went home a winner and people that were not the best still mattered and became a part of something. This is what I wanted to capture with MVP vs. MOMS and I believe we succeeded.

The venue for MVP vs. MOMS was offered to us for free with the agreement that our attendees would like and subscribe to their social media as well as watch and like a couple of their YouTube videos. Coincidentally, one of the videos they specified for us to watch was about getting esports into high schools. With our event being modeled after high school competitions and meets, this video really matched up with what had been on my mind. It delivers the idea that if you can have teams of players in sports going to other high schools to compete, then the same can be done for esports. It is no different when you think about it. A singles and doubles tournament combining for a total team score and a team victory is like a track meet where individuals run to score points for their team and have a relay race with a few of their teammates to maximize their team’s points. Our event model translates perfectly to esports clubs for high school and is a tried and true system that has proven to work.

For me, I never had video games as a kid, never played them as my mom did not believe in them. I did not own any Smash Bros. games or consoles until the very end of 2014 when I bought an N64 and SSB64 off craigslist. My life as an adolescent was spent mostly playing sports, being in different rec leagues and subsequently on middle school and high school sports teams. These systems are simple, especially since they are mostly designed as after school programs. Every parent wants to get their kid into these so they stay away from less savory activities. I see no reason Smash cannot become a part of this. Many schools already have video game clubs or Lego robotics clubs, but instead they run them as hobbies instead of competitive programs. With minimal effort, these can be turned into after school programs where students play and practice, and on weekends a bus is rented to meet at other schools and the kids spend their days playing each other and earning victories for their teams.

Leagues and divisions are created locally and competitions held much like our events already, the same way our major tournaments are held. MVP, rookie of the year, best sportsmanship and many other awards can be easily created and distributed to these high school esports athletes. Most schools get public funding, especially for their athletic departments, and so these events and programs do not even need the overhead and dependant entrant support that our current majors do. On top of creating organizations for Smash we create an avenue for growth. Younger fans of the games have an easy way into the game, stepping in at their youth through these programs and then pursuing either careers in Smash or becoming lifetime fans like we see for football, basketball, and other traditional sports. These kids begin playing at young ages, practicing and becoming the best. The floor of competition rises across the community as well as the ceiling and the pros of today are the scrubs of tomorrow.

Smash is already one of the most popular games of all time, kids are already playing it, and a model and system already exist to take Smash to an entirely new level; we just need to take the next step and begin pushing it into these new domains. People are Hungrybox fans, they are not Liquid fans. If Hungrybox leaves Liquid for another team most fans will follow the next team; these “teams” are just a label and fail to truly capture what a high school or professional sports team are. When Peyton Manning left the Colts, people in Indianapolis were still Colts fans. Sure they still love Manning and follow him but they did not divorce the team they followed because it is a part of their home. A high school team is a part of a person’s home, it is where they grew up, where their family and friends are and something they root for for the rest of their lives.

With this system in place it becomes easy to institute the same system for club and rec levels locally, much like we have done for MVP and MOMS regions. There is a hometown regional pride that is synonymous with local sports team pride; whatever brand or sponsor is thrown onto that, whichever players come and go, it does not change the pride a person has for the place they call home. It stimulates more love for Smash, more commitment to it and it creates a stream of new players in every generation to become part of our competitive community. Our youth is the future and if we fail to create an accessible community and system for them Smash retires when we do.

Featured Image by Robert Paul

Wizarding 101: Volume II. Preference, Audience and Finding Your “Style”

By Jeremy “Professor_wizard” Davis

Hey everyone, Professor_wizard here, back again to write some more about commentary. This time I have some topics I am really excited to talk about. They include the more individualistic aspects of commentary, the ways commentators can be different and how to achieve this.

Let’s get into it!

The Hard Truth

Before I give any advice on finding your style and catering to your audience, I have to talk about a truism of viewership and commentary that is sometimes hard to hear: there are ALWAYS going to be people who are not fans of your commentary.

It is just a fact that viewers have different preferences. Especially in the world of gaming viewership there is no established expectation on how to approach commentary (more on this later). The fact is that not everybody wants the same things. In fact, there are many viewers out there who are not fans of commentary at all, and would prefer to just watch with game sounds.

Now, in a lot of scenarios this is an “embrace the haters” kind of moment, but I will offer some slightly different advice: you cannot please everyone. Say it with me: you cannot please everyone. That does not mean you should ignore criticism, but instead you should be able to identify what is helpful criticism and what is a difference in preference. This is crucial for improving your commentary.

The key to filtering through critical feedback to find points for improvement is to try to consider who is watching and what your goals are for adding to the match for those viewers. Which leads me to my next topic.

Audience: From Supermajor Pools to Basement Grands

Audience matters a LOT. Are you commentating R1 of your twelve person biweekly or Grand Finals of Genesis 5? It does not take too much experience to see that commentating is going to be different between these two.

But there are times it can be a bit more subtle than that. Even commentating bracket of a 64 exclusive is different from commentating a multi-game supermajor. Are most of the viewers new to the scene and the game? Or are they familiar with the characters and players? If you are trying to take my advice from the previous section and appeal to the largest audience you can, thinking about who that audience might be is something commentators need to consider and prep for prior to hopping on the mic. So how do you prep for different audiences? I don’t have the space here to go over every circumstance you might commentate for, but instead I will go over two main dichotomies to keep in mind while considering how to proceed.

The first axis of dichotomy is: how new or experienced is your audience? This is something that is often discussed in Melee and Smash 4, as they often have events with lots of new viewers. If you are catering to newer viewers, it is important to point out things that may be a bit more obvious to experienced players, but are crucial to understanding how the game works. For instance: Kirby’s up tilt or Falcon’s grab can start really easy combos, and are therefore big threats the opponent has to work around when playing against them. This is something that may be a bit too obvious to say to someone really familiar with the 64 scene, but to a newer player,  explaining that it is a reason why not to approach Kirby from above actually has value to those viewers. For more exclusive events where there may be high level play going on, and more of the viewers are long time 64 watchers, they want to hear about the small adjustments being made to limit advantages like a strong command of top platform.

The second major dichotomy revolves around the stakes of the match. And this goes back to the most important ideal of commentary: what are you adding to the match? What I really mean here is that high level matches hold the attention of the audience and the job of the commentator is to accentuate the play with insights and energy. But what about games that are extremely one-sided? Or games that are low level? These are matches that may become a bit boring for the viewers, which leads to them being bored with the commentators as well. How do you add to the match? The general rule of thumb is when the match is close, follow the action closer, when it is not, talk about the bigger trends and narratives. If the matches are one-sided, commenting on how one player is making mistakes repeatedly is not very exciting, taking a step back to discuss a narrative may be more interesting.

How each caster pair approaches each of these scenarios depends on their strengths and weaknesses. Which leads me to my last section…

What is “style” and where do I get one?

The most important thing I can stress in this article is that not all casters are going to approach things the same way, and that’s not only OK, it’s a good thing. I have so far spent a few thousand words in the last two articles telling commentators what I think they should and should not be doing. But the real secret of commentary is that there are usually some wrong answers, but probably no “right” answers when it comes to the most basic question: “What should I be saying?”

If you want a good rundown of what NOT to say, and some hints on what to say if you are at a loss, you should check out Volume I. More or less everything else falls under the purview of “style”.

Now unfortunately, it feels impossible to tell someone how to cast in a specific style. The advice I can offer is 1) listen to other casters and try to absorb parts of commentary that most resonate with you, and 2) experiment with things you want to try. The only way to know if a commentary idea you have will be successful or not is to try it out, listen to how it sounds later, and ask for feedback on how it went.

The last thing I will say on style is to bring it full circle: not everyone will like every style, and you cannot please them all. Try not to take it too hard if someone in twitch chat would rather mute the stream, but also do not be stubborn and ignore all criticism citing “I just have a different style”.

Parting Thoughts and Feedback

The final takeaway that applies to all the above is that feedback is really important, but how you take it is just as critical. The best thing to do to improve on commentary is to keep an open mind when hearing criticism, and then make some decisions yourself on how best to internalize them.

I hope this volume has been helpful in trying to highlight some of the more individualistic aspects of commentary. Commentating is really important for the 64 scene, and there is always room for more commentators out there. Look out for another article in this series in the future, and let me know what you think on twitter.

Jeremy Davis is Puff/Kirby main from the Indy64 scene. Much better known for his commentary than his play, he also helps run /r/ssb64, and is a PhD candidate on the side. You can find him on twitter @Prof_wizard.

64 Origins: Dave “Firo” Eisenberg

By Brendan “Bean” Murray

In the basement of Nebulous Gaming NYC, the location of New York City’s weekly Super Smash Bros. 64 tournaments, I sat down on a stiff couch next to a thin, freckled 24-year-old man with a shock of red hair and a close-cropped beard to match. His name is Dave “Firo” Eisenberg. By day, he is a computer programmer for a company called “Google,” but by night, he is the best Super Smash Bros. 64 player in New York City — no small feat, for the largest city in the USA. He was ranked the 25th best player of 2016 on the Super Smash Bros. 64 League Rankings, as well as the low-tier player of the year by The 64 Story, and has graciously agreed to be the subject of a Player Profile for The Smash Writers.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for the sake of continuity/comprehension. By that I mean I interrupted way too often and had to cut that shit out.

Brendan:​ First of all, where does the tag “Firo” come from, if you don’t mind me asking?

Firo: ​Yeah, of course! I made it when I was 12 or 13. My first usage of Firo was — did you ever play Paper Mario for the Gamecube? Thousand Year Door? You hatch a little Yoshi egg in the third chapter, and mine was red, and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll think of a name, maybe related to fire. Firo, that sounds cool.’

B: ​Speaking of being thirteen years old, when did you first get started in Smash? I know you’ve been playing for a really long time.

F: ​When [Smash 64] first came out, in 1999, I saw a commercial for it, and I was like, ‘This is so cool.’ I was 8, just on the cusp [of being able to remember the ad], and I was super into games at the time. So I saw the commercial, I was like, ‘Oh man, this rocks,’ and then played it at a friend’s place before getting it myself. For a little while, I only played casually with friends. Then Melee came out, I was like, ‘This is great,’ and I tried to get seriously into Melee, started following all the top guys. It was 2001, 2002, and I was a huge fan of Ken. I was also a Marth main, so, you know. I really wanted to go to tournaments so I could test my skills, but I was 12, 13, so that was on the sidelines for a little while. Then a friend was talking about how you can play 64 online, and I thought that sounded really cool.

B: ​Were you aware that there was a competitive scene? Was there a competitive scene?

F:​ There was one online, but there wasn’t a console scene at all. Online, you would log on and there would be about a hundred people playing, so pretty popular. Some of the same guys as today, like Fireblaster, SuPeRbOoMfAn, and some other guys who aren’t around anymore, and that’s how I got really into [competitive 64].

B: ​And Melee just fell by the wayside?

F:​ Yeah, some of the first 64 tournaments I entered, I also entered Melee, and I just got destroyed, and I figured I should focus my efforts on one thing, so I decided to go with 64.

B:​ And when did a console scene for 64 show up?

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F: ​One of the first big tournaments for 64 was Apex 2012 or 2013. People were like, ‘Apex is having 64, this is huge.’ There were people like Sensei, Jimmy Joe was there — I didn’t know Jimmy Joe at the time — and I got ninth place at the tournament. I lost to Sensei in a close Ness vs Fox match on Hyrule*. That was when I was in college, and I started playing with some of the Chicago people — I went to college in central Illinois — people like Bloodpeach, Han Solo, BattleCow​, and we played on console a lot. Then Apex happened again, and the console scene exploded after that.

*This happened at Apex 2013.

B:​ And then you moved to New York City and started coming to Nebulous?

F:​ I’m originally from Westchester, but when I first moved to New York City, there was no 64 scene, it was just getting started. A lot of the time it was just me and Jimmy Joe playing, we would do ‘Jimmy Joe and Firo Mondays,’ we would just be at his place and play, which was a lot of fun. And then KillaHertz started getting into 64, he wanted to start some 64 weeklies, and next thing you know, Nebs starts up. I haven’t done too much [for the scene], not as much as people like Dark Gentleman, KillaHertz, or Jimmy Joe, but it was pretty nice timing to be around for that, maybe about two and a half years ago.

B:​ Earlier, you were talking about a close Ness vs Fox match you had with Sensei. When did you choose to main low tiers, and why?

F:​ It’s only sort of after the fact that I was known for maining low tiers. At [Apex 2013] I played Falcon in the earlier rounds. I started off as a Samus main, on keyboard, then I moved to an XBox 360 controller, still with Samus, still online, and I played some Falcon and Fox. Then once I started playing with a 64 controller I started messing around with Ness, and I just happened to be good with him so I just rolled with it. There weren’t many Ness players, even back then, and I found out that I had pretty good technique with him, since I hold the controller in a pretty weird way, which is horrible for your hands. I do get hand pains if I don’t take breaks, and I’ve had pretty bad cramping at tournaments before, which is freaky.

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But yeah, Ness seemed fun, he fit my aggressive, in-your-face style, he’s got cool ‘boes [combos], and 64 is all about the ‘boes, that’s what I come for. Come for the ‘boes, stay for the ‘boes, that’s the motto. I do like playing everybody, though, except Pikachu and Kirby. And I don’t really have much desire to play them, I don’t find their ‘boes very interesting. They’re not very technical, I like technical characters, where I get to press a lot of buttons, and characters with a good sense of flow.

B: ​We may have already covered this, but why 64 specifically?

F: ​I play 64 for the ‘boes — the combos, to clarify. The ‘boes in 64 are so cool, watching some sick Japanese [players], like, Prince ‘boes or Ricky, RickySSB, whose account got deleted off YouTube which was the most horrible thing. That was a pretty dark spot in Smash 64 history. I just love seeing sick ‘boes, I get so much satisfaction out of a good ‘bo.

B:​ Did you ever try Brawl or Smash 4?

F:​ I tried to get into Brawl when it came out, my freshman year of high school. I was like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna get into it, I’m gonna be good,’ and I played for about a month and just didn’t like it at all so I just went back to 64. The online experience wasn’t good, 64 online was much better, no ‘boes, so I just didn’t like it. I played a little bit of Smash 4, it’s a little bit better, there are some ‘boes but there’s no creativity, it’s just the same strings over and over again. Not really interested in that.

B:​ What are your thoughts on the 64 scene recently? What does the community need to do to keep it sustainable?

F: ​It’s definitely growing, which is good. I think, because people are mostly playing in tournaments, there is tendency for people to not experiment or do fun stuff. Back in the online days, everyone played everybody, not many people stuck with one character. Now Top 8s are mostly just Pikachu, which isn’t surprising but, to me, it’s not that fun. But the fact that people are playing on console is great, that’s always better than playing on an emulator. It’s great to see the scene growing, especially at a place like [Nebulous], which is super convenient for people to play every week. I’m excited for the growth, I think it’s a game that shouldn’t just disappear. It’s a ton of fun, so I’m super glad that more and more people are playing.

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B:​ If you’re not at Nebulous, how do you play or practice? Do you still play online?

F:​ Nowadays, I don’t really play outside of Nebs, but the real way to get good, at least for me, was to play online. For a while in high school I was playing pretty much every day, at least a couple of hours every day. I’ve played a lot of top players, you play SuPeRbOoMfAn for a couple of hours, or Fireblaster or Jaime or even Isai, you get exposed to a ton of different playstyles. If you’re trying to get better and you’re willing to get your ass kicked, then I think you can do it pretty fast [online].

Another thing I would do when I was trying to get better was watch a lot of videos. I would watch videos of myself playing and every time I got hit, you stop the video and think, ‘What did I do wrong? Why did I get hit?’ Also watch videos of really good players and then right before they do something, try and predict what they’re gonna do. If you got it right, that’s great, if you got it wrong, and they did something better, ask yourself why, why did I not think of that. And then a lot of messing around in Training Mode. So much of the game, in terms of getting better is being able to move quickly, understanding something like how high to jump in certain scenarios, a lot of these things that you don’t really focus on in the middle of the match. You gotta go into Training Mode and keep making sure your combos connect, that’s something you can really practice. If you’re on an emulator it’s much easier since you can use save states right before you want to try a combo and get it down, watch that combo meter and make sure it’s actually connecting.

B:​ When you play in tournaments like Apex, are you more focused on winning, getting the best placing possible, or are you okay with not doing as well if it means you stuck to your character and your playstyle?

F:​ I don’t really have much desire to be the best. If I wanted to be the best, I would play Pikachu or Kirby. I like the idea of pushing a character to their limits, and I think there’s a lot to be said for having character diversity, to me that’s just more fun. I don’t really enjoy watching a Top 8 set that is two Kirbys that goes for seven minutes. To me, it’s a nice tactical spacing battle but I don’t really find it that exciting. If being the best means playing like that then no, I don’t want to be the best. It is always nice to do better, though. I will go to a tournament and want to do well, but I don’t play enough to really get to the next level, like people who are at the SuPeRbOoMfAn level. In order for someone like me to catch up to them, I would have to play much more than them, and that’s a lot. At some point it becomes asymptotic. And stuff like school, work, other social stuff gets in the way. Trying to come [to Nebulous] once a week has been a good balance of doing this and doing other stuff. The days of coming home from school and playing until dinner are over, which is okay.

B:​ Do you have any players that you look forward to playing against in bracket? Players that you’ve cultivated a rivalry with over the years?

F:​ There are people I play who continually beat me, people like Revan, who I’ve lost to a few times. There’s people that are fun to play that are around my level, like Fireblaster, he’s always a fun person to play against. We have had a long history. Last time we played was at SuperBoomed and I took that match, but before that I have lost, and every time I was counterpicked to Peach’s Castle, and someone like Ness is just horrible there. But for a long time, up until a couple of years ago, you had these levels, Kongo Jungle and Peach’s Castle, and I would get counterpicked there quite a bit, which was unfortunate.

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B:​ Why is Kongo Jungle bad for Ness?

F:​ Ness can’t really get up to the top side platforms, the only way he can get up is if he goes onthe little rotating platform then jumps over again. He can use his double jump but then he has touse his full circular jump. It’s just a very bad stage. The edges mess up his double jump cancel so he can’t really DJC [double-jump cancel]. It’s nice to not have those stages anymore, and I think my tournament performances have improved since that’s been the case.

Anyways, people like Nintendude and I used to have a nice rivalry back in the day. He beat me at one of the Apex’s, and also at Zenith one year. Those players are not necessarily rivals but it’s always fun to play them.

B:​ You and Nintendude team together, right?

F: ​Yeah, Nintendude and I think about the game very similarly, so it’s fun to team with him and I always cheer for him in Melee.

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B:​ Who does he main in 64?

F:​ He mains Mario and Pikachu. Ness-Mario is usually our team, which is a fun team. I can get healed, got that action in there. Ness is a lot better in doubles than he is in singles, that’s for sure. I like doubles a lot too, I think it’s kinda nice that we have the OC [overclocked] consoles now, so doubles on console is a real possibility, even though there is still some lag, even with the OC. Before OC, doubles online was just a better experience, it didn’t have lag. It’s nice to see that we can do a lot of doubles in person. I think doubles is a really underdeveloped area of the game, it’s hard to get double the amount of people at the same time to play. It still doesn’t get much stream time [as singles], but it’s growing.

B: ​Ban Pika/Kirby?

F: ​Well, I think there’s a couple different answers to the question based on what you want. Do you want to see the best possible way you can play Smash 64? If the answer is yes, then you shouldn’t ban them. Do you want to have the most fun? If the answer is yes, then I think you should ban them. Personally, I don’t find them fun to play or fun to watch. A lot of people disagree with that, they have every right to, but if it was me, I would encourage aggressive play as much as possible. I think this game suffers — at a high level, it has the potential to be very campy, very slow. It’s not as fun to watch or to play, personally, as opposed to a battle that’s very explosive, aggressive, people doing sick ‘boes everywhere. You have to be much better than your opponent to get away with something like that [aggression], but when two people are evenly matched, it’s going to be this slow, slow campfest.

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Luckily now, we have a timer. One of the matches that forced us towards a timer was my match with Wizzrobe at Apex 2015*, or something like that, which was the 13 minute Kongo match. And it was just ridiculous, I just got really frustrated after that match. So he wins the first match, it was an 8 minute match on Dreamland, he’s playing Yoshi — and this was when Wizzrobe was not known as being good at 64. So, it’s my Ness versus his Yoshi, and that match was very campy. He just stayed under the side platforms, and it’s really hard for Ness to approach a Yoshi like that, because his back-air beats everything Ness has. Then we went to the second match and that was around a 10 minute match on Dreamland, I did win that one, and then he counterpicked me to Kongo and that was a 13 minute match.

So the three-set match took forty minutes, and it was a complete endurance match. I found it to be one of the most un-fun matches I had played in a long time. And at that point there was no Everdrives, and that’s another big thing that has really changed the scene is availability of the Everdrives and timed stock matches. Once we had the ability to do timed matches, a lot of that has gotten better, and then we banned some of these more campy stages, which is good. I like that we have a timer now, though sometimes I think it could be even shorter to force people to be aggressive and go for the kill.”

*This match happened at Apex 2014.

B: ​You also have an experimental ruleset, don’t you?

F:​ [Laughs] I do, I proposed it right after that long-ass match. I only brought it back up since Dark Gentleman was talking about how we can experiment with different rulesets. Part of the reason that ruleset existed is because the assumption was that we could never have a timed stock match on console. The idea was to move to a time instead of stock.

The ruleset is: three five-minute rounds, the person with the least deaths wins out of those total three rounds. In that ruleset, I did allow for multiple stages, it was Dream Land and Hyrule, and whoever played the character lower on the tier list got to choose the first stage. That was pretty controversial, because people were like, ‘you’re using the tier list to decide who picks the stage’ [Ness is third from the bottom on the current Smash 64 tier list].

My counter to that was, I really think character diversity is a huge thing, so if we give the lower characters an advantage by having stage choice I think that is a way to make up for them. The ruleset never caught on, probably for the best, but it was an interesting way to get rid of the campiness. But I was also a bit bitter after that super-long loss.

B:​ What tournaments are you going to next?

F: ​I’ll probably be at Smash Con, but I haven’t registered yet0vo_1sys_400x400. Unfortunately, I’m gonna miss Let’s Go, but that also looks to be a good one. I’m excited for Smash Con, last year was really fun, playing people like Kort, we did a lot of Link matches. It’ll be cool to see all the international people, should be a fun tournament.

B:​ What other games do you play?

F:​ I play a lot of other N64 games. Mario Tennis, on N64, I think I’m better at that than I am at Smash. There’s not that big of a scene for that game, and you can’t play it online, up until recently, since the graphics will get all fucked up. I saw some people with tier lists of characters that were completely wrong. Mario is the best character. He’s got no flaws. He’s powerful enough to hit winners from the back, he’s got enough finesse to handle drop shots, he’s pretty fast, and he’s got a good serve. He’s got everything.

B:​ So who do you play Mario Tennis against?

F: ​Junior and senior year of college I played every day, I lived with three other guys and we played 2-v-2. 2-v-2 Mario Tennis is amazingly fun, and recently I’ve been getting my older brother into it. We’ve found Mario Tennis to be a great way to compete against each other. He’s never been able to beat me but he’s come pretty close, he’s getting pretty good. Besides that, there’s Mario Kart 64, I’m pretty good at it. For me, I’ll play people after telling them I’m good at Mario Kart and I’ll see them miss a mini-turbo, I’ll tell them and they’ll say, ‘that’s not a big deal,’ dude you gotta know exactly how many turbos you gotta do around the entire lap. Or you have the people who play Koopa Troopa Beach and they don’t go the other way to get the extra turbo, that’s just, come on, you’re gonna lose. So that’s really fun.

I’ll play some newer games too. I don’t really play too many single player games, I mostly like multiplayer, competitive stuff. I played some other fighting games for a little while, in college I played Street Fighter, some Marvel, which was fun, but nothing really to the same level as Smash. Also Mario Party, on the N64, Mario Party 2, some Rocket League, which is fun, has a very Smash-esque feel to it. But nothing really to the same level as Smash, Smash is definitely a different league.

B:​ Any other thoughts?

F:​ The game is just super fun, I wouldn’t be playing it for this long if I didn’t think it was incredibly fun. I’m gonna be playing it forever. Smash will go on — the ‘boes never die. The game might end but the ‘boes will live on. There’s one thing I don’t like about this game. I think DI [Directional Influence] — I like it as a concept, but it’s horribly implemented. If I could change stuff about this game, that would be number one. It should be, you have a standard amount of DI, maybe you can just hold it, you don’t have to mash. I don’t like mashing as a skill, don’t think that’s a good skill to learn. Having said that, so many people just don’t DI in the right way. When you’re in a combo, you have to know, every combo, every move, which way you’re DI-ing. One way to get good, if you’re in a combo, somebody combos you, and they ask you, ‘tell me which way you DI-ed every move of that combo,’ you should have an answer. Even a simple case, like Falcon’s up-air, up-air, up-air, up-B, if you’re near a platform, you try to DI to the platform, if you’re a heavier character, you want to start DI-ing down, but if it looks like they’re keeping up with you then you want to start DI-ing up — especially on their last hit, before they try to do their up-B, you want to DI up as much as possible because then you have a chance of being too high up. In general, DI up is the way. If you want to get good, DI up. That’s my advice. It completely shuts down characters. A character like Ness, if you DI up, he’s half as good. Every combo I got at [Big Apple Smash], I would not have been able to get if the person DI-ed up. So know which way to DI. Unfortunately, you have to be good at DI to be good at this game. And you’re not going to see that from watching a video, you don’t really notice the way they DI. It’s an important part of the game that you need to actually be playing to figure that out.

I also highly encourage people to try new characters, I find it so much more fun when you play other characters besides the top guys. And you can win by playing anybody. You might not be the best in the world but you can make Top 8s, you can make a name for yourself. You could either say, ‘I’m a really good Pikachu player,’ or ‘I’m the best Samus player.’ To me, that’s much cooler, you get known for it. There’s, like, three competitive Ness players in the world that actually main Ness, and you wonder why. I think a lot of people could play really well with Ness or these other [low-tier] characters. And these new players, they don’t know how to play against characters that aren’t at the top, so you pull out a Ness and you can just tell they don’t know the matchup at all, which really works to your advantage, especially with all these new players coming in. I don’t think I’ve gotten much better than when I played in 2010, 2011, but I think the new players coming in just aren’t used to [low-tiers]. A lot of these players that play online, like Lowww Power, we’ll play and it’ll be super close, or he’ll win. I’ve started playing Link against him and he’s like, ‘okay, I play against Link all the time.’ Experiment with new characters, do some sick ‘boes, that’s what the game’s all about.

Brendan Murray is a smasher from NYC who joined the scene in mid-2016. He mains Samus, which he regrets every day. You can find him on Twitter at

Battle Arena Melbourne 9 – Here comes the Boom

By Jesse “Sweetchilli” Rosenberg

Have you ever paid good money for something and then regretted your purchase almost immediately? Maybe it was a bad meal or a car that ended up having a plethora of mechanical issues.

Regardless, if you have ever made any purchase without fully considering the consequences, then you can probably identify with myself and half of the SSB64 entrants at BAM9. Upon seeing that they are on SuPeRbOoMfAn’s side of the bracket, some have been heard muttering things like “I’m gonna make a sick losers run”, “I’m gonna tear a path through losers bracket” or, if you are like me, “Why did I contribute to the Boom fund when he’s just going to send me to losers bracket in round three?”

All bracket bitterness aside, Boom coming to Australia is easily the most exciting part of Battle Arena Melbourne 9. He is the first high-level international player to journey to the land of kangaroos and everyone attending the tournament is hoping to learn a lot from playing him over the weekend.

But Boom is by no means the only reason to watch this tournament. The lineup for this BAM is insanely stacked with Australian standards. The strong representation comes from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and even a lonesome Queenslander. To use the words of the tournament organiser Indefa, “the bracket’s fucked”.

To add further fuel to the flame, this tournament is straight off the back of the Melbourne Monthly, where Pete – 63rd on the SSB64 League rankings – lost to DSC, bringing to an end a three year long era where he won every Australian tournament he attended.

It’s a volatile time for Australian Smash, with a range of exciting matches being played throughout the weekend. Here are some of the more hype matches you won’t want to miss:

Birdies vs Jonga – Predicted for Winners Round 3

This rematch is from the recently uncompleted Sydney regional BoomHunter, where Jonga came up and took out Birdies to sit in Grand Finals. Combo-Lord Jonga has proved that he is more than capable of dealing with Kirbys, but will Birdies bring a different mindset to a tournament with serious money on the line?

James3927 vs Quincy – Predicted for Winners Round 3

In a recent online tournament, Quincy lost to James’s DK in Grand Finals, and returned to Discord proclaiming “STFU. LUCK. I SHOULD’VE WON!”, despite the fact that he’d just been reverse 6-0’d. Quincy has had an incredible rate of improvement since joining the online scene just over a year ago, but will James’s power up from Let’s Go! in the United States be too much for Quincy’s Pikachu to handle?

Birdies vs DSC – Predicted for Losers Semifinals

I’ve got $40 riding on my boy Birdies right here, so you know where I want this to go, but what I want is completely unrelated to the outcome of this match. DSC’s Falcon has  previously proven that it is able to deal with most Kirbys. But Birdies is another kettle of fish, and to take the words from the mouth of the infamous Dim Sims and Chips himself, “I might get Kirby’d.”

Kuromatsu vs Mitch – Predicted for Losers Round 7

These two have a long and colorful history. Last year, at Project Melbourne 2, Mitch overcame Kuro’s Yoshi without too much trouble in Losers Finals. But this isn’t last year, and Kuro has beaten Mitch multiple times over the last 12 months. Some say Mitch has lost his mental fortitude, while others claim that Mitch was pissed or hung over those times he lost to Kuro, and you should shut up if you know what’s good for you.

So don’t miss out on Australia’s first installment of BAM9: Here comes the Boom

Stream: twitch.tv/ssb64

Time: Saturday May 13th 5a.m. EDT

Philosophy Corner with The Dark Gentleman: BarkSanchez

By: The Dark Gentleman

“Nothing is a free win.”

 

Hello 64 fans! This is part three of my interview series, Philosophy Corner with The Dark Gentleman, hosted by The Smash Writers. Below is the best of my conversation with BarkSanchez, just in time for Lets Go! The consistently dangerous Pikachu main will be defending his region later on this week.

 

Dark Gentleman: Bark! Let’s talk a little bit about how you got into competitive 64. How did you get your start?

BarkSanchez: That’s a weird kind of question because if you’re talking competition, I didn’t get into the scene until the end of 2014 when Shears made his famous craigslist post. He basically posted an angry ranting challenge that read something like, “I’m a Smash God in 64, if you can beat me I’ll give you twenty bucks.”

Dark Gentleman: So you really did find out about the greater Smash 64 scene by seeing a craigslist post?

BarkSanchez: Yea basically before that my brother, Darkhorse, and I had been going to a weekly bar tournament with widescreen TVs etc. They had Smash 64 and a lot of other classic games. There was a guy there called “Teflon Ron” who they called the “Smash King.” DarkHorse beat him pretty badly and they started calling [Darkhorse] the “Kingslayer.” That was pretty much the extent of our competitive experience before one of the players at the bar found Shears’s craigslist post. He was basically like, “You guys can beat this guy, right?”

 

Dark Gentleman: You’re lucky enough to have a brother who is also high level at 64. How much did playing with him in the early days impact your future competitive mindset?

BarkSanchez: Darkhorse and I have been competing against each other our whole lives. We always wanted to beat each other and he always had the upper hand. I’ve always kind of attributed my style to playing with him. He’s very mind game oriented which helped me develop a strong mental game. Earlier on he used to mop the floor with me. You think of all the top players in 2014 when we started, those core top players like Isai, Boom, Tacos, Wizzrobe…they’ve been playing competitively for so long. If we had that level of talent that long ago I’m curious as to where we’d be now.

Dark Gentleman: I’m sure there’s a lot of players out there right now who feel the same. I know I do. That depth of experience just counts for so much.

BarkSanchez: I think if Darkhorse travelled to as many tournaments as I do he would be much closer to my level. Travelling and playing many different players can give anyone a huge advantage. I think that’s why so many people are going to online 64 now since it gives them exposure to more high level players and that really helps.

 

Dark Gentleman: You are one of the most travelled players in the current meta. Having played so many people, how has that changed your style? How would you describe your gameplay in 2017?

BarkSanchez: Well Revan calls it “dumb.” I’m always looking for something kind of dumb or unorthodox. Back in the day if I saw something I liked I always tried to add it to my game. It turned my game into kind of a patchwork of styles-and most people I play now are not ready for all the different options I use. At this point I’ve tried to move away from collecting styles like that and it’s more about bringing out more original additions to the meta. Introducing new things to people that can work in their game…and mine.

 

Dark Gentleman: What does it mean to you to expand the meta? Can you say more on that?

BarkSanchez: To explore parts of characters that people haven’t seen yet that can be applied to competition. Think about the down Bs with Pika. Its kind of a dumb move but it’s useful and people haven’t seen that til now. Also, some of the weird up B angles I do with Pika. People have started calling it the “BarkSanchez” when it’s really just a basic angle but not a lot people do them. A couple years ago people just used to up B straight up and straight to the stage. Banze was one of the only ones using innovative zip zaps. Wario was also pretty big for the Pika meta with his ledge cancels and zip zaps.

Dark Gentleman: Are there any practical examples from the Pika meta you can explain for our readers?

BarkSanchez: So in the Pikachu ditto, he has a kind of a rock-paper-scissors triangle in neutral between up air, down air, and back air. Most Pikas will strictly stick to up air, because it’s the safer option with the disjointed hitbox and what not. However, I think a lot of people can actually get destroyed by Pikas that know how to successfully space [and use] back air. It gets beat head to head by up air, but back air has better duration and reaches further. I guess in that regard it’s an example of a less safe option becoming very strong if you really know how to use it. Of course if you run into a player with amazing up airs you might get destroyed, but then you have to mix it up.

Dark Gentleman: Lets talk about some of your results. At Frame Perfect Series 2 you won a huge set against Wizzrobe, one of the best players in the USA. Would you describe that as your biggest win yet?

BarkSanchez: You know, everyone jokes about the Kero win, but this win against Wizzrobe is probably bigger. As a very volatile player, I’m always looking at my opponent trying to figure out how well they’re playing on that day. I can always tell when someone is a little bit shook, or not on their game. When I played Wizzy, I don’t think I got his best, but at the same time, I followed through. I used to be very bad at that. I’d take a game from someone very good, and feel in it, but then I’d let it slip away. I’m getting better at punishing players for not giving me their best.

Dark Gentleman: That’s awesome. Is there anything you can tell us about the mental game in that set?

BarkSanchez: If we’re talking about mentality, I kind of snapped when I first played Wizzrobe that day. In the first set he five stocked and four stocked me. In the second set he was up 2-1 (set count) and was up 2 stocks in game 4. I was just sitting there telling myself “I’ve been here before. Alright, if I’m gonna lose, why am I gonna make it this easy on him?” And I just snapped. Right there. I felt like “I don’t have to let him win. I don’t have to sit here and take this.” And I got the comeback and won that game 4. And I think he kind of lost it after that.

 

Dark Gentleman: I think there’s a lesson in there for every player, whether they’re going up against the best person at their local, or competing in a major.

BarkSanchez: A lot of people at the higher level will kind of sleep on their opponents. Hopefully I’m opening some eyes here but nothing is a free win. Just because you beat someone last time, and the time before, and the time before that, doesn’t mean you’re going to beat them today.

 

Dark Gentleman: Are there any players or wins that you’re really targeting for this year?

BarkSanchez: I guess there are two players I’d like to get a rematch with and see if I can’t work some magic. Banze, I played him at G3 and embarrassed myself in the first game. However, times are changing and I’d love to play him again. I also think Dext3r was really fun to play against and I think if I got him on a good day I could take him down.

Dark Gentleman: Let’s Go! is this coming weekend. As a quick wrap up, do you have any predictions for yourself?

BarkSanchez: Shears doesn’t think I’ll place top 8. I feel there’s an outside chance I could make top 3.

Dark Gentleman: I hope to see an impressive run from you. Thanks for doing this interview and I’ll see you at Let’s Go!

 

TDG Conclusion:

First of all let me just say: BarkSanchez is a great guy to talk about Smash with. If you ever have the chance to interact with him at a Smash event, I highly recommend that you do so. And with the great number of tournaments Bark attends, odds are good that you’ll meet him, possibly even in bracket. His commitment to competition is probably one of the biggest defining factors in regards to his status as a high level player. I think Bark is a great example of a player who is simply willing to put in the work and get good. If you play Super Smash Bros. on N64, then BarkSanchez is willing to travel to wherever you are and try to beat you.

Bark is a part of a new wave of high level 64 players who didn’t start competing during the legacy era when tournaments were scarce and the community mostly just existed online. I’d say he’s proof that a Smash player participating in tournaments with friends at a bar can make it to the big stage and start taking some of the big names. It kind of makes you wonder, is that next top player somewhere out there? Is there a future top player still playing on an HDTV in 2017, without having the slightest idea about the competitive 64 scene?

He has an easy-going nature when you talk to him, but Bark is a fierce competitor in-game. He learns from his losses, and builds towards wins. He isn’t a player that wants to coast on his achievements, he embraces the climb. Going into Lets Go!, a tournament in his own backyard that is shaping up to be one of the biggest 64 events of 2017, Bark will be looking to continue his ascent. A lot of talented players will be standing in his way. I’m sure he’s looking forward to the challenge.

Top Picture: BarkSanchez (Right) speaks with Alvin (Left) prior to their match at CEO Dreamland. Credit: Helloitsli Photography

Philosophy Corner with The Dark Gentleman : TR3GTheZ (Ft. Jimmy Joe)

By The Dark Gentleman

“You have to have self confidence.”

Hello Smashers! This is part two of my interview series, Philosophy Corner with The Dark Gentleman, hosted by The Smash Writers. After a great interview with Jigglypuff master Wangera, I next spoke with stylish pro TR3GTheZ. We were also fortunate to be joined in our discussion by veteran commentator Jimmy Joe. Below are the best snippets, paraphrased, from our 1 hour interview.

 

Dark Gentleman: So, just a basic question so we have these for background for anyone getting introduced to you…when did you actually start getting into Smash?

TheZ: As a childhood game, Smash 64 definitely over Melee and the other ones. So there’s definitely the nostalgia factor as far as I’m concerned. As a competitive thing? I discovered Kalliera, the online netplay client around 2007. I was actually 12 years old back then. Advanced techniques were already a thing then, and there were a fair amount of players who could actually use them. I would even call it a competitive scene although there weren’t any tournaments back then. My first actual console tournament was August 2013.

 

Dark Gentleman: What was the name of that first tournament?

TheZ: It was “Smash til you Crash 4” in Montreal. It had Revan and SuPeRbOoMfAn. It had a carpool with Mew2King and Sensei and they actually crashed [their car] on the way there. I got 3rd place – I lost to Revan and Boom. After that tourney, I never lost to Revan again at a major.

 

Dark Gentleman: Since you brought up your matches with Revan, I wanted to ask about that rivalry. I know you two have had close matches such as your set at G3.  Is it much different competing against someone you are close to, like a teammate, then an out of region player?

TheZ: Oh, definitely. Playing someone you’re close to, obviously they should play like the people from around town and such. That’s a very generalized statement but just in North America as a whole, there’s a very developed meta game. The closer you get to a region, the more the players from that region make use of a lot of techniques that aren’t used in other regions.

Jimmy Joe: I think what TDG was asking about, and something I’m personally curious about: do you find it easier or more difficult to play against people you know well on a personal level?

TheZ: I think there are two ways to look at it. When you play someone you’re familiar with, you know what to expect. The factor of “unknown” is a lot less present in terms of character selection and general habits. But playing someone you know nothing about, especially if they know nothing about you then it’s a neutral situation. If I play tacos in bracket, I’ll be scared because he knows what I do. But playing someone from Japan who might even be at a higher level, I’d be probably more comfortable because they don’t know what to expect from me.

 

Dark Gentleman: Going into some of those matches against players you don’t know as well – when you approach the neutral, are you looking to pick up their habits more or is it about exerting your will and your game plan on them since they don’t know your style?

TheZ: The latter, definitely. A lot of it would be kind of trying to overwhelm the opponent. Not sure how to phrase this – I would say in a scenario when you know nothing about the other player, you’ll often take a step back and you won’t be as offensive. Often in that scenario, I would expect my opponent to sit back and try to analyze. You don’t want to give them the opportunity to do that. You want to run in as soon as there’s an opening. You don’t want to hesitate ever, I think the ball is in the court of the player willing to throw out the hit first.

 

Dark Gentleman: Whats the toughest set you’ve ever played in?

TheZ: Including those I’ve lost? The toughest set was definitely me vs Boom, at SuperBoomed. But as a set when I wasn’t character locked, I think against Wizzrobe at SSC. I sometimes felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. Straight up. Against other aggressive players, I can sort of understand what they’re doing and I am able to counter whatever they’re throwing at me. But Wizzrobe has a very textbook play style that he has mastered. If you play aggressively or by feel it does not work because playing by feel is directly countered by that textbook style. That’s why I have a lot of trouble figuring him out.

Jimmy Joe: I think that’s a very accurate assessment of Wizzrobe. Seeing his matches against Revan shows exactly what you’re saying because Revan is such an analytical player and Revan was able to pick him apart. But your style is so different from Revan’s that Wizzrobe style may counter yours.

TheZ:  I call [what Wizzrobe does] “walling” which is where he will always be in a position to counter as many possible options as he can. It’s defensive definitely and its going to be based around the more likely approaches that I can throw. Especially because he plays Yoshi, with parry and double jump armor, he can afford to take a hit and counter. Comparing Wizzrobe and Revan, they both play textbook style, but a textbook Yoshi is tougher to handle than a textbook Kirby.

 

Dark Gentleman: So how would you describe your own style? If you were writing a rankings bio on yourself, what might it say?

TheZ: Oh, I never thought about that to be honest! Very “on the spur”. It’s all very “on the spur”.

Jimmy Joe: I’m not familiar with that expression but I’m guessing its like ad-libbing?

TheZ: Like on the spur of the moment. There’s not much fore thought usually.

Jimmy Joe: I think that most people consider you a very stylish player. Do you think that when you are playing a match, are you are thinking about being stylish?

TheZ: I’m definitely not thinking about it. There are some simple things I don’t like doing like America comboing with Falcon. But playing as Fox or any other character, I will usually do whatever I think will work in that moment. I would use the word “experimental”. Usually in friendlies, experimentation leads to having more options. You will be able to use a move in tournament that you used as a past improvisation you did in friendlies. I encourage people to experiment. If you play friendlies – don’t play standard, always try something new so you can expand your options for the future.

 

Dark Gentleman: On that topic, what are your thoughts on how to improve at this game? I know some people hit plateaus. How do you keep raising the bar?

TheZ: There are two fundamental things I believe you need to not plateau. First: you have to like the game. I know that sounds weird. Some people play a game they don’t like because they want to be good at something or they want to win the money at the locals. You can not get truly get good at this game if you don’t like it. That’s very important. The other point is, you have to have self confidence. Not to go over the top and be cocky. It’s important that you walk into a set, lets say against Boom. Be realistic, you will likely lose. But you want to put up a fight to the best of your ability. If you’re playing someone much better than you then you have to do your best, and if you’re playing someone closer to your level you have to believe you can win. Tournaments nerves are a big thing. There are some players who are very good and have a lot of potential, but lose to players who have more confidence. It’s very important that people walk into a set with the mentality that they’re playing against a human. There will be mistakes and there will be openings. No match is absolutely unwinnable.

 

Jimmy Joe: What would you say about practicing? How do you practice? Can everyone get technical with practice and can that help tournament nerves?

TheZ: The direct counter to tournament nerves is playing console with people. At weeklies, smash fests, or other places with an event type atmosphere. I don’t practice as much as I should anymore. My current practice is just online play. I would recommend using online play for match up knowledge and everything mental.

 

Dark Gentleman: I’m personally interested in the fine line between what’s more important between playing to win and playing to have fun. I ask everyone about this and I get a different answer every time. I’m curious what your thoughts are about that.

TheZ: They are not mutually exclusive. Ultimately, you have to play for fun. If you play to win, even if you get money and make a living etc…if it’s taking a toll on your life, you probably shouldn’t do it. I’m pushing this a little, but its important to have fun. However, I don’t know a lot of people who play just for fun, except Isai. You want to play to win if you want to improve.

Jimmy Joe: Some people enter a set and they’re not trying to win but the idea of fun for them is to do something like landing one Falcon Punch combo in the match.

Dark Gentleman: How do you feel personally about it as TR3GTheZ?

TheZ: As TR3GTheZ I play to win. I just so happen to have fun doing it. Hopefully that’s the case for everyone. This game is extremely fun. Whether I play online or in tournament, it’s always fun. The only thing I don’t have fun with is doubles without the SK rule set (no teams with Pika-Pika or Pika-Kirby). Just my two cents.

Jimmy Joe: Whoah…The Z getting his own agenda out there.

 

Jimmy Joe: What’s your goal for 2017?

The Z: My goal is to be the best. I don’t necessarily practice for it as much as I should. A lot of it can be attained through kind of a mental thing. A lot if it is just composure.

 

Jimmy Joe: How far away do you see yourself from a player like Boomfan?

The Z: In terms of in game abilities, very close. Not far at all. Then again, the composure factor and stuff like that ultimately dictates the winner. Boom is a lot better than that I am.

 

Dark Gentleman: Boom has this ultra confidence that I identify with my competitive background in fight sports. We see this with champion fighters. Boom, when he plugs into the match, he seems to know he will win. Losing doesn’t enter his mind. It’s what you said about confidence but taken to the fullest extreme.

The Z: Yea and that effects a lot. There’s no denying Boom’s incredible talent at this game. It’s very almost…inhuman. But I do think that with more time I could get to that level.

 

TDG Conclusion :

Talking to TheZ gave me a ton of perspective on next level play. The first thing you notice is how much he simplifies seemingly complex concepts. I think a lot of players over think the challenge of improving at this game. TheZ cuts it down to two main thoughts: you have to like the game and you have to have self confidence. I love that outlook, because he is saying the rest will come with experience. TheZ does not try to style when he plays, style is the product of his “spur of the moment” play. He plays how he wants, and the results show.

What excites me the most is the stylistic variety TheZ brings to the competitive scene. In a game characterized by overtly defensive play, he shines using an aggressive style. We discussed this in depth, comparing his “spur of the moment” decision making to the tactical Yoshi main Wizzrobe’s defensive strategy, and the complete mastery of Boom. This got me thinking about how, on a deep level, the game opens up so much room for personal expression.

The main take away however, is that TR3GTheZ loves Super Smash Bros. 64. You can tell from his answers the passion he has for the game. I think that passion is a big part of what makes him such a formidable opponent.

Picture: TR3GTheZ (Right) battles it out with nothing (Left) at Super Smash Con 2016.