My take on Smash Bros. Brawl items

I'm bored, so you're getting a triple dose of posts today.  This time, I'm tackling how I handle each of the items in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.  You can see the full review of items after the break.  For an overall statement, I read something from David Sirlin's commentary on the last Game Developer's Conference that really resonates with me.  Bad players are going to want more luck because it gives them a higher chance of winning.  Skilled players will want less chance because they want a 100% chance of winning.  A good game designer has to find the middle ground that keeps both sides entertained and balanced, a difficult feat to achieve.  My primary philosophy was to be very liberal on items, because the more items exist, the less chance any particular one is going to come up at any given time.

Beam Sword: I don't see any problems here at all.  It's a totally standard melee style weapon that seems made more to get in some good swipes for extra damage, not really capable of tremendous knockback even when thrown.  I see no reason not to include it.
Bunny Hood: Until somebody comes to me who can really abuse the Bunny Hood, I put it in there simply because I hate it.  It gives extra speed & jump at the cost of maneuverability.  I personally can't handle it and will actively avoid picking it up.
Capsule: Pretty awesome.  It's fairly standard as a throwable item, but the awesome comes in once it opens up.  It could be an explosive or an item.  Depending on the relative skill of both players, this can turn into a double-edged sword that helps your opponent instead of hurting them.
Fire Flower: I've seen people do some great things with this.  However, it is answerable at pretty much any skill level and denies players the ability to use some normal attacks.  It only works out badly if the stage has walls, and the only such stage I have on random also has cars to disrupt that.
Food: No real problem here.  Food effect is minimal and if anything,  it's harmful because I can't really do much attacking in a field of food.
Hammer: Less experienced players have some trouble getting away from the hammer, but they've at least figured out the player gets rather helpless once they're hit.  I think this is a good item encouraging players to get better so they can get around it.  I personally tend to stay away because it often breaks on me.
Home-Run Bat: This one's been a lot of fun.  It's not really good to try getting the hit with a much better application in throwing.  Fortunately, I've had some good success in training people to airdodge thanks to Pikachu, so I really have to work to make this help me out.  Somehow, others seem to avoid picking it up.
Lip's Stick: This offers so minimal support that I really haven't found it help anything.  Like the Beam Sword, it seems to just be good for getting in some extra damage and offering more close-combat characters some kind of projectile.
Maxim Tomato: This was a kinda close call for me, but I've come to the conclusion it's worth adding.  Recovering 50 damage makes it a worthwhile item and it does demoralize other players somewhat.  However, it's not so bad as to give the impression that the opponent can't get that back on unless the player was already winning before recovery.  We'll even get a struggle to grab the tomato sometimes, which can make it more trouble than it's worth.
Metal Box: I avoid this for the same reason I avoid the Bunny Hood: I can't work with it.  It does carry some risk with it in that recovery gets significantly harder, so I've simply found it to be little more than an annoyance.
Motion-Sensor Bomb (mine): This is just perfect, a high-reward item that forces players (including the user) to navigate around it.  It's essentially like giving someone a mine that Snake already has access to.  There's so much that goes into it both for and against that it's an invaluable inclusion.
Mr. Saturn: Just there to annoy people.  It has no real significant use outside of a swarm that's extremely rare.  If anything, its existence helps to make the other items less frequent.
Party Ball: Why not?  It's just another crate and nobody cares about that.  The possibility of many noms isn't really something people care much about, either.
Super/Poison Mushroom: These two really do have to go together.  Other items with an impact as large as this does have the possibility of backfiring, so I think making players pay close attention to identify it works out to be a good thing (provided a good television is used).
Pokeballs & Assist Trophies: Strictly speaking, these are bad for the game's balance.  However, it is an item we all enjoy around here.  There's lots of things available from stupid to stupidly broken, and the broken ones don't show up enough to be of much concern.  The pokeballs can be caught/reflected if you're good enough, and we've sometimes been able to successfully juggle to death someone holding a trophy.  Very entertaining and not unbalanced enough to consistently break the game, we all love this inclusion.
Star Rod: Nobody really cares about chucking stars with this because they don't deliver much.  We most just use this as another thing to chuck at people, which slower characters appreciate.
Super Scope: Using this properly takes a fair amount of skill and you don't get very many charged shots out of it.  Seems like a good thing to have around.
Warp Star: Although it blew people away easily at first, everyone now seems to have trained themselves well enough to get away from it.  Once in a while someone will misjudge the explosive hitbox on it, but that's pretty much all there is.
Banana Peel: Hey, Diddy Kong gets these for free all the time.  That alone warrants its inclusion.
Blast Box: This has created a lot of awesome moments.  You really have to work hard to hit someone with it, and most of the time people die to their own stupidity (or dumb luck).   Somehow, I don't think anyone really minds dying to it just because it's so stupid when they do.
 Cracker Launcher: Awfully hard to use, easily avoided, awesome when it works.  Great item.
Deku Nut: Like the mushrooms, you really have to observe to even notice this thing.  That said, it's pretty easy to avoid and we haven't really scored many kills traceable to this.  Most of the time, people just hit it themselves and wonder what happened.
Franklin Badge: This forces projectile-loving characters to change up their gameplay for a while, and that's always welcome.  Most of the time people only discover it when their projectile fails, once again encouraging people to pay attention to the game.
Gooey Bomb: This hasn't really been that effective of a tool, but it does tend to get some extra damage on somebody.  It's also made for some idiot moments when people will strike it themselves.  Nobody really tries to use it on me because even if they land it, it usually finds another home.
Hothead: This one is a little sore point because the user is immune.  It is, however, easily avoidable and it takes a lot of work to make it work well.  It doesn't work on all stages, either.  Sounds good.
Lightning: This is just hilarious to get.  We're all getting pretty good at defense around here, so we don't get too concerned about suddenly turning mini.  The biggest thing that makes up for it is suddenly turning everybody GIANT and all hell just breaks loose!
Sandbag: Sure, why not?  It tends to make for a wall more than anything else because it just gets in everybody's way.
Smoke Ball: This doesn't really do anything, and if anything, it's probably better to use on yourself.  Adding a little bit of confusion isn't so bad.
Soccer Ball: Oh yeah, this is awesome.  Nobody minds getting hit by it because it's really hart to do deliberately.  It's really rewarding to pull it off when you do.
Spring: I like this a lot better than the Bumper.  It's hard to set it up abusively, and even if it does work as such, you pretty much just get one use and then it's off somewhere else.
Team Healer: We almost never do team games.  When we do though, this is like a Maxim Tomato that needs more effort.  sounds good.
Timer: I had it banned for a while.  Once someone showed me how getting hit by it can be a boon as much as a burden, it suddenly got a lot better.  Hint: dodge!
Bob-omb: It kinda feels like a "you win" item, but it's not so easy to use for it to work that way.  It's not too difficult to dodge when you know it's coming, it can be caught, and players too cautious about it will have it blow up in their faces.  It makes the game very mental for a moment.  Oh yeah, and idiots do tend to blow it up on themselves sometimes.

xFan: In theory, this item is questionably balanced, but only assuming it's used against a skilled player.  It easily destroys bad players, so for the good of my group,  I removed it.
xHeart Container: Absolutely not.  100% recovery is just too much.  It can take up a very significant amount of time getting the opponent there, and for that to be instantly removed just for one pickup is very demoralizing.
xRay Gun: Seriously, I really want this to be included, but it's just way too easy to juggle someone away either to death or to significant damage.  Either way, the opponent is stuck in a bad place having to at least recover to the stage, giving the user a lot of power.  It's not very entertaining either, so it's out.
xStarman: It's bad enough that a stage will allow this as a possible reward.  This item breaks the game in a very quick fashion and gives off a very unfair feeling.  If it only lasted 3 seconds, I might consider it, but this lasts longer than most characters final smashes with very little effort.  It's definitely out.
xBumper: No way.  You can easily set it up at the edge of a stage and opponents are going to have a ridiculously hard time getting through it.  Although the user can get hit, the user just places it where they want, effectively meaning they won't get hit.  Its entertainment value doesn't make up for this, so it's out.
xGolden Hammer: This is too good to allow.  You can't realistically break through it and it even allows players to float in the air while using it.  Seeing the hammer is like seeing "you win" with little effort.  This is not entertaining.
xPitfall:  I'd allow it if the user could be subjected to it, but they can't.  Combined with the ability to pretty definitively kill someone without a floor under them, this just isn't good for the game.
xSmart Bomb: This is way too difficult to avoid and easy to set up.  It easily has the capacity to KO multiple opponents in quick fashion.  These are all elements for a disaster.
xSuperspicy Curry: For a while, I was letting this stick around because I equated it to the Fire flower.  It really has a lot of control to it, though.  It's hard to get out once you're trapped by it.
xUnira:  At first I allowed this because it didn't really do much even if it couldn't affect the user.  Then someone showed me the vacuum effect it has and how you can take decent shelter within it.  It's not really long-lasting, but it works long enough that I just barely support removing it.  It just makes it too easy to stall.

Dragoon, Smash Ball:  You'll hear my rant about this another time.  In short, I don't believe the Dragoon is unbalanced and the only character I find unbalanced for the final smash is Sonic.  I have demonstrated to my group how to successfully avoid other attacks.  The only frustration is that our Lucas player is reasonably good at getting it, but he also rarely wins.  In fact, I will often use other players' fear of the final smash to score some kills of my own while they're distracted.


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