Nintendo put out its version 1.1.0 update for the 3DS and Wii U Super Smash Bros. games today. Along with adding new stages, costumes for Mii players, and nifty-sounding features like tournament modes and YouTube replays, the patch came with a ton of balance tweaks. Specifically, a ton of buffs.
In true Nintendo fashion, it kept the balance changes — likely the most interesting part of the update — a relative secret, leaving it up to hardcore fans to test the game and find out what’s actually been done to it on their own. Never ones to harbour resentment about this curious lack of transparency, seasoned players quickly started up an ongoing list of balance changes on Smash’s popular subreddit and the game’s influential fan forum Smash Boards. There are a lot. And I mean a lot. To see the full list of character tweaks, I recommend heading over to the threads I linked to.
It’s far too early to make any reasonable assessment about how these changes will come to impact the Smash Bros. meta game. That’s always the case with competitive games like this. But the ones that stand out to me at first blush are the hefty number of character buffs that make a lot of the game’s lower and mid-level characters stronger.
Take Legend of Zelda villain Ganondorf, for instance. From the Smash Boards master list:
Forward Air damage increased 16%/17% → 17%/18%
Up Throw damage increased 7% → 10%
Down Smash second hit knockback and hitbox size increased
Damage boosts to two of his core special moves, and an increased hitbox on another. They might seem incremental, which they sorta are, but remember: this is a fighting game. Every percentage point of damage (and hitpoints).
Ganondorf’s longtime enemy Zelda, meanwhile, got some buffs as well, increasing the damage and speed of some of her moves:
Down Tilt damage increased 4% → 5.5%
Damage on hits increased 2%/2%/2% → 2.5%/2.5%/3% (6% → 8% total)
Final hit base 24 → 35, growth 150 → 130
Heavy position, bone, angle, size, and wkb adjustments on all hits
Up Tilt End frame reduced
Phantom Slash (Down Special)
End frame reduced
Windboxes on Slash altered reducing blind spots
One player on Reddit said that Lucina, Palutena, Wii Fit Trainer, Ganondorf, and Zelda all received the biggest buffs. But there are a number of smaller changes that beef up other characters as well. Even Diddy Kong, the guy who used to be the reigning terror of Super Smash Bros. 4until Nintendo nerfed him in an earlier patch, got a bit of a boost, giving the ape some of his damage-dealing potential back.
Curiously, one of the most noticeable nerfs was applied to Sheik, who has long been considered the strongest character in the game thanks to the fact that Zero, the best Smash Bros. Wii U player in the competitive scene, has repeatedly said as much while continuing to play as her.
Could all these balance changes mean that Nintendo is trying to make the game more balanced overall — giving lower-tier characters an extra bit of viability while trying to knock the top-tier ones down a peg? The Sheik nerfs come three months after Diddy Kong’s nerfs, after all. And those changes made many players stop seeing Diddy as the strongest fighter in the game.
Nintendo has always remained opaque about the reasoning behind its specific character tweaks. But regardless of the developer’s take on the changes, it’s fascinating to see them starting to treat Smash Bros. like a living, breathing thing that needs to be tended to every so often — rather than just releasing the game and leaving fans and players to their own devices, no matter how over or under-powered certain characters may be.