If someone told me ten years ago that people playing video games would generate a bigger audience than the NBA, NHL, and MLB, I would have laughed.
The wait for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is very nearly over.
In the almost nine-month hype cycle from its announcement in March, speculation over the competitive scene has been some of the strongest in Smash history. It seems that more and more people want to take a bite at claiming some tournament glory, but who are the players you should be watching closely at the beginning of Smash Ultimate’s competitive lifespan?
ZeRo (Gonzalo Barrios)
It’s hard to avoid mentioning the undisputed best player over Super Smash Bros. for Wii U’s (which I will refer to as Smash 4) lifetime. ZeRo won 56 tournaments straight at the beginning of Smash 4’s competitive cycle, a feat unmatched by anyone in Smash history. From November 2014 to October 2015, ZeRo did not lose a single tournament, barely dropping even a single set, until Nairo claimed his scalp at the MLG World Finals 2015. ZeRo proceeded to win doubles with Nairo at the same event. His Sheik and then Diddy Kong were undeniably some of the most oppressive characters to fight in the entire scene.
ZeRo was previously a Super Smash Bros. Brawl player, winning a plethora of tournaments across its lifespan with his trusty Meta Knight. He’s also competed in high level Super Smash Bros. Melee, placing as high as 7th in a major at Zenith 2014, and 17th at EVO 2014.
ZeRo has proven himself to be able to play almost any Smash game at the highest level possible. He’s also got a knack for playing only the very top-tier fighters, so expect him to be picking up whoever is considered the best and pushing that character to its limit. While on his popular Twitch stream he’s claimed to want to main Shulk, one of his favourite characters of all time, expect Sheik or Diddy to come back, or possibly even Pikachu, Meta Knight, Peach or Roy/Chrom.
ESAM (Eric Lew)
Ever-present Pikachu main ESAM has been grinning ear to ear since Ultimate was made available to play to the public with the E3 demo of the game. Many people began to note how many buffs Pikachu had received while already having been an extremely fast and small character with amazing moves and combos in Smash 4. ESAM was killing people offstage with Pikachu’s new spike – a move that sends opponents straight downward – from the very first time he could get his hands on the freshly improved Pokémon mascot.
ESAM has been around in the competitive scene since 2008, another Brawl and Smash 4 veteran, who has also competed in Melee. His highest placement in a Brawl major saw him come third at Apex 2014, seeing him knocked out of winners bracket by Nairo and then eliminated in the Losers Grands by ZeRo. His highest placements for Smash 4 majors included seventh and second at Genesis 5 and the Big House 8 respectively. He was ranked 21st on the Panda Global Rankings and is first in the South Florida Power Rankings.
While ESAM never managed to find that elusive first place in a Smash 4 major, his highly technical playstyle will carry over to Ultimate extremely well, with the wider variety of movement and aggressive options. He was one of the only players in top-level Smash 4 to use the Bidou control scheme when he played Pikachu, which is a very complex method that opens up a lot of frame perfect options at the cost of being able to execute them. Watch out for ESAM to be one of the smoothest movers in early Ultimate.
SonicFox (Dominique McLean)
Injustice. Skullgirls. Dragon Ball FighterZ. Marvel vs Capcom. Dead or Alive. Mortal Kombat. Soul Calibur. There has yet to be a fighting game that has eluded the grasp of SonicFox and his uncanny ability to understand them with relative ease. I have no doubts that he has a fight stick in his brain and can see frame data and combo followups when he closes his eyes.
Winning super majors for three fighting games – DBFZ, Injustice and Mortal Combat X – gives SonicFox the stakes to claim himself as one of the best fighting game players of all time, and all while in his famous fursuit. It seems he now has his sights set on Smash Ultimate as well.
In a Twitter exchange back in June SonicFox tweeted at Zero, saying he’s ‘[coming] for the throne right away’. ZeRo responded accordingly.
I accept your challenge. You said to give you 3 months. I'm down to play you at 3 months. I really wanna see your talents in Smash Bros, but if you lose to me, you will have to keep playing Smash, if you win, you may quit with the W. https://t.co/CYKC3mugWs
— Tempo ZeRo (@zerowondering) June 17, 2018
So we can expect a match between these two some time in March. The stakes are high, and this may be one of the greatest moments in the fighting game community’s history. Expect to see SonicFox streaming himself practising for the battle across the new year.
Keep an eye out for part two