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The State of Smash 4 - December 2015 Edition

Welcome to 2016, folks! It's time for another volume in The State of Smash 4. This series, as per usual, takes an in-depth, comprehensive look into Smash 4's competitive game and recaps all of the major events and developments of the past month. 2015's final month brought a variety of developments to Smash 4, and major things to come. Without further ado, it's time to review the past month's announcements, and some of this 2015's major events for Smash 4.

Character Announcements

The biggest news of this month is the Super Smash Bros Final Video Presentation. It can be viewed here, on Nintendo's Youtube Channel. This was the last broadcast for Smash 4, and it certainly delivered on the news front. Inside the presentation, Sakurai confirmed that the final wave of DLC content, Wave 6, will be launching sometime in February 2016. This last wave contains a new stage, two new characters, and the traditional wave of Mii Fighter costumes. This also gave the meta a general time-frame for when patches might end (being February, or potentially a few months after that). The onset of a “final” balance patch will allow players to focus on characters without the constant worry that said character will get changed, and allows a more solidified stage list to be determined without potentially factoring in more competitive-legal DLC stages.

What everyone is really talking about are said characters that were announced, being Corrin from Fire Emblem Fates, and Bayonetta, from the Bayonetta series. Both of these characters came as unexpected picks to many; however, they both have very interesting playstyles and tools at their disposal.

Corrin's splash text.

Corrin arrives from Fire Emblem Fates, and is the 6th Fire Emblem character (as well as the third newcomer). Fates will be releasing early next year in the US, meaning that Corrin’s first appearance will be in Smash; however, in the past, this situation has occurred with another character in the Fire Emblem series, being Roy. Like Robin, Corrin is a customized character; in addition to his male version, a female version of Corrin is selectable. Corrin is definitely not the everyday kind of swordsman (or even lord for that matter) that one might expect from Fire Emblem characters.

With dragon blood inside of him, he can utilize that to turn parts of his body into a dragon, or even turn into a dragon. Surprisingly enough, this gives him some very interesting tools (in addition to having a water theme for many of his attacks. For instance, his neutral special, Dragon Fang Shot is a projectile that ends with a close-range attack. Dragon Lunge, his side special, has him lunge forward and shoot a massive tendril at a downwards angle. If it connects with anything, it will keep Corrin (and potentially whoever he hits) stuck in place, where he can follow up with a few moves, like Diddy Kong’s Monkey Flip. His up special, Dragon Ascent, gives him a pretty nice recovery move that can do in multiple directions, potentially giving him one of the best recoveries out of the entire Fire Emblem cast. Lastly, he has a traditional counter like the other Fire Emblem characters as his down special, being Counter Surge; however, this counter seems to have more vertical knockback and hits on both sides. That’s certainly one interesting character.

Bayonetta's splash text.

Bayonetta, the last newcomer and final downloadable character for Smash 4, will be arriving alongside Corrin in February. She was the “most realizable character” for the Smash Ballot (winning in Europe, and getting in the Top 5 for the US), winning the Ballot as a result. To many, Bayonetta was likely impossible due to her nature; she’s a very over-the-top character with abilities that traditionally wouldn’t belong in an E10+ game, but Sakurai managed to do it (and he certainly delivered). Bayonetta is a character that plays true to her games; she has intense combos, tons of ridiculous flair (including very long taunts) and her gunplay is intact. Compared to many other characters and some of the unique newcomers that Smash 4 has brought, Bayonetta might be the most unique of them all; she has tons of little mechanics and different things that make her stand out from every other character.

Bayonetta’s traditional Bullet Arts are present, allowing you to follow up attacks with gunshots (which do weak damage and don’t flinch characters), similar to Fox’s Blaster (if he could basically follow up with it at any time). Her neutral special, Bullet Climax, allows her to fire at a slight angle (as well as charge her guns); unlike Bullet Arts, this deals actual hitstun. Her side special completely changes depending on whether it is used in the ground or the air, including the name; this is a first for the series (and is reminiscent of ROB in Project M, with his Robo-Burner in the air and Arm Rotor on the ground). On the ground, it’s Heel Slide, which can act as a basic slide kick; if the special button is held down, it gains a launcher followup. In the air, it’s After Burner Kick, an entirely different move; this is the first time a move has become a different one in the air. It can be repeated after it hits. Likewise, her Up Special, Witch Twist, can be repeated in the air once. This allows her to majorly mix up her recovery and follow up on her combos even further. Lastly, her Down Special is her signature move, Witch Time. This acts like a counter; however, instead of doing damage, it slows down the opponent for a brief period of time, depending on how much the move was repeated and how high their current percent is. If Witch Time fails, then Bat Within activates; this allows her to take reduced damage and escape further attacks. There’s so much to this character and many different tools she has at her disposal; many expect her to be a great character.

Character Developments

As mentioned in the previous section, December brought the next balance patch to the public, with changes to a handful of characters. As with the more recent balance patches, this balance patch had less changes than the last, especially with no real global changes to the mechanics of the game. The full list of notes can be found here. A few of the major changes to note include the following:
  • Cloud is now available for purchase.
  • Omega Kalos's walls have been fixed; characters can wall jump on them.
  • A major change to Bowser's Up-Throw that makes him much more viable, giving him a combo throw.
  • A massive amount of buffs for Kirby, mostly dealing with large Knockback Growth boosts and hitbox changes.
  • A large buff to Dark Pit's Electroshock Arm, making it KO much earlier and making him a potentially better choice than Pit in a few situations.
  • A large amount of buffs to Mewtwo, fixing hitboxes and making attacks much more reliable.
  • A large amount of damage tweaks to Shulk's moves, consisting of mostly .5 incriments
  • A handful of character recieving speed boosts in certain areas, including Lucario, Kirby, and Mewtwo.
  • A nerf to Villager's Neutral Special, Game & Watch's Down Special, Lucas's Down Special, and Ness's Down Special that deals specifically with team attacks and damage outputs, taking away the large advantage these characters had in the format.
This month brought the release of Cloud Strife, the legendary protagonist of Final Fantasy 7. A variety of overviews and insight into the character brought up some interesting results; with many different tools at his disposal, many are placing him as a high tier character in the current metagame. And with the results that have been shown so far, it's no doubt that Cloud is the character of the month.

He has (quite literally) taken the world by storm; many players have capitalized on his excellent arsenal (as well as the fact that he is a newer character with an unfamiliar MU) and put him to work. In Umebura 20, many of the higher placing entrants used Cloud; Rain, who placed 3rd, Nietono, who placed 4th, and Some, who placed 17th, and more all pulled out a Cloud at one point during the event. At Smash 4-Ever 31, Tweek defeated Nairo with going Cloud only and took 1st. Sumaboto's NicoNico Western Qualifiers had Komorikiri take 3rd with Sonic and Cloud.

While Cloud dominated the month, he wasn't the only major winner. Greninja is yet another big winner of this month! A variety of various frog ninjas appeared and took spots in regionals, and made a splash in larger locals. Venia, considered to be one of the best Greninjas in the US, took 3rd at Nebulous Prime 20, taking games off of John Numbers and making a spectacular loser’s run, and has continued to make a name for himself through January. P2P with Gibus, a PR Greninja in Texas, won the largest Shockwave tournament of all time (over 130 entrants) with his Greninja (and a Mewtwo secondary). While these two characters made their way into the spotlight, a handful of other characters made waves. Bowser's recent buffs allowed him to make more waves in higher placements, potentially winning a few tournaments as well: Shu, LeTroof and King Kong have placed at larger events with Bowser in the leads. Pit placed high with Earth, CHOMPY and others during the later half of the month as well.

Major Tournaments

December has often acted as an offseason in past years, mostly being preperations for APEX; however, with Genesis 3 taking the spot of the January supermajor and APEX 2016 seemingly taking place later in the spring, the spot was still filled. That being said, however, like any month, there were still Smash tournaments going around, and a few bigger ones at that. KTAR XV, TGC 5, Sumabato NicoNico Western Qualifiers and will be covered in-depth this month; however, there are still many great events that occurred this month that are worth checking out.

On December 5th, KTAR XV ran. The long running KTAR series, ran as per usual, with Melee and Smash 4. This time around, 256 entrants entered the event. While TGC opted for a 3-stock ruleset, KTAR stuck with 2. For this entry in the series, many high level players attended: False, DkWill, ADHD, Mister Eric, Nakat, VaBengal, Nairo, Marss, Tweek, Angel Cortes and more attended for a spot at the top.

Nairo managed to secure victory in this event for singles, like KTAR XIV. Marss brought Nairo to a very close Winner's Finals set, clutching it out at the last hit; in addition, Nairo pulled out one of his secondaries, being Robin, in Grands. ZSS and Fox were in full force this event (as the Cloud Patch was not present at this time), with 3 Foxes in the Top 16, and 4 ZSS players in the Top 12. Other major standouts in results include Tweek securing 3rd with his Wario and Bowser Jr, Koolaid taking 4th with Pac-Man, and DKWill ending in 7th.

On the same day as KTAR XV, Texas Gaming Championships 5 occurred. TGC, as a series, brings together Texas fighting game players, and Smash 4 and Melee were yet again main games. While some high level players opted to go to KTAR, many others decided to head here instead. That being said, top level competition was still in attendace: Void, MegaFox, Trela, Zenyou, Ryo, Dabuz, Grim Turtle, Gibus, MJG and more were all in attendance for this event. For this event, the TOs decided to run a 3 stock event for singles.

After losing to MegaFox in Winner's Semis, Dabuz ran through Loser's and took it back against MegaFox in Loser's FInals, and then forcing a bracket reset and winning against Void. Behind the Top 3 included Trela making it to 4th with Ryu, Jbandrew and Zenyou for 5th place, and Ryo and S2H taking 7th. There was certainly lots of character variety in the Top 12, with the only characters being repeated being Sheik and Fox. Otherwise, many other characters shined, like Jbandrew's Meta Knight, The Wall's Yoshi, and even Gibus with Greninja.

On December 26th, the Sumaboto Niconico Western Qualifier ran. During November, the Umebura Niconico Eastern Qualifier occurred, which was a special tournament that would automatically qualify the top 3 players into the Niconico Championship, which will be held in January. In that event, Ranai, Choco and Shu were all qualified for making Top 3. However, for this second event, the three players cannot compete. This left a variety of players and top competition still in, however. Players such as 9B, Abadango, Komorikiri, Rain, Nietono, SH, Aki, Edge, Earth and more all came to take the title and get into the Top 3.

In the end of singles, SH took it with his solo Fox after eliminating Abadango in both Winners and Grand Finals. Abadango was right behind him, utilizing Meta Knight, Pac-Man, and his Mewtwo in a few games. Komorikiri took the last spot for Top 3, showing off his Cloud and Sonic. Behind him was Rain for 4th, Edge and Nietono for 5th, and Sigma and Earth for 7th (with Earth having a more disappointing finish than usual). As a final result, SH, Abadango, Komorikiri, Ranai, Choco and Shu are all qualified for the upcoming Niconico Championship in January, which will occur at the end of January. However, before that, Genesis 3 will run, with many of these players travelling over to the states to face the world's finest Smash 4 players.

The tournaments of this month were a bit more low-key; however, there was still plenty of action. Be it regionals or nationals with high-level players, or smashfests for the end of the year, 2015 ended strong for Smash 4's tournament scene at the top level and many local scenes.

Tournament Spotlight

While these three tournaments were some of the biggest of the month, there were plenty of other interesting events. Here's a few of the ones from this month that are worth watching.

Smashboards Rankings

Each month, Smashboards updates it's Rankings System. For December, these are the Top 20 Smash 4 players as determined by the Smashboards Rankings System:

Green arrows indicate the player has advanced in rankings; red indicates a drop in rankings. Players are listed by their Smashboards account.

You can view the complete list here. The Smashboards Rankings System holds tons of bracket and info for many Smash games, and holds a history of brackets all the way back to 2002. If you want to help out with this major project, check out the application thread, and the Tournament Rankings forum.

Community News
Like any other month, there's been lots of various announcements, sponsorships and events for December. Here's an overview of some of the major announcements:
  • On December 7th, SmashAsia was launched! This site acts as a hub site for Smash related content in Asia, Smash 4 included.
  • On December 15th, the Smash Bros. Final Broadcast was televised. Covered earlier in this article, the broadcast reveal the last wave of DLC, arriving in February. In addition, the December Cloud patch was released on this day.
  • On December 17th, SmashEurope launched a Smash 4 stock count poll. Running and ending later in the month, this poll brought up some rather interesting results for Smash 4, showing interest in 3-stock layouts.
  • On December 29th, Maverick, Smashboards Moderator, Smash for Wii U Backroomer and best player in Pittsburgh, Pennysylvania, was signed by True Ambition.
In Review
Lots of things have happened in December. Here's some of the major highlights:
  • A new balance patch was released for Smash 4, containing Cloud and some balance changes.
  • Bayonetta and Corrin were announced as the last DLC characters for Smash 4, releasing sometime in February.
  • Many larger Smash 4 Events ran, like KTAR XV, TGC 5, and more.
  • Cloud and Greninja acted as the major characters of this month, with others like Pit and Bowser behind them.
  • More sponsorships and pickups were announced for the new year, such as Maverick.
The Year In Review
2015 has been a pivotal year for Smash 4. As it's first major year in the spotlight, the community has grown tremendously and many different developments have happened. Here's a look at the major highlights:
  • This year has brought many major tournaments for Smash 4, including the largest Smash tournament of all time at Evolution 2015, hitting nearly 2000 entrants. Apex 2015, The Big House 5, and Super Smash Con also had massive entrant numbers and top competition in attendance.
  • Many players were sponsored, showcasing the interest in Smash 4 by competitive teams and groups. For just a year's time, the amount of sponsorships and pickups has been large in number.
  • The rise of many different players, new and old. In nearly every region, new players are arriving or starting their Smash adventure.
  • The rise of many different characters, including Sheik, Zero Suit Samus, Rosalina, Diddy Kong, Sonic, and numerous other characters. Nearly every member of the cast has had strong competitive development.
  • 5 different DLC characters: Mewtwo, Lucas, Roy, Ryu, and Cloud, with 2 more coming in February. Many of these characters have made waves at tournaments, with Ryu being considered one of the best characters in the game.
  • The announcement of the Smash 4 Backroom, which marks a major leap in Smash 4's community advancement.
  • The Smash 4 Collegiate's first season (which acts as the Smash 4 version of The Melee Games) has been a success. and it's eventual conclusion this spring opens up the door for the next season, giving college Smashers a great forthcoming opportunity.
  • The growth of the Smash community and the addition of Smash 4 has also helped Smashboards grow, with new forums, updates, sections, staff and projects fueled by the community throughout 2015.
Looking Forward

The next month has some interesting events in store. Here's some of the things to look forward to:
  • Genesis 3. The second largest Smash for Wii U tournament in history. This year, the massive tournament has taken the spot for the winter supermajor, and the hype is of massive levels. Top level talent from the entire world will be present, including Japan's top players. Be sure to tune in from January 15th to the 17th, because you won't want to miss this.
  • In addition to Genesis 3, there will be more events and tournaments this month, some already having occurred. Dismantle 2, Hypespotting V, Niconico Championship, KTAR XVI, 2GGT: ESAM Saga, and more are still definitely events to watch, with top level talent in attendance.
  • The Smash 4 Collegiate is finishing up their first season in the near future; with the Northern, Western and Southern Divisional Championships needing to run, at least one is likely to occur this month.
Closing Words

What a year it's been! From the DLC content, to the hype tournaments, to the relaxed local Smashfests, to the community's advancements. 2015 has brought many different things to the forefront and it's been a wild ride. Despite a lack of corporate support, Smash has proven that it will continue to thrive with the strong support of community members and event organizers. With the growth that's been seen in the past year for Smash, 2016 is sure to be a wild ride.
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I'm so damn proud of the Smash 4 community. I remember during the initial 3DS release and how... bad things seemed. But looks like we've improved a lot, and now we're here to stay as an integral scene in the overall Smash community. Can't wait for what 2016 has to offer!
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