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Super Smash Bros Ultimate in 2021

Sebastian Quintanilla
15 min

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Super Smash Bros Ultimate in 2021
Many things happened in 2021, from new characters to unpresented results in majors. It was the year of Smash for better of worse.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate has been one of the handfuls of competitive scenes that have suffered the most under the increasingly normalized online era of esports. Although this has been an issue across the entire genre of fighting games, SBBU already had a terrible reputation for poor netcode, one which exasperated players in 2020 and continued to do so in 2021.

Starting and Ending In a High Note

Although technically not in 2021, Sephiroth, one of the most requested characters in the history of the Smash franchise, made its debut and was released in December 2020, seeing its first few tournament plays soon after. This was a significant moment for the platform fighter, as it reinforced its ideas of bringing in unique and exciting characters to its roster in what would be the last DLC expansion for it, Fighter Pack 2. Although Sephiroth did not see a lot of play in a competitive setting, it still provided some great highlights early in the year, with players dancing around his ridiculous reach and powerful comeback mechanic.

Coming in a little later would be two, or well, three, characters that will significantly impact the competitive Smash scene. The first from the Xenoverse universe, Pyra and Mythra, is a combo character able to switch from high mobility freely but relatively low damage character in Mythra to a meaty punchy heavy in Pyra. Today these two have been nerfed slightly but remain a strong presence in a game where mobility is king.

The other would come from an unexpected place. Tekken. Kazuya was a popular character from the get-go and as any new fighter addition to the franchise, it immediately sparked the "what is a shoto? Discussion right up. But more importantly, its interesting mechanics and powerful combo ability made him an excellent pick for players of already technically complex fighters like Ryu and Ken.

But the most important release this year, and the last one for Ultimate and Sakurai's career as Super smash Bros doctor. Sora, from Kingdom Hearts, joined the roster of the game. In a once-in-a-generation moment for the franchise, and arguably gaming, Disney and Square Enix allowed Nintendo to use the character for its platform fighter. Revealed on October 5th, Sora was released a few weeks after, just in time for the final round of majors, and compared to its contemporaries, was able to make some great appearances.

Japan Held Strong - Kagaribi 3, 4, 5, Seibugeki 8, & MaesumaTOP 6

For much of the early part of the year, Tournament Organizers were still observing the situation and planning accordingly. Most had chosen to forgo the early yer dates in favour of Q3 & Q4 event dates, a time that they hoped the vaccination situation would have been such that only proof of vaccination would be required in the US and EU, where the bulk of the competitive scene had already suffered plenty at the hands of the virus.

Nevertheless, in Japan, players and organizers felt comfortable enough with their level of security, one that they have been culturally building since before the pandemic, to go ahead with what is regarded a prominent major in the region. The Kagaribi Series of tournaments, with its 3rd and 4th edition, saw some fantastic offline play in a sea of online competition.

For Kagaribi 3, Pac-Man main Tea defeated Pokemon Trainer/Wolf pro player Atelier in a clutching losing bracket reset to take it 3-2 and 3-1. Though it is exemplary of the parity in the Japanese scene as nearly every match in the top 4 was a last stage decider, with Zackray leaving first in a 3-2 series versus Akakikusu who would take their leave soon after at the hands of Tea.

A few months later, in Kagaribi 4, Tea was overthrown from in the losers finals against a revived Zackray, who got the bracket reset in the grand finals versus ProtoBanham, but was unable to secure the win against the Min Min master. The top 4 for the event was HERO, whose appearance here would be his highest of any Offline Major in 2021, a remarkable achievement for a Bowser main.

The next major would fall in October with a pair of high profile offlines in Tokyo and Osaka. Seibugeki 8 and MaesumaTOP 6 were both remarkable victories for ProtoBanham, who at that point had already secured his Japanese ticket to the Smash World Tour finals a few months after these events. Clearly developing his abilities further in preparation.

A few months after its previous edition, Kagaribi 5 would spark off with The first showing of Sora at the hands of Zackray who went on to win the event against another major DLC character, Pyra/Mythar being played by Shuton, who overcame a lower bracket deficit versus Atelier and Kome with his spotless Olimar play.

Europe's Smash - Ultimate Wanted 3, Temple: Hermès Edition, & Vienna Challengers Arena

Coming in at the year's halfway point were three majors for the European continent. The Ultimate Wanted three and Temple: Hermès Edition, both in France. As well as Vienna Challengers Arena later in November. The trio of events sported some incredible competition starting in August with UW3 and a victory for French local Glutonny, who worked his way through the bracket to face Mr R in the winner's finals and then Fatality for the Grand finals ina 3-1 Wario vs Captain Falco series. Rounding out the top 4 was Frenchman Noxumbra, for whom this was his first top 4 appearance at a Major and had recently taken victory in Critical Hit #3.

A few weeks later in September, Temple saw a handful of Japanese players making the trip to Lila, France, to compete in the over $10k tournament. Regional champ Gluttony was taken out of the winner's bracket early in Round 3. Still, he made his way back up, eventually fighting off America LeoN and Japanese KEN to face Tea in a head-to-head Best of 5 that would not go his way, unfortunately for the Frenchman.

For most in the European circuit, the year was Vienna's premier event. In the historical event, British Sonic and King Dedede player Pile were the first of his nation to win a Smash Major. After a handful of other victories in the region with top 8s at the regional Smash World Tour finals and wins in Liverpool Smash and DAT Blastzone in London. Coming in Second after yet another lower bracket brawl was Glutonny, who went on to have a massively successful 2021 finish by reaching second place in the American Community Effort Orlando. Lucina and Chrom expert Leon took third place. Finally, fourth place was in the hands of Spaniard sisqui, who built up an impressive national streak winning most of the events he participated in in 2021.

The North American Dream - Summit 3, Riptide, Glitch 8.5, Low Tide City, Super Smash Con, & Port Priority 6

The heart of Smash seems to have been squarely placed in Noth America for much of 2021. The main story all year in the region has been a continuous showcase of the two Mexican masters of the game. MKLeo and Sparg0. The two have secured a top 4 finish in each of the events listed here, maybe not both at the same time, but more frequently than not. They were not the only ones to make significant strides in the region, as clearly others have bested them from time to time. But having the level of consistency that these two showed might be echoed in years to come.

Their first bout came about in Smash Summit 3, where neither took the top step as Tweek was in top form and dispatched both in close series that might not be reflected in their 3-1 and 3-0 records. In a reverse sweep, MKLeo was able to adapt his Joker playstyle to secure a victory over Sparg0 in the lower bracket finals against Pyra/Mythra, a character both players had begun to use much more frequently in tournaments.

A few weeks later, at Riptide, Tweek would once again step in to fight off the Mexican due, but this time MKLeo was the one to take home the win, with Sparg0 reaching the winner finals once more. At the time, momentum was in favour of the sole American top 3 players, but with only a handful of days, another US star would need to come to battle the iron-willed and offline re-invigorated MKLeo.

That player would be ESAM in Glitch 8.5 fielding. His signature Pikachu blasted through the upper bracket and defeated a firm but last match-winning MKLeo, who once again had forged ahead after an unlikely early-round loss. On his way to the grand finals, MKLeo took Maister in a 3-2 series and Kola in a reverse sweep. But the tide was about to change.

Coming into the Low Tide City bracket, eyes were Dabuz, who had so far been a consistent top 16 player and even carved his way up to top 8 for Riptide. Marss was also another name that people were looking forward to seeing compete, as his early year was a slow buildup past his 4th place finish in Smash Summit 3. But now the two looked in form. But neither could stand the power of MKLeo. First with Marss, taking a 3-1 loss versus MKLeo's Byleth in the lower bracket finals and then Dabuz, who somehow after defeating him just a round prior in winner finals befell to a dominating Joker display from MKLeo who got the bracket reset and the win.

For the next event in the calendar, MKLeo took a short break, opening the door to Sparg0 blast through to what should have been a solid win for his season. But recently acquired Moist Esport player Light appeared out of, almost, nowhere having his only major participation in Glitch 8.5 with a top 6 finish he was able to turn it around a few weeks after and enacted revenge against Maiser first, who had knocked him out at Glitch, and then went on to have an incredible bracket reset and win over sparg0.

Closing out the year for the mostly North American exclusive circuit was Port Priority 6. In a story that cannot but repeat itself, Tweek, Sparg0 and MKLeo would once again be featured on the podium of this tournament. The Mexicans grabbed the winner's finals and then secured a grand final after Sparg0 won his lower bracket finals versus tweet by the skin of his teeth. This was, arguably, the last time Sparg0 would have such a chance to win his first major of 2021. He won the first two matches, up 2 and with 1 more to go he was able to fully capture Pyra's power and would finally crown himself a major champ. But not with MKLeo around, Byleth would pull through for MKLeo and help him go on to reverse sweep Sparg0 in a heartbreaking finish.

Closing Out the Year - Mainstage, CEO, SWT

To put an end to what has, given the circumstances, been a great year for the scene are three international events that managed to draw the attention of the scene like no other, pushing players to compete to their absolute best and claim titles that not many will be able to challenge.

First in line was Mainstage, the Ontario, California event was held in mid-November and some of the best offline Smash Ultimate we have seen so far, especially considering the recent, and last, addition to the game's roster Sora. Although only used once in the top 4 in what was most likely a throwaway match, the overall patch that the character came with did have a wider impact on the scene and will likely be the last in the game.

On a result that should surprise no one. MKLeo was able to secure a victory in a Clenching Bracket reset against rival Sparg0. Although both players achieved 4 wins over the other in the series, MKLeo's win at the final two Pokemon Stadium was enough to cancel out the reset and take home the victory. Finishing off the top 4 were Elegant and Tea, the former of which is a Luigi main who had previously shown great results in Riptide and Low Tide City with top 4 finishes and top 24 in Super Smash Con and Port Priority 6.

Coming into CEO, neither MKLeo nor Sparg0 made appearances in the event. Instead, the top 4 comprised Kola, Glutonny, MuteAce, and Fatality. The European representative in Glutonny made his way through the tough upper bracket to face MuteAce in the Winner's Finals. Kola took the Lower bracket with his Cloud play and then secured a bracket reset and a win for himself in the grand finals.

Throughout the whole year, the Smash World Tour was set to be one of the biggest challenges for Smash players, as each region prepped their best players and battled it out in online nationals, offline regions, and an offline final in Orlando. Unfortunately, even as the event had been delayed one year due to the pandemic, the looming threat of its danger pushed some of the regional events dates around and the event fully cancelled other to the online space. Nevertheless, the event went ahead in December. In the opening pool stage, the South American representatives were unfortunately taken out in their groups, along with Most of Asia's and quite a few North American players. Leaving it down to an 8 player upper bracket and 16 lower bracket.

As the top 4, the now staple Sparg0 vs MKLeo matchup adorned the Winner's finals with Pyra main Cosmos beating Zomba and then Sparg0 to challenge the reigning champ MKLeo. In the end, the Mexican star was down a match and close to giving up the bracket reset, but a quick switch to Byleth from Pyra/Mythra was enough to regain the momentum and set himself as the absolute winner of the 2021 Ultimate Smash campaign. 

MKLeo ended 2021 with an absurd top 2 finish in every single event he participated in the passing year and more wins outright than second-place finishes. There should be no doubt the T1 sign-up has now taken the top step in the Smash ultimate scene. It will be interesting to see how a 2022 season will play out, with players such as Tweek looming behind ready to strike.

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