Video Game News, Commentary, and Fist Fights
Every once in a while we’re going to post both of our opinions on a game, mod, or piece of news in these “Our Take”-style posts. This is JD’s take on the recently updated Project M game mod for Super Smash Bros. Brawl. You can read Jeff’s Take over here.
As remarkable as it may seem, the Super Smash Bros. series has been around for 13 years now. What is even more amazing is that a game that has been around that long only has three entries in the series. In a world where Madden and Call of Duty games add “new” entries every year, it is something of a marvel. Nintendo, generally, takes its time in creating sequels to its flagship titles, most notably the main Mario, Metroid, Zelda, and Smash Bros. games. So it should come as no surprise that when Super Smash Bros. Brawl was announced, Smash fans everywhere were ecstatic.
Flash forward 4 years and the Smash community is divided to two main camps. There are those who side with Brawl’s gameplay and those who prefer Melee’s. There are those that feel that Brawl’s gameplay is so broken, that they have brought it upon themselves to modify the game through hacks and mods in order to make the game they believe Brawl should have been. One such mod, dubbed Project M, is a fusion of Brawl and Melee. If you haven’t heard, essentially Project M takes the gameplay of Melee (physics, advanced techs, etc.) and puts it into Brawl. However, this is not just a shoehorned modification. This is a meticulous re-crafting of each and every character, down to minute details such as the amount of frames a move stays active or lag between moves. It is a modification that you would think Nintendo had made. As you may know if you listen to our podcast, Jeff and I have been playing Project M lately and have come to an interesting question. Is Brawl or Project M the better game? Is this even a fair question to ask given their vastly different mechanics? Without further ado, let’s dive in.
First off I want to say that I have always enjoyed Brawl since it was first released. I was never under the opinion that Brawl was a broken mess that needed to be overhauled, which seemed to be the opinion of many. Does Brawl have issues? Absolutely. It is by no means a perfect game, or even a near perfect game. It has character balancing issues (most notoriously with Meta Knight and his banishment from competitive play) and the addition of the tripping mechanic was probably not the best idea, but I have had many, many hours of fun amongst the four player mayhem. Coming from Melee, the slightly slower pace and “floaty” physics were a bit off putting at first. Honestly though, I enjoyed that aspect of the game. Even though the game was slower, it still takes a lot of skill, foresight, timing, and strategy to be a truly skilled player. Brawl helped to differentiate some of the character clones that were in Melee. Falco threw out his reflector while Fox kept his on his body and rather than having a direct clone of Marth they added Ike who was much slower powerhouse to Marth’s quick nimble swordplay. These were the sorts of changes that I really appreciated and it made every character fun and unique to play. With that being said, however, when I heard about the Smash Bros. mod Project M, I was very intrigued.
I saw that Project M was bringing back the fast paced gameplay of Melee as well as balancing all of the characters. As I said before, Brawl had character balancing issues which could become quite annoying at times. So hearing that these issues could be addressed was very exciting. Having played my fair share of Melee (gameplay time was around 400 hours last time I checked), I was excited to get back to fast gameplay and to finally start learning to use some of the advanced techniques such as wavedashing, SHFFLing, L-canceling, etc that I had only begun doing at the end of Melee’s life. Playing Project M is like playing a whole new game. Many characters function vastly different than they did in Brawl (see: Lucario). Some characters have completely new animations such as Snake, whose forward smash now is a knife attack rather than the stinger missile. Along with the added animations, the Project M team has created new gameplay mechanics, taunts, menus, and the list goes on. What is probably the most exciting about this mod is that I know that the people behind it are gamers like me who are competitive (or aspiring competitive) Smash players who want a balanced, fast paced game that takes a great deal of skill to master. Knowing that all of the mechanics behind the game are sound is very comforting; that way I know that if something I am doing isn’t working it’s because I haven’t mastered the skill yet, not because of faulty mechanics. Despite all of the positive aspects, there are a few things that the team changed that I was disappointed in. Removing Wario’s bike, losing the more overt uniqueness of between Fox and Falco, and the omission of many dynamic stages, while being more of a preference than anything else, are still notable let downs. Despite not being quite finished with the mod yet as of demo 2.1, what the team has done so far is unbelievably impressive and extremely polished and professional looking.
So, what does this all mean? Is the Project M mod truly an upgrade over original Brawl? I think it all boils down to personal preference. Brawl is certainly the more accessible game. It is less about learning advanced techniques and more about knowing your character of choice. Once you understand the mechanics of the game and get to know your character, their strengths and weaknesses, spacing, priority, recovery, combos, etc. you can become a great Brawl competitor (there is also the tier list to consider but that is whole different discussion). Similarly, in Project M you need to understand the basic mechanics of the game as well as your main character. However, once you understand the basic mechanics and your character, you still have to master the advanced techniques to bring your skill to the next level. Both versions of the game are very simple on the surface but have deep gameplay. Project M, however, has that extra layer of depth that Brawl does not, at least not to the extent that M does.
For me personally, I prefer Project M over Brawl. Being an aspiring competitive Smash player myself, I appreciate that extra layer of depth that allows me to hone my skills down further and to become a better player. What is the most exciting is that, theoretically of course, the games characters are balanced. So since there is that smaller disparity in skill between each character, there is always another character for me to use and attempt to master. The idea of Bowser being a viable competitive character is a truly thrilling notion. I look forward to when the team releases the remaining cast members that are missing from demo 2.1 to see just how much they have changed. Does this mean that I won’t play original Brawl? Not a chance! Because these games function so differently, you get a unique experience playing each. For now, though, I’m going to be honing my skills in Project M. So if you will excuse me, Luigi and I have got some work to do.
What do you think of Project M? Is it better than Brawl? Or does Brawl still come out on top? Let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear your thoughts, opinions, and questions!