After having a go with the latest entry in the Smash Bros. series demo, I find myself disliking a few things. I generally dislike the new sound design of the attacks, but I want to talk about exactly why I do.
The new sound effects don’t feel powerful, they lack punch in just the right way that makes me enjoy to contact of a well timed strike to my opponent. This all feeds back to my joy of power portrayal in video games, presenting not just weight but a display of force that feels right and most of all satisfying to the senses. The sound effects from 64 and Melee were okay, but I rarely felt like I really hit anyone so much as I could have maybe smacked them with wooden spoon. Brawl however found a design that enthralled my entire being.
The sound of hits have a noticeable amount of bass to them. They resonate for just the right amount of time and at just the right frequency that it seems both appropriate for the action at hand and sounds painful. The swing of Fire Emblem character Ike with his extremely heavy two handed sword sound like what I could only describe as “gods car door closing”, there is a thunderous boom to each hit, a blow that contains so much energy that it could create a sonic boom. It makes me enjoy landing each hit both as a competitor and as a spectator, I love the magnitude of strength portrayed.
When I heard the sound of Ike’s blade in the recent Smash Bros. games, I felt my heart sink. The sound effects used completely eradicate the joy of throwing a weapon that made even a muscular man like Ike struggle at an opponent, it is just another hit on the way to a combo for me now.
Visual display of power is also extremely important to the image. Maintaining the example of Ike, his forward air attack involves the character pulling the sword over his head and swinging forward. In Brawl, the animators paid close attention to the kind of movement that was occurring, he lifted the sword without much speed then threw the blade downwards at high velocity, letting gravity do most of the work. The motion has a snap to it, the second the weight of his blade gets past a certain point it accelerates massively to the point that to defend against it requires you to know timing more than reading movements, it is just that swift. That layer of depth in the motion is gone in the newest incarnation, the attack is just a swiping motion, ignorant of the plethora of variables that should be influencing the movements.
I’m very happily an audio nut for my video games. I return to average experiences with soundtracks that make me bop along, I drool when I hear that one battle cry delivered so perfectly it sends chills down my spine. I feel like sound design is ignored in certain areas of gaming, with games that focus on an immersive experience and musically themed games taking it very seriously. I enjoy the flash of say Sengoku Basara when I have bright, flashy attacks that cover the screen and decimate my opponents…. but it doesn’t feel right if the sound isn’t right. I will sooner go back and play Dynasty Warriors 3 On the PS2 with a extremely enjoyable sound design, be it hitting enemies or performing a co-op special attack that makes me giggle like a child every time I hear it.
I love feeling the power played into a character, the final product of so many parts that present a visceral experience rarely had. I just wanna see more care taken in what I hear and what I see when I’m supposed to feel something. Hell power is only one thing, there are so many emotions that live or die on how well all the senses are treated. Let’s enjoy every last part of what we are paying for, even if we might not notice it.