Saturday, October 25, 2008

Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Scores

My brother and I have been playing a lot of Super Smash Bros. Brawl lately. We finally got around to seriously pursuing the task of collecting all of the character trophies. This has been giving me a lot of opportunities to try and play through Classic mode and All-Star mode to see if I can get high scores. However, in doing so, I have noticed one big problem in Brawl: the scores that the game hands out have no direct correlation to a player's performance. If anything, the game rewards a poor performance better than a really good one.

In Brawl, the player is given a score in Classic mode based on two factors: how much time is remaining on the clock, and how much damage the player did to his opponents during the match. If the player does a lot of damage to his opponents, he will get a higher score, and if the player wins the match quickly he will get a higher score. Unfortunately, these two factors work somewhat in opposition to each other. If the player wants to rack up a high damage score, he needs to deal a lot of damage to his opponents before knocking them out of the ring, but doing so requires time. So it is generally impossible to get both really high time and damage scores. In order to get a good score, the player needs to aim for some sort of equilibrium between the two, which involves fighting using an artificial style instead of a normal winning strategy.

In other words, Super Smash Bros. Brawl's scoring system doesn't reward the player for fighting a near-perfect match. The problem is even worse in All-Star mode, where time isn't a factor and thus the only way to score points is by doing damage to an opponent. Recently, I managed to K.O. an opponent in All-Star mode in one shot only a few seconds into the match, a near picture-perfect victory. However, I only got a tenth of the score I would otherwise get, since I didn't do any damage to my opponent at all before walloping him off the screen. And this has been a general trend: in my attempts on Classic mode where I felt like I was struggling or doing poorly, I often got higher scores than the attempts where I defeated my opponents easily.

The entire point of a score in a videogame is to serve as quantifiable evidence of how well a player did. If the scores a game hands out have no correlation to a player's performance, than those scores are completely meaningless. Under this light, the scoring system in Super Smash Bros. Brawl fails completely. The only place way it gives any direct indication of a player's skill is by halving the player's score if the player uses a continue, but since the original score is faulty, this only allows for a very crude estimate. Simply listing how many continues the player required would have been more accurate.

Brawl's scoring system could probably have been improved radically if it had continued the system of handing out bonus points that was used in Melee. While the bonuses were often arbitrary in Melee, they often did give a good sense of how well a player fought. Furthermore, since special bonuses can be custom-designed for specific situations, they can be designed to better fit a wide range of match types than a simple scoring scheme based on only one or two factors. The special bonus titles handed out in Melee were a lot more entertaining in of themselves too.

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