This piece was written for Smash 4, but the basic idea is applicable to Smash Ultimate as well.
One of the longest-running issues in the Smash 64 competitive metagame is that there simply aren’t enough tournament-legal stages available for play (while Battlefield and Final Destination did exist in the game, they are only accessible through Gamesharks, which aren’t regularly available anymore). For the longest time, the only stage allowed was Dream Land, which is unarguably the least intrusive stage in the game. But the community had a problem: characters that performed better on Dream Land had the advantage. By not having any other legal stages, character choices that otherwise would have been useful options were left in the dark. The metagame was Dream Land-focused, and it showed.
The community solved this by compromising. Hyrule Castle, which is not conducive to fair play in certain areas, and Congo Jungle, which is really unconducive to fair play against certain characters, were eventually allowed. This balanced out the metagame and allowed for more viability, and frankly, more interesting matches.
Amiibo tournaments follow a similar issue. Most amiibo tournaments pick from two options: Omega stages, or Battlefield. Occasionally they will go with both. It’s understandable that the tournaments would do this because Cloud Nine recommends that all matches are played on Omega stages.
The problem is Omega stages don’t have much on them. By definition, they’re flat stages. And as with Smash 64, characters that do better on this type of stage are going to do better overall, due to only having advantageous stages to play on. These characters include:
- Little Mac (he was designed specifically to be excellent on the ground but not in the air)
- Ness (amiibo would have to jump, shield, roll or dodge to avoid his PK Fire, and if they don’t jump he can dash grab them)
- Bowser (especially in customs/nonvanilla, with his Dash Slam custom move that covers a lot of ground)
- Marth/Lucina (Dancing Blade is a horizontal attack, as well as their mighty tipped forward smash)
There’s obviously a few more characters that would perform better on flat stages, but these are the most relevant to both the vanilla and customs/nonvanilla metagame.
So what can be done about this? Well, some tournaments haven’t only gone with Omega stages. CNAL I went with only Smashville, which was helpful but didn’t completely solve the problem. Some tournaments go with Battlefield on the first match, Omega on the second, and Battlefield again on the third. That is also helpful, but it too doesn’t completely solve the problem. Obviously these solutions are well-intentioned, and I can’t fault anyone for coming up with them. But there may be a better way.
Let’s expand the allowable stage list, and choose the stage with the game’s Random Stage feature. We should change it to:
- Final Destination
- Miiverse (even though it’s the same as Battlefield, Battlefield is such a useful stage that there’s little reason to not give it extra representation)
- Smashville (Smashville is possibly the most balanced stage in the entire Smash series, as it neither favors platform-based characters nor ground-based characters)
- Dream Land 64 (this stage is contestable, as it has a legitimate stage hazard that could interrupt play a small amount. This stage should be up to the individual tournament)
By having a much more diverse stage list, we solve the problem of most stages being advantageous for ground-based or platform-based characters. For platform-based characters, we have Battlefield and Miiverse. For ground-based characters, we have Final Destination or another Omega stage that the TO prefers.
Smashville and Dream Land 64 are the in-between stages. Smashville is a ground-based stage until the platform comes back to you, which keeps it from focusing on one style of play more than the other. Dream Land 64 is large enough that it acts as a ground-based stage until someone is knocked vertically, at which point it becomes a platform-based stage. And by having the game itself pick the stage, we can ensure as fair a representation as possible of the stage types.
Changing the stage list also helps buffer against a less noticeable, but more lethal issue. The amiibo metagame is dead. Not many people come together to participate in vanilla tournaments (although there’s certainly a few people still doing it on some closed Facebook groups), and the nonvanilla/customs metagame has been settled for quite a while now. In fact, one could easily make the argument that only way to keep the nonvanilla metagame alive is by continuing to ban or nerf characters or equipment, just to keep things interesting.
By expanding the stage list, we are solving the problem of some amiibo being unable to perform as well. On top of that, we could protect and prolong the precious little interest in amiibo tournaments until Smash Ultimate arrives. Let’s get rid of the unnecessary limitations.