Fun at any cost; why Bowser and Mewtwo have nerfs in Beyond Melee:
Mewtwo is a very bad character in Melee, a solo Mewtwo main is extremely unlikely to win anything more than a local in the modern era. He has no solid approaches other than dtilt, he gets combo’d like hell due to having one of the biggest hurtboxes in the game because of his tail, and generally his punish game is short and weak verses most of the cast. With all of this in mind, why would Beyond Melee nerf Mewtwo’s up b and nair before buffing this poor Pokemon?
The end goal of Beyond Melee isn’t just to make a more balanced Melee in terms of characters on a tier list, it’s also to make a more balanced Melee in terms of the type of gameplay a player will be doing in the game at a given time.
In vanilla Mewtwo’s case, his gameplay was not balanced.
Shippu and Zoma are closely ranked top Japan Melee players. Zoma is also widely regarded as one of the best active Mewtwo players in the world. His combo videos are also fantastic .
In this set , Shippu and Zoma play out a match of Peach vs Mewtwo on Final Destination. The match took seven minutes and seventeen seconds. Zoma spent four minutes and thirty seconds cornered at the ledge with no real avenue of escape while Shippu had no clear avenue to approach.
This is the problem with Mewtwo’s design. Neither player was trying to camp, they were both simply trying to win. In matchups like this where there’s no avenue of approach nor consequence of corner camping, Melee is at its least balanced towards the end goal of engaging and aggressive gameplay. Engaging gameplay and aggression is something Mewtwo’s design struggled to adhere to.
Lets start with up b. We nerfed it’s distance, and it’s endlag. The move is laggier while also traveling less far, which hurts him a lot of course and takes away one of the best pieces of his kit: the piece that lets him escape disadvantage and recover easier than almost anyone else in the game. In return, his up b now has a hitbox when he reappears. It’s quite strong too, but doesn’t come out instantly. If someone is throwing out a move to where he’s teleporting to, the non-Mewtwo player will win every time. However, the new up b hitbox makes for a fantastic combo ender. You can combo his new side b, his dtilt, or his dair in to up b to get kill confirms that would be impossible in Vanilla.
What these changes to up b do is they make it so that Mewtwo feels far, far less safe in the corner. In the Shippu vs Zoma set, Shippu gets too little reward for hits he gets on Mewtwo in the corner. This is because having advantage vs Mewtwo, but not a true combo, is almost useless due to up b. In Beyond Melee, this isn’t true. Play out the same scenario in Beyond Melee, and Shippu will be much much more aggressive against Zoma due to the reward he gets off of the hits from the nerfed up b. In turn, Zoma will be more aggressive due to the wealth of buffs Mewtwo has received combined with the nerfs to the parts of his kit that encourage camping.
The same philosophy of the up b changes applies to the Mewtwo nair changes. Shortening its duration by over half and removing the landing hitbox makes it much less strong at covering Mewtwo’s goal to land safely from disadvantage, but it makes it better at comboing aggressively and gives Mewtwo a wide new set of strings he never would have had access to before. This is a recurring theme in Beyond Melee changes. We want disadvantage to be, well, disadvantageous.
These types of changes that encouarge aggression, reduce stalling, and heavily encourage close up interaction are riddled through Beyond Melee.
The Beyond Melee balance philosophy is also why Kirby, Ice Climbers, Game and Watch, and Yoshi aren’t in Demo 1. We plan on retooling their kit to better adhere to our design goals, and to keep every single character in the game as fun and engaging to fight against as possible.
You will see throughout the changelog a massive amount of changes to characters’ grab games. This is because of another one of the major pillars of the Beyond Melee design philosophy is to heavily reduce repetitive, slow, uninteractive combo strings where possible. We want for a player who’s willing to do all they can to win to have to play and punish in a style that requires a wealth of mixups or extremely difficult punishes.
With that in mind, most chain grabs in the game had to go. Over half of the Melee cast has a completely new grab game compared to Vanilla.
This ruthless philosophy is also in service of one of the biggest goals of the project, which is to celebrate the success of any and all characters on the roster if or when they do well at any level of play. We want for casuals to be happy at any character ending up on their win screen in the same way we try to imagine any character in the Beyond Melee cast winning 10 nationals in a row and still impressing and stunning the audience while bringing them joy.
Muscle memory uncanny valley; why the top tier changes are different than the low and mid tiers’ changes:
Unsurprisingly, a game called Beyond Melee wants Melee players to play it. Melee players are a very particular bunch, and we’ve done all we can to help the adjustment to and from Beyond Melee as seamless as possible.
A rough scenario we wish to avoid is for a Melee player to play Beyond Melee for awhile, enjoy the game, then go back to vanilla Melee and feel that all their tech skill is messed up due to Beyond Melee. This is a large problem for Project M. From there, they decide they can only play one game or the other due to how strange transferring between the games can be, so they choose Melee.
The direction we’ve chose is to make Beyond Melee feel extremely different where it’s different, and identical where it’s the same as Melee. The goal is to build entirely new muscle memory for Beyond Melee that will turn on, or off, after one friendly. Sheik’s down throw is a clear example of this. It’s different than vanilla Melee in timing, knockback, and angle. It is so different that it should be immediately clear to a Sheik play when they are playing Melee versus Beyond Melee.
Where the changes are less clear is in the moves where we changed their damage. However, you will see that most of the damage changes on top tiers have two important factors:
Knockback compensation and no percent changes greater than two.
Knockback compensation makes it so that the kill and combo percents you know in vanilla Melee will transfer over. For example, Beyond Melee Fox still kills Marth with upsmash on stadium at <inspert % here>. However, it deals less damage. Specifically, two less. The goal with Fox was to give him no nerfs other than his damage output, which simply makes it take a little bit longer for him to find that kill on his opponnets. The reason we chose two less percent is because shield stun, an extremely important aspect of competetive Melee, needs to be within one frame of vanilla Melee Fox’s moves. Shield stun frames go up or down every 3 percent. A move that does 3% does x frames of shield damage, a move that does 6% does x+1, and a move that 9% does x+2 and so on. The 2% limit makes sure these characters always feel like Melee rather than feeling like they’re half-Melee or totally fresh(at least, where we don’t want them to feel that way!).
Why not just keep the Melee top tiers the same?
Beyond Melee is designed around creating depth and variety for specifically the type of player who is willing to do anything to win. Anything. <Michael vs Bananas, M2K brawl camping, chu dat kirby camping>. The way to create depth and variety for that kind of person is to bring the tier list closer together, and there’s a few ways to do that. Beyond Melee’s goal is the 1/4th reasonably could be considered to win, 1/4th reasonably could be considered to lose rule. We want every character to have a what could be considered winning match up versus a fourth of the cast, and a what could be considered losing match up versus a fourth of the cast. With this goal met, the entire cast becomes viable and someone who’s willing to do anything to win will have a lot of options to choose from, whereas in a game like Brawl they have no choice but to pick Meta Knight. With all of this in mind, the two biggest issues of the Melee top tiers are Fox and Sheik. If Sheik had an identical kit to vanilla, she would chain grab most of the cast and be impossible to not choose as a main or, at least, secondary. For the sake of the cast, the chain grab was removed. Fox has a similar problem to Sheik, where his matchup spread versus the Beyond Melee cast is so aggressively lopsided due to their lack of chain grabs, clear weaknesses, and a new stage list that’s very good for Fox. He will likely end up being the best character in Beyond Melee, but we needed to tone him back so that he wasn’t the best by such an aggressive margin. Unlike Project M, we kept his up b, jab, shine, and up smash feeling like Melee players remember, even if they’re not identical. In general, the gameplan for slowing down Fox’s power level will be periodic tweaks to his damage output while keeping him strong and fun, and great practice for Melee.