Platform fighters are bloody terrifying. Not in the jump-scare or big-tall-mutant-in-a-fedora-following-you kind of way, but in that everyone-is-better-than-you-and-has-been-for-ten-years kind of way. Super Smash Bros has been around since I was an infant, and every time I’ve tried to play it, I felt like a low-level bandit in Skyrim being jumped by the Dragonborn: weak, pathetic, unskilled, and designed to die. The entry-level is high, the learning curve steep, and the competitiveness overwhelming.
I once played Smash with a couple of friends from work and only ever got the upper hand when I picked Sora because he had a sword and one move that seemed pretty reliable. Aside from that, I kept losing. There’s so much going on at once that it’s difficult to keep up, with a roster that’s so distinctly diverse and with characters outfitted with completely different moves that you can’t just bounce between them and immediately understand what does what. In Mortal Kombat, I know how to uppercut with everyone – in Smash, I whip out a minecart and fling off the nearest cliff. I’m so, so lost.
Then along comes MultiVersus. The chaotic platform fighter staples are all present, but I feel like I’m on a level playing field for the first time in this genre. It’s multi-platform with cross-play and has so many newbies jumping in just to see Batman wail on Shaggy, so suddenly I’m able to hold my own in online play. I don’t have to stick on easy AI and tell myself that I’m an esports pro in the mirror in a hot sweat before getting pummeled by my friends. I still lose pretty badly against them in MultiVersus, but that defeat doesn't nearly sting as much. If anything, it feels like I’m learning and getting better with each passing match.
Matchmaking feels fairer, as I’m constantly fighting people across all platforms who also look like they have no clue what’s going on. Sometimes we stand across each other on the platform mashing out combos in the air without getting close enough out of shared anxiety. Chuck in character levels and I can see that we’re on a similar playing field – neither of us has a clue how to play Arya or Finn, so we’re going to enjoy this unspoken bond of experimentation. And MultiVersus is built on that very idea.
It’s clear the devs are having a blast pulling from Warner Bros.’ catalog and fiddling with these vastly different characters to make them work in a shared sandbox while embracing the genre’s inherently unruly nature. They’re toying with famous scenes and memes to make them as engaging to play as possible, even letting Shaggy go Super Saiyan, and the hands-off feel is so freeing because there isn’t that two-decade competitive backlog to catch up with. It’s just pure unadulterated chaos that never takes itself too seriously.
Sure MultiVersus is already building up a competitive scene, but right now it’s a casual, free-to-play experience that anyone can pick up. There’s no price tag for entry, so there’s no worry of wasted investment, while it can reach a much wider audience. And a wider audience means even more bad players. I’m right at home.
New platform fighters have tried to offer something to jump on and try that’s fresh and new, offering a lifeline to those who want to try the genre out without being scared off, but most have failed. Nickelodeon chucked its hat in the ring and was immediately smacked out, but MultiVersus feels like it’s here to stay, and maybe if I stick around long enough, I won’t be so crap this time next year. But who am I kidding? I’ll still be button-mashing.
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