Tallahassee Super Smash Bros. community comes together to celebrate pair of anniversaries
Mere weeks shy of one year after the worldwide release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch, over 50 passionate competitors from FSU, FAMU and TCC alike flocked with anticipation to the Askew Student Life Center to participate in the semester’s final installment of Thursday Throwdown, a biweekly event which hosts tournaments for Ultimate and several other popular fighting games. The game, which has sold over 15 million units globally as of Sept. 30, has been a smash hit since its release on Dec. 7, 2018, uniting newcomers and long-time fans of the iconic crossover fighting game series.
Mauricio “Uub” Lopez Trejo, a local tournament organizer for Ultimate, called the new game a “fresh start” for the veterans of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (also known as Smash 4), the series’ previous installment, who he claimed had already learned everything there was to learn about the game’s combos and matchups, which led many to grow tired of the game as a result.
Lopez Trejo, who started attending Tallahassee tournaments in fall 2017, took the organizer position towards the end of the competitive lifespan of Smash 4 and noticed a sizable spike in attendance at local tournaments once Ultimate released.
“Overall, it was a very different game for us,” he explained, adding that “in Tallahassee, we got a bunch of new members, and with that we got a bunch of them making Top 10 power rankings.”
A year later, attendance has dropped by roughly 20 percent, according to Lopez Trejo, due to Tallahassee operating on a seasonal schedule. However, both weekly tournaments — which are held at Midtown Kava Lounge on Monroe Street and UrBowl on Tennessee Street — still amass roughly 30 entrants, with Thursday Throwdown tournaments typically doubling that total.
Lopez Trejo noted that “the [entrants] we have retained are really dedicated, to the point where we’re getting more and more people to travel to compete.”
In the community’s Discord — an platform designed for players of a certain game or group to interact — created by Lopez Trejo, there is a channel for players who are willing to travel four or five hours to compete in tournaments. Recently, eight Tallahassee-based Ultimate players drove to Atlanta to participate in the major Dreamhack tournament that took place from Nov. 15–17. Additionally, players in the Discord are encouraged to share when they are competing on a live stream at different events, so other local players can watch and cheer them on.
A year removed from the game’s release, numbers and morale have stayed high, and the concept of community remains alive and well in Tallahassee’s competitive Ultimate scene. However, it isn’t just the newest sect of the Smash Bros. community celebrating a birthday this week.
Super Smash Bros. Melee, the series’ second installment released on the Nintendo Gamecube in late 2001, turns 18 in North America on Dec. 3. Over its lifetime, despite being succeeded by three games across three console generations, the grassroots competitive scene for the game has continued to flourish. That is no different in Tallahassee, where a smaller yet no less passionate community of players have kept the game alive through their weekly tournaments at Burrito Boarder on Pensacola Street, in addition to Thursday Throwdown events.
Since the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, its successor released for the Nintendo Wii in 2008, one of the Smash community’s oft-debated subjects has been how much time is left on the clock for the Melee community. The limitations presented by the hardware for which the game was produced — including cathode-ray tube televisions, which are near-universally used as the default for competitive Melee but face criticism for their excessive size and inaccessibility in modern times — as well as shifted focus towards the newer games are often cited as signs of a game in its twilight.
Will “Wevans” Evans, a three-year veteran of Tallahassee’s Melee community and one of its lead tournament organizers, senses that the end may be near, predicting that the scene will maintain its relevance for two more years before the community loses its steam and players move on.
However, others within Tallahassee are more hopeful about their beloved game’s potential moving forward.
Trammell “Sniz” Evans only recently heard about the game’s local scene, having attended a mere handful of Throwdowns, but explained that “Melee is one of those games that will live forever.”
More experienced players within the community share this confidence as well, as two-year veteran Mason “Fischerman” Slade feels that as a player of both games, the game will far outlive the competitive lifespan of Ultimate and “will never die.”
Various measures have been introduced by community figures over the years that aim to advance competitive Melee and extend its duration. The most recent breakthrough came this past October from longtime player Aziz “Hax” Al-Yami, who researched and proposed a way to seamlessly transition from the tube TVs of old to newer gaming monitors, making for a more convenient experience at tournaments while maintaining the speed and technical proficiency that many competitive players refuse to compromise.
This method has yet to be implemented in Tallahassee, but Wevans says it is possible at both the local and national level and — although he still foresees an eventual end to Melee’s run — has the potential to keep the scene alive marginally longer.
“Hax’s method is definitely the most viable alternative we have seen,” according to Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett, a professional Smash player who is widely considered to be one of the best Melee players in the world, being ranked #2 on the official Summer 2019 MPGR. He added that “If we did see the switch to monitors, it would definitely increase the longevity,” but noted that “doing it right is important to most players,” which has prevented the method from widespread implementation since its announcement.
Hallett, an eight-year Melee veteran, explained that the game began its peak in 2013 and remains at that point in 2019, while also leaving the possibility for coming years to potentially maintain such a position.
He further said that Melee’s ability to hold up for 18 years “is a testament to not only how crazy good the game is, but also how dedicated the community is to the game.”
The long and storied history of the series’ Gamecube entry has attracted a large group of passionate players over the years, but in the single year since its release, Ultimate has made quite the splash and developed a loyal player base that has shown no signs of going anywhere anytime soon.
Lopez Trejo has faith in Ultimate’s longevity and its potential to match the lifespan of its older counterpart, citing series creator Masahiro Sakurai’s insistence on adding more downloadable characters to the game’s roster of over 70 playable characters as “essentially keeping the hype.”
He continued by saying that because Ultimate’s echelon of top players has yet to be firmly established, the potential for high-ranked players to be upset is still a positive factor in determining how long competitive interest will last. Such an example occurred at the Florida State Invitational tournament held in early November, where FSU student Connor “iTheta” Dooley — who is officially unranked but placed at #2 in Tallahassee’s Summer 2019 player ranking — upset Robert “Myran” Herrin, who is ranked #13 in the world on the Spring 2019 PGRU.
“It’s an upset like that that keeps the game hype, because it’s like who’s going to be upset next?” Lopez Trejo said.
Hallett is no stranger to such upsets, as at Smash ’N’ Splash 5 in June, he overcame Ultimate’s #2 and #41 ranked players in Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey and Andrew “ScAtt” Huntley, respectively, en route to a Top 8 finish, all while going on to win the Melee tournament later that night.
Despite being a prominent player of both games, Hallett said that “While Ultimate is considered more competitive than Smash 4, it still has not reached that level of technicality that Melee players can only get from Melee, thus most Melee players haven’t switched.”
While the local communities surrounding Melee and Ultimate may greatly differ in some respects, the crossover games do share a bit of crossover as well. Several of Tallahassee’s best Melee players have tried out the newer game and participate in their tournaments. Many within Ultimate’s player base — such as Elijah Rutland, a FAMU student who has been a part of Tallahassee’s fledgling Ultimate community since its birth — were introduced to Smash on the Gamecube during their childhood.
Both communities come together every other Thursday to celebrate and appreciate their games, but it doesn’t stop there. The time spent and memories made by Smash players in Tallahassee and beyond through competing, watching live tournament streams, communicating in online forums and plenty more have contributed to a collective community that takes pride in the games they love, for players at all levels of skill and experience, regardless of whether the games be in their infancy or on the verge of adulthood.