Nostalgia: Remembering 'Super Smash Bros.' mod 'Project M'

Super Smash Bros. 64, Smash Bros. Melee, and Smash Bros. Brawl Over 110,000 Smash Bros. fans from around the world came out to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ to compete. (Flickr)

For those that don’t know “Project M," it was a mod of “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” that completely revamped the game’s engine to make its gameplay more like the previous fighting game in the “Super Smash Bros.” series: “Super Smash Bros. Melee.” The series pits famous Nintendo characters against each other in a multiplayer fighting game.

There were several differences between the engines of “Melee” and “Brawl,” but I’ll try to summarize for most people: “Melee” is far more fluid and “faster,” while “Brawl” is more “floaty” and less dynamic.

The release of “Project M 3.0” was widely played among casual and competitive players alike. The game saw its national popularity skyrocket, with both professional “Melee” figures like Mew2King and Armada played “Project M” at national tourneys like Apex 2014 and endorsed its legitimacy. Other competitors like Emukiller, Junebug and Professor Pro were known for their prowess in “Project M” far more than they were in other games.

Though I don’t have any empirical data on this, I used to visit the Reddit.com “smashbros” subreddit quite a bit and its population seemed to blow up in 2014 - most likely due to “Project M’s” rise in prominence. Gameplay clips called “Gfycats” were posted nearly every day, with each most of them showcasing a player doing a cool combo on another player. They became so well-liked that people started using “gfycating” as a verb similar to how basketball fans used “posterized” for flashy dunks.

“Project M” wasn’t flawless. Though the game kept elements like wavedashing and L-Canceling from “Melee”, its developers also sought to try to re-balance the cast, buffing previously useless characters like Kirby and Bowser to compete with already strong ones like Fox and Falco. “Project M” also tried to take elements of “Brawl” characters and show how they could be strong in a game closer to “Melee” - such as Snake and Sonic. The result wasn’t always successful and caused major balance issues.

The magnitude of the game’s cast made it frustrating to memorize several matchups, often having a general strategy based around knowing what character to pick against another character, rather than relying on actually outplaying your opponent. Moreover, because “Project M’s” is a mod, the game was constantly updated, making it hard to maintain a consistent meta. For example, Mewtwo in “3.02” was considered incredibly dominant, but he was heavily nerfed in “3.5.”

These factors contributed to the game’s criticism but “Project M” also had legal concerns. After the late 2014 release of “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U” (and 3DS), the biggest online streaming channel for “Project M,” VideoGameBootCamp, abruptly dropped “Project M” from its series of streamed games, due to concerns that they would be held liable by Nintendo for illegally profiting from a mod.

The “Project M” community was outraged, as they had contributed to VGBC’s immense rise in popularity, only to be ostracized.  Soon they saw famous tourneys like “The Big House” series also drop “Project M” from their roster of streamed games and people were worried that the previously acclaimed mod was going to be forcefully pushed out of the spotlight.

As it turns out, the concerns were well-founded. Last week, the original “Project M” development team (PMDT) shocked the world by announcing their disbandment, as well as removing all other content from their website: essentially the final straw on the camel’s back.

There are several theories for why PMDT would abandon their old series - ranging from simple explanations like burnout and exhaustion to crazier ones like how the PMDT was actually given a cease and desist letter by Nintendo and just lying to their fan-base. No one really knows why the mod was discontinued and it’s unknown as to whether “Project M” fans will be able to have their community survive this last hit.

Though it may not necessarily nostalgic in the same way as other games, the mod’s rise and fall from mainstream relevance certainly provides an interesting story for any gaming community. I never seriously played “Project M” and prefer “Melee,” but I can’t help but feel a tinge of appreciation for what the mod fearlessly strived to be – a creative, slightly flawed but revolutionary take on an already legendary series of games. 


Anokh Palakurthi is associate life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at anokh.palakurthi@uconn.eduHe tweets @DC_Anokh.