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You've been playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate wrong this whole time

You might argue that there's no wrong way to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It doesn't matter if you're yukking it up on the couch with friends and a couple of beers, participating in a tournament, or streaming your bouts online for fellow hardcore players. As long as you're having fun, you're playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate right, aren't you?

That's true — to a point. See, at its core, Super Smash Bros. is a competitive game. The goal of Ultimate isn't to explore a strange new world, or to unlock a twisty narrative, or even to bask in all of its glorious fan service. It's to win fights. If you're not trying to vanquish your enemy — and trying everything in your power to do so — what are you even doing?

That being said, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate isn't easy. It has 74 characters, each of which was plucked from the annals of video game history, a remarkably complex combat system despite its cartoony exterior, and 20 years' worth of Smash Bros. tradition to sort through. With all of that to keep track of, you're bound to make a few mistakes. These are some of the most common things that you're doing wrong. Go ahead and fix them, then cruise your way to victory. It's the right thing to do.

You haven't remapped your controls

The game might be called Smash Bros., but Smash attacks are actually fairly risky. When they connect, they'll send your opponent flying off of the screen. If you miss, however, you leave yourself open to an epic whoopin'. They're also predictable, especially for new players. Charging up a Smash attack and hoping that your enemy walks right into it is a common newbie mistake, and it's easily punished by anyone who knows what they're doing.

That's why, with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, everyone is talking about tilt attacks. If you lightly nudge the left analog stick and attack, you'll execute a middle-of-the-road move that's more powerful than a standard jab, but faster than a Smash. They're easy to string together into devastating combos, and they give you significantly more options in tricky situations. Unfortunately, tilt attacks can be hard to pull off. Many players who try to to tilt end up Smashing instead. In fact, that's so common that many casual players don't even realize that tilt attacks exist.

That's why we're going to join the chorus and recommend that you try remapping your controls so that your right stick unleashes tilts, not Smash attacks. You have plenty of other ways to pull off a Smash, and this way, you'll ensure that you can execute tilt attacks cleanly every time. Putting tilts on the right stick also makes some of Ultimate's more advanced moves, like the pivot cancel, easier to pull off. Really, other than convention, there's no downside.

You haven't been using the newest techniques

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is still relatively new. Top-tier players are still discovering new techniques, and they'll likely be coming up with nasty tricks for years to come. That doesn't mean that you should wait to master what they've already found. When it comes to Smash Bros., the competition is brutal. If you're serious about winning, you'll want to take advantage of every tool available to you.

Take the new "pivot cancel" technique, for example. It's relatively easy to pull off, and it can give you a big advantage if you use it correctly. Basically, in Ultimate, you can perform any attack you want while dashing, but doing so will rob you of your momentum and grind your character to a halt. With a pivot cancel, you can avoid that. While your character is in the run animation, simply flick the left stick in the opposite direction, and then forward-tilt in the direction that you started in. Your character will slide a little, extending the attack's range and opening up all kinds of combo opportunities.

If you're having trouble pulling off the tilt attack? Try remapping your buttons, as explained above. Some characters, like King K. Rool, have forward tilts that stop momentum by default, too, so they won't be able to use this technique. Still, the pivot cancel is just one of the many new techniques that Smash Bros. pros have discovered. Keep an eye on the community, and copy what the best of the best are doing. You'll only get better.

You haven't been a team player

If you like hoarding things, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate gives you over 1,300 "spirits" representing classic (and a few not-so-classic) characters to collect from within and without Nintendo. That'll keep you busy for a while. Not only do you have to scour the World of Light game mode and the rotating lineup of spirits on the Spirit Boards to find all of them. You'll need to win quirky, themed battles based on the spirits' personalities and traits. Some of these spirits are also very powerful. If you want a chance at beating them, you'll need to put together your own team of spirits, which will increase your chosen fighter's stats.

As you play, the spirits that you use will level up, which increases the bonuses that they'll give you. That's not the only way to get a quick stat boost, however. If your team's primary spirit comes from the same franchise as your fighter, you'll get an additional leg up to the tune of a 20% stat increase. For example, if you're playing as Street Fighter's Ryu, team him with Akuma. If you're Richter or Simon, pair them with Dracula or Soma Cruz. Isabelle makes a great partner for Tom Nook, and so on. You get it.

That means that you'll need to know your video game history (or, at the very least, to check your spirit list to see which franchises your best spirits are from), but a little bit of homework is worth it for those extra-tough spirit battles, and you might learn a little bit about Nintendo's past along the way, too. That's a win no matter how you look at it.

You haven't been KOing assist trophies

The most common type of Smash Bros. bouts are stock matches in which each player has a set number of lives. When those run out, the player loses. Because that's how the pros play, stock matches tend to be the most popular kind of fights, but it's not the only way to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. You can also fight opponents in timed battles, in which you score points every time that you score a KO. Whoever has the most points when the timer runs out wins.

Knocking out your fellow competitors isn't the only way to score points in a timed battle, though. You can also add to to your lead by KOing assist trophies, or computer-controlled characters that players can unleash if they nab the right item. Not every assist trophy is KOable, of course, so you'll need to choose your moments. If you see the Moon from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask or Star Fox's Andross, for example, steer clear. On the other hand, if a competitor unleashes Waluigi or Mega Man X sidekick Zero, go in for the kill and get yourself an easy extra point or two. Your opponents will never know what hit 'em.

You've been using a spirit team that's too strong

Battles aren't actually the only way to earn spirits. You can also buy them from the Vault menu using gold, or in Spirit Shops that pop up in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's campaign mode, World of Light, using an in-game currency known as SP, or Spirit Points. You'll also need SP to feed your spirits snacks, which is how you level them up quickly.

You'll earn Spirit Points when you play Classic Mode, or when you're fighting in the World of Light or on the Spirit Board, so if you're a regular Super Smash Bros. Ultimate player you're probably covered. Sometimes, however, you might find that your SP supply is running low, and that you need to do some grinding to earn more. If that's taking you too long, here's a tip: you're probably using a spirit team that's too strong.

See, SP rewards scale based on how difficult the fight is. If you enter a battle with a bunch of high-level spirits at your side, you probably won't have much trouble winning, but you also won't get as much SP or gold. If you're farming in-game currency, make sure that your spirit power levels are equal to — or even better, lower than — your opponent's. Not only will you earn more SP, but the extra challenges will make you a better Smash player in the long run, too.

You've been dodging too much

New Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players love spamming the dodge roll. It's easy to see why. Dodge rolls are fast little bursts of invulnerability that keep your character safe and let you quickly move from one place to another.

Stop it. At the very least, save the dodge roll for when you really need it. The dodge roll seems like a great technique, but it's also predictable. It always travels the same distance, so when your opponent sees you using it, they know exactly where you're going to end up. If they position themselves properly, they'll pummel you as soon as it ends.

Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai doesn't want you to overuse the dodge roll, either. In fact, the game makes the dodge roll slower after it's repeated a few times in a direct effort to discourage "passive" gameplay. That takes away one of the dodge roll's big advantages. There's a time and a place for everything, including dodging. Just make sure that you're not overdoing it. Your win-loss ratio will thank you.

You've been grabbing too many ledges

Watch any pro Super Smash Bros. Ultimate match, and you'll know that ledges play a big, big part in top-tier Smash Bros. strategy. This is a game about knocking each other off of platforms, after all. Grabbing a ledge is often the only way to save yourself from plummeting to your doom.

Grabbing ledges also gives you a brief burst of invincibility, which led to some unique strategies in previous Smash games. In Super Smash Bros., Melee, and Brawl, players could grab ledges repeatedly using a technique known as "planking" or "ledge-stalling," which helped block other characters' recovery moves, and could be used to psych out your opponent. Well, if you're a Melee or Brawl player who's making the transition to Ultimate, we've got some bad news: planking won't work in the latest Smash. Trying to do it will get you killed.

You might have figured this out on your own, but Ultimate only gives you invulnerability the first time that you grab a ledge. Snag it again without touching the stage first, and you'll be vulnerable to attacks. In addition, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate refuses to let you grab a ledge more than four times in a row. On the fifth attempt, you'll simply fall. That's a change that has big repercussions on pretty much every aspect of the game, so get used to it. You'll be dealing with it for a while.

You haven't been giving your opponent enough space

In every fighting game, positioning yourself correctly with regards to your opponent is key to securing victory. In Super Smash Bros., it's arguably even more important, given that you'll lose a bout if you get pushed to the edge of the screen too often. And yet, you'll often find that over-eager players rush right into the middle of a fight, hoping to land some quick blows — which is a great way to ultimately lose.

There are some simple things that you can do to stop from falling into that trap, although they largely depend on which character you're playing as, and which one that you're facing. You can also take some cues from the pros. G5 | CoZmos, for example, has an excellent tutorial on what he calls ZeRo Spacing, in honor of the top-tier Smash pro that he cribbed the strategy from.

ZeRo Spacing breaks down into two basic concepts. For one, when you're performing a falling aerial attack, start your ascent outside of your opponent's attack range instead of jumping right next to your foe. That'll keep you safe until your attack lands, as opposed to giving the other player a chance to knock you out of the air. If you are close to your opponent, retreat while you're on the ascent, and then move back in when it's time to strike. This sounds simple, but you'll see plenty of people ignoring this advice — and now that you know, you can punish them accordingly.

You've been ignoring other characters

So, you know your main inside and out. Good for you! That's an important part of overall Super Smash Bros. Ultimate supremacy. If you've been focusing on one character at the expense of all of the others, however, you're missing some crucial pieces of the puzzle. In order to understand how to beat other characters, you need to know what they're capable of — and there's no better way to learn than actually playing.

Thankfully, Ultimate makes this easy. Classic Mode takes characters through a predefined gauntlet of challenges. It doesn't take very long to play through, and at higher difficulty levels it's a pretty good showcase for what each character is good at — and what they aren't.

World of Light, Ultimate's single-player campaign, is even better. In World of Light, you need to earn every character in your line-up (other than Kirby, who you start with). If you commit to only playing as the last character that you earned during the campaign, you'll quickly get a handle on each member of the sprawling cast. Knowing how each character moves, what their attacks are, and how they recover when knocked off the stage is a huge boon when it comes to playing against other people and should help you survive any possible matchup that comes your way.

You've been trying to become an expert with everyone

On the other hand, you might be stretching yourself too thin, especially if you're new to this whole Super Smash Bros. thing. After all, Ultimate has 74 characters on its roster (not counting DLC), many of whom are extremely popular. Choosing between Mario, Mega Man, Cloud, Ryu, Solid Snake, and the rest is tough, and video game history nerds might be tempted to try to do their best with all of them.

Realistically, that's not going to happen. You can enjoy Ultimate on a casual level (see, for example, almost every college dorm in the country), but there's a deep and nuanced game lurking under the hood. It can take years of practice to master just one Smash Bros. character. Even if Ultimate is your day job, you're not going to have time to become competitive with all of them.

Our advice is to select two or three characters, with an eye towards putting together a team that matches up well against as many opponents as possible, and then get serious. Check out some online guides. Record your matches, and analyze what went right and what went wrong. Practice constantly. No, you won't get to play as all of your favorite characters, but that's okay. You'll win more. If you're a serious competitor, that's more fun anyway.

You haven't broken your old habits

Maybe Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is your first Smash game. If so, welcome to the club! Stick with the game and you're going to have a lot of fun. Chances are, however, that Ultimate isn't the first Smash game that you've played — and that means that you have years and years of old habits to break.

While Ultimate is built on the same foundation as every other game, there are slight differences that you're going to want to know about. Shields aren't as useful this time around. Air dodges can't be spammed anymore and take a lot longer to recover from. Dashing is a whole lot better. If you jump into Ultimate without boning up on the changes and play like you normally do, you'll probably do fine against casual players, but once you're up against a seasoned vet you'll get your butt handed to you.

Breaking old habits takes time, self-reflection, and a lot of discipline, but it's worth the work. Not only will you stop falling victim to Ultimate's tweaked mechanics, but habits make you predictable, and predictability is the kiss of death in any fighting game. If your opponent knows what you're going to do next, they can counter. Keep other players on their toes and don't fall back into pre-established patterns. Surprise them with something new, and smash your way to victory.