I’m Getting Too Old for this Shit…

by Steve Bowler on March 16, 2008 · 5 comments

in combat,control,user interface

Seriously, Riggs.  Like the elderly ignoring the internet and cellular methods of communication, I feel as if I’m hitting a wall when it comes to “new” games and their control schemes.

I tried playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl (SSBB) at work last Friday, and while I recognize the appeal and the quality, I had a hard time getting comfortable with it, and as a result didn’t really find the appeal for it on a personal level.  The main reason for this, I realized, was that the control scheme was something completely foreign to me.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been neglectful in my fighting game education by never actually taking any Smash Bros. seriously enough to be bothered to pick up and play, but my bonafides in the fighting genre are fairly solid.  I can hold my own with a small handful of Street Fighters (from just about any offering) and for awhile I was well versed in the Tekkens.  Hell, sometimes I feel like I’ve practically played just about every fighter there is, from my personal favorites like Samurai Showdown, to the insanely old school such as Karate Champ, to the hilariously awful Time Killers, to the even more obscure (but just as hilarious) Body Blows.  So I’ve seen my fair share of fighter controls, and if you can get good at Karate Champ, I figure you can pretty much get the hang of anything.

That said, I’ve never quite come across a control scheme as odd as SSBB.  It just doesn’t come off as very intuitive to me.  I’m not going to argue against the fight mechanics.  Hell, I enjoy them.  No block.  Check.  No health bar; you just get lighter.  Double check.  Sign me up, I get it.  But my problem is when I start pushing buttons and I start getting seemingly random results.  For instance, when you’re Link, the B button yeilds you an arrow shot.  But I guess that’s on a null stick input?  When you push the stick in a direction, you get the whirlwind boomerang.  Not an arrow shot?  And I hear if you tap the joystick and hit the B button you get yet another completely unrelated to archery attack for that button which is neither the bow and arrow nor the boomerang.

This kind of thing makes it really difficult for doddering old fools such as myself to pick up and play your game.  I’m not saying that it has to play like every other fighting game on the planet, but I just find this seemingly random control scheme confusing and odd.  For instance, the ability to float or glide (air recover, whatever you want to call it) seems to be mapped to a different set of buttons for each character.  For some, it might be using their special ability while in the air, while for others, it might be using the jump button twice, and for still others it might be using a primary attack to keep them airborn.

While I get and understand the need to make characters feel and behave differently, I’m not a big fan of changing what makes someone airborne and what doesn’t.  For instance, I don’t think Street Fighter would be any fun if pushing the stick up made Ryu jump, but to make Ken jump you had to push the stick down and hit A.  That’s just unnecessary player confusion in my book, and while you are rewarding a form of player skill (which is paramount in multiplayer games), I don’t feel you’re rewarding the right kind of player skill, which should be expertise in the gameplay mechanics, not in a different control scheme for each character.  Granted, Ryu’s Dragon punch is performed differently than Guile’s Jacknife Kick, but it should, as the attacks are different and they yield a different result.  And besides, if I want Guile to punch, I hit a punch button.  The button isn’t any different to punch for Ryu.

My bottom line here isn’t that SSBB is broken.  Quite the contrary.  I fully recognize how awesome the game is.  I’d actually like to get into it.  I’m just wondering if it couldn’t be made more accessible.  Would it be possible to make the game just as fun without the confusing control schemes so that new players could pick up the game and just as easily control Link as they do Kirby?  I’d honestly love to see an experiment using Street Fighter, where the health bars are removed, the level is given a “ring out” make-over, and players reaction to gravity is impacted by how much damage they take.  You could probably even use an Alpha version with air recovers to allow players to “double-jump” their way back onto the level as they’re getting ringed out.

Would a Street Fighter using SSBB mechanics be just as fun yet more accessible?

Or is the different controls (and crazy seemingly random attacks) for each character what people find appealing about SSBB?

Please, hardcore players (or even newfound converts), give me your informed and non-inflammatory comments.  I crave knowledge on this subject.

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