Clubs in Kid Icarus Uprising VS Heavies in Smash Bros.

Recently, heavyweight balance in Smash Bros. has become a hot topic. No matter how much buffing heavyweight characters get, they are completely subject to having their opponents still turn them into glorified pi(n)atas, and it doesn’t help when the buffs they are given are often uncharacteristic speed buffs, leading to homogenization and definitely a lack of playing to strengths. Particular aggravating is the notion of unconditional flinching, where if you get hit, you have any attack you had thrown out get completely cancelled. Smash Bros. does NOTHING to balance this issue out and so heavies are absolutely stuck with having to do reaction races they can’t reasonably compete in.

Kid Icarus Uprising, while it does have depth issues with the core gameplay, does have its share of ideas to making the Mighty Glacier more viable, without resorting to uncharacteristic speed buffs. One idea is big and does get to addressing the Unconditional Flinching issue, but it’s not quite a core mechanic, despite being a very good one, believe me. I will cover the core mechanics first because those do contribute. It’s also worth noting that Clubs, which I’ll focus on and they DO have the worst frame data of the weapon families, do suffer the issues of replacing Rapids with some extremely niche Swings, being limited to 2 hits on the Melee Combo, and most importantly, having severely gimped momentum on the mobility with any of the dash attacks. These will punctuate how effective the below points are at allowing Clubs to be viable even before getting into cases like Magnus or Capricorn Club. And for reference, this will not account for weapon modifiers, since those create way too much biased gameplay. I also will not directly point to Kid Icarus Uprising not having certain options such as Shielding and Grabbing, since although those contribute in Smash Bros. to heavies being suffocated, they do so by bad execution and their not being in KIU at all isn’t a positive. This is more focused on good ideas that KIU has for Mighty Glacier balance.

Getup options are more effective yet more committal

One nasty problem that suffocates heavies’ durability in Smash Bros. is how getups are too predictable. Kid Icarus Uprising may provide fewer input options, but it isn’t stuck on a 2 1/2 D plane. Smash Bros. has its getup options be anything but versatile in their individual tasks, and to punctuate why that’s a problem, I will provide the frame data for the getup options in both KIU and Smash 4.

IntangibilityIASA
Normal (KIU)9634
Normal (Smash 4)2230
Roll (KIU)6044
Roll (Smash 4)2336
Attack (KIU)6060
Attack (Smash 4)2646
Ukemi (KIU)8241
Ukemi Normal (Smash 4)2127
Ukemi Roll (Smash 4)2141

You might notice that KIU does get insane with the intangibility duration amounts, though the Normal Getup, which has the most of this, is surprisingly justified somewhat. First off, the Normal Getup, to do manually instead of waiting for the game to have the player do it automatically, requires pressing the Aim button multiple times, seemingly a random amount. This is likely to be the touch screen, though Align Camera could be an alternative substitute to this, except Align Camera can mess with the player’s camera control. What makes the Normal Getup not ridiculous, however, is that the player is STILL in the same position as before. The real reason for KIU’s getups being better is that they are good at their unique tasks, with the Rolls having more than one dimension to work with and the Attacks launching a Forward Shot as a safeguard against excessive range abuse, instead of involving some awkward close range sweep that doesn’t even have anti-air. The Roll Getup also has a burst of movement at 8 meters of travel distance, compared to the First Blade’s run speed of 10m/s, further ensuring the potential of an escape path and giving slower fighters a consistent emergency movement option. The Attack Getup, meanwhile, has the added advantage of getting around chargeup requirements which Clubs generally have in spades. Because of the versatility allotted, the state of being in disadvantage can be mitigated by being less predictable to effect, disrupting any attempt at easy chaining that faster foes could try.

The trade-off is that KIU’s getups have more committal time. While the surplus intangibility does carry over, it doesn’t quite add to any in a followup move, so much as it sets a minimum for if the followup move would provide less on its own. Because of that limitation, it is still quite feasible for the attacker to chase against roll getups if they predict the defender’s movement, and the comparatively higher committal time gives heavier attacks an easier time landing their mark with the reduced difficulty in reading opposition. Add to it that Club shots are often big and lingering, and there’s a reason the likes of Skyscraper Club doesn’t need everybody trying to keep their distance to be able to punish roll getups, even if that does help. This IS a double edged sword for Clubs as well, since they can get socked by heavier attacks too, but fair is fair, and this does lead to more coherent gameplay than if the getups was more catering to lighter attacks.

Further addressing the invincibility frames, since KIU does also give the knockdown states a case of Mercy Defense at 1/3 damage taken–this, by the way, further promotes good burst damage usage, somewhat given it’s still division defense–allegedly, the surplus intangibility just gives the person in knockdown the advantage. While a position reset IS made much easier, the attacker still has more options for handling their own positioning, including an immediate cast of a casting animation Power such as Meteor Shower, and can do this to set up traps. The getup state can only be forced by the player going into it by using Angelic Missile, which as a Power has its own strings attached even without Angelic Missile also locking out the Ukemi input, so getup options can’t chain into themselves or each other, and that “infinite” invincibility that could allow for stopping reads toward followups will quickly prove itself as anything but infinite.

In comparison, Smash Bros.’ getups feel too generic, actually a common problem in the series in the midst of making Olimar’s Pikmin maturity stages do nothing in gameplay or Robin’s weapon durability mechanic feel laughably inept at curbing the abuses it was designed against like it was in the Fire Emblem series. This sort of thing does bring up the next subject.

Projectile involvement

To be sure, Kid Icarus Uprising is a shooter and thus every weapon type having projectiles is inevitable. However, it IS fair to point out that the clear majority of characters in Smash Bros. have projectiles anyway, with the percentage never going below 66% for Smash 64 and Brawl, and that percentage in both cases is discounting Kirby, Bowser, Charizard, Squirtle, and Wario–with them, Smash 64 has the percentage at 75% and Brawl has it at slightly less than 80%. Further worth noting is that of Smash Ultimate’s newcomers, the only one without a projectile other than Chrom, an Echo Fighter, is Incineroar, who as a Mighty Glacier/Melee Tornado hybrid has the exact sort of stats build as characters who commonly gets suffocated in competitive play, and not-so-incidentally, Incineroar has been placed in low tier. One particular sticking point? Incineroar has to play defense because he’s too slow and incapable of range combat to approach. Unfortunately, by playing defense, Incineroar has no way to hit to even deal his damage. Anybody can see as much AND can tell you how that’s asking for being shelled by projectiles.

Kid Icarus Uprising gives EVERY weapon type projectiles, with varying strengths and weaknesses to make sure range combat stays interesting. What allows for classifying a weapon type as a Melee Tornado is when its projectiles have weaknesses that prevent efficient range combat. Magnus Club is a perfect example with its projectiles being limited in their maximum range, softening potential issues with an above average mobility weapon that has its Neutral Shot be equivalent to an aerial in Smash Bros. that deals about 18%, something Bowser barely achieves with his Back Air in Smash 4. Believe it or not, I don’t even get scared of Magnus Club, because one particular weakness that Clubs have is that they lack rapid fire attacks; as I mentioned before, they instead use Swings that are laughably niche. (Swings could have stood to be much better to allow nuanced usage, honestly. Instantly destroying any hit projectile and not resetting chargeup on use doesn’t really cut it.) This forces Clubs to wait until they get chargeup to use their projectiles, although melee attacks won’t reset chargeup so there’s that at least. Magnus Club has the lowest chargeup requirement of any weapon type in the game, though this doesn’t change its low shot range. Other Clubs in general have much higher chargeup.

Of particular note with the Melee Tornado classification from this are Babel and Skyscraper Clubs. Their shots have a clear drawback of low velocity that prevents being able to hit an alert fighter so easily, especially at longer range where the shots’ velocity issues would add up, which makes the general objective obvious: close the distance. That is, naturally, easier said than done, because as one can expect, Babel and Skyscraper Clubs have nearly the worst mobility of all 108 weapon types, only really beating Ancient Staff and that’s because Ancient Staff has to deal with the stamina system, more on that later. This makes it easier to treat Babel and Skyscraper as the same weapon type for the primary purposes of this post, although Babel’s differences from Skyscraper is that its Shots (other than the Back Shot) are bigger, as well as multi-hit to allow for incredible potential damage, but at the expense of a minor acceleration factor reducing the hit count upon distant targets, as well as a general inability to block higher Shot Cancel attacks at all without the Back Shot or a Swing. At any rate, Babel and Skyscraper–and I will refer to just Skyscraper alone further down the post for convenience–can be classed as close range attackers, despite being very much more subtle about it than Ogre and Magnus Clubs.

Skyscraper fits the mold for the standard Club, and what the standard Club’s shots are about is being big and powerful, but also slow and requiring plenty of chargeup. Skyscraper (but not Babel) actually doesn’t have its shots be as big as those of Ore Club’s (Ore is the base Club), but it more than makes up for it with incredible power that even has them able to destroy higher Shot Cancel projectiles through the immense base damage. On the topic of Shot Cancel, all projectiles in KIU have 3 values to determine whether the given projectile gets to continue through interaction with an entity: Shot Cancel, where the projectile must have the higher value–a tie will not suffice; Shot Stamina, which is reduced by an interacting shot’s Base Damage value with the projectile of course falling at 0 left; and Shot Pierce, the maximum number of entities a shot can hit before being used up. On standard, Clubs’ Shots have above average values for all 3 in spades, most notably the Neutral Shots already having 5 Shot Cancel, which beats out the 4 Shot Cancel for the DASH Shots of standard weapons. This allows Club Shots to have a clear advantage in attrition when they can’t be stopped so easily.

The big advantage of standard Club Shots is that the low velocity can be used to the Club user’s advantage to disrupt escape routes with trapping ability. Standard Club Shots actually have very long range which again is made irrelevant by the low velocity, at least in terms of landing a direct hit, but it does allow them to last a while. Skyscraper makes the most of this with the extreme combination of both, also having the highest range of any Club other than Earthmaul and Hewdraw Clubs, on top of the incredible damage to prevent any ideas of simply taking the trap shot to avoid the ever compromising position of being up close against a Club, so there’s something to help make sure positioning is more important.

Also helping is that for all Clubs other than Atlas and Magnus, the Neutral Shot innately has the Slip Shot property, which allows the projectile to ignore terrain. The Dash Shots still have added power and trapping potential going for them, but the Neutral Shot can be used to bolster defilade usage, especially with the relatively higher velocity allowing for a sudden hit sometimes.

Suffice to say that everybody getting projectiles does help when the projectile usage is kept subtle enough to make sure character theming doesn’t get broken. But surely there would have to be more measures to make sure the gameplay doesn’t become so much about projectile warfare.

Miscellaneous aspects

This is referring to stuff that, for the most part at least, doesn’t fit into the above 2 sections, and also won’t fit into the section after this, which you can guess what that will be about even if you haven’t scrolled down because it will be absolutely big.

I will first cover the aspect that would fit into the second section, but it’s obscure enough to warrant being part of this one and making sure the section isn’t too short. The mechanic in question is indicated by a loading screen tip that mentions how directly dodging an attack provides some chargeup. This mechanic has been dubbed Parry Chargeup, after the point of directly going toward an attack to use a Parry Dodge (Dasharounds won’t work) in order to gain chargeup, ala Cuphead’s Parry mechanic. Since projectiles would be the big concern at any range, this would already be beneficial to Clubs without further favors, especially when their own Shots are harder to Parry Dodge to welcome effect. What really has Parry Chargeup help Clubs, of course, is the provided chargeup amounts: they’re almost proportionate to the chargeup requirements, and not only that, but the rates are generally based on the weapon families with Clubs getting the highest percentage at about 31.25% before the added base.

What this results in is Clubs being able to use Parry Dodges to mitigate their chargeup drawback, using attempts at free offense exploiting their weaknesses against their opposition. This particularly makes their Neutral Shots even more capable of surprises when they can come out a full second earlier. Even without that, the general reduced wait in chargeup is a clear boost providing more of those big Shots that can be used to discourage the opponent from not considering burst damage attacks that inevitably have nuances for the Club user to work with, which is going to be the big explanation for what make Club balance work in KIU as I’ll get into.

I also mentioned earlier about a stamina mechanic. While this could be improved, such as having an actual meter showing remaining Stamina, the idea with the Stamina mechanic is that running too much depletes Stamina, and running out leaves the player winded and unable to move for a moment. Stamina is gradually restored otherwise in general, and that includes when walking. Besides being unable to just run past all the enemies (darn you, balanced gameplay!), the inability to run too much makes escape from enemies harder, and this again gives the heavy hitters a chance to catch up. Further making sure that this happens, is Clubs getting the most Stamina of any weapon family, clocking in at 12 seconds worth, compared to the next highest, from Cannons, being 10.5 seconds. A Club user can consequently afford to run more frequently, further evening out the speed contest to cut down on beating a Club user just by having superior walking speed than the Club user’s running speed.

Running also has a forced wait before being able to do a dodge move at all. This not being around in Smash Bros. contributed to obnoxious gameplay there by rewarding hawk-dove games where players milking the obvious roll back out of run shenanigans couldn’t care less about their own finesse and the result was system exploitation that favors faster characters. This is kept from happening in Kid Icarus Uprising, so if you run, you actually have to stop well before an attack would hit where you would travel or you’re getting socked good from being unable to transition into a dodge move. It’s telling when there’s a reason I would prefer the game where dodge moves last 2/5 of a second with intangibility for 3/10 to 11/30 of a second, to a game where the dodge moves last at least 9/20 of a second with intangibility for at most 1/3 of a second, obviously less for all cases that aren’t Samus’s Rolls; and you can bet it’s because running is committal.

And yes, dodge moves are less committal, so counterattacking sooner is more feasible. Also, if you’re wondering which of the two provides the 11/30 second (IOW, more) intangibility between Parry Dodges and Dasharounds, it’s Dasharounds, which can only be done close to an opponent, fancy trying that against somebody with a megaton hammer and solid ability to guess your movement. 3/10 second intangibility for Parry Dodges, meanwhile, is so not what it’s cracked up to be that it’s actually worth noting that there is a frame perfect Advanced Technique of inputting for Parry Dodge and then Dash Attack immediately after to do a Dash Attack with the Parry Dodge’s intangibility provision, and the reason for noting as much is that the Dash Attack inevitably lasts much longer than the intangibility with this technique even with any Claws’ Side Shot. That’s how under control move intangibility is outside cases like Evasion+ getting involved, despite the game’s lack of a stale dodges mechanic that would have become welcome to discourage abuses.

The point about move speed brings up my final miscellaneous point: general attack speed between attacks. Primarily, my focus is comparing melee attacks to range attacks in this regard to punctuate how distinct they are. The lowest committal time for a Dash Shot goes to Claws’ Side Shot at 11/15 of a second, and for a Dash Rapid, it’s a tie between the Claws’ Side Rapid and Claws’ Back Rapid at 4/5 of a second. Since Claws are generally more focused on melee and have the best speed stats in the game, I’ll just state that 1st place outside anything involving Claws is a tie at 9/10 of a second from Blades’ Forward Rapid, Palms’ Forward Shot, and Arms’ Forward Shot. Compare to Blades’ Melee Dash Attack having 2/3 second of committal time, or the Melee Combo 1 of any weapon family, including Clubs, requiring less than half a second, and sure hitlag becomes an added factor for melee attacks, except an attack already has to land its mark for hitlag to be involved, at which point it’s normally redundant for a 1V1 scenario. Also of help is how early the melee attacks hit from when they start, even with Clubs, which do so 1/6 of a second for the Melee Combo 1, and 2/15 of a second for the Melee Dash Attack, both generally forcing reads for dodges for anybody who doesn’t have above average reaction time. Even the Forward Shot of Clubs releases about half a second into the attack. This is why the committal time of attacks can be punishing: because it provides so much vulnerability to ambushes.

Of course, this can still only do so much to mitigate the point that Clubs still have the worst attack times of any weapon family, the only possibly worthwhile strength being the late release of the Dash Shots making the Spin Shot technique easier, but skill can be used to overcome this, even if this does become strict with Claws’ and Staves’ Forward Shots, or Cannons’ Back Shots; and Clubs don’t even gain momentum when using Dash Shots anyway. In the meantime, there’s still attack interruption being an issue at all, because something was happening to have Bowser turned into a pi(n)ata in the allegedly balanced Super Smash Bros. Melee, and even in the later games, a character clearly has to have mobility and/or projectiles to not be instant trash. The underlying problem that heavies have to deal with is that they’re basically heavy infantrymen who get beaten by cavalry types instead of the other way around, while STILL having their issues against artillery types aggravated. Something drastic would have to get involved.

Fortunately, Kid Icarus Uprising provides that something drastic, and you can guess what it is.

The Power system

This is a mechanic that I would repeatedly speak highly of, and while there are issues that I still have in its handling (needing to collect Powers, having absolutely no way to regen them mid-battle other than dying, and also a lack of global check against spamming Powers with the casting animation for their intangibility), the merits outweigh the defects by a large margin, so much so that I would need to spend much of this post talking about it.

The Power system, explained in-universe as Palutena’s support in place of a machine gun robot girlfriend, is about using activation abilities, called Powers, for a sudden boost in momentum, to shift the tide of battle in the user’s favor whenever they wish. The available options for Powers and their effects are varied and, as both the localization and the original Japanese name of “kiseki” (lit. “strange impression”, actually “miracle”) would imply, far-reaching. Activation is done by pressing on either the Power’s icon on the touch screen, or the assigned button for “Use Power” (defaulted to Up on the D-Pad) when highlighting the Power. The highlighted Power is changed with the “Select Powers” buttons (defaulted to Left/Right on the D-Pad) to shift between them, or the player can put the stylus on the touch screen and slide to go through the Powers that way too.

Input already brings up a point about how any Power activates on the very first frame of input where applicable, and if not immediately so, there’s also a full second of buffer checking for a change in that, also possible to cancel by attempting to use another Power, which resets to buffering for that. This allows any Power to come up without worry about interruption. Buff Powers (Powers that provide temporary status buffs) particularly benefit because they can also be done during a Getup option other than the Attack Getup, or also in the middle of a Neutral Shot or Rapid/Swing attack; and they will not interrupt or be interrupted by the player’s current non-Power behavior, which means they won’t disrupt the flow of battle in an unexpected manner. Because of the clear availability, Powers are but a mere thought away in usage to a player with firm handling of the involved controls, and I can tell you despite, or actually because of, being a natural southpaw how that becomes enjoyable when setting Powers to ABXY because all the Power usage is handled by my right pinky finger.

This is not even mentioning how Power choosing actually provides the player something to do during dead time. Melee Tornado characters enjoy viable activity in dead time; just ask the Flame Veteran in Battalion Wars while he’s off commanding his anti-armor support to clear the way for his infantry burning or whatnot. And when you’re slower, you can expect more of that dead time.

Ease of controls for an entire mechanic capable of varying effects, while not all that much for bolstering Mighty Glaciers, is obviously just the beginning. I will go into my own Power setup for Skyscraper because I do of course have experience with that, although there are people who could bring up ideas like Invisible Shots. My setup is built to involve active versatility with a more simple yet effective approach, though the setup goes into key design aspects that ultimately compliment Club usage.

Armor Powers

Where better to start than the very Power that had me sold on Kid Icarus Uprising. I refer to none other than Super Armor. I mentioned at the beginning how unconditional flinching is aggravating and the Mighty Glacier suffers the worst of the deal, inevitably snowballing into favoring the Meta Knights or Bayonettas of the world or any other such characters who don’t have given tactics that get rendered worthless in general checking them. Super Armor opens up a whole new world of possibilities, because no longer is just getting hit a death knell; just activate it and you’re immune to knockback for a good while.

What this especially allows is direct counterattacking. The stuntime would already be removed from play, which alone is significant in getting an attack out sooner, and if an attack is already being thrown about when hit, any time spent on windup would no longer be at risk of being wasted on the interruption. Suddenly, those super strong blows are coming through instead of getting tangled by some frame perfect timing into having to be done in a vacuum where they are stuck with their telegraphing regardless. Attacks with low windup, which have been obnoxious in Smash Bros., get equalized in particular and that allows any high cooldown drawback to come into play. What I especially like to do with as much against melee rushes is to deliberately delay my attack, most notably in a round of Clashing, so that yes I do get hit, except I can then counterattack to deal the megaton damage I have to work with, catching the opponent getting too tense with the attacking while I poetically show a sense of finesse. Equally useful from the counterattack prospect is the removal of the same impunity that allows combos, which besides also gimping multi-hit attacks (including Babel Club’s non-Back Shots, to be sure) especially prevents touch of death hits outside attack power boosts of varying degrees, since not even Flintlock Staff’s Forward Shot at maximum range deals enough damage at base to achieve 1HKO. These benefits and the added agency are so good that forfeiting the high Mercy Defense that could be had from being knocked into a senseless state is a small price to pay.

This Power effect additionally turns the base of hits still causing flinching from a humdrum weakness of a standardized fighting game into an invigorating strength, both for Clubs AND the game’s design. For starters, all Powers have limited charge counts, and Super Armor is definitely no exception. Even from my day 1 viewpoint, I could tell that this turns its usage into a timing game, where using it too early burns it out, but too late also means that the durability that could have been useful via the magnification would be eroded first. Further cementing people not wanting to just use Super Armor, is that it’s a Power with a considerable cost. Its Power Grid space is just low enough that its availability can be treated as a baseline standard, but by that token, since the required space is still enough to want to treat it as a staple Power, it can be traded out for other options that would involve more innovative ideas than what can be deemed as a safety net. The general design, though, IS Fridge Brilliance that I deciphered on day 1: that the Big Guy’s energy is absolutely finite, but still high, and still capable of effectiveness with the right sense of channeling; the important idea with Super Armor usage is to be the one who makes the armor, not the other way around. Even the shapes reflect that; the shape for Level 2, the Level I use with SA for reasons I’ll get into soon enough, is an awkward U shape that although it can make perfect fitting troublesome is still worth the trouble, while the shapes for Levels 3 and 4 get held down by their sizes for the most part.

There IS an aspect where Powers generally have cost effectiveness being higher at higher Levels, probably an attempt to encourage perfect fits. It’s kind of iffy, kind of reducing reward for Power options, and kind of favoring speedsters who would want their Powers to be at higher Levels instead of using the Power system as a potential swiss army knife as again I’ll get into. Super Armor is again among the Powers that has this going on, having its charge count equal to its Level, but it’s not such a big deal, because it’s only really useful for mitigating the punishment of getting hit. Clubs will still hit hard enough through it, so using Super Armor would need some actual justification for flow; otherwise, its usage will be just a reckless gamble on having superior raw power, which Clubs have the clear advantage with. This is where the base of unconditional flinching in gameplay helps Clubs now, because plenty of players will not carry around Super Armor, so they flinch upon getting hit and are every bit as subject to comboing or whatnot as ever, but Clubs, using Super Armor, won’t be worrying about that, definitely not too soon.

This also ties into the defense boost, which reduces damage by 30%. Division defense is capable of its own grating issues by suffocating burst damage, but the boost here is actually inoffensive, especially with Super Armor’s cost, and Super Armor’s potential to be treated as a baseline can turn the thinking around, into the lack of the boost that more ambitious players would go through magnifying damage taken by 142%, which does support high end damage quite nicely. It even helps the point that Super Armor at Level 2 and above has potential for trading against either less cost-effective Buff Powers such as Slip Shot, Bumblebee, and Playing Dead, or usage of multiple Buff Powers simultaneously, which seems innocuous even considering that Super Armor lasts longer than the standard buff (20 seconds compared to the bar of 16), but it can actually help buffer the nastier combinations until the time to really counterattack comes.

If that isn’t enough, there are 3 other Buff Powers that prevent knockback, although 2 are expensive with only 1 charge apiece regardless of Level (Aries Armor and Libra Sponge) so I won’t go over them. Instead, I’ll go over the remaining one, Counter, which has its reward part of its risk-reward aspect be cost-effectiveness. Counter needs only half the space count Super Armor does to achieve the same charge counts, so already it’s consistently useful for Clubs, especially when few Buff Powers will trade cost-effectively with Counter and they’re not ones you can expect results from. By the way, Counter’s max Level is 3 but it starts off at 4 spaces with 2 charges for Level 1.

What makes Counter really good for Clubs, is why it lives up to its name: getting hit instantly provides a free Neutral Shot. As you can guess, Counter being active means that Clubs can seriously mitigate their high chargeup weakness, which is around to prevent a flood of Club Shots, by getting hit. This speaks for itself even without the knockback prevention to also ensure that this doesn’t get cut off, and it’s even more powerful than Parry Chargeup as well. How do you get around this? Simple: keep the attack count low and focused with burst damage strikes, so as to not have to contend with a potential imitation of DLN-007 that isn’t stuck with NES AI. Nobody wants to take those heavier hits themselves without good reason, and compared to Super Armor, Counter’s damage taken reduction is not nearly as high, clocking in at only 5%, 10% at most.

The obvious explanation to Counter costing so little can be deduced for the perspective of most weapon types: the free Neutral Shot is redundant and the knockback immunity, while lasting 20 seconds like it does with Super Armor, is only so helpful when the damage taken is still there. For Clubs, there’s another explanation, namely that when the Counter user is hit, there’s also automated aiming and virtually forced immediate attacking at the attacker. The automated aiming already prevents using the free Shot as a good trap shot, and also interferes with certain mobility options, and while the forced attack can catch the opponent in cooldown anyway, sometimes this can be useless or even a bad thing, which you just know some Powers are going to make sure of as much. The forced attack can be delayed by buffered dodging or going into a state that prevents using a Neutral Shot (Super Speed movement) as need be, but it will still be buffered by default otherwise, though it won’t interfere with the natural chargeup of another Shot before the forced attack. The Counter trigger as a whole can at least be prevented by using Neutral Rapid/Swing, and the knockback immunity is still maintained this way, but by doing this, the free chargeup is aborted. Even then, it’s still nice to at least have some modicum of control over this.

Ultimately, Counter has different, and more sophisticated mechanics, though it still achieves the effect of allowing for potentially being better at the handling of the counterattack aspect, with the only real concerns being bids at extreme tempo and usage of its power against itself.

Let’s not forget that both Super Armor and Counter are Buff Powers and consequently involve their rules, which by the way includes a limit of 3 simultaneous Buff Powers active (the oldest one will get removed), not that that affects my own usage since I have only 2 Buff Powers in my setup anyway (Super Armor and Counter, of course), just that it affects anybody else’s. What I particularly want to point out again, is that the Buff Powers can be used during general Getups, especially with the lenient buffer. The combination of this that means that even when the base unconditional flinching does catch me, it still doesn’t aggravate me here because I can just immediately activate one of my Armor Powers and end the chaining shenanigans in case the Getups somehow aren’t enough. That’s how much of a Godsend the Armor Powers are when their mere existence is clearly stress relief without degenerating into brokenness.

But of course, all this leading into allowing for much needed direct approaches to be viable only helps so much. It does at least discourage opponents from doing some brain-dead melee rushing when Clubs don’t have to fear being beaten around by melee attacks. However, this doesn’t quite address longer range combatants who can still use faster footwork to maintain a kept distance and potentially even mock the trap shots. Thankfully, there’s still 18 spaces, which would be assuming Super Armor and Counter at max Level, left on the Power Grid to work with. The other half of the equation does in fact help with addressing attempts to open distance.

Tag Powers

When all is said and done, projectiles can be a necessary evil as a way to siege enemies playing too much defense into submission. Without them, having to personally move into a clustered mess is never a promising prospect and gives the opponent more credit than they probably warrant. However, they bear being brought up on the count of the exact opposite problem involving camping: providing a safety net resource to somebody who doesn’t have map control and can even punish a player for even caring about it. Not helping is that even the best of variety can all too easily blend together when when it’s just not reasonably challenged, which keepaway to handle projectiles threatens to involve if it isn’t checked.

Mobility is a basic answer to projectile usage, as it allows for easier control of the ability to choose your distance from the opponent at a given time. Getting closer is not challenging with higher mobility, but the problem is that not every character choice is going to have mobility. Skyscraper Club is particularly bad off without Powers, with its only mobility advantage over Ancient Staff, itself the least mobile weapon type in the game, being higher Stamina, which is completely strategic, whereas Ancient Staff at least maintains Dash Rapid/Shot momentum for Spin Shots. This is mixed in with the low effective range, so Powers would have to come to the rescue.

There are a few Powers, unofficially dubbed Tag Powers, that allow for a method of sudden distance closure for a brief moment that benefits close range burst damage–naturally, Clubs have precisely that in general. Tag Powers aren’t incredible in matchups against opponents who themselves have focus on close range, but less coverage for matchups that the Armor Powers are already useful enough for is a small price to pay to have better ability to disrupt obvious answers, to the point where I actually have Super Armor at L2 instead of the max of L4 on my setup, because believe me when I say those 4 extra spaces are useful for more Tag Power involvement. (You can also count Invisible Shots as a Tag Power other than it innately allowing distance closure, by the way.)

I will go into the 2 burst movement options I have on my setup: Jump Glide and Super Speed. Both require some tactical setup to make sure they play out correctly, but they can allow for shifting faster than Brawler Claws can run without its own mobility boost, allowing for landing point blank strikes on efficient reads, and on my setup, each of them has 5 charges, so they don’t dry up so easily. There’s also knockback immunity during the durations, though the durations aren’t so long and the surrender of movement options does keep the knockback immunity under control.

The way Jump Glide works is that the glide momentum is initially based on one’s momentum upon its use, with any direction change in mid-glide having to go through an acceleration factor. You might think that Clubs wouldn’t achieve good momentum for the glide, but in fact, the initial part of a dash actually provides high speed that decelerates to the weapon type’s intended running speed. Jump Glide getting triggered during the part of the dash before the deceleration allows high distant travel. While this can be disrupted by consistent harassment, when it isn’t, Jump Glide allows for moving far, with the added benefit of clearing chasms or height-based obstacles to an extent. Of course, the glide does restrict attacking ability to the Neutral Shot/Rapid/Swing, which at least can let Skyscraper catch an opponent by surprise with a Neutral Shot, for better or worse but it’s great for clipping off an Energy Charge use, though the user’s altitude will have this also demand precise aiming and reading by shooting at a given position to make up for the Shot’s angle needing to be tilted downward and limiting its coverage.

Super Speed, while having higher costs, has significantly more consistency: it involves running at 2.5 times the user’s general running speed for 6 seconds, during which the user takes half damage from attacks as well. The direction turning’s limit this time around is going into a sudden stop when trying to turn at too sharp an angle, though the turning angle without going into said stop is actually competently wide, I believe around 30 degrees off center, definitely enough that I could notice it far more than I could ever notice Directional Influence in Smash Bros. at all because of how ineffective that mechanic is.

The attacking capability when within Super Speed movement is a Forward Shot/Rapid/Swing or non-manual Melee Dash Attack. For Skyscraper, the Forward Shot, although given some predictability by the inability to do other attacks in general, is kept useful by being not only at point blank where its lower velocity and lack of innate Slip Shot compared to the Neutral Shot is a non-issue, but also having enough time to re-aim and catch the opponent likely spooked by the movement jump scare.

Super Speed can be used to escape bad situations as well, thanks to the jump in mobility, and the primary counterbalance to this, its full Line cost regardless of its Level, is unlikely to bother Skyscraper Club, because Slip Shot doesn’t make the Dash Shots much harder to dodge in their still low velocity, Aries Armor lacks the cost-effectiveness to manage a sense of staying power, and Trade-Off is a complete gamble that Skyscraper’s abysmal speed turns into a long shot. On my setup, though, Super Speed is one more reason Counter isn’t so mindless just because it’s synergetic with Skyscraper Club, because getting clipped still causes the automated aiming of Counter to activate, and this has had me lose a Super Speed escape attempt to suddenly aiming and thus moving toward the opponent I want to get away from. I don’t want to open distance often anyway, but in some scenarios, most notably the opponent having Aries Armor or Trade-Off active, Counter becomes a complete liability, and the only mercy is that at least a Counter-triggered Neutral Shot stays buffered when in Super Speed state, though that’s only really more helpful for handling movements.

All the same, the two burst mobility options do allow for getting closer with little warning, so the kiters can be kept on edge at least. However, even without the added limitations to the burst mobility, the more mobile weapon types can just as easily turn usage of Super Speed and Jump Glide into the speed game that becomes a losing battle for Clubs. Something more foolproof would have to be involved or none of this means a thing. Fortunately, there is a Power so useful, so drastic, that it actually needs only the 2 charges it gets to defeat setups that theoretically stump it. Ladies and gentlemen, cue the music “Boss Battle 2” from this game, because I introduce to you…..

B L A C K H O L E

This is the big safeguard against obvious kiting efforts, so much so that it needs its own section especially when it involves a more meta mechanic. Black Hole is classified as an Attack Power by the game, such where it can’t be used with other Attack Powers, and this by the way includes Mega Laser for anybody coming from Super Bash Sisters and remembering about Palutena’s Final Bash hiding behind a potential excuse that she’s the goddess behind the Powers, which doesn’t change the issues in advertising Black Hole’s usage. Well, theoretically, it could, if she would be testing mortals because come on, that’s just what these questionable at face value deities supporting the good guys do. One would hope anyway that Palutena would be doing that to see if she’d get called out for having the followup to Black Hole be Mega Laser on mere concept rather than any game-based limitations to show us mortals as working off of a little something called creativity.

The reason for that is that Black Hole is actually more of a support Power. What it does is generate a black hole (obviously) within a set distance. The black hole has both a wide, strong vacuum effect and a damage effect at the epicenter. The damage is absolutely minor, although it can’t be Parry Dodged, which can provide utility support as will be covered in case you can’t guess how.

What makes Black Hole every bit as useful as I imply? Simple: the vacuum effect. This makes Black Hole into a method of keeping opponents rooted to a particular position denying their escape. Palutena’s Final Bash does make use of this to have the opponents consistently stuck in position that Mega Laser is used on, but that doesn’t answer any questions to why generally use Black Hole. The answer, though, is actually obvious here: close range burst damage.

The shortcoming of the burst mobility options is that the opponent could still use their own mobility without issue. Black Hole locks that notion out by keeping foes in a consistent place where they can’t escape distance closure for a pivotal moment, and without the ability to move well, they have to take the brunt of the most powerful followup. Skyscraper particularly works off of its naturally 2HKOing Forward Shot for this purpose, making sure that Black Hole is even more terrifying. This especially helps when Black Hole also still allows any attack option as opposed to being restricted to one or two like what Super Speed and Jump Glide cause.

I’m making Black Hole sound like it’s broken, but there are actual countermeasures, just that those countermeasures have their own stipulants. The first way to disrupt Black Hole usage, is to destroy the followup with an attack of your own. Skyscraper Club’s followup is likely going to be a Forward or Side Shot, which plenty of weapons aren’t going to be able to take on directly with no way to 1HKO the Shot via either enough base attack power or a minimum Shot Cancel value. Weapon types that can manage to do that are more bound to stand out and have their own drawbacks that would make them easier to catch at all, and that’s when Skyscraper doesn’t bait the attack attempt out, quite possibly using an Armor Power to plow through it, so as to have the defender dealing with the attack on an emptied tank.

The second way, and the one that ensures added depth, is using Powers to keep Black Hole from simply being used. The ones that most exemplify the depth involved are the Armor Powers. As a rule of thumb, if a Power prevents flinching, it also nullifies wind effects on the user, and this includes the Black Hole vacuum. I had initially thought that this would make Black Hole situational, but when I did try Black Hole out in response to managing success with a more subtle manner of countering a kiting manual unit type in Battalion Wars 2’s multiplayer (protected Submarine tempo against the manual Sub if you must know), I ended up with a success story against an Aries Armor setup by using Black Hole on it after the Aries Armor was gone and realized that in truth, Powers still eventually dry up, at which point they aren’t around to protect against Black Hole.

This provision of demand for regard to Power management completes the depth of the Power system that Super Armor already showed, with the limited charge counts disrupting earlier protection buffing, and the fact that the defensive Powers still use Power Grid space reducing viable offense to more tolerable levels. Once again, the standard Armor Powers favor the Mighty Glaciers, and Black Hole makes their exclusion even more drastic on a setup.

Of course, the threat of having a sufficient countering Power at all still exists, a way to prevent Black Hole from just being thrown about. I caught onto this too, and came up with a practice called Grid Reading. This builds off of the point that Powers use different Tetris-style shapes and are to be fit onto a 6×6 grid called the Power Grid. What Grid Reading is, is mentally putting together the shapes of the Powers the opponent has used, especially to determine any weak points and work from there. The intent is, of course, to avoid losing Black Hole charges to a countering Power, though it can also become useful for other purposes, most notably combatting Powers that require a full line.

The full line Powers need their own point because 4 of them had proven infamous: Aries Armor, Trade-Off, Slip Shot, and Bumblebee. All 4, without their Power Grid involvements, would be heavily biased against Mighty Glaciers in different ways, with Aries Armor involving heavy division defense exploitation for its duration; Trade-Off adding a big offense boost, a minor mobility boost, and flat invincibility for its potentially long enough duration; Slip Shot having projectiles suddenly ignore defilade for its 3 charges worth of duration at max Level; and Bumblebee nullifying the damage of an individual attack per auto-dodge.

Why aren’t these Powers hopeless situations unto themselves? Because the first 3 actually require a full row and column (aside from Slip Shot L1, which comes close enough and has only 1 charge), which in case you can’t see why that is significant means that they contradict any Powers requiring a full line on the spot. This is particularly significant with Slip Shot, because that has the most kiting potential of the 3 by a wide margin, so having it contradict Super Speed or Bumblebee quickly enough damages its ability to shut out sudden distance closure or especially the ability to protect Energy Charge, and if a line Power is instead used, that’s an immediate signal that terrain cover won’t get gimped by Slip Shot, making sure that defense can be maintained against, for example, the offense that Bumblebee would be shielding. Also worth noting that Slip Shot + Autoreticle has one of the two needing to be at Level 1 because Autoreticle Level 2 and above requires a full line, so Autoreticle ends up with either minimized duration or an inability to support multiple Slip Shot charges, and only in the combination of both can a Power requiring a full line be added. This is how easily the full row and column cost can snowball.

Aries Armor and Trade-Off have a reduction in some of their ability to cause issues as well. While they are more focused on pulling an overpowered melee rush, which is the exact opposite extreme, and while Power Thief and Virus, which also require a full line, aren’t commonly used, the mere presence of a line Power still becomes a morale boost, and it certainly makes Power Thief and Virus clearer about being anti-armor Powers. Power Thief is subtler about that notion, but manages by targeting the Power system with granting the user the ability to rob the opponent of Power charges by landing melee attacks. Which Power gets taken is random but seems to roll for a Power Grid space occupied by a Power that has charges left, and nearly anything getting taken for what I have is going to be a hindrance about catching the opponent at range, so it becomes a good thing that Power Thief contradicts Trade-Off on the spot when I can just use Counter without fear of being subject to extreme tempo.

Grid Reading in general is hard to develop, especially when line Powers are less likely to involve more advanced contradictions and Powers that don’t quite justify requiring a full line, such as Energy Charge, work more off of being chunky, but there are some other worthwhile mnemonics, such as Reflect Barrier having pure rectangle shapes that widen at higher Level, culminating in Level 4 having a 2×6 rectangle, which, yes, contradicts Slip Shot even at Level 1. Additionally, certain Powers at given Levels require one of the 4 center spaces, which their usage would have implications about them being chunky or arguably oddly-shaped, but Pisces Heal unconditionally requiring a center space limits the choices of accommodating Powers when it’s used with Trade-Off, which already has the easy mnemonic of reducing the space for anything else to a 5×5 area, and Pisces Heal’s shapes also prevents the Massage Chair shape (Health Recovery L3, Warp L3, Homing Boost L3, Angelic Missile L3, Tempura Attack L1, or Spite L1) or its objective shape expansions from fitting in the combination, further ensuring that Pisces Heal + Trade-Off has a drawback compared to Libra Sponge + Aries Armor to help justify the definite power edge, since Libra Sponge in the Aries Armor combination can actually avoid needing a center space at L1 or be relatively squeezed in enough to add in the Massage Chair shape at L2.

Energy Charge’s mnemonics are a bit more complicated, although its popularity could actually soften the blow: each Level of Energy Charge has 1 of the 4 center spaces at least flanked, if not outright used–Level 3 doesn’t use any center spaces but does flank 3 of them treating the directly flanked one as a used space, even if the space’s not being used is an important distinction when Energy Charge is used with Slip Shot, despite being outed because the other Levels DO use at least 1 center space outright. Energy Charge has its charge count directly equivalent to its Level, so each recharge actually has implications, especially when having it at Level 2 or above to account for reads means that Energy Charge has multiple, adjacent rows ending up with an effective width of 4 spaces, which can interfere with some key fits, most notably preventing Playing Dead if Slip Shot is around as well. These key factors allow Energy Charge to be subject to Grid Reading as I had actually done before despite the lack of a line Power’s presence in the combination.

There’s probably more examples that I’m not touching upon here, but what allows for Grid Reading to get going is surviving onslaughts enabled by Powers, and where better to go than cost-effectiveness with the Armor Powers. Counter has a charges per 4 spaces value of 2 at L1 going up from there to a maximum of 2.67, so even before mixing in the above average duration, it actually beats many individual Buff Powers reliably in that regard, actually tying with the low-key disruption Status Attacks. When it isn’t worrying about tempo that overwhelms the free shots, this allows it to trade against Buff Powers as a whole. Of course, surgical strikes and insane combinations are an issue, and something would be needed for that. Fortunately, Super Armor is up at bat for that, and even though it has half the cost-effectiveness at L2 to L4 that Counter has at L1 to L3, even at L2 Super Armor is solid at buffering multiple Buff Powers, and even instantly trades with Energy Charge before Level 4, Bumblebee, Lightweight, Slip Shot, Playing Dead, Trade-Off, and all 3 Zodiac Powers. The Power trading aspect becomes important because the Powers of the player defending against Grid Reading could be driven into burnout in combination with giving the player doing the Grid Reading more intel than the defender could welcome.

The summary of Grid Reading is that it ultimately lets Black Hole punish offense Power spam AND defense Power burnout. Of course, it IS complex, but even without Grid Reading, plenty of Powers that do protect against Black Hole are not foolproof, being inept against Skyscraper Club, having actual ways to outmaneuver them, or even potentially backlashing; or any combination of those 3, really. Counter is the standout example of the first, as it does not trade against burst damage well, which means that in the matchup against Skyscraper Club, Counter’s low cost becomes justified by lacking flow against any part of the setup that isn’t Black Hole. Reflect Barrier becomes an example of the second one; although it’s particularly an imitation of judo against Skyscraper Club, it can end up twitched and then Black Hole can be placed where the defender would get dragged out of its protection, and even if Reflect Barrier IS used in direct response, Super Speed can just allow for a rush through the barrier to overwhelm the defense. As for potential backlash, there is of course Bumblebee which besides the full line requirement giving away the lack of leveled Slip Shot also involves the auto-dodges having forced clockwise movement around the attacker, even getting stopped if terrain gets in the way, which can allow for looping hits with Black Hole that eventually clips off the protected Energy Charge, or even causing the Bumblebee user to get moved with little choice right into the strong attack before they can react. Aspects like these ensure that even the protection against Black Hole usage has to be handled well, and when even pure panic buttons can get faked out into uselessness, it shows.

Of course, the obvious solution against these ideas with Black Hole would be to just not use Powers in the first place except as pure reaction. This, however, has to contend with how the Club user could prepare their relatively more passive Powers, which on my setup is Counter, Super Speed, and Jump Glide, to call out an apparently empty hand by waiting for them to crack into using Powers. Black Hole only even needs 6 spaces anyway, so managing this or something similar shouldn’t ever be unreasonable. The end result is that overcommitted attacks get walled by Armor Powers, lax sieges can get subject to ambushes such as with a surprise inspection use of Black Hole, and excessive defending provides Counter and the burst mobility Powers more space to work with for setup.

This is really the big explanation for why Black Hole becomes such a Godsend: directly or indirectly, it creates much needed chaos that makes distance warfare FAR more interactive, and when distance warfare is more interactive to useful effect, the Mighty Glacier’s worst weaknesses stop being so condemning.

Challenge Factor

Now this section is actually going to delve into points that don’t make my setup more powerful, and if anything would make it less so, but generally in a manner that punctuates that all of the strengths I mentioned above are kept satisfying by being the reward for perseverance through clear weaknesses and input demand to overcome.

I won’t go in depth on the speed-based factors (bad attack speed, the 2 hit limit on the Melee Combo, the wanting mobility, the bad velocity) on their own innate factors because those would speak for themselves, although read-based punishment against getups is worth a quick mention for being a case of “fair is fair” even if the resulting gameplay is more desirable. Of course, anything that merely heightens the speed issues is fair game. Notably, the 2 hit Melee Combo further puts demand on a sense of finesse because the final hit of a Melee Combo has does in fact have the most committal time of any of the hits and ideally it should only be thrown out when it is sure to hit. There’s also Melee Clashing to contend with–while I am not clear on the specifics, Melee Clashing does happen with the collision of 2 melee attacks regardless of the attacks’ individual strength, which can run afoul of some issues and certainly isn’t nice to Clubs, but the workaround is that Shots do avoid clashing, so they can be used to disrupt melee abuse, and even the Neutral Swing does have some reliability in providing a relatively maneuverable melee attack that has the added advantage of being possible to cancel into a dash or casting Power and even without that can transition into another move sooner than the Melee Dash Attack can. You can tell how Clubs have depth with the melee combat and having a handle on it is how their users prove they make the power, not the other way around.

It’s also worth mentioning here that most weapon families walk more slowly when trying their Neutral Rapids, but Clubs are the opposite, walking 10% faster when using their Neutral Swings, with the exception of Capricorn Club, which doesn’t get a boost at all, and Magnus Club, which walks 20% faster if it can do that instead of having to throw out its fast charging Neutral Shot. That does bring up why it’s just as well I didn’t mention this earlier as a miscellaneous point benefitting Clubs: the boost that replaces a penalty for other weapon families is feasible to have around when no chargeup is available, but it also turns Clubs’ high Parry Chargeup into an opportunity cost, because getting chargeup can lead to having full chargeup resulting in being unable to use any further Neutral Swings before throwing out a precious Shot first. This adds a sense of reward with managing Club movement by being able to move not as slowly with input management, while still wanting attention to positioning to manage the powerhouse Shots and the inevitable dodging.

Power management is also worth bringing up, because Clubs inevitably need them for added and consistently usable options and would likely want to have quantity over quality, which adds having to scroll between Powers more frequently. Also, once again, the Super Armor Power goes into being an input check for the player, seeing when they will use it to sponge damage and knockback at the best times, already the big reason to have the game appeal to me when it provides a happy medium that turns unconditional flinching into a design strength. Not only that, but when Counter gets added into the mix, that adds a choice of which Armor Powers to use and when with the promise of risk-reward in their handling and a maintained active sense of finesse you’d expect out of martial arts.

Tag Powers, meanwhile, are more focused on rewarding the player for being more methodical, since they’re more varied, allowing them to combat projectile management and actually punish predictability, but once again, they have to be managed well to avoid burnout issues, and the game’s already fast pace can put this to the test. Grid Reading is similarly made more impressive by overcoming the game’s pace, perhaps moreso, because there’s already needing to give the bottom screen enough glancing to keep a lookout for Power usage, providing more opportunity to be caught off-guard by a sudden development; then there’s needing to mentally put the Powers’ shapes together to determine what is going on, which would demand leg room an opponent will not provide so easily; and finally, there’s needing to figure out the underlying countermeasures, something that can require weathering the shower of shots and can be disrupted by creativity such as applying Strategem #32 with Playing Dead. Grid Reading also has the blind spot of being pure intel, and against setups that go for innovation-based risk-reward as my own actually involves with Counter on Skyscraper Club, it can become easy to throw off. Of course, that’s the real beauty of Grid Reading: that it’s more of an equalizer than anything. It’s significantly less useful in chaotic situations, in close range combat, or against setups that give up easy distance maintenance, but it’s also less needed with all 3 for obvious reasons.

The Power system also inevitably provides tools against Clubs. Slip Shot, Energy Charge, Bumblebee, Reflect Barrier, and Trade-Off ALL exist, and I can just say that much for anybody to get the picture. The damage boost Powers are also able to enable 1HKOs here and there, some of which even accounting for Super Armor’s boost, in V100 gameplay, while the notion of more nuanced anti-armor also gets handled by the likes of Power Thief, which would be good to promote to have creativity flourish. And even the Powers on my setup provide niche ability to stagger what I have to work with, granted that more general flow would still be desirable. This ultimately brings up everything the challenge of carrying some heavy hammer around to effect ends up punctuating: that those Powers providing seemingly overfavoring bias to Fragile Speedsters at face value still get overcome, inevitably by a player making a clear character choice type that already hadn’t been known for viable results in past games, and if it’s because the Armor Powers and Tag Powers are efficient at chipping away at the defenses, then that means that both manage the much needed drastic effect to carve out their own place in higher level play without eliminating the need for skill, while if the opposing Powers have weaknesses, that just brings up that the weaknesses are inevitably nuanced enough that figuring out how to capitalize to effectiveness is its own story, a story told by practices like Grid Reading. This also supports a fire-tested mind when the adaptability they bring to the table becomes able to stop any overly obvious solutions.

Oh, and by the way, the Spin Shot technique provides mix-and-match ability for Dash Shots/Rapids, except Clubs don’t get the usual momentum with Dash attacks. Fortunately for Clubs, the Spin Shot tech merely bolsters already available kiting options, but doesn’t directly add anything new that would make kiting more capable of overly unpredictable behavior.

As a final note, I realized at this point of writing this that my setup is a case of “easy to learn, hard to master” which is very much desirable and very much should be emphasized with the Mighty Glacier. It is easy to learn to use Armor Powers to block off obnoxious flinching, and equally easy to learn to use Tag Powers to catch people keeping their distance at a moment’s notice. Mastery, of course, inevitably involves things like Grid Reading, which mercifully on its memorization demand aspect other setups wouldn’t need as much other than perhaps realizing that opponents with Bumblebee are unlikely to be able to shoot through walls, though even Grid Reading has its starting points at least. It really shows, though, how Kid Icarus Uprising gets this notion right in this regard by maintaining the baseline simplicity of sacrificing speed for power but still has surprising depth encouraging understanding of the battle system and providing the tools to equalize speed edges.

In closing

I will not pretend that Kid Icarus manages the execution of Mighty Glacier balance perfectly, and obviously there are still rough edges even before getting into issues with panic button Power spam ability or weapon modifiers, or even a lack of stage builder to have symmetrical maps that don’t suck like the Arenas do. (Yes, KIU’s Final Destination versions are WAY too big, with SMALL Arena having a 50 meter RADIUS. And that’s not even going into the lack of defilade on them anyway.) However, what is available, when it doesn’t get gimped by the nastier imbalances of the game such as Evasion+ or Celestial Fireworks, is MILES better than what happens in Super Smash Bros. where you can get stuck with little way to discourage things like Mr. DLN-001 spamming his Jab/Forward Tilt/Neutral Air to the effect of creating matchup bias at the very least. Not every heavyweight will get mobility after all.

Now sure, what Kid Icarus Uprising does right for Mighty Glaciers can’t be given a 1:1 transition to Smash Bros., most notably that Armor Powers would still have to be significantly nerfed to not have the flinching prevention be unconditional. Nevertheless, Kid Icarus Uprising does have plenty of sound ideas to making the Mighty Glacier more viable, without breaking simplicity at that, and of course, Smash Bros. absolutely could stand to listen.

The Power System – why it works when it does

I was wanting to get my post about what I’d want to see in a Spiritual Successor or sequel or some such of Kid Icarus Uprising done first, but I’d rather get this out of the way before either finishing that, or providing a suspect test list for valid competitive play.

The Power System is what got me interested in Kid Icarus Uprising to begin with, and to this day, I keep finding new reason to like it, especially in the midst of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate finding new ways to vex me with its balance, up to and including Meta Knight having an easy 0-Death starting off of a grab–keep in mind that Meta Knight is faster than Ice Climbers to begin with and doesn’t have the believe me relative blind spot of needing Nana alive, and also, Nintendo has had 2 decades to get the balance right instead of letting problems like this exist at all. Considering I’ve been told to “learn to space” in response to my complaints about that idiocy, I may as well showcase: why do I like Kid Icarus Uprising’s Power System.

THE BASICS

There is some merit to basic combat, in that with naught but your wits, you’d want to come up with creative ideas, and fast. People can come up with martial arts, but that can still only go so far when positions become too expected to provide a tipping point. Something would have to be added to create more involved combat.

Enter the Power System. A wide array of activation abilities become available to the player to use as they wish. They may be used at any time, but each Power also has a limited number of charges. In addition, a given Power has to be activated manually–in combination with the charge count limit, this clarifies how Power usage end up requiring sound timing and thought, as a Power that is used too soon has to worry about burn out, while one used too late just sits there looking pretty for an already ambushed user. This applies to even the most lengthy buffs as well, ensuring that player innovation is actively rewarded instead of pinned down by oversimplified behavior.

By the way, I need to point out that the story basically indicates Powers to be divine requests, and are even called “Miracles” in the Japanese version. Also of note is how one can remember about the story of how Icarus flew too close to the sun in overexcitement and that got him to fall to his demise in the ocean because his wings melted in the sun’s heat, a cautionary tale to remember for those who would want to master the Power System. I still declare that there are some stinkers in the Power System’s balance even without weapon modifiers or excessively powerful weapon types being involved, and most of them at least are panic buttons, but don’t worry, I will clarify about that when I do, because believe me, it’s more about their genuine, extensive imbalances than any impatience I show.

As to how a player selects Powers, they can go on the Power selection screen and there will be a 6×6 Grid. Each Power will come in Tetris-style shapes (the game oddly refers to Dr. Mario despite that being different outside being another puzzle game, likely due to licensing) and similar to Tetris, the player can rotate the shapes (reversal is out of the question, of course) to try to get the shapes to fit. For convenience, the player can save 4 Grids for singleplayer, and 16 for multiplayer. Each individual Power shape can be used on as many of the Grids as desired and available, but only one chosen Level for each given Power may be used for an individual Grid.

LOOK, EVERYBODY, I SOLVED THE PUZZLE!
Even outside the actual gameplay, there’s a sense of satisfaction to be had in filling every last space. From what I figure, the game’s, at least intended, method of rewarding this is to make higher level Powers cost-effective in one way or another, which I do wonder about when it can very well favor Fragile Speedsters or Frail Snipers who would no doubt want Power tempo, but sometimes, that one extra Power charge or other provided trait can make a world of difference.

That said, I would appreciate some chipping in about similar points, because from here on out, I’m going to talk about my experience using Skyscraper Club with this Power setup:
Options! Options everywhere!
It should be noted that I can exchange away 2 Super Speed Levels for 1 Mega Laser Level; the resulting setup is generally more useful in more crowded styles of multiplayer, but I will get to that. For now, I will start with the very thing that really caught my attention with the Power system.

ARMOR POWERS

Increase defensive strength and prevent getting knocked back when receiving damage. ~ Super Armor description

Super Armor
-Spaces: 4+2L
-Shape notes: L1 is house roof shape; L2 is non-wide U shape; L3 is thick backwards L; L4 is thick non-biased L
-Charges: 1L
-Regen rate with V300 weapon: 1.3 charges
-Duration: 20 seconds
-Effect: Buff multiplies damage taken by 0.7 and prevents knockback
–Effect note: the Smart Bomb item still causes ridiculous hitstun per hit, but doesn’t prevent Power usage

Something that consistently exasperates me with Super Smash Bros.’s general sense of balance is virtually unconditional flinching. Remember my complaints about how Meta Knight can pull a 0-to-Death Combo in Ultimate before that game is even released? Up Airs in general were already capable of toxic gameplay in Smash 4 because you couldn’t even plow right through them to get back on the ground and drive off the attacker. Even if combos weren’t a problem, just losing so much agency and momentum simply because of a blatant advantage provided by the opponent’s character choice is anything but fun, and that happens when landing a hit causes the defender to flinch except in extremely few cases.

Kid Icarus Uprising has hit resulting in causing flinching too, but this doesn’t become overwhelmingly bad at all. Why? Well, you may have noticed that I had just provided the description for a Power known as Super Armor. Fighting game virtuosos may be familiar with a term like that as description of knockback prevention. What Super Armor does is rather basic: one use and you no longer need to worry about taking knockback for a good amount of time. No strings attached if you don’t mind the space cost that incidentally could go to other Powers in the hopes of them being worth not having a basic safeguard against agency loss, something a Fragile Speedster could appreciate.

This brings up what this indicates in terms of character. Who would want to keep their agency when they get hit by lighter attacks more than anybody? Mighty Glacier characters. What does the point about space usage and limited charge counts imply? Simple: that even The Big Guy doesn’t have infinite energy so much as they have a high amount of it, but by that same token, what matters is that the energy can be used well, and when it is, it can produce some very welcome results.

Also, it should be noted that a favorite tactic of mine to get around clashing against enemy melee is to stop attacking, watch the opponent slip up via button mashing finishing the Melee Combo that Super Armor sponges off, and then launch my own inevitably more brutal counterattack. This sort of thing even got validated in Dragon Ball Super–to be precise, episode 103, and in that episode’s prominent fight at that. DBS even pointed out the drawback of this tactic is how you still take the punishment of the hit and have to make sure you’re trading well to avoid wasting endurance, but it can always be better than the alternative of trying to dodge when that becomes less reasonable, and in DBS’s case, the tactic paid off, and in a surprisingly karmic way at that. It’s just catharsis when a show that has its active combatants work with martial arts to compliment their raw stats clarify that getting hit here and there is okay–what matters is what can be done with it.

And Kid Icarus Uprising avoids slouching in that department as well.

Avoid getting knocked back and automatically counter attack when hit by enemy attacks. ~ Counter description

Counter
-Spaces: 3+1L
-Shape notes: L1 is Tetris T shape; L2 is non-biased L shape; L3 is thin backwards L
-Charges: 1+1L
-Regen rate with V300 weapon: 1.5 charges
-Duration: 20 seconds
-Effect: Buff prevents knockback in return for having player just auto-aim at attack’s owner, only able to walk or Neutral Shot for a few seconds, but having full chargeup immediately

There is an alternative to Super Armor for fewer spaces without the damage cut. Its name is Counter, which adds on a counterattack feature. Of course, even preventing knockback for low cost is something welcome. Perhaps most tellingly about how I feel about post-injury agency in general, is how Kid Icarus Uprising has a MASSIVE amount of Mercy Defense clocking in at a multiplier of 1/3 for given states, and yet I would gladly risk taking the full damage of the multiple consecutive hits, over being slapped around by an opponent who wouldn’t have much trouble hitting first.

Counter provides Skyscraper Club a nice little present to make up for the still available blind spot. Technically, a free Neutral Shot for being clipped by a pebble is a present to any weapon type, but most of the time, the Neutral Shot option isn’t going to be rich in damage output. With Skyscraper Club, this is a different story, because Skyscraper Club’s projectile damage output for each shot is insane, most Clubs’ Neutral Shots which Skyscraper isn’t exception to have a Slip Shot property to pierce through terrain cover, and the shots are big enough to potentially set up traps, while the Neutral Shot isn’t being cancelled without a higher Shot Cancel attack. These traits are counterbalanced by slow enough shot velocity and high chargeup time, but Counter being triggered eliminates the latter weakness and the Neutral Shot’s velocity isn’t to be underestimated.

Is there a good basic blind spot to Counter? Yes: burst damage. Counter does virtually nothing if the user doesn’t have to worry about getting hit. Good burst damage placement will allow for eroding the user’s durability while keeping the counterattack trigger count to a minimum. I think a lot of people miss it liking their frame traps. Incidentally, people also think Bayonetta’s Witch Time in Super Smash Bros. 4 is objectively the best Down B in that game. My response? Literally the first time Witch Time was directly used against me, right here:

And by the way, if you’re viewing this after YouTube erased annotations instead of trying to improve their usability, Pac says “Air dodge baited!” in reference to how I literally thought in unfamiliarity that the WT use was an air dodge and Bayonetta says “NO! MY SECRET FAILD!”; and yes, that typo was an intentional reference to Mega Man 6. I want to say that Bayonetta already had the shortest active duration of a single Counter Move use even in 1.1.4 and that’s how I, initially unknowingly at that, gutted it with tactics intended for a basic defensive maneuver, instead of being suffocated by something that spawned horror stories of killing off of a Jab, wonder how that could have happened. It helps my case when Pac’s Smashes are slower than average, almost as if they expect me to play a game that involves reading the opponent’s movement. Interesting.

(And as a disclaimer, I do agree Bayonetta does go too far with HER shenanigans, most notably the ladder of death. It’s just that her general gameplay happens to target a common player weakness that the game generally teaches players to not address. And that’s right: much like Brawl Meta Knight before her, she feeds off of an already messy environment.)

Of course, burst damage can only do so much to check something and justify why I have Super Armor leveled in the first place to end up putting up with that bothersome U shape for Level 2. Well, there’s an answer to that: the automated movement. If I use Counter carelessly, it’s a potential deathtrap, because while I can deconstruct frame traps when it’s guaranteed the lesser of two evils isn’t going to be overwhelming, positional pokes can still have my mobility options manipulated. It goes back to why I use KB immunity Powers in the first place: I don’t like losing agency to the opponent’s character choice. (This is also why Counter actually sucks for ANY sort of defense for Magnus Club, because Magnus Club’s Neutral Shot has too little range and too much velocity for it to do anything useful.)

There’s another drawback with Counter, but one that comes into play in team battles and does highlight welcome team-based gameplay: flanking. If I get flanked with Counter active, one of the flanking opponents can keep me distracted away from the nastier surprises. Fortunately, Skyscraper Club excels at storming positions when it gets going, so I can always do counterflanking if need be, but just having to consider tactics and position in team battle because my most cost-effective Power besides Effect Recovery can easily blow up in my face is a sight to behold.

None of that even covers against Powers such as Reflect Barrier that can get me into a nasty cycle of ending up shooting at the barrier and having a reflected shot that triggers Counter for ANOTHER shot at the barrier and all that implies; or Aries Armor and Trade-Off which exploit the insane division defense they involve while Counter prevents me from just using Super Speed to escape those 2 Powers. Do I have options against those Powers?

Well, there is the key word: options. I can decide whether to use Super Armor for tempo at the cost of the long term; or Counter for cost-effectiveness while having to make sure my positioning works out well. In a game as fast-paced as Kid Icarus Uprising, decision making becomes all the more impressive. And by the way, that’s another good key point about the Power System as a whole: that even with a Mighty Glacier/Melee Tornado character choice whose very objective is closing the distance under the absolutely wanting mobility and is otherwise never dealing direct damage outside some factor of extension including a lucky shot, the Power System means that there is ALWAYS a sense of interaction, even if it proves to be more subtle. Good thing, because they are going to need it past the Armor Powers.

TAG POWERS

So I showed how Armor Powers are great for supporting a Mighty Glacier while still having good gameplay for both sides. However, Armor Powers only address the aspect of defensive power being able to work against lighter attacks. Defensive power can only do so much if you can’t tax the threat that brings it up. This isn’t a problem if the threat would want to fight you in your preferred range, but for the Mighty Glacier/Melee Tornado hybrid, any 5-year-old could come up with the answer: the threat can stay away from the Mighty Glacier/Melee Tornado hybrid constantly and watch the joke the Mighty Glacier/Melee Tornado hybrid calls their mobility make sure that distance closure is not happening. I call such a threat “kiters” and left unaddressed by the game’s balance, they can still domino the game into unhealthy character bias starting with excessive countering of raw power.

Is there a way for something like Skyscraper Club to stop this?

Fire a massive laser. ~ Mega Laser’s (terse) description

Mega Laser
-Spaces: 4+2L
-Shape notes: all 4 Levels require a full line; L4 is a 2×6 rectangle
-Charges: 1L
-Regen rate with V300 weapon: 1.2 charges
-Effect: laser fired in aiming direction with extreme range for up to 24 hits

I actually forget Mega Laser’s exact damage output in multiplayer (the training room in singleplayer only reflects the Powers’ stats in singleplayer), but I’m pretty sure it’s good enough to get Mega Laser going–I want to say it’s 6 per hit with the last hit at 8 instead. It especially helps when it deals pushback to anybody not under knockback immunity, pierces Reflect Barrier which answers that particular Power, and there’s also a Power called Energy Charge that issues its user a buff that provides an indefinite attack boost lasting either by erasure by overriding of a 4th buff Power under the limit of 3 buff Powers at a time, which the kiter is under no obligation involve; or by getting hit at all, which Mega Laser generally guarantees.

You might be wondering, though: when I played KIU on demo on day 1, Mega Laser was on the Skyscraper Club set and it displayed competence in stopping kiters, and it also snipes off Energy Charge which of course can be exploited by kiters if left to rampage, so why do I have it at Level 1, as opposed to Level 4? The problem is, it’s not foolproof in stopping kiters. Remember that declaration I made about a lesser of two evils over frame traps? Kiters can do that sort of too, by wading through the Mega Laser, not minding if they lose Energy Charge uses as long as I can’t issue them close range burst damage to end their nastiness.

There would have to be a way to prevent kiters from escaping too easily.

Here’s the story leading up to how I found out the solution: there’s a map in Battalion Wars 2’s Skirmish Mode called Exchange of Fire. Something I tried to address that map’s camping issues was to see if the camping position could be thwarted by approaching with terrain cover, something that didn’t get through but it ended up not being a complete waste. See, I ended up with one match having me witness the manual Submarine be able to kite the manual Frigate, because the Frigate’s method of what was supposed to be a hard counter against the Submarine, the depth charges for area-of-effect damage that the Frigate fires when targeting the Submarine as well as the Frigate’s immense resistance to torpedoes, did not keep the manual Submarine from eroding over half of my manual Frigate’s health. I got by in that match, but considering the Frigate has as much resistance to torpedoes as it does, that still summarizes how bad unchecked kiting can get.

However, a later match on the same map had me able to isolate the manual Submarine, because AI is not known for more adaptive evasion than reliance on reaction time. With the manual Submarine, the player’s respective Frigate is vulnerable to Dreadnaught fire, and their other Submarines aren’t going to be evading the depth charges. Once those were out of the picture, there was nothing to deter my own Submarines from attacking the manual Submarine. What makes this different? That the Submarines’ torpedoes, thanks to their homing, absolutely can’t be dodged by targeted vessels without convenient terrain cover that was unavailable to the manual Submarine. It turns out Battalion Wars 2 was able to reward me for troop care by providing accuracy support.

What does this have to do with kiters in Kid Icarus Uprising and the solution to their shenanigans? Well, to those unfamiliar with how the game’s competitive works out, here’s the pièce de résistance.

Create a black hole that pulls enemies toward it. (Together Mode only.) ~ Black Hole’s description

Black Hole
-Spaces: 5+1L
-Shape notes: L1 and L2 use a wide U shape; L3 uses a simple U shape; L4 is a 5×5 L shape
-Charges: 2
-Regen rate with V300 weapon: 1.3 charges
-Effect: generates a black hole 15 meters forward in targeted direction that vacuums opponents within 15 meters toward it; also includes casting animation

I figured out to try something that could actively ensure accuracy against an opponent, and whaddyaknow, Black Hole was around to allow for dragging them into place where they’d be susceptible to close range burst damage–guess what Skyscraper Club has. Still, I had to figure out something against Armor Powers, because opponents could use them too and knockback immunity blocks off the vacuum effect entirely, which is actually why I’m sure I initially brushed off Black Hole as situational. Fortunately, among the successes I had in my efforts to get Black Hole going at that point, one of my opponents was an Aries Armor user, against whom I used Super Speed to get away for the time being. After the Aries Armor had dried off, out came the Black Hole and the resulting rampage, and the Aries Armor user actually couldn’t do anything.

Let me reiterate: Black Hole was able to work against a setup that actually had one of those pesky Armor Powers.

Wanting to replicate this brand of success and make sure that Black Hole would not get brought low by some unforseen factor, I wanted to study up on anything that could halt its effectiveness. Lo and behold, the common way to blunt Black Hole into Skyscraper Club Forward Shot turns out to be Powers themselves. What is the major drawback of Powers? Power Grid space that could be going to more offensive Powers such as Energy Charge or Slip Shot.

From this was birthed a concept to get this going.

Grid Reading.

Really, Grid Reading would deserve its own section, but that it does is a testament to what makes it work out nicely. It definitely explains some apparent imbalances within the Power System, I can tell you that much now. While it doesn’t explain everything because some panic button Powers are still undercosted for their efficiency without working blind spots as I point out (at the very least: Warp, Brief Invincibility, and Celestial Fireworks; though that last one is more bad execution, namely excessive intangibility provided by given Powers’ casting animation), Grid Reading allows for effectively working as a timebomb, getting to the point where fighting kiters at THEIR preferred range starts showing signs of good gameplay when their offense can be given frustration to working effect.

Black Hole also avoids being exploitable by other setups, because it’s meant to be used to keep the user in place for an easy surgical strike, when Frail Sniper characters already only care about having distance from their targets, and Fragile Speedster characters can use mobility to reach their foes naturally. To be sure, I did mention how Black Hole has a casting animation, which provides intangibility to prevent interruption. Thing is, Black Hole’s spaces per charge never gets below 3, which would be decently cost-effective for a panic button if Black Hole had a secondary reason for kiters to use it. Black Hole as a panic button even has the issue of a wait period for consecutive usage, so it can still be overwhelmed into flushing out another way to protect against Tag Power, and the hitbox of the epicenter that deals minor damage can even be used for Counter fodder.

Now with only 2 charges, Black Hole can still be overrun by panic button spam, and a kiter can just hide their Powers. This doesn’t mean that Black Hole is useless at all, but it doesn’t guarantee the opponent will just twitch into bad Power usage. It can happen, which for example keeps Reflect Barrier from hard countering Counter and Black Hole, as Counter usage can bait out the Reflect Barrier and then Black Hole can be used to vacuum the opponent out of the Reflect Barrier’s protection; but what would really be a desirable compliment would be a psychological tool that calls out attempts to not use Powers outside reaction. The good news? There’s one last Tag Power for that.

Run extremely fast and knock weakened foes into the air when you bump into them. ~ Super Speed’s description

Super Speed
-Spaces: 5+1L
-Shape notes: all Levels use a full Line
-Charges: 1+1L
-Regen rate with V300 weapon: 1.5+0.1L charges
-Effect: player’s character has generally forced running movement at 2.5x running speed for 6 seconds, restricting them to forward running and forward attacks, with significant turning being slow because of momentary deceleration; running collision deals 20 damage to opponent; player’s character also takes half damage and no knockback from attacks taken in the duration
–Effect note on movement: player’s character will generally move in camera’s facing direction; control stick will only shift the angle they move in (and by the way, since the limit is high enough, I believe about 30 degrees instead of freaking 12, THIS IS MORE INTUITIVE THAN DIRECTION INFLUENCE IN SUPER SMASH BROS.)
–Effect note on Stamina: Stamina is kept at current amount, no raising or lowering

Something I have caught onto is how a standard club setup works best as a heavy infantryman, who in history had used armor and long spikes to stand against cavalry and watch them fizzle out. By that same token, however, artillery enemies could shell heavy infantrymen into submission. To be sure, the David VS Goliath trope was built off of David being a slinger up against a heavy infantryman, but in this day and age, this point of rock-paper-scissors is going to be recognized far more easily, and the hubris asked for by continuing to put too much stock in the matchup playing out as it does forgets the spirit of the trope. Goliath fell because he got arrogant and expected too much direct combat instead of somebody willing and able to use a bola with the force of a .45 handgun. Heavy infantryman would no doubt get wiser to this, though the tale as old as time remains and would even have song as old as rhyme. Fortunately, there is a way to call out artillery relying on oversimplification: cavalry move too fast for projectiles to block them out.

Super Speed allows for a momentary role conversion into cavalry. And fortunately, the burst damage is maintained, allowing that one moment to be devastating. With proper spacing and especially a focus on stage control, Skyscraper Club could use Super Speed as a way to tempt an overly defensive opponent into twitching a panic button Power here and there, wearing them down until Black Hole can clean up. This is actually more simple than Black Hole as a standardized answer, but as to be expected, Super Speed is not without its drawbacks.

For starters, Super Speed limits lateral movement. This makes dodging counterattack hard–the defense boost and knockback immunity are of course nice, but still goes back to what I said about losing agency when I mentioned about Mercy Defense earlier, although if I’m using Super Speed in the first place, that’s my choice under my motive of wanting to spend every waking effort catching opposition in close range, a motive provided by my effective character choice at that. Still, the effect is the same: I can’t very well expect to want to fail to be methodical about my character choice’s baseline weak area.

The 2.5x running speed can only do so much as well. Skyscraper Club runs at 7 meters per second, which multiplies to 17.5 under Super Speed, more than even Brawler Claws’ base of 17 meters per second. The problem lies, again, in the limitations on lateral movement, because the opponent can still dodge my attack without having to fall back on a panic button Power while working off of Super Speed’s turning deceleration issue. Obviously, I would want the opponent to burn through their panic buttons to begin with before my tag protection dries up, but Super Speed runs the risk that a direct attack would just burn itself out.

Of course, there is something cavalry are meant to be good at making good use of instead: detours.

Super Speed may limit lateral movement physically, but that doesn’t mean it can keep the user from just aiming to move to the side of their target. This can be useful for managing a read on the opponent trying to dodge in an expected direction, or even flank them despite the problematic turning. The confusion this can create and even set up, can be really handy on turning the tables on the panic button Powers, especially when panic button Powers have to worry more than buffs do about being used too late so they lose momentum when their reaction ability gets thrown off; and some safeguards against Black Hole, such as Counter, are outright useless on their own against Super Speed usage anyway.

Of course, this does bring up that Super Speed can itself be used as a catch-all panic button, something I even do against Aries Armor/Trade-Off, and Level 4 even has 5 charges for 9 spaces–in other words, 1.8 spaces per charge. What balances this out?

GRID READING

Grid Reading is a concept so welcome for the most part, surprisingly well constructed, and able to bring about better gameplay on both sides that it deserves a section all to itself. As I stated, I figured out Grid Reading trying to make sure Black Hole would work well. Obviously, numerical costs come to mind, but they can only do so much without taking a long time to add up, let alone in a fast-paced game.

There is, however, another point to consider. Remember how Powers use Tetris-style shapes?

HOW DO I FIT THIS? ;(

I’d like to shake hands–non-sarcastically too–with whoever on Project Sora made use of this idea to check certain Powers. As you can see, the Tetris-style shapes are able to interfere with placement of given Power combinations. It actually becomes so subtle with most Powers because as I can tell you, how a determined puzzle solver thinks is that they will figure out how to put pieces together, and in this case, their interest would be to fill all 36 spaces for the intended combination. Of course, as the pic right above proves, some combinations are absolutely impossible, because the pieces won’t fit regardless of rotation or placement.

The pic brings up the first thing that comes to mind: Powers that cost a full line. Any of these will immediately contradict any Power that costs a full row and column. The 3 big Powers that require a full row and column are Slip Shot L2+, Trade-Off at any level, and Aries Armor again at any level. (Explosive Flame L4 also requires a full row and column, but there’s no way to conclusively know that’s its exact Level because the only Level difference besides space usage is damage output, which is generally not worth testing at all.) This is very useful when Slip Shot, Trade-Off, and Aries Armor can all generate their own threats against an armor club setup; Slip Shot can be used as further artillery support by getting past terrain cover, Aries Armor cuts the burst damage by so much and can use other Powers to easily cause even more problems during a surgical strike with its usage, and Trade-Off provides outright invincibility completely nullifying the burst damage in addition to a massive attack boost and a high enough mobility boost. By sheer fortune, a full row or column means a full line regardless of rotation, so any combination of 2 of these Powers immediately contradict each other, so they’re more telegraphed by the user’s weapon type, with cavalry foes wanting Trade-Off or Aries Armor and artillery threats looking for Slip Shot. A fake-out could happen, but isn’t too likely.

Just the full line cost can have implications about these 3 Powers as well, simply by outing their non-availability other than Level 1 Slip Shot for one lousy charge–and that’s restricted to ONE full line cost Power. I will go over each of the full line cost Powers as follows:
*Super Speed at any level – I alluded to how this could be used as a panic button. Why do I think Warp is less balanced anyway? Because Warp doesn’t do anything to hinder Slip Shot abuse, when overly powerful range showering is a key component of excessively powerful kiting and that becomes a little less likely to happen when something as basic as terrain cover can interfere with that. I can think of another reason Super Speed requires what it does too: it involves flanking, which means it can already provide more offense. If that makes Skyscraper Club happy, that can make ANYBODY happy.
*Mega Laser at any level – I’m not quite sure why Mega Laser requires a full row, but I want to say it’s because it’s the only Attack Power that hits at long range, and it happens to punch through Reflect Barrier as well. Also of note, Mega Laser L4 costs 2 full rows, so that immediately contradicts Slip Shot as a whole.
*Explosive Flame L3+ – this is actually impossible without excessive number crunching to determine its Level conclusively outside usage of other Powers. I’m just noting this Power, but I guarantee the sudden full line cost would be precisely because of the added damage. Armor Powers wall Explosive Flame’s knockback, but the damage still remains.
*Reflect Barrier L4 (outed by 4 charges used) – like Mega Laser L4, Reflect Barrier L4 is a 2×6 rectangle, once again preventing Slip Shot entirely. If you couldn’t tell from how I kept noting about Reflect Barrier, this thing is a clear skill gate to Skyscraper Club, but fortunately, none of the lower levels are a hard counter, and I imagine the rectangle shapes would be hit harder by more sophisticated Grid Reading than a lock to a 6×5 area for other Powers would. Level 4 is worth mentioning anyway for being a 3 spaces per charge panic button as opposed to Level 3’s 3.34, with the added bonus of being able to reflect the megaton shots that makes the Power a skill gate in the first place.
*Autoreticle L2+ (outed by duration lasting more than 14 seconds before Effect Duration+; L2 base duration is 20 seconds) – there was some popularity with the combination of Slip Shot and Autoreticle, particularly with Staves. Even assuming weapon modifiers were balanced, Effect Duration+ trying to hide the level before the second Slip Shot use would only get smoked out by Slip Shot lasting longer as well, and I believe Slip Shot is shown over Autoreticle. If Slip Shot is leveled on the same setup, the combination will leave behind a 4×5 area for defenses. That’s, what, 20 spaces to protect against Tag Power tempo?
*Random Effect L4 – another Power’s higher Level impossible to determine conclusively, because the Level only determines the rolled status chances. I guarantee that being able to roll Freeze would be the justification. Fortunately, Random Effect is luck based and relies on landing hits, in addition to having to worry about Effect Recovery, but it’s not like bad luck can’t strike at any moment. ..speaking of…
*Power Thief at any level – finally a Power that I’m cheering about contradicting Aries Armor/Trade-Off instead of Slip Shot. It already needs melee attacks to do anything, so that means it’s more telegraphed by a cavalry weapon type in the first place. But I will talk even more about what could have made this degenerate if not for the line cost making Counter a LOT safer to use.
*Virus at any level – a beacon that applies Weaken (doubles damage taken) and Paralysis (slows down movement) simultaneously to nearby enemies, doing it constantly enough to render Effect Recovery useless against it. Do I need to justify more? Oh, and L3 is another 2×6 rectangle.
*Bumblebee at any level – everybody complains about this Power, but I think most of the bad stigma comes from Evasion+ having only one believe me relative blind spot that Bumblebee covers against. You want to know why I could have just as easily joined the bandwagon instead of calling out Evasion+ specifically? Because Bumblebee involves an auto-dodge against singular attacks, and it gets 2 auto-dodges per charge. Why am I not on that bandwagon when that concept would suffocate burst damage? Because first, Bumblebee, once again, contradicts leveled Slip Shot, and even involves the dreaded 2×6 rectangle for Level 3, so yes it can protect Energy Charge, but I can just use terrain cover and kill their offense, as I managed against even this min-maxed nonsense. Now at Level 3, there would be 6 auto-dodges for 12 spaces, or 2 spaces per auto-dodge. This, however, brings up Bumblebee’s fatal flaw outside the Power Grid: the auto-dodge has forced clockwise movement around the attacker. If you think otherwise, then take a good look at this picture. Bumblebee, like Counter, is a potential deathtrap.

Also, Double Item L4 has the 2×6 rectangle, most likely because of issues with item balance but those are already there; and Fortune’s Jukebox L2 needs a full line, but it’s a joke Power most likely only really useful for Power Thief bait. Single Player has Instant Death Attack with the same shapes as Virus, I’m assuming because of enemies like the Chapter 24 Dohz, but Grid Reading isn’t relevant there anyway, now is it.

Did you notice how most of those Powers focus on contradicting leveled Slip Shot? Some even involve 2×6 rectangles at their highest level to make sure they’d get ruled out by ANY Slip Shot usage as well. It’s almost as if the developers, or at least whoever came up with the Power shapes, did notice a potential issue of non-methodical kiting and wanted to get it under control–that there are still issues with some easy kiting Powers just involves off execution, but doesn’t change the general thought process.

In fact, the only line Power in that list that actively involves cavalry offense is one I would have really liked to have come out of the woodwork: Power Thief. Let me provide the point that showcases why I’m glad Counter has to worry less about Aries Armor/Trade-Off at the sight of Power Thief’s usage: it’s practically a close range anti-armor Power, and one that involves not direct damage but the Power System itself. Power Thief’s effect is that during the buff, landing ANY melee attack directly will result in taking a charge from a given Power. What causes this to potentially hit my setup hard? Take a good look at how much I rely on good usage of Power charges to begin with. Now the robbed Power is random, but I had tested before: each Power selection chance is directly proportional to how much space the Power uses compared to the total amount of space the Powers available to rob use. This means that against my current setup, Power Thief would have a 13/36 of taking one of my Armor Powers, and another 14/36 going to Super Speed and Black Hole. Even if I don’t use my singular Mega Laser charge, that’s still 27/36. I’m already thinking about bad luck when I talked about Random Effect, never mind that my best case scenario by a wide margin is Effect Recovery being the robbed Power, but that clocks in at 3/36, 3/30 with the Mega Laser charge used–I know I wouldn’t want to get off on a 10% chance decided by RNG that melee maintenance failure doesn’t blow up in my face. There’s a reason I feel better that it provides competent Counter Play simply by being used.

That’s the whole thing about Grid Reading: every time a Power is used, it can provide some very useful intel for the opponent. The fast-pace of the game makes sorting out the intel harder, but that just punctuates why it’s good gameplay when a player who gets their intel all together and uses it to formulate a plan to effect would have done so under clear adversity. And yes, Grid Reading can in fact be done even if the opponent doesn’t use any line Powers; line Power Grid Reading is just the learning process’s stepping stone and has the added convenience of being useful to anybody when Slip Shot and Bumblebee both exist.

Of course, this does bring up that Grid Reading is mechanical and involves memorizing shapes without going in actual gameplay. This thankfully doesn’t change the above mentioned mid-battle analysis, though it can still be intrusive in other ways if it’s overcentralizing. Would there be an excessive need for many setups to care more about doing Grid Reading than that Bumblebee and leveled Slip Shot contradict each other? I doubt it; cavalry setups are more likely to just focus on things like anti-armor handling and general creativity if they want to get going. Artillery setups, even if they didn’t have to worry about cavalry setup rushes first and foremost, are supposed to involve methodical gameplay, so if they would end up needing to work with Grid Reading, that would just help the gameplay.

Heck, even my armor club setup, with all the need for good usage of both Armor Powers and Tag Powers, can be given particular difficulty doing Grid Reading, but mercifully, that happens in more desirable scenarios for Skyscraper Club. Free-For-Alls? Plenty of chaos to feast on. Enemy fortifications? Not a problem, siege away. Flankers? Counterflanking will provide leeway for line shots. Cavalry setup rushes? Hey, instant close range without lifting a finger.

Another good thing about Grid Reading is what counters it without degenerate gameplay. Once again, take a look at my armor club Power setup. Do you notice how I have *TWO* Line Powers? (Super Speed and Mega Laser.) I do not care to have Slip Shot, Aries Armor, or Trade-Off, because all 3 Powers are already gambles at best on Skyscraper Club, and I’m going for options anyway–also note how my setup has no individual Power costing more than 8 spaces, as opposed to the 10 for just Level 1 for Slip Shot, and even more for its higher levels or the mega-armor Power duo.

Points like that indicate how a refined Power Grid in general is one that just accommodates an awesome user; even when there are weaknesses, if they don’t rely on the intel fog of war aspect that makes Grid Reading interesting, Grid Reading isn’t useful for those weaknesses. I could even tell you what would happen in an exact mirror setup matchup for armor Skyscraper to showcase how Powers would have mitigated influence there: it’s all too likely the most deciding Power would be Super Speed. That sort of thing happens because the counter to the mind, is the heart. The body often doesn’t know what it is up against; the heart, on the other hand, doesn’t forget, and to a well-handled heart, a little difficulty in the anti-armor handling doesn’t make the glass half-empty or less.

Creativity doesn’t even have to just stop Grid Reading from rampaging–it can even use the Grid Reading efforts against the Grid Reading player. Case in point: Playing Dead. This Power has its Level affect the maximum duration by a difference of 3 seconds per Level, with the duration instead ending almost immediately as soon as the PD user moves. For those thinking that wasting the duration wastes a higher Level, stop me if you’ve heard of this idea before, no doubt from Strategem #32 of the 36 Strategems: what a player using PD can do is intentionally move on both charges about 7 seconds in for each charge, even if they have PD at Level 3. As PD’s maximum duration at Level 1 is 10 seconds, this would hide the duration and make conclusive evidence harder to find. Not impossible, mind you, but the leeway could always make a difference. Just remember that that empty fort you’d have if you have PD at Level 3 could be called out; I am the one to bring this up in the first place. Then again, creativity wouldn’t be that if it was that simple, and I don’t doubt there would be other, likely more subtle examples of busting Grid Reading overemphasis than the Playing Dead stuff. (I should point out to emphasize this that my own setup can always trade away a couple of Super Speed Levels for a Mega Laser Level if I want to throw about some confusion.)

So while Grid Reading does indeed have flaws in its design, it’s no less than a good case study to say the least.

THE DYNAMICS

So that was a lot to say about the mechanics. I should say one more thing about general balance, actually, namely that Kid Icarus Uprising actually has the cleverness to balance Power usage between singleplayer and multiplayer. In singleplayer, levels are generally built to be long–whether that’s a good thing or not is a case of YMMV and there is a reason I tore at Chapter 24, but levels being long enough is so that the effectiveness of Powers is stretched thin. This at least is for good reason: the monsters, controlled by AI, would have reliance on reaction or programmed in behavior for dodging and even accuracy. When you have potentially easy targets, that’s going to favor given character choices, most likely Mighty Glaciers who likely only have issuing free damage as their offensive shortcoming. I outlined above how rewarding the Mighty Glacier for methodical gameplay is good, but making the Mighty Glacier efficient can always still be taken too far. Making sure the Mighty Glacier still has to learn combat without the tools that they’d be capitalizing upon in multiplayer is a nice way to balance them–the execution just has to avoid being off is all, but the developers do show they know how human players are far more threatening to Mighty Glaciers than AI is.

(There’s also the idea of No Powers Runs in general, due to Powers being variable to begin with.)

This in tandem with how the Powers have limited charges and how that interacts with the Armor Powers especially, actually brings up an intuitive dynamic with my loadout: the Powers that are better for each given matchup type have emphasis on the gameplay involved by the originators of the matchup type. Against melee threats, I’d want to use Armor Powers more in order to keep them from brute forcing me, but I get that going by showing some sense of martial arts. Super Armor is, of course, all about pacing and discipline; Super Armor can yield some very nice tempo, but burnout is a very real threat if mishandled. Counter, meanwhile, represents vigilance and patience, with how it provides countermeasure-bolstered protection for low costs, but also has clear weaknesses that make sure that overextending with it isn’t going to be a good idea at all. And I know I called Super Speed a Tag Power, but I do think it can work as a bridging Armor Power, one that can stand in as focus by allowing for staving superpowered attacks via dodging as long as one is remaining steady enough to have it at the ready to make up for the short duration. What this ends up resulting in, is options for the melee combat that have their own strengths and weaknesses.

As for range enemies against whom Armor Powers, while absolutely serviceable, can only do so much, the Tag Powers involve more analytical gameplay. Black Hole, of course, involves intel organization in the heat of battle. It’s the hardest to use well of the 3 Tag Powers as I indicated, but it also provides the most reward for proper usage. Mega Laser is next and what it handles is poke pressure, which can be useful against Energy Charge, Reflect Barrier, and even Bumblebee. This makes it a stark contrast from Black Hole: it’s easy to use (simple aim and fire) so jumping right to the creativity isn’t a problem, but the Mega Laser is often going to be THE option a kiter will go with if they aren’t too reliant on Energy Charge. Of course, the final Tag Power is Super Speed, providing psychological warfare with a high potential for fierce maneuvers that can be set up by clever positioning. Against any foe who refuses to show their hand, I can always send read shots to block off their escape route with how likely it would be that I can fall back on a Counter charge.

(For reference, I end up having Super Speed as the leveled Power between it and Mega Laser even though I’d have only 1 charge with Mega Laser, because nothing Mega Laser punishes is completely unanswered by Black Hole or Super Speed, and I figure if I get self-sustained Grid Reading going against Energy Charge at ANY Level above 1, or manage useful enough tactics with Super Speed, or even both, I could focus more on addressing the panic buttons. I could change it back at some point in the future, but I’m not expecting it too much.)

Super Armor and Counter are still useful against range enemies, though not nearly as much as the Tag Powers are. Counter, again, has to worry about flanking, but otherwise can be used to grab stage control against somebody who gets too passive with the Powers as I indicated above. It’s more important than the higher cost Super Armor, which costs twice as much space for the same number of charges and consequently ends up less cost-effective than many lone Powers, but plenty of buff combinations, especially the more threatening ones, ends up surpassing 4 spaces per charge even at the combination Powers’ max levels–Homing Boost and Quick Charge for example have a sum minimum of 4.75–so Super Armor can conceivably be used to trade against multi-buffing. Not all damage is direct, and a little scratch on the armor is all too often going to be worth finding openings, even if those openings would need usage of other boosts to get going.

This goes to show how the Power System has managed to be an excellent tool for not only allowing for overcoming matchup bias, but providing empathetic gameplay in general.

CLOSING

Of course, I said most of this primarily with experience with the armor Skyscraper setup. If another player can chip in to corroborate my underlying points, that would be MUCH appreciated. It’s just that the Mighty Glacier/Melee Tornado hybrid is the build most likely to suffer against a game’s imbalances; as somebody who handles game balance, I’d rather smoke out those imbalances, flag them, and find the design that IS worth keeping.

Besides, if a game manages to be fun via variety when playing as the Mighty Glacier/Melee Tornado hybrid, that’s going to be saying a lot of positive things about the game.

So what can we learn about how the Power System played out quite nicely for the Mighty Glacier/Melee Tornado hybrid? A list of key points for designers to follow:
*Keep the usefulness of the Mighty Glacier/Melee Tornado hybrid’s best tools to multiplayer (though don’t neglect single player’s safeguards against Frail Sniper shenanigans)
*Make raw defensive power into an earned but still nevertheless drastic trait
*Provide a cost-effective risk-reward option that rewards clever use and punishes mindless behavior
*Create tagging ability that supports methodical gameplay
*Make sure any panic button ability doesn’t overwhelm any manner of psychological warfare intended to draw it out

It just bothers me how the Power System’s depth can end up buried beneath the game’s general Power Creep. As I point out, the aesthetics show empathy toward The Big Guy which is always welcome when for example people out there would think Genki Girls are just idiots instead of these artists; Mighty Glacier/Melee Tornado balance is addressed quite nicely with a mix of competent rewards, standards, activity, and interaction; and there’s involved elements of both martial arts as well as strategy and tactics. The Power System may not have been perfect, but 8000 words show how at the very least I’d be for future game designers understanding the key points I provided about it, because I definitely would take something where the blatant imbalances are FAR easier to isolate, over only being able to shift the angle of ANY attack I got hit by by only 12 degrees.

Power Counter Play

I thought I’d make a more positive post, if only to make a point about 3 given Powers being banworthy in their own right, namely Warp, Brief Invincibility, and Celestial Fireworks. See, I got into Kid Icarus Uprising because the Power system provided a happy medium with knockback medium that would indicate that the man makes the armor, not the other way around, while making sure the armor would still be useful enough for strategic and tactical factor. Of course, the Power system would prove to run even deeper, which makes it suck that it would get buried beneath the game’s blatant subscription to power creep. But how deep is the Power system? Well, I could talk about Grid Reading, but though I probably could figure out some handy points with it if I did that, I’ll just talk about the Powers having Counter Play.

First though, I’m going to start with a deconstruction of Warp, Brief Invincibility, and Celestial Fireworks.

Warp, Brief Invincibility, and Celestial Fireworks – why they are not healthy to the gameplay

To clarify what this trio of Powers are about, these are basically get out of jail free cards. Warp will teleport the user to a random location, though it still guarantees escape from melee combat, and Brief Invincibility will provide dragged out invincibility that doesn’t even require going into a casting animation. Celestial Fireworks, meanwhile, grants absolutely lengthy invincibility that even outlasts the casting animation by more than dodge moves under Evasion +4 outlast their committal movement. Oh, but wait, apparently I would have the point about Celestial Fireworks wrong, because it actually generates a fireworks attack. Yeah, there’s the problem: people flock to Celestial Fireworks for the invincibility, not for its intended use. Why does this happen? Because Celestial Fireworks provides *FIVE* charges per Level.

What makes these Powers detrimental to gameplay growth is that they’re overly efficient tag protection. This is supposed to be the job of Warp and Brief Invincibility, but neither of these two Powers ever costs more than 2.5 spaces per charge, which is over the top. To put in perspective how broken this is, let’s make direct comparison to other Powers that could be used to react to Black Hole:
-Reflect Barrier 3 costs 3.34 spaces per charge–anything that costs more spaces per charge is bound to be tolerable. (This means Libra Sponge, Aries Armor, Trade-Off, Playing Dead, and Pisces Heal at all levels, as well as Super Armor at any level up to 3.) Reflect Barrier 4 demand 2 full lines, so the mere presence of Slip Shot at all will immediately rule it out.
-Super Speed and Bumblebee both require a full line, which immediately contradicts leveled Slip Shot. Both also have their own weaknesses. Aries Armor and Trade-off similarly cost a full row and column, immediately contradicting Super Speed and Slip Shot.
-Darkness only inhibits visibility, but will not provide protection past that or the casting animation, and will seep into a second quadrant of the grid regardless of level anyway.
-Interference is a stationary defense that just prevents further Power usage by the opponent when they’re in range of the beacon, which also will not inhibit long range attacks or even usage of lunge Powers such as Super Speed from a heightened distance.
-Counter is bad on weapon types that don’t work well with their Neutral Shots, and even those weapon types are guaranteed to still want to be careful about being hit anyway. Super Armor, even at Level 4 (12 spaces for 4 charges–and by the way, Super Armor 4 suffocates 3 of the center spaces), costs its fair share for summing up the problem with both Powers against melee burst damage weapon types: getting hit is still too undesirable.

Angelic Missile and Jump Glide would have to be investigated to see if either of them would be reasonable to counter. It’s a guarantee that Angelic Missile would involve too much reliance on Grid Reading to overcome. Jump Glide could be balanced, but 5 charges for 4 spaces is a potential issue, especially considering it also describes Celestial Fireworks.

Yep, Celestial Fireworks can be spammed, which is why it’s overused flowchart. In fact, a direct comparison to Reflect Barrier, which still has the weakness of a stationary defense that can be overwhelmed or faked out, would provide the points about what makes these 3 Powers overly good.
-Warp 1 has a 5 space U shape, which is an objectively better shape than Reflect Barrier 1’s 2×3 rectangle, while providing 2 charges, which is what Reflect Barrier 2 has.
-Warp 2, for 7 spaces, has 3 charges, and only pressures a center space, but doesn’t use it, which is an important distinction to keep in mind when dealing with Slip Shot.
-Warp 3, for 9 spaces, has 4 charges, and though it pressures 2 center spaces, it uses neither of them, whereas Reflect Barrier 4, with the same charge count, uses 2 full lines and thus immediately contradicts Slip Shot at any level.
-Warp 4, for 11 spaces, has 5 charges. It does at least use 2 center spaces, but let’s not mince words: it can be paired with Super Speed at any level, providing tag Power reaction protection without acceptable consequence.
-Celestial Fireworks 1 has a 4 space Z shape, which again is an objectively better shape than Reflect Barrier 1’s 2×3 rectangle, while having *FIVE* charges to work with.
-Celestial Fireworks 2 has the same shape as Warp 2, meaning it costs 7 spaces, while having *TEN* charges.
-Brief Invincibility 1 is an 5 space L shape, which believe me is flexible, arguably more than Warp 1’s U shape, especially since it doesn’t even need to be in multiple quadrants.
-Brief Invincibility 2 requires 6 spaces for 3 charges. The shape is objectively better than Reflect Barrier 2’s and that the comparative holes are on the outside makes it easier to fit other Powers.
-Brief Invincibility 3 has Warp 2’s 7 space shape for 4 charges. Considering Warp 2 has 3 charges as it is, this is a clear imbalance.

Of course, the final nail in the coffin is the comparison to Super Speed with all 3 Powers. Let’s go over these comparison points, with the Winner being the Power that’s the least mindless about the given aspect:

*Spaces per charge: Celestial Fireworks has, of course, the lowest between these 4 Powers, with both levels having the spaces per charge value below 1. Brief Invincibility is the next most cost-effective with 4+L spaces for 1+L charges–even if it doesn’t protect from statusing (I have to check if it does or not), Effect Recovery would already have to be considered for Super Speed anyway. As for Warp, though its higher levels are less cost-effective than Super Speed’s, the simple anti-tag ability is overwhelming at that point anyway and the two Powers can easily be stacked for some overwhelming issues, not to mention Super Speed could need to lug around Effect Recovery for status shenanigans, at which point it becomes less cost-effective.
-Winner: Super Speed

*Grid shapes: this is no contest for Super Speed, as that requires a full line as it is, conflicting directly with leveled Slip Shot, whereas the other Powers barely complicate the grid at all. It should be noted that Warp 4 does conflict with Slip Shot + Energy Charge entirely, and Warp 3 with Slip Shot + Energy Charge 2+, but the problem is when Warp can be used for camping.
-Winner: Super Speed

*Safety from damage any time soon: Warp will teleport the user to a random location, but the chance that it will fail to get the user away from somebody with melee is absolutely slim anyway. Brief Invincibility lives up to its name and prevents damage outright while the user’s other actions aren’t inhibited at all. As for Celestial Fireworks, Evasion+ has proven how a quarter of a second worth of surplus intangibility frames is overly versatile, and while Celestial Fireworks isn’t infinite use, each individual use does provide more surplus intangibility frames than Evasion+ dodge moves–2/5 of a second worth, for reference, compared to the 1/4 from Evasion+ dodge moves. By contrast, Super Speed will halve, but not nullify, damage taken from a hit, and the user is forced into continuous running for the duration, which can be inhibiting movement that will limit their attack options and prevent them from sidestepping.
-Winner: Super Speed

*Post-escape offense: this is pretty simple: Super Speed’s user has to wait 6 seconds for a competent mix of offense and defense without heightened effort to be able to happen again. Warp lets the user get moving almost immediately, and Brief Invincibility once again doesn’t inhibit the user’s actions. Celestial Fireworks does keep the user in place for nearly a full second, but as they’re intangible during the casting and then some anyway, I doubt it would be hard to do an escaping dash attack or even dodge move slightly late.
-Winner: Super Speed, though Celestial Fireworks does try

*Black Hole/Explosive Flame: Warp loses this easily, as it works as an easy panic button as either Power and if Explosive Flame doesn’t stop buff usage, it definitely won’t stop Warp usage. Brief Invincibility similarly works as a panic button especially against Black Hole. Now Super Speed can panic button against either one, but as mentioned it usage immediately exposes a lack of leveled Slip Shot on the spot, in addition to suffocating options for the time being. Ironically, Celestial Fireworks would be the least efficient against those 2 Powers since the user is still in place, but any weapon using it is bound to be mobile enough to dodge Explosive Flame, and the insane intangibility can easily blunt Black Hole.
-Winner: Super Speed; Celestial Fireworks would win instead if the ridiculous intangibility didn’t blunt Black Hole

*Hit by melee combo?: This is something to bring up with Warp, which is the ONLY one of the 4 Powers that even work when in tumble. All 3 of the other Powers are unavailable and therefore must be used beforehand if they want to work against the melee combo. For reference, Super Speed is the only one of the 3 that won’t prevent all damage, although getting a melee combo off on somebody in consistent running stat wouldn’t exactly be easy.
-Loser: Warp

*Petrify/Freeze?: Warp is once again the infinite loser here, because of course, it can be used when the user is under statuses such as Petrify/Freeze. Celestial Fireworks grants intangibility and thus can prevent it in the first place. I’m not sure on Brief Invincibility, but Super Speed definitely doesn’t prevent statusing, and it only reduces damage taken anyway.
-Winner: Super Speed

*Falling into a pit?: Once again, Warp exclusive. About to fall into an abyss feature because you got hit hard enough? No problem, just Warp.
-Loser: Warp

*Fire-heavy area?: Warp, of course, easily ruins any and all hard work put into flanking. Celestial Fireworks and Brief Invincibility will easily blunt surgical strikes as well. Super Speed can do the same, but to a much lesser extent, one that will not protect Energy Charge (granted, Brief Invincibility doesn’t protect EC either) and definitely won’t manage the escape if the user has Counter active.
-Winner: Super Speed

*Uses other than use in bad situations?: Warp and Brief Invincibility are designed specifically to escape bad situations, and don’t involve deeper tactics when pressing on an attack, with Warp being random and Brief Invincibility only rewarding brute forcing with weapon types that shouldn’t do that. Celestial Fireworks as well is practically a glorified panic button since the firework barely does anything useful, so it’s basically deadweight until getting hit starts being expected. As for Super Speed, notice how I use it as a tag Power in the first place? Also, may I point out that it can be used for flanking.
-Winner: Super Speed

*Countermeasures favoritism: with Super Speed not being the only glorified panic button out of the 4 Powers, the other 3 explicitly expect overwhelming long range attacks, which of course screams weapon type bias. Super Speed has the highest amount of depth involved, being far easier to Grid Read and having actual alternative tactics to work with.
-Winner: Super Speed

*Hide-and-seek balance (indoor maps): Warp’s randomness helps the user by making their location finding a complete guessing game. Of course, Super Speed does let the user dash out of sight, though their general location can still be deduced. Brief Invincibility and Celestial Fireworks actually don’t help in this regard.
-Winner: Celestial Fireworks, with Brief Invincibility coming a close second

Suffice to say that that is a Curb Stomp Battle, with Celestial Fireworks and Brief Invincibility beating Super Speed in only ONE category, one that is map dependent at that, and hardly makes up for what they can do to excessive effectiveness even on a map like Desert Tomb or Starlight Observatory given that they can easily mitigate the hide-and-seek aspect’s influence in the first place. Super Speed actually provides depth by actively enough involving Grid Reading while being able to work as more than a glorified panic button. I wouldn’t doubt higher level Super Speed would need to be looked at due to Super Speed having only a 1 space level difference, but even then, Warp, Celestial Fireworks, and Brief Invincibility not only are easier to use, but those 3 Powers can all fit at max level on the grid, and considering how much messy gameplay that asks for creating, all 3 of those Powers are worth banning.

Of course, I have spent too long already talking about what makes them busted. I should get to talking about how other Powers have actually viable countermeasures.

How each Power (other than Warp/Brief Invincibility/Celestial Fireworks/Lightweight/Jump Glide/Angelic Missile/Darkness/Random) gets countered

If you’re wondering why I mention Lightweight, that’s another Power that should be banned, but I don’t want to spend another 2000 words explaining what is the problem with a buff that provides disproportionately powerful stats and also causes the game to lag to the point where the Lightweight user gets lag armor even in local matches. Same with Random’s effect potentially setting off either a banned Power or a Power that is supposed to be counterbalanced by Grid Reading, with the chance rolling of either being significantly higher than rolling Spite. Angelic Missile, Jump Glide, and Darkness are also on the chopping block due to questionable Counter Play compared to the cost-effectiveness in the panic button ability. (Jump Glide lets the user jump away from Black Hole and possibly to a safe location; Angelic Missile’s center space suffocation doesn’t change the invincibility in its duration; and Darkness can be spammed somewhat.) A few Powers are also unlisted due to them being circumstantial enough.

The reason I make this post is because weaknesses for Powers kept sticking out to me, and not just how they require space on the grid, even though that does help.

Sky Jump

Sky Jump may cost only 3 spaces for 10 charges, but the jumps are limited in horizontal movement, which will keep them from escaping Black Hole usage. Sky Jump can be used to escape using platforming, but in that case, having the height advantage could help in interception.

Rocket Jump

Compared to Sky Jump, Rocket Jump trades cost-effectiveness for a short range attack from the explosion at the start of the jump. Otherwise, Rocket Jump is in the same boat as Sky Jump.

Super Speed

As stated above, Super Speed’s mere usage, due to being a full line Power, will immediately expose that the user will not have leveled Slip Shot. If the opponent isn’t using Powers, terrain cover can definitely help in calling out an active refusal to reveal their hand. Additionally, if a range setup is using Super Speed, forcing its usage can ruin their offense and allow for further expansion.

Mega Laser

Another full line Power, although Mega Laser has dubious usefulness on a setup that could want to have any of the full row/column Powers anyway. Mega Laser’s real drawback, however, is that its damage output is easily mitigated due to relying on the multi-hit aspect for it while having narrow range. This means that Mega Laser relies on terrain and utility to get by. Also as a note, Powers with a casting animation can potentially be used as panic buttons due to the intangibility, but even then, an already active Power can’t be used again until the duration is over, so they can be overwhelmed by tag Power tempo.

Explosive Flame

The explosion created by Explosive Flame can be dodged and has low range, and even if it is not initially dodged, the knockback won’t lock Powers that can be used to stop the knockback of the later hits.

Black Hole

Black Hole is, of course, stopped by various Power options. Of course, its underlying purpose is more useful for closing distance on an opponent instead of opening it anyway, so the only mindless camping ability it could have is the casting invincibility, since it has 2 charges for 6 spaces at L1, but even then, there are better options.

Meteor Shower

The meteors may hit hard, but they travel gradually enough in a straight line. Meteor Shower does have casting intangibility when the spaces per charge count never exceeds 2.5 for Meteor Shower, but if it being used as a panic button gets read, it is guaranteed to get overwhelmed by sudden tempo.

Land Mine

The mines can be shot at to disarm them, and their markers aren’t that invisible. Consequently, Land Mine can just as easily have trouble doing anything mindless.

Reflect Barrier

The defense provided by Reflect Barrier is stationary, meaning that it has the user stay in that area to make the most of it. Additionally, Reflect Barrier can be overwhelmed by tag Powers if it doesn’t have other anti-tag Powers to support it–either Black Hole can drag the RB user away from the barrier, or Super Speed can move right through the barrier and allow for hitting the RB user easily.

Heavenly Light

Low range, and also relies on multi-hits. Goes without saying.

Autoreticle

Auto-aiming already has issues in that it ruins shot leading. Additionally, leveled Autoreticle, revealed by a single use lasting more than 14 seconds, is a full line Power, which means it directly contradicts leveled Slip Shot, and considering that Slip Shot is often paired with Autoreticle, this guarantees that Autoreticle will end up at level 1.

Quick Charge

To be sure, Quick Charge is pretty much the hardest of the offensive range Powers to Grid Read, while upping the DPS amount from range attacks by about 50% to 70%, but even then, it has its charge count equivalent to its Level, and each level above 2 suffocates a center space as well. Since it also slightly favors higher chargeup weapon types, it’s a guarantee the way Quick Charge is used will out the user’s strategy and its drawbacks, whether it’s used liberally which suggests a high enough enough level of Quick Charge, or invoked in a round of sudden tempo with supporting Powers that are likely easier to Grid Read.

Homing Boost

Although Homing Boost has multiple charges at Level 1, it already suffocates a center space. Take advantage of the lack of added attack power from standalone Homing Boost so that the user will have to compromise with using other offensive Powers.

Slip Shot

This is the Power that showcases how useful Grid Reading can get. Immediately, it prevents more than 1 line Power from fitting, in addition to also contradicting Aries Armor and Trade-Off, which means no worries about distance closure being diminished. And of course, Slip Shot has only 1 charge at Level 1, so if it’s used again, that will prove it uses a full row and column, preventing it from even fitting with another line Power at all. Here is the list of line Powers:
*Super Speed (a potential panic button)
*Mega Laser (not useful, but could help; Slip Shot already contradicts Mega Laser L4, by the way)
*Reflect Barrier L4 (also contradicted by Slip Shot L1 already, and means the Reflect Barrier charge count is limited to 3)
*Autoreticle L2+ (this guarantees that Slip Shot/Autoreticle has the latter at Level 1)
*Power Thief (though this again isn’t useful)
*Virus (thus another potential deterrent against melee is weakened, made more notable by how Slip Shot L1 already prevents Virus L3, limiting the charge count to 2)
*Aries Armor/Trade-Off (see above)
*Bumblebee (one less dampener to burst damage)
(There are more line Powers, but they’re not listed because their status as such is basically trivia.)

Now Slip Shot can be problematic in a map with hide-and-seek ability, but it’s a guarantee that a Slip Shot attack will be survivable, and when that happens, the user’s general location will be indicated.

Invisible Shots

The most popular use of Invisible Shots is to pair it with club shots and manage easy hits. I don’t have a lot of experience fighting against Invisible Shots and my own experience trying it shows how cost-ineffective it is, but what I can gather is that the shots still generate their sounds, so that can be used to help with dodging or even shot offsetting. Invisible Shots consequently ends up relying on sudden tempo, and also has only 1 charge per Level when L2+ already uses a center space unconditionally.

(Status Powers)

Setups that actively have difficulty avoiding hits will likely pack Effect Recovery, especially for the nastier statuses. As to Grid Reading, Freeze Attack and Tempura Attack pressure center spaces.

Power Thief

Line Power that requires melee to manage its effect at all. You know how easily this speaks for itself when I don’t fear that taking a finger poke has a 66% chance of costing me one of my armor or tag Power charges, which believe me is not as small as you may think.

Energy Charge

Another Power that helps to showcase Grid Reading, but in a more advanced manner than Slip Shot. Pressuring 1 center space per level, while having one charge per level, can definitely get in the way of chunky Powers. What about non-leveled Energy Charge since the buff can exploit how it is indefinite? Well, that won’t take a lot of Mega Laser attrition to eliminate.

Libra Sponge

The only way Libra Sponge is useful is by the user getting hit. Protection against Black Hole’s vacuum isn’t even a sole reason to use this because it has only 1 charge and costs 12 spaces minimal. If it’s paired with Aries Armor as it often is, stalling it out is going to leave the user with garbage for remaining Powers.

Interference

Now the only Power that has fewer spaces per charge that provides casting intangibility is Celestial Fireworks, which of course speak for itself. Why leave this be when Darkness is on the chopping block? Because Interference has such a long duration that it can’t be used consecutively, and so has to worry about tempo tagging. Yes it prevents Power usage by the user’s opponent, when they’re in range of the beacon, but it won’t cancel the buffs already used, nor will it stop sniping or lunge Powers from being used from a heightened distance, making the Interference usage moot.

Virus

Besides, of course, being a full line Power, Virus has a short range, so the user can be smoked out of its protection, and Super Speed practically cancels with the Virus effect anyway, allowing for punching through. There is a casting intangibility, but once again, it’s cost ineffective.

Super Armor

This does not flow well on a setup that doesn’t expect to avoid getting hit, even ignoring that the only attack boost Power it has ANY synergy with is Libra Sponge, and 3 spaces per charge (assuming Level 4) just for protection against Black Hole’s vacuum is a God awful idea when Super Speed is still around.

Tirelessness

Lasting running can allow for movement that avoids concern with the stamina system, but it doesn’t boost running speed, so a setup that works on Black Hole “simply” because of Tirelessness says more about the setup’s own mobility than Tirelessness.

Trade-off

Well, this would pop up sooner or later, of course. Trade-Off’s weakness beyond the full row/column weakness, which for the record immediately contradicts leveled Slip Shot and thus makes it less likely on an active range weapon type, is that it’s a very committal one-shot–and even if you are in a situation where you can’t respond with an escape plan, such as having Counter active with a low mobility weapon type when your only escape Power is Super Speed (*AHEM*), it’s still survivable. Once the duration is over, the Trade-Off user will be stuck with a sliver of health, and there’s no way they’re going to block Mega Laser with Bumblebee auto-dodging. Do not say that they will likely use Pisces Heal after, because that will leave them with their other Powers being underwhelming.

Aries Armor

A less extreme version of Trade-Off, by only having a megaton defense boost instead of flat invincibility and heightened offense stats, though it doesn’t bring the user’s health down to minimal. (For reference, the game is lying when it says Aries Armor provides status immunity for its duration.) Aries Armor still commits a lot even on its own, never mind with an additional high space Power–yes, including Libra Sponge. A focus on survival until the Aries Armor drops will leave with an effective 5×5 Power Grid, if that, for efforts to defend against a heightened offense.

Bumblebee

Another line Power, and one that range setups could want to use instead of leveled Slip Shot. It’s telling how much of a weakness being a line Power is that it’s easily the ONLY Counter Play I can find against the sort of setup displayed by this shamelessly min-maxed Flintlock Staff. (Yes, showcasing once again why weapon modifiers still deserve their banning.) But what about managing offense against Bumblebee when stuck with burst damage options? Well, the Bumblebee auto-dodge forces the user to move clockwise around whoever hit them, making their movement a lot easier to read and therefore allowing for hitting them right when they come out of the auto-dodge–especially useful for getting rid of a protected Energy Charge.

Counter

Yet another Power that sucks on a setup actively wanting to avoid getting hit. It doesn’t cost a lot, but it’s reliant on the free Neutral Shot to function, something a weapon type like Magnus Club can’t work with, so there are even fewer weapon types that could make it into an obscene offense. Counter does protect against Black Hole for a low number of spaces per charge (to be precise, 1.5 to 2) but it won’t protect against Super Speed.

Transparency

This messes with vision, but really nothing else. It costs quite a bit for something that can’t be used as a panic button against Black Hole too…

Playing Dead

Now this Power can be used for SOME stalling, but it’s unlikely to cancel out more than 1 tag Power per charge because a player aware of Playing Dead’s provided intangibility will recognize to not waste further resources on offense, and Playing Dead can be Grid Read by duration. A more savvy player could intentionally end Playing Dead uses early to call out Grid Reading efforts, but even then, L1 Playing Dead already suffocates multiple center spaces. It even sucks used in combination with Slip Shot/Energy Charge combination: Playing Dead can’t be L2, Energy Charge is forced to be L1, and no line Powers can fit even if Slip Shot is L1. This guarantees that Playing Dead with either of those Powers for absurd free offense is going to have a problem show up.

Health Recovery

And yet another Power that is only useful if the setup expects getting hit. It doesn’t even protect against ANY tag Powers.

Pisces Heal

Pisces Heal uses 12 spaces minimum for 1 charge without being an offensive Power. And yet again, it expects getting hit in the first place to see any efficiency.

Spite

I don’t think this can 1HKO a vanilla fighter without Power ATK+. It’s only really good for capitalizing upon a stock lead, or for kamikaze bombing clustered fighters in team battles. Otherwise, maintenance is the only thing that would be needed to stump Spite.

In closing

Grid Reading definitely contributes to countermeasures against given Powers, but what really cements their balance is surprisingly natural weaknesses that come up through gameplay that is not only readily available to any weapon type choice but also involves less mechanical gameplay. It just sucks to see what could be good gameplay get buried by weapon modifiers and a community so bent on contributing to that very problem.

Chapter 24’s inane existence

Since you may have noticed how the Warriors Uprising wordpress had been not used, it’d be no use hiding it: Kid Icarus Uprising has managed to be forsaken in its multiplayer viability. It’s comedy gold to suggest it’s anything healthy. The question is how we even got to this point.

There is a surprisingly simple answer provided by what I’m about to talk about: I talked with a friend about the game’s design problems, remarking that Sakurai focused on the AR Card gimmick. I eventually mentioned that KIU sacrificed worldbuilding for being Merchandise Driven, and the friend figured its problem was Pit being an Idiot Hero, being worse than Andy from Advance Wars at that–at least Andy protests against being called dumb actively enough even if he does have his infamy with the airport business.

Here’s the line from the friend, who had just ranted about Pseudo Palutena right before, that tells me what the heck goes wrong:

“but I’m like “Does Pit….grow?””

That has me realize that the problem is that Masahiro Sakurai himself doesn’t grow. Now I do get that the director of things like video games do have to understand how kids think and would need to be enough like them to make sure they stay fun, but kids have problems with ego-centralism as well, and a lack of humility about it is asking to become a red flag. Structure from somebody like parent-figures becomes necessary to make sure this simply does not get out of hand.

Where does Chapter 24 fit into all of this? Well, we first need to overview what it is like.

Chapter 24: The Three Trials – a summary

Having had to retreat from the Underworld after losing The Three Sacred Treasures, which by the way happened in a case of Cutscene Power To The Max but I’ll get to that idiocy, Pit and Palutena have to find a new way to combat Hades. Palutena is sending Pit to a place called Dyntos’s Workshop to meet with yet another God named Dyntos, a character who had not been mentioned or anything prior. Dyntos, who apparently is omniscient, responds by testing Pit to see how he can handle himself.

The opportunity is that Pit can get a new weapon, if he passes 3 trials. Pit’s path goes up 3 sets of stairs, each leading to a big space with a door that has a boss rematch behind it that he has to clear. I’m also going to point out that Pit gets confused about 3 treasure chests that suddenly are out in the open, because apparently, there weren’t ones that were clearly and not-so-clearly alike traps. Not surprisingly, all 3 of them are Mimicuties, the local Chest Monster.

Anyway, after all 3 boss rematches are cleared, that’s 3 trials, right? Yeah, no. In fact, somehow Pit thinks that that was ONE trial while simultaneously thinking there was only 1 trial to pass. Dyntos calls Pit on his idiocy, and only that, confirming that yes, the 3 rematches were only 1 trial out of 3. The second trial is to defeat Magnus and Gaol together, and then after they fall, Palutena shows up but after Pit attacks her a bit, Palutena transforms into a hideous-looking monstrosity named Pseudo Palutena who is happy to claim to be beautiful even as she gets finished off. Right after, Palutena talks telepathically to Pit about having just come out of some knockout magic from Dyntos so the whole Pseudo Palutena thing is ambiguous.

Naturally, since the second trial ends THERE, the third trial involves the weapon itself: the Great Sacred Treasure. However, there’s a catch: the Great Sacred Treasure has to be tamed, with the excuse that Hades is simply too tough to be fought with uncontrolled power. Pit wins the fight and has fun piloting the GST while Palutena and Dyntos have simple banter. End chapter.

The problems

I’m going to start with my personal issue about the reason you fight the GST: Dyntos remarks that if you can’t overcome it, you simply can’t do anything against Hades. This screams Broken Aesop, because first off, you’re trying to get the GST just to be able to fight back against Hades, because I’ll admit the 3 Sacred Treasures are basically a glorified Divine Bow with a shield, but his destroying them so easily means you need more power, period, not more skill. The second reason is that this logic is not applied to all the Value weapons whatsoever. All you have to do is get lucky with random drops and deal with an obtuse mechanic that has nothing to do with the gameplay. You do not have to fight against a CPU to earn access to each weapon to prove that you can overcome it, why would it be broken. Granted, CPUs would do a bad job at attempting to prove any brokenness, but having to fight them would be better than nothing.

Of course, I’m here to talk about the narrative problems with Chapter 24 unto itself. There are so many things Played For Laughs. This is Kid Icarus Uprising, so some humor is to be expected, but that falls apart as an excuse because this is the penultimate chapter. Cerebus Syndrome would have gripped the game hard enough at this point. Instead, nothing serious is brought up in significant view. You can argue that it would mesh with the concept of unending optimism, but the whole point of Cerebus Syndrome is to compliment Earn Your Happy Ending. Scoffing off the bad stuff like it never happened is a good way to waste second chances on repeating history, instead of the more creative idea of learning from it and figuring out what worked and what didn’t.

The chapter gets extra demerit points for making Pit an Idiot Hero. I have a burning ire against Good Is Dumb in general because it invites stereotyping of good guys that says that anybody who could be pure-of-heart innately makes Ed from Ed, Edd, ‘n’ Eddy look like Sun Tzu. That trope is taken to that point, so both it and Idiot Hero need to become discredited tropes. What makes Pit’s Idiot Hero status particularly bad is it happening here, in the penultimate chapter where he should be world-weary enough. Kid Icarus Uprising itself was already sadistic enough to place Mimicuties at the end of dead-ended side paths you expect to hold rewards, complete with dialogue that makes it sound like the PLAYER is at fault. Why should Pit be thinking nothing suspicious of already free treasure early enough into a level?

I haven’t even touched on Pit remarking about the chapter title being “The One Trial.” I do not know how he manages to be both a complete moron and Functional Genre Savvy simultaneously, and yet here we are. Project Sora, if you’re going to be that seeped in humor, you have the busted math to work with for Pit to snark out. It is not hard to remark about Dyntos tripling the triple trouble in an implication that he’s Moving The Goalposts. Instead, you take the lazy way out and have Pit make a mistake that makes no sense at all.

Why have Idiot Hero for anything but clear and ready deconstruction? It doesn’t work played straight, especially not in a video game where the player wants somebody they can relate to. Phoenix Wright works by contrast because he’s consistently an astute Only Sane Man to the point where he has moments of figuring out stuff before the player is expected to, but he nevertheless avoids giving direct answers to the player before the player makes correct guesses. This makes Phoenix satisfying to play as because there is a clear standard to manage and you get to be that same compliment to the likes of Maya Fey and Athena Cykes. Idiot Hero provides no such standard and suffers for it.

Of course, this blog post exists because even if the execution was functional, the concept of Chapter 24 is innately bad. The idea is because of a moment of Cutscene Power To The Max–actually, two if we want to be technical–Pit and Palutena have to procure a new, stronger weapon so that they can get another shot at Hades. An arms race as the hero’s solution to winning the final battle is idiotic by itself, never mind the Broken Aesop I ranted about. What is the problem I want to now tear at, however, is that this is even the result of the aforementioned Cutscene Power To The Max.

The case of CPTTM that I’m talking about is that Hades sees the 3 Sacred Treasures and destroys them in a single attack. That you can play Chapter 23 without the 3ST to argue it’s not canon has the problem that you need to clear Chapter 23 to have that option at all and you only have the 3ST for the flying segment until the Hades battle, so there’s no point turning it off except a Self Imposed Challenge for the flying segment, which conveniently has Ornes. (Ornes, for those familiar with them only in Smash 4’s Smash Run, actually can be destroyed by the 3ST and have no defenses beyond the immunity to other attacks.) As far as the story cares, you don’t have the 3ST anymore because Hades instantly destroys them.

This has the problem that Hades has shown to have had too many problems with prior arcs’ key threats, namely the Aurum and the Chaos Kin. Hades accepted an Enemy Mine situation with Pit AND Viridi to be able take the Aurum on, and also finds Chaos Kin too much to handle reliably enough to let Chaos Kin work for him. Both threats were inevitably dropped by Pit using (in-story) weaker weapons than the 3ST. The 3 year Time Skip allowing Hades to gather more souls for his power only explains him having more power since the Aurum incident, but definitely not the Chaos Kin arc, which was right before Pit got to fighting him directly at all.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this–after all, this is Kid Icarus Uprising, and the other, potential at least, case of CPTTM I mentioned is Hades living through the destruction of his heart, even pointing that out in a humor moment to the audience of the game that has me wonder why Chaos Kin, who IS played seriously with no such moments and contrary to idol description does have moral agency, isn’t deemed a Complete Monster like Hades manages. Admittedly, the idols do suggest that the apparent inside of Hades’ stomach is just a custom pocket dimension, but as I pointed out with the idol descriptions, show, don’t tell. At any rate, the issue is that again, Hades has extra power for no good reason beyond the demands of the story. He doesn’t even have to transform or anything to show a case of Let’s Get Dangerous to smash the 3ST.

Hades is Laugably Evil with a God’s power? So is Kefka Palazzo from Final Fantasy 6. So is Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls. Both of them have some freaking explanation to why they pull their effectiveness that doesn’t fall flat on its face. Kefka sneaked his way into control of the Warring Triad statues and was able to rampage from there. Bill Cipher has the power of the Nightmare Realm behind him that he manages to get to spill into Gravity Falls which is how he was able to subject the Time Police to the Worf Effect in a Curb Stomp Battle. What does Hades have? Some souls he expends on creating his army of monsters which gets highlighted as an inefficient process, to the point where 3 years worth of warring if it miraculously didn’t finish off the humans, which it naturally didn’t, would not have provide him enough to spare for himself in a sudden emergency. Oh, and by the way, since Hades still proves persistent enough, Kefka and Bill even got defeated in quick enough fashions when cornered. Bill has the excuse of not being a video game villain, so when he finds himself, under the allure of escaping the borders of “THIS STUPID HICK TOWN”, tricked into and trapped within Grunkle Stan’s mind which then gets blasted by McGucket’s Memory Gun invention to erase Stan’s mind and Bill with it, it doesn’t feel like a cheat. Kefka, of course, has no such excuse, and yet his final phase is fragile enough to get dropped in general just reaching it, though arguably Kefka being turned into a glorified pinata works simply from him being an utter sociopath who caused no shortage of problems. Why does Hades need a freaking divine-powered Big Fun Gun 81,018,001 to incinerate him completely before he finally drops dead? Battling him already feels cheapened in general by all the Quick Time Events.

Where I am going with this? How about that Chapter 24 is ultimately padding at its finest. It has no story-wise reason to exist, as Pit was already at that point completely beelining for killing Hades and is only detouring because of Cutscene Power To The Max. It contributes nothing to the story, scrapes the bottom of the barrel with its humor as exemplified by the Pseudo Palutena business, and adds a character completely last minute while not even having that character show up or even get mentioned in the final chapter. It does nothing but make Chapter 25, which has its own problem of shallow gameplay by forcing the player into the GST the entire time and involving enough Quick Time Events, even more idiotic than it already is.

But of course, I’m talking about story. Does the gameplay make up for it? Not really.

Gameplay problems

The chapter starts with an air segment and….read my lips: I don’t like the air segments. Not only do they boil down to memorization at best on higher difficulties, but there is *NO* way to make them go faster, which gets aggravating when wanting to simply replay chapters to, say, refresh the shop for potentially more V100 weapons. (Yeah, bad reason on paper, but the game’s backwards design that has it subscribe to power creep makes V100 weapon collecting involve needless stupidity.) Chapter 24’s air segment, though not particularly bad, is nothing special, although thankfully not in stupidity despite the most memorable part, the dodging of the different weapons at the end, being a highlight about the memorization problem.

So what about the ground segment? Well, the “hub” portion involves moving between given gauntlet areas. Before even reaching one, the level’s design involves a problem already: the stairs that represent the transition. I did some calculations with the stairs, and noticed how each set of stairs has 20 of them, each about 8m long. That’s 160m for each set of stairs. Even Brawler Claws, with 17m/s and 8 second stamina, can’t transition from one set of stairs to another with full running without getting completely winded. (For reference, Compact Arm, with 13m/s and 9.5 second stamina manages less distance. Same with Magnus Club, though to a lesser extent at 11m/s and 12 second stamina.) Why do I bring these up? Because there’s not that much being done on the stairs to begin with. Yeah there are a few enemies on each of the stair sets, but not nearly enough to keep them from feeling empty. It’s to the point where an involved Aurum Dohz is given souped up stats…..except this just makes sure the best way to counter it is, what else, to kite it. There’s an Orne that patrols stair steps 13 to 20 on the second step of stairs that could be scary if you’re using a low mobility weapon, but even though the Orne can’t be despawned out of the way, this doesn’t fix the underlying problem with the whole mess in the least.

At the main gauntlets, each marked with a big door, the whole deal is about taking out given enemies. The first one is pretty forgettable–I had to look on a different site to remember what it’s about, but that makes it clear that gauntlet is easy enough. The second one encourages taking things so slowly it hurts. The third one is just a Juggernaut and a Fort Oink with the latter deploying Trynamites, and then an inflated HP Monoeye. Really, not much that makes sure things are reasonably exciting, aside from the Juggernaut/Fort Oink combination.

Of course, the gimmick of the level is that behind each of the doors is a boss rematch to clear before this entire farce can be over and done with, with each of the rematches providing the availability of an item that wasn’t there before. The bosses are pretty much unchanged, but after the third one is dealt with is a few new bosses.

Of course, what makes the whole thing too much of a mess isn’t what would make this stuff difficult, but what makes this stuff needlessly easy outside of the higher difficulties: an absolute overabundance on healing item checkpoints. Thanks to that, the already dull segments don’t get to mean anything beyond how they could drop the player from full health, and thus encourages even more passive, dull behavior. The healing is even applied right before each of the new bosses, preventing the new bosses from being nearly as threatening without resorting to cheap tricks. Yep, that brings me to Great Sacred Treasure, which even on 3.0 has his standard dakka attacks have excessively low amounts of telegraphing for what they do resulting in his Turns Red phase being inexplicably easier, never mind that GST is at the end of this entire borefest or at the end of Boss Battles, pick your poison. It’s telling there’s willful idiocy involved when GST has a gimmicky attack in the Turns Red transition that destroys half the arena which kills Pit, unconditionally, if he’s in that half of the arena when the attack goes off, and GST doesn’t use it in Boss Battles.

If a mix of enemies from different factions is going to get involved, they should be competently involved, not being thrown about as props of a cheap theme park.

Underlying implications

I could of course tear at Chapter 25 instead or maybe some other messed up chapter in the game. There’s plenty that have the problem of involving KIU being Merchandise Driven, with Chapter 19 being a particularly bad offender. Chapter 24, however, showcases KIU’s general problems more clearly than about any other chapter can.

I mention Kid Icarus Uprising being Merchandise Driven because too many story elements come into play conveniently when they are relevant, with absolutely no foreshadowing. The Reaper Fortress, the pirate ship, the Forces Of Nature commanders, the AURUM, the Chariot Master’s tower, and everything about the Rewind Spring all involve this problem. It suggests that the creator doesn’t care about good worldbuilding, which I recall Death Note having received founded complaints about that problem and its drama version saw fit to fix that problem by introducing the characters early, including Near and freaking Teru Mikami, the latter of whom got introduced in the first episode in a way that has him interconnected by Misa Amane by being the prosecutor against her family’s murderer, instead of simply being somebody to act as Light’s proxy. (Forget that I like the drama version for other reasons too: humanizing Light better than the other continuities do and clearly to the bitter end as well, plot twists to keep older Death Note fans on their toes, and of course I can’t gush enough about having the scene where Light, Misa, and Mikami meet up and plan out the future with none of the 3, including Light himself, wanting at all to kill off either of the other 2 where they can help it. Showing those 3 working together with ease and without too much complication is truly a CMOA by showcasing them as an actual, coordinated force to be reckoned with.)

Chapter 24 has the Merchandise Driven problem as I mentioned. However, what makes it particularly painful about it is that as I mentioned, it does NOTHING necessary even by that standard when this is supposed to be the final battle arc, why are we going along this detour of fluff? At least everything else I ranted about added stuff in the middle of the story when you’d want to be focusing on developments. You can argue that Hades ambushed Pit in Chapter 23 so having Chapter 24 as is has to happen, but okay, why have that in the first place? Even if the 3ST should still get destroyed, the story already established that Palutena’s bring-back power can be blocked off by the Interference power as it already happened before. That’s what Chapters 23 and 24 should have involved: that Pit finds himself stuck in the Underworld for extended periods, which already happened at the very beginning of the first Kid Icarus, not to mention it would shout out to a prior Kid Icarus game idea. Even if Chapter 25 would inevitably involve The Power Of Friendship, possibly Chapter 24 as well just to have Palutena pull You Are Worth Hell off for Pit, removing the GST from the equation and making a Palutena forsaken actual level would still be clearly Earn Your Happy Ending and thus be better than what we got: the player winning through just raw power instead of their own efforts.

The Unfortunate Implication is this: various reasons to be unhappy rear their ugly heads? No problem, just laugh them off because they are not a big deal in the least. This is busted by its very nature, because it says that anybody who has had problems ALWAYS deserves to have them. This is, since people will say something about me having double standards, the dark shallowness that can be problematic with Genki Girls when they think too little or outright nothing of others. Never mind that they are more appealing when they prove their high amounts of energy lead to them being more adaptable, more creative, more brave (instead of just fearless), and actually more pleasant. Keets like Pit could only benefit from this concept.

You can say that Keets or Genki Girls shouldn’t grow up. It’s true that they shouldn’t grow up…too much. The impressive thing would be their energy simply directly throwing off becoming world-weary, not scoffing off legitimate reasons to be irked by the world as perceived beeswax. Guess what Pit does?

Now one could argue that I’d be missing the point: that Immortal Immaturity would be in play. VERY much in play. Ignoring that by that standard these characters should be flat out immune to everything from being incinerated by a Big Fun Gun downward, it is not an excuse for the lack of exploration of what the story’s muggles have to deal with. Magnus is introduced in Chapter 2, he was in the promotion trailer, and he says that yes, the humans are having problems. It’s generally scoffed off as him being too cranky for his own good, by Palutena no less. The humans’ suffering is generally treated the same way as the Cerebus Syndrome: just there to cover the story and then too quickly forgotten after every mention about without a working sense of worldbuilding. Half the time, I end up forgetting why Hades could be a Complete Monster because of that, and it’s because the standards are simply an awful mess.

The final potential counterargument is that Kid Icarus Uprising is designed for kids. This only works as a reason to make the basic gameplay good enough, which ironically has the issue that Kid Icarus Uprising has questionable controls that have been called out repeatedly. This does NOT excuse the story’s shallowness in the least, because a good story makes sure to be accommodated by worldbuilding and Fridge Brilliance that adults can enjoy, especially if it is going to be so humor-focused. But wait, the game is still for kids, why am I arguing that? Yeah, you know what is absolutely capable of being fun enough to a kid? Proving to be no less adept and moral than a decent adult. Why pull the same sort of idiocy you would expect to see get thrown at Dipper Pines from Gravity Falls?

The worst part is that Sakurai’s mentality has him cause similar mistakes with Super Smash Bros. Even the 4th game is not free from oversimplification in the way the game plays out: there is simply so much flowchart that involves flagrant moves, that it becomes an insult to people’s intelligence. This happens because Sakurai wanted to make the game TOO kid-friendly and reward moves that already let kids easily do things a 5-year-old could come up without needing to be particularly crafty, instead of encouraging them to explore the nuances of each character’s melee combat. Sakurai simply doesn’t learn and it’s because he’s so adverse to growing up that it’s a surprise he has as many resources as he does.

In closing

After ~4200 words, it’s safe to say that maturity, while it can be overrated at times, is something that should at least be considered to have enough of. It would certainly allow for designing better things than Kid Icarus Uprising Chapter 24. Let this whole thing be a lesson to not be too immature.

Weapon modifier banning

I promised a post about banning weapon modifiers, or mods for short, from competitive matches. This would be divisive because weapon modifiers is a key mechanic, but Super Bash Sisters’ competitive scene saw fit to completely ban items altogether. I’m not in agreement about banning items as a whole in Brawl, though a lot of them do have their definite issues. Mods do involve SOME control for what they do, but that has its own point of contention too.

What the heck do weapon modifiers do anyway?
Basically, each weapon you get has modifiers that, although they increase Value, they boost the weapon in some manner. Value’s purpose is that in Light VS Dark, every death a player suffers detracts from their Team’s Life Gauge by the exact Value of their weapon. The idea is that you can use a pumped up weapon if you wish, but if you do, you must be careful or your Team’s Life Gauge will drop like a rock, preventing players from trying to use one to destroy everything effortlessly.

There is an obvious positive to this: the customization. The idea becomes that the possibilities become endless. Players can choose weapon types and give them whatever mods they please. This adds in a lot of replay argue, it’s actually easy to argue. Well, hey, I’m all for that.

It’s actually fortune that there’s plenty of replay value when mods are removed anyway.

Why should this entire mechanic be banned anyway?
Before I start off with the harsh negatives, I need to point out why it isn’t so necessary for a healthy competitive environment. Basically, there’s 108 weapon types and about 50 power types. The weapon types are, of course, basically characters, and having 108 of them goes a long way in things. Power types have their own levels and any setup can have at least 3 powers easily. This allows for a surprisingly deep variety of things to happen, even without mods.

But a lack of necessity by itself isn’t reason at all to ban something. It’s only a blind spot, but certainly not going to detract from the game. Rest assured that there are overwhelming negatives to mods though. Enough to warrant the banning at any rate.

Excessive boosting
Which negative to start with than the one that brought the entire problem to my attention. A lot of mods proved overpowered in and of themselves before I tried a random AI match, where the AI guys would have generally only 4 star “junk” and no Energy Charge spam. I was doing the match with a 100V weapon and the result was absurd: I died SIX times, because I was being killed quickly every time I did anything resembling an approach. Add to it that I had only 2 deaths when I retried with a defensively powerful version of the same thing, and this quickly made it clear that the DEF mods are expensive not to keep them from being mindless, but because they allow for the survival of mob abuse. This is a flawed balance because mob attacks being so strong inevitably favors range combat, making close range 100V weapons junk without some suffocating power setup. Yet it is happening with the AI’s relatively mediocre weapons.

What is really condemning about this? The game is built around Light VS Dark, not 1 VS 1s. And yet the former manages to be imbalanced in favor of snipers. Simply because the dedicated tank is already needed to hope to bust a sniper position that is so half-efforted. This is simply anything but acceptable.

Things get even worse: mods manage to be cost effective in general even by their lonesome. Only a few mods cost more Value than the percentage value of the increase for the stat, but even then none of the differences are significant. It’s particularly an issue even getting into 150 Value weapons, when 200+ Value weapons become the resulting standard. With those, the Value increases become so insignificant that the only things worth caring about are magic numbers, if that. This has one key problem: Kid Icarus Uprising’s combat is so fast paced that Value’s magic numbers aren’t worth caring about either. All that’s left is the boosts.

Value’s pointlessness in the angel phase
Getting past Value cost effectiveness, there’s still something to talk about: what does Value do during the angel phase of Light VS Dark? Well, simple: every time one of the angel’s teammates dies, the angel takes damage proportional to the Value of the teammate’s Value. Notice I said proportional and not equal? That’s because it’s fractional. The damage is insignificant even with 300 Value teammates, and it can’t even directly kill the angel either, which means that an angel with minimized health can end up living for so long and cause the opposing angel to die when they had a massive health advantage and kept killing the teammates who actually could fight back.

That brings up the big problem: without Value being relevant, all that is left is the pumped up opponents who tear through the angel’s health like wet tissue paper. It is such that the angel’s boosts, already hampered by the fact that his weapon type is randomized, become outpaced, and for the fact that the angel’s death causes his team to lose, this means there’s only viable strategy for the angel: running away like a wuss.

This is a red flag, because it means that camping becomes promoted. I’m sure many other players can tell you why camping becomes bad, but needless to say, the fact that a player will to do that so much means that whoever is forced into the angel phase first is going to lose if both teams effortlessly destroy camping. The end result is steep slippery slope. Pick your poison: slippery slope or a stalemate.

Value speeds up Power regeneration
This is the biggest reason to ban weapon modifiers, so much so that tame mods still need to be banned regardless, because they still increase Value regardless. The Value increases causing powers to regenerate faster upon dying is backwards, because there is no longer a penalty for dying. It doesn’t seem like it because the regen rate is simply proportional, but it gets to the point where powers get spammed, and with the increased stats in general, the powers have vastly magnified effect. Transparency + Lightweight is reported on vanilla TV Tropes as a Game Breaker that can pull a Total Party Kill right as the match is beginning and cause the angel no shortage of problems. This is a side-effect of mods boosting the player so much, but one thing should be noted: the entry mentions that if the guy with the combination gets killed, they will recover their powers for further harassment. This would not be possible in a 100 Value environment, as it would take THREE deaths to recover a charge of either of the two powers.

Here is a list of Power regen values if you need them:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ajxa2ILc_Q6ddEl6b3hDYzdRNUFzZlJNWHpNVllZTmc&usp=sharing
The big one is Playing Dead, listed at only 202. Playing Dead is frequently abused to get so much absolute invulnerability, and letting mods run rampant means that every death adds in an extra charge of its nonsense. Playing Dead, as one can imagine, is not fun to deal with. Even worse, with all the hiked up attack power, Playing Dead in combination with Slip Shot allowing for cheap attacks has NOTHING to keep it under control.

The idea that dying should be rewarded at all is a farce. It’s punishment for being hit too hard, and Value is there to prevent people from just using pumped up weapons, except with the faster regen rates, those pumped up weapon users can now use powers mindlessly. Compared to 100V weapon users who have to pay hawklike attention to what they use even against each other, let alone against stronger guys who can kill them alarmingly fast and consequently nullify their powers completely when they can’t get any charges back at all.

That’s the big issue: the removal of a key strategic factor. It’s such that even Knockback Recovery is enough of a threat to balance, especially since even one point of Value above the minimum of 100 has Playing Dead regen one death faster.

Difficulty of getting “viable” weapons
Now this is actually a double edged sword because it’s absolutely random what the player gets. This means that getting 100 Value weapons is actually luck-based. There is a get around, although it IS a glitch: on the preparations screen, pressing Right/Left on the D-Pad and then immediately pressing Start changes your weapon type but NOT anything else to what is on the set to the right/left. It’s precise, but you did it right if you saw the scroll but still have the initial set in the training room.

Some may still dislike this glitch, though, but I won’t blame anybody who uses the glitch for things that simply get around the random drop problem and the counterintuitive fusion system.

The fusion system puts this point in favor of the 100V environment. The 100V environment removes the need to try to make a min-maxed weapon just to fight back. Min-maxers, since they still are at the mercy of luck, have to do more in the game that is unrelated to the combat system. They get an unfair advantage in and of itself that the opponent can do nothing about. This is simply asking for turning the game into “who has the most broken weapon”, defeating the mere point of Value.

This is made worse by how the fusion system is counterintuitive as mentioned. What is passed through fusion is practically random for its own sake, and it makes it difficult to pass a mod like Overall DEF+. The only way to make sure it is put on a given type is by fusion chains. The game’s own organizing system is also shortsighted, as it is impossible to organize weapons by given mods. This makes it much harder to find desirable mods when weapons are already only obtained by random drops.

Comparison to powers
Now what is particularly condemning about mods? How about the lack of innate counter play? Value does nothing unless the player dies to begin with, at which point they are being defeated, which is the opponent’s very objective. It simply does not work as a counterbalancing weakness in general. The Value increase needs to be significantly stronger than the mod’s boost. This is sadly not the case with most mods in the first place. It allows a weapon to hold too many maxed mods without ANY issue, making 100V weapons even more invalid.

Adding to this, mods last the entire match. This means that nothing needs to be done for them to be useful, because they will work with absolutely no condition or drawback in general. And no, I have not forgotten about Value, because it’s been established that Value doesn’t work. All that is left is free power boosts that last the entire match.

What these two factors mean together is that mods would need to be tame. But they fail to be tame, or this post wouldn’t even exist. And there is something to contrast to mods: powers.

Powers need to be fit into a 6×6 grid within various shapes, and then they are temporary boosts anyway. These two factors, by themselves, reduce the need for powers to be tame. But what really strengthens these factors is the existence of powers such as Black Hole which are designed to be checked only by powers in general. This makes sure that space has to be expended to guard against Black Hole, creating weaknesses that allows typical BH users to fight back.

Black Hole doesn’t seem like it, but it adds depth to the user’s gameplay: they want to determine what the opponent can and can’t do to guard against Black Hole usage, with a practice known as Grid Reading. Here is an example from a recent online random match I played on: an opponent used Energy Charge and Quick Charge at the start. Then about 20 seconds later, when they lost their Energy Charge, they put the EC back up and also used Slip Shot and Tirelessness. I responded with Black Hole to quickly kill them, and then when they respawned, I immediately used Black Hole to kill them again.

At the time, I was actually not having entirely concrete proof of such, but I was right to have used Black Hole when I did. The opponent had a minimum Energy Charge level of 2. Add in the the way the other powers are shaped and they could not have fit in anything that required more than 4 spaces. Anybody who doesn’t believe me is free to try to disprove me. Remember that the combination is Slip Shot, Tirelessness, Quick Charge, and Energy Charge, with Energy Charge being leveled.

This sort of gameplay means that on-the-fly analysis is rewarded, which is good because it keeps the game fresh on both sides. The BH user would want to learn more about the game and opponents would want to try psychology and creativity. It certainly should not get shafted by some mindless power boosts.

Particularly broken mods
Now if those reasons somehow don’t do it for you, there are still too many mods that are capable of causing excessive problems which would cause them to deserve to be banned regardless. The number of them is such that it’s easier to just ban the whole collection than try to make a list that would even be painful to enforce. But of course, I’d have to prove why each one is too imbalanced to be allowed, period.

Evasion+
By and far the most broken thing in the game, with only Shot Range+ coming anywhere close to competing, Evasion+ adds invincibility frames to dodge moves. This doesn’t seem like much at first, but then consider that +3 and +4 have dodge moves’ invincibility frames last past the IASA (Interruptible As Soon As) frame. This means that as soon as one dodge is done, any attacks in a given chain become completely useless because of continued dodge moves. This already gets to humiliating powers such as Mega Laser and Heavenly Light which are built around chain attacking and consequently only feed Evasion+. Not to mention RAPID FIRE AS A WHOLE feeds it too.

This isn’t the end of the problems, either. One of the dodge moves is the dasharound, which can be performed within 10m of a given opponent. This means that the only way to stop the opponent from having infinite invincibility frames for free is to stay away from the abuser, but this is not reasonable with a low mobility weapon. Even worse, it punishes players for trying to melee the abuser, when melee is supposed to be risk-reward in the first place.

This is the definition of overcentralizing. Various powers, including Black Hole, as well as melee combat as a whole and the choice to forego mobility for other traits, and even ENTIRE MOVE TYPES, are rendered invalid. None of this serves as a balanced experience. You can argue that immediate damage and things like Invisible Shots silence Evasion+, but it is simply not healthy for the environment to need to be always Invisible Shots Rose Staffs. And some of the “counters” such as Darkness and Virus have actually failed miserably to do anything as well, so rule those out.

Even if you can get past the infinite invincibility frames problem, it’s still going to take a significant amount of superiority in skill to win, and the match will still be so dragged out that powers get dried up even with the increased regen rates. A boring competitive scene has no value because the mere point of a game is fun.

The nail in the coffin is the comparison to Counter, which similarly controls rapid fire by providing free shots, but that’s a 4 space power and it additionally adds in an automation weakness that turns it into risk-reward. Evasion+ just boosts the dodge moves for only 30 Value. Evasion+ does nothing positive and everything negative.

Shot Range+
Though not as bad as Evasion+, Shot Range+ has its own very definite culpability in the game’s imbalances. The main reason Evasion+ is still worse, besides that Evasion+ just plain invalidates too many things, is because Evasion+ actually benefits every single weapon type. Shot Range+ in fact actually weakens weapon types that do significantly more damage over range because the attacks are weakened.

But if many weapon types didn’t do the opposite, then things would get out of hand fast.

See, weapons typically deal less damage over range because if they didn’t, there would be no incentive to get close and consequently do skill gambles. Shot Range+ messes with this, because shots have their damage affected by the percentage of how far into their lifespan they are into. This ultimately results in that run-of-the-mill weapon types avoid losing damage over distance. It’s even worse: what is retained is BASE damage, which also is used to determine how much stamina higher Shot Cancel shots lose, as well as how easily statuses are afflicted. The shot destroying aspect isn’t so sickening, but the statusing can get out of hand.

The damage by itself, though, is still a problem all the same. Weapons once balanced by dealing bad damage or outright unable to even shoot at 30 or more meters become nightmares that can stay out of Black Hole’s total range. This has the same result that contributes to Evasion+’s brokenness: melee combat becomes pointless and the standard range is increased to where a power like Black Hole can’t be used to manage a constant enough threat. Additionally, what is the point of aiming a Flintlock Staff or Earthmaul Club to snipe people off when you can just use a Capricorn Club to effortlessly cause severe amounts of damage from literally the other end of Windy Wasteland? It becomes all about those weapons. And in case this isn’t a biased enough mod, things like Ore Club which can hit from far for considerable damage but have their shot speed being painfully slow can’t even benefit from Shot Range+ because they still have an innate problem that caps their effective range.

There is also another trait that makes Shot Range+ on certain weapons brutal: looping. Looping by itself is fine, in fact giving snipers incentive to move close to make sure their attacks have more opportunity to loop and cause more damage or give the opponent momentum issues. Shot Range+, however, takes it too far, as it allows weapons like Eyetrack Orbitars to have their shots loop and deal severe damage from mid-range. As you can imagine, this allows for killing even an Aries Armor guy from far with alarming ease and speed. This, yet again, prevents the idea of going close from ever working. I don’t need to say anything more at this point.

Ironically, the last issue with Shot Range+ causes an entirely different but still banworthy problem. Shot Range+, by extending the lifespan of projectiles, would manage to have side effects such as the Guardian Orbitars’ shots being around for longer. But the most noteworthy side effect is with the Predator Cannon’s backshot. Without Shot Range+, the backshot would unconditionally die off just as it gets close to the ground at the latest, and it only explodes if it makes contact with something to begin with. However, Shot Range+ changes the rules here, as the backshot now lasts longer, which doesn’t seem significant, but throw in Homing Boost and it not only easily chases an opponent, but hounds them so relentlessly that it becomes absolutely undodgeable at considerable ranges. Add to it that the backshot hits hard enough, and leaving this alone means that everybody will have to pack Super Armor to be able to shake off the abuse. Not having Super Armor should be a weakness, but certainly it should not be fatal at all. That would still just make things get bland fast.

(Walking/Running) Speed+ and Full Health Boost+

Melee Combo+ would have been next on the list, but as capable of mindless play as it is, that’s partly because it just boosts attack power, and I’d want to cover the mods that don’t first so that I can make a point. So I’m going on the next most OP thing: Speed+.

I have to point out that Speed+ is actually one of the few modifiers that isn’t cost effective by its lonesome, as it boosts mobility by only 1/12 per point and requires about 8 Value per level in addition to the initial 1.3. This is still minimal, and it still fails to address the key problem: mobility is a stat you NEVER try to check with off-balance weaknesses unless the mobility boost itself is too weak to care about in comparison to the weakness’s influence. In general, mobility already absolutely needs to be checked enough to prevent auto-win scenarios. No problem, Black Hole exists, right? Well, I have actually seen players run out of Black Hole’s vacuum without needing to use any powers. This is absolutely broken because Black Hole needs to force power usage to work.

Add to it that Black Hole, at the same time that it has the issue of still limited range, is completely uncontested as THE most reliable You Will Not Evade Me attack in the game. Even Mega Laser still is reliant on the user’s aiming compared to the opponent’s ability to throw it off. When it costs a full line, it can’t afford the resulting nasty problems. I have had my own Mega Lasers dodged CASUALLY by people with Speed+ mods. This is an attack with both infinite range AND an instant hitbox on activation. Add to it that Mega Laser has to deal with Bumblebee as well and things go pearshaped before long.

There’s another problem, although it isn’t caused with Walking Speed+: certain weapons are capable of moving faster than 20m per second without Lightweight. Lightweight is already banworthy for doing this because it prevents escape by Super Speed without reducing the user’s attack power, and it’s a considerable space power. Speed+ only does this with very particular weapons, but it’s still a mod. It should not under any circumstances cause any auto-loss matchups. In this case, it makes Tirelessness just as efficient as Lightweight for running weapons, which is bad.

Walking Speed+ itself allows weapons such as Compact Arm to keep doing their DPS while they become even harder to catch. This is NOT reasonable for a mod with a low Value even by the already shaky standards of the mods. It gets even worse: walking itself doesn’t even stagger stamina regeneration at all, allowing weapons like the Magnus Club to walk very nearly as fast as they run without having to care about a key mechanic, and even worse, the Magnus Club can keep swinging wildly and consequently shake off attacks casually. If it’s effectively invincible at LONG range for no effort, then what’s the point of its inability to fire shots that can go further than 20 meters?

Add to it that the Speed+ mods have low enough Value ratings anyway and either you use them or your weapon automatically sucks. That’s this nice little thing called overcentralization. That is not welcome.

Full Health Boost+, by the way, qualifies as a speed boost. It is removed by so much as chinking the abuser with a pebble, so much, but that’s if you can even hit them, and they also get a significant attack boost just to make things worse.

Shot Cancellation+

While Shot Cancel+ isn’t causing a single global problem, it is capable of significant problems that really skew matchups in certain weapon types’ favor. It’s already such that the game saw fit to limit Shot Cancel+ to 1 point and made it an expensive mod. Or certainly try to at any rate.

…yeeeeeaaaahhhh……

But Shot Cancel+ is capable of multiple things is the key problem. Review this table here:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AipeBcI1_9cPdGZKU3JzUW1aeUo4Nnd0N05XOVdYaEE&gid=11

You may notice that most weapon types in 4 weapon families as well as a few weapon types in a few others have a max Shot Cancel value of 4. This is a problem because a few weapons such as Bear Claws have 3 SC on rapid fire attacks, and SC+ increases it to 4, allowing the rapid fire to completely neutralize the weapons’ CHARGE SHOTS. Also, the vast majority of weapons have at least one 4 SC attack, which with SC+ gets increased to 5, which is not exceeded by any shot type from either any cannon or a standard club. Not cool.

This is on top of what happens with equal SC attacks: the guy with SC+ will have his/her attack get through and hit an additional object, whether it be the opponent themselves or the next attack. QED: Simple attrition gives the SC+ guy the advantage, and the game’s attempt to check this is so half-efforted that it may as well not be there.

Shot Defense+

The DEF mods have a common issue: using division defense to reduce damage. This becomes an issue when it results in anti-armor attacks, which NOBODY has any business being hit by in general, being considerably weakened. There are other games that do use division defense but are better about it: Battalion Wars gives units damage type resistances allowing for vehicles to not take reduced damage from things like tank shells; and Kingdom Rush both uses multiple defense stats and has cannon attacks ignore half the targeted defense stat. Defensive power is fine if it checks and controls the easiest method of hitting. It is NOT fine if it makes attacks that need to hit hard to work suffer and like it.

Shot DEF+ stands out, though, since it deserves more complaints than merely becoming a necessity for surviving mob tactics from mediocre attack power weapons. It reduces damage from projectile attacks twice as effectively as Overall DEF+ does at the cost that it doesn’t guard against melee attacks whatsoever. Sound like the shadow against melee justifies being only 2/3 or even less of the Value that virtually equivalent Overall DEF+ is? Well, let me point out one thing that would prove how much it does: literally over 85% of my total attacks on my Records are projectiles. This is considering that I frequently use a weapon type designed for CLOSE RANGE. Yes, there is blatant favoritism in what is used that makes a playstyle skew do nothing significant. So naturally, Shot DEF+ is going to be nearly as strong as Overall DEF+.

This isn’t true for all weapon types, but there are some such as Raptor Claws and Magnus Club where the melee blind spot is anything but significant when the weapon type itself can easily control when melee combat is happening. Those weapon types are meant to be checked by sniping, but when they take much less damage from that, the sniping falls flat on its face. One shot, no kill on fast guys is going to be in favor of the mobile weapons before long.

Not to mention players being able to survive 4 or 5 Skyscraper Club shots for only 60 Value. That’s anything but balanced.

Weaken+, Petrify+, and Freeze+

Any (Status)+ mod innately saves space on the grid by allowing for causing the respective status just by attacking without having to trigger a power. Most of the (Status)+ mods save for 3~4 space junk powers so it doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, Weaken Attack, Petrify Attack, and Freeze Attack all cost 6 or more spaces each. And they cost as much as they do for good reason. Of course, as usual, the attempts to make the respective mods cost much are too half-efforted, as +1 is all that is needed to deal the status at all.

Weaken+ isn’t particularly nasty on most weapons, but the ones that hit for considerable damage very easily such as Eyetrack Orbitars can make it problematic with alarming speed. It is very likely the victim will take a Weaken and before they even realize that they have taken the effect and can use Effect Recovery they are getting hit even more. This screams free Energy Charge and thus allows the abuser to use powers combinations that are even harder to stop from hitting. Two powers for the price of none.

Freeze+ and, to a lesser extent, Petrify+ immobilize the victim, which means either having to use Effect Recovery or take abuse like a sponge. It’s particularly nasty on things like the Taurus Arm which can cause the status in a single combo even with +1, but it becomes even worse when it gets paired with status spam, which would overwhelm Effect Recovery 3. 3 spaces isn’t a problem for tanks, but everybody else shouldn’t have to spend it on a power that is useless against BH clubs.

Remaining mods

Subtracting what has been listed above, aside from mods that boost attack power, the remaining mods are Health+/-, Overall DEF+/-, Status Resistance+/-, Knockback DEF+, (Status)+, Shot Homing+/-, Stamina+, Effect Duration+, Effect Recovery+, Knockback Recovery, Self Injury, In-Peril Auto Dodge+/-, and Heart Bonus+/-. Some of these mods still suck and are only warranting ban to prevent Value increase, but plenty are able to cause problems, though not to the level of the above or even to the level of Melee Combo+ or Power Attack+. All in all, the room for creativity with these mods isn’t terribly high.

Speaking of…

Melee Combo+ and Dash Charge Shot+

This would have been listed before the Speed+ mods, but it just boosts attack power. Yeah.

Melee Combo+ is one move so it would be needing less Value than melee stars for the same amount of boost, right? Well, there’s one problem: melee dash attacks are excessively hard to use, and it gets to the point where the melee combo is practically the only reason to get melee stars. Why get those when you can get Melee Combo+? Well, actually, melee stars also help the damage done get increased past 2.75x. But even without that, it’s still making Melee Combo+ the priority. The abuser can add in more mods to cause more problems with their mindless play. Because believe me: people rushing with melee combos gets old fast.

Dash Charge Shot+ operates under the same principle: dash shots are the only practical attacks. However, this doesn’t hold true for too many weapons, so it’s not as bad. Still, it’s capable of the same attack power cap increase that Melee Combo+ is. That alone warrants being lumped in with Melee Combo+.

Power Attack+

This is more or less equivalent to Shot Cancel+.

This is another of the half-efforted balance mods. In this case, Power Attack+ multiplies damage done by attack powers by a very considerable amount. This becomes worthy of being given a high Value because attack powers also ignore Overall DEF+, which means Health+ is the only thing that can buffer the attack powers, and even then Power Attack+ needs only +2 to outpace Health +6. The worst part? Because of the massive multiplier, Mega Laser becomes able to kill a Health+6 target in less than 30 hits. This seems to be a lot but Mega Laser hits many times per charge. Up to 24 times to be exact. Even if Mega Laser is poorly used, it can be spammed to generally kill them in only 3 charges. Given that Mega Laser is supposed to be a power that hits easily, this is simply not right at all.

Power Attack+ gets to the point where it makes other players suffer and like it as well. It gets to the point where it got listed on Vanilla TV Tropes with the following entry:
The Power Attack modifier is a Glass Cannon example. Having Power Attack +4 (the highest possible) on a weapon usually means you won’t get much in the way of stats and other modifiers, but the trade off is that it doubles the strength of Powers like Mega Laser, Explosive Flame, Meteor Shower, Land Mine, and so on. What were once panic buttons become lethal surprise attacks, and the modifier on a weapon with decent damage and/or an innate Speed boost makes for a good one-two punch KO for whatever survives the Power spam. Granted you have to die to get your Powers refreshed after using them all up, but done right you should be gaining more than you’re losing.

This also brings up another problem: Power Attack+ causes its problems individual of the weapon type, which, in addition to making variety weaker as a whole, ends up being in favor of speedsters who move better than other players allowing them to use these powers to excessive usefulness while powerhouses are left in the cold. If attack powers stayed tame enough, this wouldn’t be a problem, but they fail to and that is why Power Attack+ is imbalanced.

Closing

About 14 severely imbalanced mods is very condemning. It gets to the point where the weapon modifiers mechanic becomes enough of a mess, because banning only those mods is going to hurt the mod variety too severely anyway. Plenty of the remains are just attack power boosts to begin with. This wouldn’t be a problem with power bans because only 3 powers even boost attack power and they all manage to warrant controversy at minimum. There wouldn’t be much that would be missed by banning the entire mechanic rather than just the problem mods.

And just for the last bit of wood on this fire, I’m going to preempt any complaints that I would miraculously just benefit. I would put it in an alternate post for courtesy, but there’s still some factors I haven’t fully addressed yet.

Personal reasons and why they’re irrelevant at least

People would no doubt think that if I want to ban something, it’s because I would just benefit from that. Let me dispute these points.

I still lose my hyper defenses

This is the key point of contention. Apparently, I don’t want to deal with the stuff because apparently I don’t know how to deal with it. This has a key problem: I use Overall DEF +7 and Health +6 on the same weapon.

Let me provide the math involved: Overall DEF +7 cuts damage by 49%, and Health +6 adds 120 Health from a total of 222. This would have the following formula:
(342 / 222) * (100 / 51) = 34200 / 11322 = 3 234/11322 ~= 3.05
Overall DEF +8 would use the following formula instead:
(342 / 222) * (100 / 44) = 34200 / 9768 = 3 4896/9768 ~= 3.5

The first one is outpaced by effective 7 stars, which would be something like Melee Combo +4 and 3 stars. The second one is outpaced by effective 9 stars. (Remember that each half-star provides +1/7 worth of attack power, and each point for (Move)+ provides +2/7 for the given move.) Fusers don’t have much of a problem fitting in the latter and having room for other mods. This proves significant when the extra mods no longer have to fear the defenses. As expensive as defensive power should be to prevent mindless play, it shouldn’t be so inept as to be rendered pointless. Defensive power is supposed to be useful to stop the opponent from doing whatever they want. If it is too weak, then mindless play becomes dominant, and I’m still reeling from the brokenness of Ring of Fire -> Signal Flare -> Rainbow Rush of Doom in Bloons Tower Defense Battles. (The RRoD will kill anybody with 50 or less Popping Power Per Second Per $1000 in their defenses. Most tower types struggle to exceed 20.)

The attack power boosts being so massive in the first place deserves its own complaint, by the way. Only 4 stars is needed to double the damage done, when that still requires less than 75 Value to reach to begin with. 20~30 base damage is not an accomplishment, which results in power weapons being painfully redundant. It gets really bad with the higher attack power jumps: 8 stars triples the damage done, and Energy Charge, which is effectively permanent thanks to the faster regen, multiplies the RESULT, rather than stacking with the mods, which means that SIX TIMES the damage is done. This turns any 40+ base damage attack into a 1HK (1 Hit Kill) against standard fighters, and 20+ base damage into a 2HK. Even worse, because of the resulting attack power arms race, everybody will have 300 Value weapons, which triples the effective damage. This makes ever getting hit more punishing than it should be, causing a spike in usage of things like Bumblebee and Overall DEF- which otherwise would have minimized influence or outright be valid weaknesses.

Meanwhile, on the flip side of the coin, people without min-maxed weapons, which is actually very understandable, would actually be able to deal more damage against me than they would with no mods banned, because I would no longer have defenses outpacing their capabilities. This does this nice little thing called rewarding skill. None of this needing to have particular weapons they can’t get to stand a chance stupidity.

Ultimately, things get more evened out.

I die infrequently to begin with

In most matches, it’s rare for me to die more than 1 time, and there’s a decent frequency where I don’t die ONCE. This can’t even be attributed to my hyper defenses, because I’m still outpaced even without Evasion+ or even Shot Range+, and it gets to such where I did an early drop of Aries Armor simply because it didn’t do enough to shut out problem statuses like Eggplant.

My low deaths amount is significant because of one thing: when I simply do not die, my Value does not, for ANY reason, matter. I don’t cause my team’s Life Gauge to suffer and there’s no power regen from death for the Value to multiply. When stats are equal, I would genuinely be unaffected because I’m not doing anything that would change in a 100V match. It’s that simple: I’m winning by skill.

Now if I do happen to die, I actually recover 1 power charge for each of 5 powers aside from Effect Recovery (which also recovers a charge whenever I die, but statuses would have to be involved). This can be significant, but generally, I have plenty of charges of those powers anyway. Except maybe Black Hole, which has only 2 charges, and it should be used wisely regardless.

Honestly, I’d rather a game punish a player for dying against non-broken setups, simple as that.

I’d have to be more cautious against attack powers in general

Even though Power Attack+ is rightfully called broken, it’s infrequently used, so powers still don’t get boosted often, which means that Health+ weakens them considerably. Removing Health+ means that I take a higher percentage of damage from powers. Though it would thankfully be lower than if Power Attack+ VS Health+ was involved. I would still not be killed too fast by attack powers, but I would still want to dodge them.

There is another power for me to worry about: Reflect Barrier. Now I have hyper defenses partially to have a lopsided defense-to-attack ratio on purpose, because Reflect Barrier is used frequently and having my shots bounced right into me would be anything but pleasant. I would have to be more wary of it since I would no longer be able to sponge my own attacks with hyper defenses.

It would be better than having to deal with Energy Charge over and over again, but I’d still want to know how to combat more things. Just because I’m not complaining about that doesn’t mean other players should.

I’d have to be more cautious about using my own powers

Although I don’t die much, I do die at all. This isn’t punished as much as it should be in a random because of the power regeneration, but in a 100V match, my only regenerating powers in 2 deaths would be Super Speed and Interference. My other powers simply requires more than 200 Value to regen. This makes me want to be conservative about my armor powers, because even though I have 6 charges worth of them, they DO run out even if I avoid multi-buffing. 15 spaces sitting there just looking pretty at ANY point in a match is a rather unwelcome risk after all. I’d have to make sure I’m using them correctly, when I already have to make sure I’m choosing correctly between safe but cost-ineffective Super Armor and risk-reward Counter.

Armor powers aren’t the only things that suffer either. Black Hole, because it fails to recover, becomes so God awful to spam. With only 2 charges for its importance and no regen within 2 deaths, it must be used incredibly wisely. It must be saved for situations that Super Speed can’t cover, on top of making sure that the opponent can’t use a countering power. I had to learn the hard way from an actual 100V match that spamming Black Hole at the start is going to end up with me being unable to do any good offense later, because the opponent only needs to fear Super Speed from that point on. It’s such a problem that now I traded off an Interference level for max level Super Speed, simply because of how important Super Speed ultimately proves to be.

That just leaves Super Speed, which I have so many charges of regardless; Interference, which is really there to support Black Hole by stopping its counters and has its problems in frequent usage as well, such as the dreaded casting animation (which keeps Interference Hole under control); and Effect Recovery, which is only there to control statuses.

Having my key powers be much less spammable means I’d have to strategize more, even when, given I praised the game for having KB immunity handled with a happy medium on day one, you can tell that I’d be able to manage.

Section closing

It’s comedy gold to suggest that I would just want to win when I’d be in an environment where I would actually gain nothing to my benefit and the players who don’t abuse broken things get to be able to fight back.

Final verdict

As annoying as it is to have to ban an entire mechanic, it proves necessary with this about seven-thousand word count post. (Thanks for the intel, WordPress.) Mods make the game boil down to mindless play that causes the game to stale. It is such that few KIU multiplayer videos of worth even exist. Why learn things like Grid Reading when the weapons do all the work for you? And it proves to be an ugly never-ending cycle that has broken the game completely and thus managed to get in the way of the power system’s depth potential.

Mods simply have to go.

Welcome to Warriors Uprising!

This is a blog dedicated to competitive Kid Icarus Uprising play. It is designed to provide a central location for such so that players can learn things about it.

Why Kid Icarus Uprising?

There is a game called Super Bash Sisters (well, not really, but it’s easy to guess what I’m really talking about) that holds some interesting mechanics and gameplay, but they get lost in key issues such as how every time you get hit, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing as, say, Bowser, you get turned into a punching bag that can’t fight back at all. Kid Icarus Uprising, although it is a different genre where combat is taking place in a 3D shooter instead of a 2D platformer, does have enough similar mechanics, but while it does have its misfires, it also has key successes with a power system that fix those problems and allow for an enriching experience.

What are the standard rules of matches?

The standard rules for matches are as follows:

*Light VS Dark Team Life Guage value: 400

*1 VS 1 Time: 3 minutes

*No Items

*Stage bans: Windy Wasteland, Small Arena, Large Arena

*Weapon modifier bans: all

*Power bans: Warp, Jump Glide, Angelic Missile, Brief Invincibility Lightweight, Energy Charge (team battles), Random (not Random Effect)

*Power restrictions:

-Super Speed is only permitted at Level 1, and is also not allowed with Playing Dead on the same set.

-The following powers are restricted to Levels 1 and 2: Mega Laser, Meteor Shower*, Land Mine*, Reflect Barrier, Quick Charge, Homing Boost*, Slip Shot, Invisible Shots, (status) Attack*, Energy Charge, Darkness*, Interference*, Super Armor, Counter*, Tirelessness, Bumblebee, Transparency, Effect Recovery**.

Why ban weapon modifiers altogether?

This Q/A is going to get its own post, at the very least because weapon modifiers is an entire mechanic, but the key reason is the sped up or otherwise manipulated power regeneration upon dying. That does way too much to not warrant banning the entire mechanic rather than the still overpowered weapon modifiers, of which there are too many regardless.

What is up with all those restricted powers?

Another Q/A that will get its own post. The summary is, the outright banned powers cost too little for being able to create auto-win scenarios. Super Speed would also be included if not for both necessity and counter play, but it is still restricted to prevent problems. The powers restricted to Levels 1 and 2 each get an additional charge per level, making them more cost-effective than they should be but also letting this rule be enforced.

Why ban items as well?

While there is randomness, that by itself isn’t a problem at all. However, the biggest reason, easily, is the Power Up Drop, which upon pickup provides the person with free invincibility that also reflects shots. Unlike in Super Bash Sisters, there is no way to completely prevent the Power Up Drop from appearing without turning off items altogether. Smart Bomb and Daybreak also have their innate balance issues as well: Smart Bomb causes continuous flinching through Super Armor allowing for easy hits, and Daybreak parts appearing can lead to stalemates or speedster favoritism, neither of which is welcome. Otherwise, most items wouldn’t be so horrible, although Eggplant/Tempura Bomb would make carrying Effect Recovery tempting because they immediately inflict Eggplant/Tempura through Aries Armor.

Who made Kid Icarus Uprising anyway?

Project Sora, a now defunct subsidiary of HAL Laboratories.

Anything else coming up at the moment?

Not really. Generally just things warranting their own posts. Don’t be surprised if this post is edited to add in things later.