Transition from Smash Melee to Ultimate - a Guide by HugS
Thu 10th Jan 2019 - 8:51pm
Competition has been oozing out of every region across the world since the release of Ultimate and players have been itching to prove their skills in local, regional, and major tournaments. One problem has stood in the way for a certain community in the Smash family; the Melee players are finding it hard to transition their extra technical skills and super speed to a game built slower and more simplistic. These are not bad changes to the game by any means, as the Ultimate trend has been storming the internet and has somewhat united the communities.
With multiple games in the Smash series, it's fair to say that some competitors have their favourites and most will dabble in at least one of the five that have been released. Though each contain familiar faces, each game differs from the last. Different or improved mechanics, additions to the character roster and fresh new stages make it so that each game is unique. With any fighting game, you can transfer your neutral or punish knowledge to another game, however, some competitors find it difficult to move from one Smash game to another. This being because of the drastic changes in movement and percents in movesets. This also affects the combo game which ultimately changes the game completely from what we previously knew. Luckily for us, Hugo "HugS" Gonzalez has some advice for those transitioning their Melee skills to Ultimate!
Movement and Neutral
The most drastic change to the movement is the ability to use any attack out of a dash. The player doesn't need to strictly rely on a 'dash attack' move. It gives the player to freedom to use whichever move without the use of a wavedash or shield stop. In past games, having to wavedash or shield stop would stop any momentum your character might have. There is no reliance here, so it makes your options and movement more fluid. When you choose your character, practise your out of dash options so you know which benefits you the most.
HugS says, "In Ultimate, 'dash dancing', which is really more of a Melee fox-trot, is most useful for positioning rather than the baiting tactic that dash dancing is."
With wavedashing removed from Ultimate and wavelanding near restricted, the movement is more reduced. From a Melee player's perspective, it would be harder to use dash dancing as a bait but it's still possible, it's just more micro-spaced. Some characters' dash dance length is longer and faster making it a lot easier for some characters to do this, more so if they also have projectiles to help their positioning. Players can no longer rely on a wavedash back or a lengthy Melee Marth dash dance to save them from incoming attacks so it's useful to be more alert to your opponent's positioning. Additionally, make yourself more aware of the character's movesets as you'll need to know what tools and options your opponent may have and how far their effective range extends. This includes watching out for projectiles and character items such as Snake bombs and Pacman fire hydrants that add further complications to your positioning.
HugS adds, "Movement has been tricky for me, as I'm still focusing on getting used to the movesets of all the characters, which comes before the application of movement in my opinion. I haven't yet learned the intricacies of Ultimate movement, but I have gotten rid of my Melee movement habits, so that's a start. To me, neutral is going to be fundamentally the same in all games, the difference comes in the inputs necessary to win neutral, which varies based on the character movesets and the movement options available. It feels as if Ultimate's neutral will be slower and less oppressive than Melee's for sure."
Playing and Adapting
HugS begins, "My learning comes most naturally with playing. As I assess my losses, I figure out what tools I need to add to my gameplay to account for losing situations. For me, it involves both online play and time spent in training mode."
Becoming very familiar with the game is a must. Training mode is the perfect place to do this as it has a multitude of options to help you lab out any character you wish! Not only does it provide you with percents, multi hit count and stale numbers but it also draws the training area with measurements so you can check the knockback range. Following this, it has a trajectory guide so that you can see how far the knockback of your move would do at a low percent, mid percent and high percent; these three are separated through colour coding. It also allows you to play against a wall, on a Battlefield-esque platform staged or a flat surface and have further added the blast zone barriers for some stages to give you an idea of how hard your move would hit and whether it would kill at a high percent. This gives you an insight to which moves would be better for you to use on certain stages to kill and whether a horizontal or vertical kill may be a better choice when trying to end your opponent's stock.
HugS continues, "I think that aside from confirmed, inescapable combos, it's too soon to combo properly while accounting for the different weights of the cast, the new knockback system, and the new forms of influence your opponents have on their trajectory. The best tip I can give is to learn the confirmed combos you see on the internet, otherwise, just get in there and play."
As it's a new game, even the top players are still finding their footing. It's very trial and error, especially with so many characters to memorise. In terms of adapting to your opponent, try keeping in mind a time you were hit, punished, or grabbed. Think then on how the opponent's character was able to get that hit or grab on you. Continue to see which of your moves counteract that tactic and you should achieve some small progression each time for each match. Although this isn't much different to what competitors would do in Melee, it's significantly more difficult in Ultimate because of the size of the character roster and the lack of familiarity with the movesets.
Without a doubt, the number of characters announced in this game is the hardest aspect of the game to deal with. With so many character match-ups and with more characters set to join the roster in the future, this makes it harder to learn each match up with intricacy. However, with tier lists flying across social media and tournaments popping up worldwide, Ultimate fans can get a taste of which characters are likely to show up more in competition. Not only this, but top players and upcomers are already showcasing the potential of these characters, boosting their popularity and their likelihood to appear more regularly!
HugS suggests, "I think it's important to learn common matchups, and you can tell who is getting the most play by grinding online (Chrom, King K Rool, DeDeDe, Cloud, Pichu, Ridley, and many more). Typically new, popular characters get the most play initially. Then, I also think it's important to learn the matchups where your character may struggle/excel in, that way you can cover your bases by either optimizing your good matchups, winning your losing matchups, or switching characters to deal with the tough ones."
Ultimate streamers have also given their insight to the new and existing characters, commenting often on their strengths and weaknesses. YouTube content such as tutorials and character breakdowns are also a great source of knowledge if you're looking up character specifics. Tournaments have also been uploading matches so, with more content on the way, you'll be sure to have a more accurate idea of which characters you might have to grind harder against.
HugS adds, "I think the best way to approach the crazy amount of matchups is to have a solid baseline flowchart on how to play all matchups. This at least gives you an idea on how to defend, approach, and threaten, while leaving your gameplan with the least amount of holes possible. Also, play people/online as much as possible to actually run into matchups that are new to you! If you lose to a new character, try to rematch the player!"
Additionally, players have found it difficult to pick a main and have started looking to main more than just one character. Fortunately for some, their childhood favourites have been remastered in a way that suits them. Others have not been so lucky. The majority of characters are drastically different to their Melee counterparts. Even HugS has found issue with picking up his Melee main.
In response to which character he believed to be the most different from Melee, HugS answered, "Oh, easily Samus. In Melee, she was a highly ground-based character who only went into the air to evade, to confirm punishes, or to intercept aerial patterns. Rarely would she need to approach by air. But in Ultimate, it seems that Samus is even floatier, and prioritizes aerial gameplay over any ground strategy. I don't like it, which is why I'm not playing her."
So how should you pick a main? When the characters have been significantly altered since the previous game, your best bet is to recognise what it was about your previous main that you loved so much. Aside from them being a nostalgic favourite, recognising the movement style you liked and the punish game you felt comfortable with is a great step into choosing a character. With over 70 characters already in the game, similarities are probable!
HugS continued, "There are some things I enjoy about characters universally: zoning, projectiles, and being able to threaten at mid/close range. So I can see when characters have what I like. When it comes to improvement, I simply have to get my hands on the character and lose a bunch of times before I learn which positional situations to avoid, and which to press on for an advantage."
With that, the rest is up to you! Competitive or casual play looks to be fun for all players and learning about the game is part of the journey. Whether you find one main or five, familiarise yourself with the characters and stages! Content has poured streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube; Reddit continually has discussion threads on Ultimate and top players are regularly tweeting about findings inside the game. The game itself provides a fantastic avenue for learning with its training mode and the ability to go online to play. Keep an eye on tier lists and higher-level players playing your character. Good luck in your pools and see you on the Elite Smash grind!