The Home Run Contest mode in Super Smash Brothers looks straightforward. You choose one of the game's fighters and face off against an inanimate sandbag. As a 10-second timer counts down, you try to inflict as much damage as possible on the bag. Depending on how much damage you dole out, the bag could end up flying several thousand metres. But if you want to beat the world record with any character in the Home Run Contest, then you're going to have to learn some unconventional strategies that have taken years for players to discover.
Gif edited from Captain Falcon world record video via Twitter
The Home Run Contest first appeared in Super Smash Brothers: Melee, a 16-year-old game that still has enough of a competitive base to merit its continued appearance in the Evolution Championship Series, the world's largest fighting games tournament. There's also still a competitive scene for Melee's Home Run Contest, but it's much smaller. So much smaller, in fact, that there's really only one player worth noting these days: Mike "Typo" Bassett.
This past weekend, as top Melee pros duked it out in the Evo finals, Typo was at home, also finding new ways to bend SSB: Melee to his will. There are still world records left to beat in Melee's Home Run Contest, and Typo has been chipping away at them, bit by bit.
Melee has 25 characters, each with their own theoretical world records for hitting the sandbag a certain distance. That said, 3458.5m is the maximum length of the track. Ganondorf can achieve that score, and the Ice Climbers can also achieve it through the use of a glitch, so there are multiple players who have "tied" for the world record with those characters. The rest of the game's fighters have more theoretical wiggle room when it comes to finding farther distances to hit the bag.
Last Thursday, Typo announced on Twitter that he'd found a new strategy that could help him achieve a new world record with Link in Melee's Home Run Contest. It involved very specific timing with the Home Run bat. Typo explained to us that the sandbag "goes farther when you hit it with the tip... I knew the strat was possible and I kept getting completions, but I kept hitting with the wrong section of the bat."
On Monday he achieved his goal, thereby upping Link's Melee HRC world record from 1088.1m to 1094.7m (3591.6ft):
Finally improved my near decade-old Link WR, this time w/ a completely new strat. shoutouts to the kid
(subgoal for live reaction video??) pic.twitter.com/qPm4xrcT0D
— Balance | Typo (@hrcTypo) July 16, 2017
Who held the previous world record? Typo himself, back when he was 16 years old. Today, Typo is almost 25.
"There aren't really any good players active anymore besides me," Typo told us, although he hopes that could change. "The next generation of players (if there is one) is current competitive Melee players." Typo is best known in the Smash scene as the mind behind Home Run Controllers, a service for pro players who seek controller repairs and modifications, inspired by his own controllers having seen a lot of wear and tear thanks to the repetitive motions required to earn records in Home Run Contest. Typo now works with controller and console modding company Mute City Customs, alongside Tyler "NFreak" Morrow and Garrett "Serisium" Greenwood.
Typo wasn't always the only major player in the HRC scene. Many of the Melee world records got placed by a Japanese player who went by the handle Sin2324. Although Sin2324 deleted his YouTube channel and disappeared from the internet years ago, his world record videos have been archived by other fans, and Typo's still trying to beat many of them. The remaining members of the HRC community keep track of these numbers and their attendant video proof in a Google Doc. At this point, most of the records in the document have either Sin or Typo's handle ("tipo mastr") next to them:
A screenshot of the HRC community's Google doc, featuring the Melee world records as of 16 July 2017. (via Mike Bassett)
The Home Run Contest community experienced a boom in the mid-2000s, and Typo theorises that this was due to the rise of online video tutorials: "Players could learn almost all the information they needed about a strategy just by watching a video on YouTube," he said. By the time Melee's controversial sequel Super Smash Brothers: Brawl came out in 2008, the HRC scene had hit a plateau. "The Melee stadium went from a moderately active section of the legendary Smash site Allisbrawl to being relegated to a small Discord community and a Google Document with scores."
When he was 16, Typo "had a lot of free time" to spend chipping away at the HRC records. He didn't have that much free time again until 2015, after completing his undergraduate degree. He then returned to Melee's Home Run Contest in earnest and set about his attempt to beat the past world records placed by himself and other HRC fans in the decade prior. This past winter, he began streaming his efforts on his Twitch channel.
Typo has managed to beat several of these records since returning to the HRC grind. Last November, Typo documented surpassing the world record distance for Captain Falcon, originally held by Sin2324:
— Balance | Typo (@hrcTypo) November 7, 2016
On the heels of Typo's achievement of the Falcon world record, the Smash the Record 2016 gaming marathon invited him to perform a live speedrun of Melee's Home Run Contest. For the event, Typo attempted to reach a cumulative 30,480m of sandbag distance as quickly as possible. After achieving his 30,480m goal, Typo went on to show the crowd the other tricks of the Home Run Contest, such as the Ice Climbers' "freeze glitch", which allows the sandbag to go the maximum possible distance of 3458.5m:
Typo will return to Smash the Record again this September for another showcase of his Home Run Contest skills. As for why he's still fascinated by a single-player mini-game in a 16-year-old fighting game, Typo told us that he just wants to show his super-specialised skills to the world: "I'm good at something that a large part of this community has only ever really seen from the fringes; it's been a blast filling people in on all the details of one player mode that exists."
Right now, there's no one out there trying to beat Typo's world records — or if there is, he has yet to find them. His main competition is a series of decade-old times, and himself. But if you want to learn how to beat Typo, he'll be the first to share all of his secrets in his live Twitch broadcasts.