The 1984 boxer’s appearance in Smash Bros. has many ranting for a patch, but I’m here to defend our favorite pugilist.
Written by: Tim “Blunder” Redd
Arguably one of the most anticipated new characters coming to Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, Little Mac hasn’t had such a good time since the game’s release. In the three and half weeks since the game has been released, players have voiced their opinions about the boxer to a resounding “WHY IS HE SO STRONG/FAST?!?!” As the new Smash was coming out, I anticipated loving this character more than any other. I picked him up and won a tremendous amount of “For Glory” matches, the game’s version of ranked fights. I legitimately love this character, and, though I can understand the arguments that have come up, I want to step up on my soap box and defend the little guy.
I would argue that this game is the most balanced Smash out there– even compared to Project M, a mod made specifically with balance in mind. Little Mac has a distinct sense of balance to him, but to get to that we first have to identify his positive traits.
Little Mac is incredibly fast. It’s saying something when a character can keep up with Sonic. This speed transitions well into his attacks and dodging. He’s a flighty character, fitting for a boxer that might want to “float like a butterfly” until it “stings like a bee”. Mac becomes incredibly hard to hit and, more importantly, to predict. Running around the screen constantly feels intense, almost like watching an anime where the characters become little more than flashing lines on the screen.
He has immense power behind those two gloves. As an Ike-main, I was always used to knocking my opponents out of the park with a few swings of my sword, but I could never release these powerful attacks fast enough to get my more speedy opponents off guard. Little Mac eliminates this issue with his crazy speed and strong punches. Each of his smash attacks are powerful enough to KO people at low percentages, while his regular attacks can rack up damage incredibly fast. Most notably among his strong moves would be his neutral attack, unleashing a flurry of punches against his opponent like an E. Honda ripoff.
Mac has swagger. The amount of flair added to this one character must be why this game took so long to come out. Each one of his attacks comes with a satisfying crunch as it connects, a whoosh as it cuts the air. I remember seeing Zer0’s stream when he was streaming prior to the North American release, he said that Little Mac’s hits were “incredibly satisfying… They felt so good to connect.” You just have to try him to understand this feeling. The immense amount of pure, unadulterated HYPE that occurs when you connect his infamous KO punch, a move that is a one-hit kill at extremely low percentages, is enough to fill up a stadium. The way Doc Louis talks during some of his taunts, his 8 extra outfits, THE PINK TRACKSUIT. Little Mac has style in spades.
Little Mac has more than just a few flaws to his character. His strength, speed, and style all become overshadowed by his glaring weaknesses, making his balance feel a little more in place once they’ve been pointed out.
He has no hops. Little Mac simply cannot fight in the air. He can jump like any other character, and he can punch in the air, but the mechanics of his air game hinder him in incredible ways. His punches have no knockback, they incur a large amount of lag on the player that opens them up for punishment, and they do an incredibly small amount of damage. His most potent move in the air is his counter, but when activated it forces him to lunge forward, oftentimes sending him over the edge of the stage in the process.
Mac is predictable. As one might think, there isn’t too much variation to come from a fighter who only uses his fists. This transfers over into his style in Smash. Many Little Mac players abuse his running A attack or hope to land smash attacks all day, but this playstyle hurts more than it helps. It’s tempting to stand in one spot and mash the attack button over and over for strong hits, and this comes largely from Little Mac’s arsenal: he can do this and play as a pretty alright character, but high level matches require much more. This isn’t to say that Mac is cheap or simple, only to say that his simpler tactics are easy to read.
Platforms hate him. The primary argument from Smash enthusiasts, most players agree that Little Mac thrives on the For Glory environment due to the flat nature of the stages, but the reality of the situation to is that higher level tournaments have platforms and moving parts in their stages, not just the Final Destination ones. As mentioned before, Little Mac cannot stand a chance on the air, but on stages like these he can’t just sit and wait either— there are normally time limits worry about. The evidence is slowly trickling in as a Little Mac was decimated by a Captain Falcon in the first Smash tournament held by Nintendo a week after launch. The platforms on the Balloon Fight stage were too much for Mac to fight on.
I love Little Mac. I’ve since started playing other characters, but Little Mac still sits proudly on the top of my records with 350+ matches under his championship boxing belt. His strength and speed are intimidating, but they aren’t anything to be incredibly afraid of. All fighting games require more balancing after launch, and I’d be crazy to think that Little Mac might not be one of these, but I do feel that the balancing attempts are there in his glaring weaknesses. At the end of the day, this boxer is an incredibly fun addition to the roster, and Iook forward to seeing pros find ways to make him better and worse and everything in between in this extremely satisfying version of Smash.