MTM: Wombo Combo

This is More than Mashing, a column on amazing demonstrations of skill in video games where I try to collect and showcase the best the net has to offer in skilled game playing and break it down so anyone can understand. This week I’m going over the Wombo Combo.

The Wombo Combo is a classic example of Super Smash Bros Melee high level play and an amazing viral video trend. A huge part of why this is so entrancing and skillful is just the absolute flawlessness of the teamwork between the players.

It starts out as a pretty standard doubles match, Silent Spectre and Tang were players known for especially good teamwork, and through a nice up smash followed by a grab from Tang that Silent Spectre capitalizes on with a Falcon Knee (which has a sweet spot that can deal tremendous damage if you catch them with the start of the move), Zhu is left with 1 stock versus 2 on each of his enemies. What follows was totally unprecedented and changed doubles matches forever.

Zhu managed to get a little damage off after respawning, but was soon after shield grabbed by Tang. In Melee, characters protect themselves with a shield that covers them and shrinks over time. In this shield they can press A to grab enemies and then throw them in any direction. This is a very safe way of retaliating against incoming attacks, but you are vulnerable to being grabbed yourself.

Silent Spectre moved in with a SHFFL neutral air attack, pummeling Zhu while he was still stuck being grabbed by Tang. SHFFLs are Short Hop, Fast Fall, L Canceled attacks. They involve pressing the jump button and releasing before the prejump animation, attacking, pressing down to fast fall at the apex of the jump, then hitting L or R to cancel the landing lag. It’s a lot of inputs very quickly and it enables players to get off a lot of attacks fast while remaining maneuverable.

To explain each of these individually, in Melee you have 2 jump heights, shorthops and full hops. Before you jump there is a pre-jump animation where you squat down. If you release the jump button before this animation ends then you will short hop, otherwise you will full jump.

There are 5 different possible air attacks on each character, forward air (called fair), back air (bair), up air (uair), down air (dair), and neutral air (nair). These each have different applications from character to character, but generally the direction you point is good for hitting enemies in that direction. Here captian falcon’s neutral air (hitting the attack button when the control stick is in the neutral position) is a series of 2 kicks.

When you are in the air, you also have the option of fast falling, which increases the speed of your descent. you can fast fall at any time by pressing down as long as you are already falling (you can’t do it while rising). This is useful for getting back to the ground in a hurry, as getting back on the ground resets a lot of your options, like the number of jumps you have available. Every character in smash can jump and double jump then use their up B or air dodge which are recovery moves. Touching the ground resets your options, which is good when you used them up.

L Cancels, short for Lag cancels, reduce the landing lag after you use an aerial attack. Normally when you hit the ground, there is a landing animation where you are stuck recovering until it ends. If you perform an attack in the air and hit the ground, then there is an even longer landing animation. If you hit R or L during this then you will only be stuck in the landing position for half the time, meaning you can continue acting much sooner than otherwise.

Unlike most fighters, in Smash you still have complete control of your speed in midair even while doing an attack. Any sort of control in the air is rare actually in fighting games, so Smash is somewhat unique in that aspect. This makes SHFFLs very useful because you can keep moving during them as fast or slow as you like in any direction.

In Smash, when you get grabbed, you are held in place and the enemy has a chance to pummel you for more damage, or throw you Up, Down, Left, or Right. If you are caught, you can mash the buttons really fast to escape quickly. At higher percentages it’s harder and harder to mash your way out. Zhu was clearly mashing hard here and got out of the grab fast, but he still had to recover from the grab release, giving Silent Spectre time to grab him.

Silent Spectre did a down throw on Zhu, popping him up into the air above Tang, who did an up smash without missing a beat. Smash attacks are powerful directional attacks that you can do on the ground by “smashing” a direction and pressing A, the attack button. These are generally the most reliable attacks to kill enemies with because they are the strongest on most characters. Smash attacks can also be performed by pressing a direction on the C stick. Smash attacks can be charged once input by holding down the A button instead of releasing it immediately. Most people don’t charge up smash attacks unless there is a good opportunity to.

Silent Spectre read the momentum perfectly, dashing forward then turning around to JC grab Zhu. By jumping during a dash then pressing Z to grab, you can cancel the pre-jump animation to get the standing grab animation instead of the dashing grab animation (you grab differently when standing still than when dashing), and on most characters the standing grab is faster, which makes it better overall.

Silent Spectre back throws it to Tang again, who does a shine (lingo for fox’s reflector, his down B, which can reflect projectiles and has no startup time at all), jump cancels it into another up smash. Fox’s shine can be canceled with jumps similar to shields, which you can also jump out of. The up smash input is up + a. In Smash Bros, you can tap up on the control stick to jump instead of pressing the normal jump buttons, X and Y. Tapping up during the shine starts the prejump animation which is canceled into the up smashing animation. Fox’s Shine also has fixed knockback, meaning that it always pushes the enemy the same amount no matter what percentage the enemy is at (the percentage bar at the bottom of the screen is built up when people take damage and it determines how far they fly when they are hit). The fixed knockback on the shine makes it reliable in instances like this because the combo will never vary based on the percentage like with other moves, so you can just input the move sequence without having to predict their velocity or react to their knockback angle.

The reflector into up smash propels Zhu forward, giving Silent Spectre the perfect setup to dash forwards, and use the sweetspotted knee as a finisher, which is what it’s best at.

To help demonstrate how exactly this combo worked, I made a video with the inputs overlaid in slow motion so you can see everything they are doing. It first plays the combo, then the slow motion version with overlays, then the thing at full speed with overlays.

This is what is called, a 0-death combo, or a zero to death combo. It’s called this because Zhu got caught when he was at 0%, and they managed to keep the combo up all the way until he was dead. 0-death combos are a natural consequence of Smash’s knockback system, but they’re exceedingly rare in competitions, and a demonstration of superior technical skill and predictive power on the part of those who can pull them off. Smash is pretty unique among fighting games for its Directional Influence system (DI for short). Directional influence allows a player to exert an influence on the way they get knocked back, so players can attempt to escape killer combos. In this case though, the combo was so tight that escape was almost impossible.

The Wombo Combo even changed up the way doubles matches were played since. Before the Wombo Combo, in doubles matches people would grab an opponent and the team mate would charge up a smash attack to get off a lot of damage for free. Since the Wombo Combo, Smashers have shot for more team combos off of grabs and taking advantage of throws and grab releases as setups for more hits. Usually this fails, but it has produced a number of worthy successors.

No explanation of the Wombo Combo would be complete without mentioning what all the crazy shoutouts in the video mean. First off, that was a really great up smash. Next, Happy Feet refers to a series of Falco combo videos made by the player Zhu, however in this match he’s playing as Fox, not Falco, so, “That ain’t Falco!” Finally, the Wombo Combo itself is actually a reference to a pizza from the pizza chain Round Table Pizza, and the guy shouting it had absolutely no clue what was about to occur.

Do you have a video of someone doing something amazing in a video game? Send it my way in the comments and I’ll add it to my youtube playlists, and maybe break it down in the future. I love seeing things unlike what I have already, so if you have something unique please share it.

See you next time! Try not to get yo ass whooped!

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