When Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was released in early December, the game garnered praise from many members of the Smash community who perceived it as a middle ground between Super Smash Bros. Melee and Wii U—a faster-paced game with heavy disadvantage state, like Melee, but with the increased character diversity and more neutral-heavy focus of Smash 4. While some Melee players were understandably skeptical—Smash 4 was marketed similarly, but its metagame slowed down drastically over the game’s lifespan—Smash Ultimate has delivered so far, leading many top Melee professionals, including William “Leffen” Hjelte and Adam “Armada” Lindgren, to express an interest in playing the game competitively.
And so far, it looks like Melee fundamentals might carry over to Smash Ultimate better than many expected. This past weekend, two Melee professionals faced off against top Smash 4 players at large events, and while both sets ended in victory for the Smash 4 veteran, each ended in intense last-stock situations that the Melee player easily could have won.
After attracting widespread criticism from both sides of the Smash community for insinuating that Melee players are “one trick ponies” who aren’t part of the true Smash community, Saleem “Salem” Akiel Young faced off against Melee No. 1 Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma at Smash Conference United. Using his signature Jigglypuff against Salem’s Link, Hungrybox used the “Research” tag, poking fun at Salem’s controversial Twitlonger—and though Salem walked away victorious, his assertion that Melee players are unskilled at other Smash games is looking very shaky after the close set between the two EVO champions.
At Valhalla, Leffen found himself matched against top French Smash 4 player William “Glutonny” Belaid. Glutonny, who has played Wario at a high level in every Smash game since Brawl, has over ten years of experience in the later Smash titles, while Leffen, who used Pokémon Trainer during the set, has only been playing Smash Ultimate for about a month. Despite this fact, the Swede quickly built a 2-0 lead against the Frenchman, holding a stock lead while Glutonny was on his last stock during the set’s fourth game. Unfortunately for Leffen, Glutonny was able to pull out a clutch three-stock comeback to keep himself in winner’s bracket, but Leffen’s early success in Ultimate shows that he has everything it takes to become a top player if he continues training.
It’s unlikely that either Leffen or Hungrybox will drop Melee as their main game any time soon—both have made statements to that effect. But as Ultimate grows in popularity, it’s exciting to see that Melee pros have the chops to go toe-to-toe with top players from the Smash 4 days.