Terry Bogard, who made his debut in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate today, wasn’t exactly the most-requested Smash fighter. He’s from a 30-year-old fighting game that a large swath of Smash players hadn’t played or even heard of prior to Nintendo’s September announcement. But he is fun as hell and totally weird.
“Whether or not the character is fun to play as is more important than whether the character is new or old, or whether the character is recognisable to everyone,” said Smash Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai in a video today introducing Terry to the world. After spending some time with the new fighter, it’s clear that, to master him, you’ll need to summon the fundamentals of traditional fighting games: spacing, range and opportunistic thinking.
Like Street Fighter’s Ryu and Ken, Terry Bogard can use fighting-game style command inputs to boost the power of his moves. His B-sideways move, for example, is a blue punch called Burning Knuckle that takes him across the stage. But if the player executes it by doing a quarter-circle motion before hitting the A or B button, it goes further and does more damage.
There are also command inputs for his other classic King of Fighters special moves, like Crack Shoot, an attacking body-flip; Rising Tackle, a twirling upward recovery; and Power Dunk, which has Terry thrust himself upwards and then punch down.
I don’t have a great memory for inputs in games like Tekken, but it took just five minutes of practice mode for me to download Terry Bogard’s into my fingers. Remembering to unleash them in actual games is what’s tricky. When it works, it’s extremely rewarding to bypass an opponent’s attack with a well-timed, extra-long Crack Shoot or steal a stock with an extra-strong Rising Tackle.
It’s also worked in my favour when opponents are anticipating an attack that goes a certain range, when actually, I’m going way further. The best moments to let the input-based specials loose is when an opponent has underestimated your range or overshot their own attack. Terry Bogard can capitalise on these mistakes like any slow fighter might, but the player will need to think fast in choosing which modulation of Terry Bogard’s special attacks to use.
There are two more command input moves called the “Super Special Moves.” They’re special because they’re situational – the player can only perform them when their accumulated damage is over 100 per cent. (Terry lets you know when that happens with a big, bold “Go!” under his name on the bottom.) The pattern is a more complicated seven-step attack that does a crap-tonne of damage. These are significantly harder to memorise and I’ve had some difficulty pulling one off in-game on this release day.
Terry Bogard’s specials are intuitive to pick up because they resemble those of other well-loved fighters like Captain Falcon. His neutral attacks are a little idiosyncratic, though. His second jab jabs twice. His neutral aerial is a mild karate chop. His “spike” is finicky and doesn’t quite “spike” straight down. His dash attack is killer, and he’s got a dodge counter-attack that makes his upper body invincible after a spot dodge. On top of all this give-and-take, he’s slower than Ryu and his recovery is abysmal – most of my deaths playing today were because I wasn’t able to get back on the stage.
The only real consistency with Terry Bogard is that he’s always facing his opponent.
All of this together makes for an initially uneven-feeling fighter. He feels a little blocky and inflexible, not unlike a character in an old fighting game. I predict that “uneven” or “rigid” feeling will go away once players take advantage of his highly variable toolkit. He’s got a lot of fun depth that comes out the way it would in a traditional fighting game: after learning the range and optimal timing of his attacks, and balancing that against how weak opponents are at any given time.
The bottom line is that Terry Bogard is fun and rewarding to play once you hit a flow state with him. Like with any old-school fighting game, as it is with their Smash implementation, it’s going to take a lot of grinding to get there.