And with these numbers in mind, we will explore an interesting way to classify playable characters based on “Archetypes”. This can help to import characters from any game to Smash (or any fighting game for that matter) and it gives some tools to create movesets even for characters that don’t have movepools to choose from.
But again, as a disclaimer, this is pure speculation, based on informed opinions and naive hopes, and everything here is in the context of the exercise we started last time. Sometimes, I’ll ask you to follow my train of thought, despite some ideas may sound counterintuitive at points, but feel free to comment if you agree or disagree, I appreciate both interactions.
This concept is one of the pillars of the fighting game genre. It is because of this, every roster has different kind of characters to fit with everyone’s playstyle and facilitate balance. Without it, every character might feel and play similarly, archetypes also help to give personality to the characters, making them more distinct and appealing to the players.
Despite this, there is little literature about this topic (like the character analysis that you can find here, but it lack explanations). I’m not an expert on the topic, so if you know about the concrete theory behind this, I invite you to comment and expand our understanding and come up with better explanations.
Basically, there are macro groups of characters, the basic division are those who are Offensive and those who are Defensive.
Offensive characters stand out by being oriented to dealing damage, for this we have 2 strategies based in different statistics, Speed and Strength:
Rush Down or Presure characters specialize in dealing damage quickly by focusing in attack constantly (Chokers), keeping their rival in the position they want to increase the damage (Sweetspotter), or pressuring the rival to maneuver to don’t get caught in their combos (Mix-up). This kind of characters tend to have poor defenses, so it’s important that their players keep the pace of the fight and never drop their guard.
Beat down characters, have more strength and are able to do large amounts of damage with less attacks, making them good for players that know how to capitalize in the error of their rivals. There are also “Charge” characters, that need to keep inputs pressed for more time in order to attack heavily, like the “Smash Attacks” with varying degrees of armor.
In other hand, Defensive characters, as their name says, stand out by having the ability to endure damage and last longer in the fight, for this we have 3 strategies, based in Range, Defenses, and Armor.
Zoner characters endure the fight by repelling their enemy, using high maneuverability to attack and retreat (Pokers), using long range projectiles to deal cheap damage (Snipers), setting up traps in the arena to keep their rival watching their steps, (Trappers) or using counterattacks and moves that grant them the chance to run away of their rivals attacks (Turtles)
Grappler characters have the ability to keep their enemies close and endure weak attacks to give them the chance to grab them for heavy damage (True Grapplers), or not literally grabbing them but keeping them in position to deliver punishment (Semi Grapplers)
The Slow Powerhouses have the highest amount of strength and defenses, giving them the edge over frail rivals when they miss their attacks, but they are the slowest, so they have to rely in their armored moves to deal heavy damage without flinching when they are being directly attacked.
Between the offensive and defensive characters we have the Balanced characters, who sometimes have a mixture of moves of other archetypes, making them good for newcomers and great for players that can play around the other archetypes weaknesses.
Lastly but not less important, we have Special characters, who have different abilities, like being able to stay and move easily in the air for more time, and being more effective in it (Aerials), others have the ability to control another character, it might be a duplicate of themselves or a simpler drone, granting them an advantage, but if they lost it, became weaker than a normal character. (Puppeteers), in other hand, there are characters that can buff some stats, normally they are weak balanced characters, but with their momentary buffs, can become stronger, faster or harder (Power Up Users), or have really good moves that can be used a certain number of times before they run out (Ammo Users), and finally, there are some that can transform their movesets or stats to become the character the player needs in the moment (Stance Changers).
In the end, there are three interesting points about this topic to keep in mind: first, in modern fighting games characters don’t completely belong into just one archetype, especially in the Super Smash Bros series because all the characters share their button commands, and need “kill moves”, so a character that can rack up a lot of cheap damage but can’t connect a deadly blow won’t work and will be unbalanced. Second, because it’s “preferred” that characters represent their canonical appearances and moves, it becomes hard for some of them because their large moveset options or the lack of them, so assign them a “representative archetype” could make easier to give them a moveset that work in their context. And third, having archetypes help a lot to balance the game, because some archetypes are effective against others while being weak to other ones.
Over the next few articles, I’ll take the time to explain this distribution of characters and the possible composition of every single group! So buckle up, the ride will be long…over 10,000 words long!
Until next time.
Table of Playable Characters in alphabetical order, grouped by “Family”. A: Pokémon Trainer is counted as Ivysaur, Squirtle and Charizard. B: the Miis are counted as one character. Bayonetta is included in the “New Wave” group due to her partial distribution ownership by Nintendo.
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