Diddy Kong has become the most divisive character in the new Super Smash Bros. ever since competitive players picked up on the primate's formidable fighting strength. His reign as the fighter to beat sparked a newly heated debate this week when one pro Smasher blamed the game's community for the whole Diddy upset.
The argument that re-fanned the flames of Smash's ongoing Diddy Kong controversy came from "Omni", a Smash player and video personality who published an aptly-named diatribe on YouTube yesterday which insisted: "Diddy is innocent." Omni's video quickly made its way to the front page of Smashboards and the Smash Bros subreddit, where many others have joined into the fray. You can watch the original thing here:
Omni's central point in the video is that there's really nothing special about Diddy Kong or the fact that he quickly became a top-tier character in the new Smash Bros. What is new, in his view, is the overall Smash community's seemingly helpless response to it. Whereas back in the good old days of Melee or Brawl players would just tough out imbalances in character design until a bigger and better counter was discovered, now he thinks players have grown too accustomed to sitting back and waiting for Nintendo to sort things out with a patch to the game.
"People cried about Sheik," Omni said in the video when discussing the GameCube-era Smash title Melee, "who essentially dictates the Melee tier list, because she could chain-grab zero to death about half the cast, making half of them obsolete."
"But most of it fell on deaf ears," Omni continued, because we were still a grassroots community. All that was left for us was to go on Smashboards and argue forever, or just play the damn game."
In other words: the problem isn't Diddy Kong. It's the Smash Bros. community's perception of Diddy Kong as an insurmountable challenge. What I've found interesting about the reception to Omni's is that many others, including big names in the Smash competitive community, seem to agree. The pro player Zero, for instance, who'd first kicked up criticism of Diddy last year when he said the Kong was "killing the game," wrote a stirring defence of the guy as a comment on Omni's video:
Others joined in the fray on Smashboards to make a similar point:
And hearken back to Brawl or Melee as Omni did to remind their fellow Smash-ers that these games have always seemed to have a few characters that stand out from the rest of the pack:
Acknowledging that not all Smash Bros. characters are created equal, coupled the fact that the new Super Smash Bros. has only been around for a few months, makes claims that Diddy Kong should be removed from tournaments or competitive play sound more than a little ridiculous, others said:
It's difficult to assess how wide-spread Smash players' issues with Diddy Kong really are, since chatter like this on Reddit and Smashboards is normally reserved for a subset of the game's most passionate and competitively-inclined fans. But the palpable frustration with criticisms against Diddy Kong is telling in its own way, I think.
Competitive players and Smash fans might still have problems with Diddy Kong's place in the new game. But the reason that Omni's video struck a nerve with the game's online community is because his argument illuminated a much bigger concern: that a single imperfectly balanced character could end up souring fans' view of the game as a whole.
People are still discovering hidden tricks and supremely advanced techniques for the new Smash on a regular basis, after all. That discovery process is a big part of the fun for many players. And while nobody's uncovered a surefire way to best Diddy Kong yet, players like Zero and Omni are arguing that, really, the game's community shouldn't feel such an acute need to do so anyways. At this early a stage in the new Smash generation, even competitive matches are still testing the fundamental limits of the game much in the same way that pros do when they experiment with, say, character lag. None of these discoveries on its own might be enough to put Diddy Kong in his place. But the ingenuity of the process itself is what players are eager to hold onto as a way forward — a way out of internecine debates about whether or not a particular character has "ruined" the game as a whole.
"Don't let Diddy Kong ruin this game," the collective reasoning goes. The only question that remains, then, is how to make sure that he doesn't.