How Nickelodeon All Star Brawl Has Potential to Steal Smash Bros’ Competitive Thunder

With Smash Bros Ultimate winding down, now's the perfect time for a new platform fighter to rise, and Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl could be it.

by Michael Sagoe

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With the end of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s paid DLC content, so too has ended the hype train that started well over two years ago, as the popular platform fighter unleashed its most definitive entry of the long running series. Even though there is still plans for balance patches, in-game events and the remaining few Amiibo figures to be released, the popularity of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will, ultimately, start to wear off. Ludosity, the developers behind a little known platform fighting game known as Slap City, was approached by Nickelodeon Studios to create a new platform fighting game featuring many of their old and new Nicktoon shows, and using their knowledge from working on Slap City, created Nickelodeon All Star Brawl (NASB) just in time for the final character release for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Now is the perfect time for another platform fighter to step up and take its place, and while there has been some strong contenders in the past, Nickeloden All Star Brawl just may be the one to claim the throne that Smash Bros has kept for so long.

Made for Competition

As some people in the Smash Bros community has stated, NASB’s gameplay feels like a mix between SSB Melee and SSB 64, as it features fast and aggressive combat, along with long combos that can be initiated by landing a single attack on your opponent. While the mechanics are similar to Smash Bros, it features no forward smashes, forward aerials or forward specials. It also has no dedicated dodge mechanic (although one character in the cast, Nigel Thornberry, has a dedicated dodge move in the form of his neutral special). Having no forward attacks helps to keep the inputs more simple to grasp, and having no dedicated dodge button forces players to keep on the offensive, creating an atmosphere where only those that are willing to go all in on their opponent will succeed, which is great to watch from a spectator standpoint.

One of the major key features that sets NASB apart from Smash Bros (along with most other platform fighters) is that online play features Rollback Netcode, which significantly decreases the amount of delay that players will have to deal with when playing online, as long as both the player’s connection speeds are solid and stable. Compared to traditional delay-based Netcodes used in many fighting games in the past, playing online feels very similar to playing offline, which is paramount for competitive players that want their inputs to feel accurate. When compared to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate online play, inputs can feel very delayed by as much as a whole second, which doesn’t feel great to many competitive players out there, which is why the Smash Bros. Ultimate competitive scene slowed to a near stop during the early and late months of the COVID-19 outbreak. Instead of dealing with Ultimate’s online play, most high level competitive players instead looked for alternative platform fighting games to play online, or nothing at all.

It also doesn’t help that Smash Ultimate’s online play has no way to distinguish who is playing online using a Wi-Fi connection, or a wired connection. Fortunately, NASB allows people to not only see how fast their opponent’s connection are by milliseconds, it also shows players how strong their opponent’s connect strength is, if they’re playing on Wi-Fi. So there will be no mysteries among players are seen dropping a combo out of nowhere, or if another player starts to teleport all over the stage.

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While the overall quality of the gameplay has been seen as questionable by many, the developers have done their best to be open about their game and how they’re looking to shape it down the line, as they are planning to change many elements of NASB’s combat, big and small. Just recently with their patch 1 update (10/18/2021), they have implemented dash dancing to the game, a movement technique that has been a long running stable found in SSB Melee and other similar platform fighters that emphasis fast, evasive combat. While it may seem like a small addition now, more mechanics and techniques could be in the future, further emphasizing how much NASB is made to appeal to competition.

Western developers, Western communication

The team at Ludosity have been very open to suggestions on social media and on their official Discord server, where people are constantly giving the team positive, and negative feedback. While some of the player suggestions have been a bit outrageous, other suggestions have been noted and taken very seriously. One of the biggest suggestions that players have given to the development team is to add characters such as Goku from Dragon Ball Z. While this inclusion may have been farfetched for Super Smash Bros, Ludosity has taken this suggestion with an interesting response. Recently, in an interview between SSB Melee Competitive legend Hungrybox and Ludosity developer Thaddus Crews, they have openly mentioned that Goku is potentially on the table as DLC.

Compared to Smash Bros. and other platform fighters, NASB feels that it’s missing a large amount of content and features. The game is currently lacking a story mode, along with other single player game modes. The local multiplayer modes are fairly standard featuring stock, timed and mini-game team battles, but where are the item modes? Online play does feature competitive and casual matchmaking, but why are the online lobbies so limited in functionality? Well, the developers have made it clear as much as they could, that the game was missing some features. However, they aren’t planning to leave the game in this state for long. They have mentioned that more content will be coming to the game, in the form of free and paid DLC. Two upcoming characters that have been datamined, Shredder from TMNT and Garfield the Cat, along with the addition of usable items, have already been anticipated as free content. While it’s currently unknown what other content in the future will be available as free or paid DLC, the developers have made it certain that NASB will be worked on and updated for quite some time.

Nickelodeon Does What Nintendon’t.

Over the years, Nintendo has indirectly expressed disapproval over the Smash Bros. competitive scene, as they have actively tried to cancel tournaments in the past, both offline and off. Several years ago, Nintendo tried to cancel a SSB Melee tournament for EVO 2013, despite the event having the most support and attendance. Another instance includes Nintendo shutting down an online tournament for SSB Melee, as the tournament used an unauthorized modification to support online play with Rollback netcode. And furthermore: Whenever Nintendo decides to officially host their own tournaments for Smash Bros. Ultimate, competitors will never expect to win prize money, but instead, they will only be granted a golden painted pro controller for their efforts. Needless to say: Nintendo doesn’t seem to take their competitive scene very seriously.

For Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, on the other hand, they have been in full support of the competitive scene, sponsoring big time fighting game players and content creators such as Maximilian Dood, Dabuz, Chadtronic and more. They’ve assisted with hosting Hungrybox’s online “Juice Box” tournament series on Twitch.TV, and showed their support for their first local national tournament during Super Smash Con 2021, by contributing to the prize pool, raising the stakes to $10,000.

Different Game, Same Appeal

While the two games have very different themes, their appeal is very much the same when you example both with a fine lens. Both of these games feature character cross-overs, and both games are all about watching those characters beat each other up. People have always enjoyed watching their favorite shows, games and other entertainment IPs crossover in some way, so when NASB was first revealed, it was no surprise that people were immediately excited for it. It’s a bit surreal to see early Nicktoons characters like Ren & Stimpy duking it out with more modern hits such as Lincoln and Lucy Loud from The Loud House, but it’s the perfect way to bridge such a huge generational gap, giving a lot of Nicktoons fans new and old something to cheer about.

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As previously mentioned, third party characters could be a possibility, so the roster doesn’t have to end with only Nicktoons characters. Just like how Smash Bros. became a celebration of gaming, it’s very possible that NASB could turn into a celebration of animation in general. Could one imagine how crazy it would be if Turner Broadcasting was willing to license their cartoons to a crossover title such as this, such as a Nicktoons vs. Cartoon Network kind of game. Personally, I would love to see Ren & Stimpy battling against Cow & Chicken, or Jimmy Neutron fighting against Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory.  Sure, it may be a lot of wishful thinking, but the potential is there, and Ludosity knows this.

Aiming Towards the Future

As it stands, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl has shown that there is an audience for a colorful, but competitive platform fighter outside of the Smash Bros. series that could fill a void that will be missing once the popularity of Smash Bros. Ultimate has died down. The gameplay is appealing, the competitive scene is already in place, and the support is there. All it takes is for Nickelodeon, Ludosity and Game Mill Entertainment to support and nurture what they’ve created to see it grow into something that will be remembered for years to come.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is available for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5 and PC (Steam). For more information on the game, check out our news pieces here at Attack of the Fanboy.

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