Smashfest brings Western talent to centre stage

By in Sports & Health

On Jan. 27, Smashfest hosted players for a chance at cash prizes and — more importantly for many — bragging rights. The event was sponsored by the Saskatoon Blades, who provided space in the SaskTel Centre for the event.

As an avid home gamer who has put a lot of time into Smash, I attended Smashfest to get a feel for the game at the competitive level in person. The event was streamed on Twitch, and while the stream put out by SKL — a company that hosts Saskatchewan esports events — is very high quality, the crowd makes the action much more meaningful and exciting.

The SaskTel Centre hosted Smashers from all over Western Canada for a tight paced competition.

For a spectator like me, there was also more to do than just sitting and watching. The event sported a Legacy Gaming Lounge next to the action, which featured a variety of games for spectators to play without forcing us to choose between watching a match or playing a game, as we were close enough together to do both.

Among the available games were Super Smash Bros. Melee on Game- Cube, and for Nintendo 64, a variety of other Nintendo games, as well as a PlayStation VR setup. In addition to these games, which were free to play, the lounge also featured an amiibo challenge, in which you could pay $2 to fight a level-50 amiibo in Smash 4. Anyone who emerged victorious received a random amiibo as a reward.

Stewart “Arkb0t” Bury-Jones, who came to Saskatoon from Calgary for the event, shares his spectating experience and notes what he found most enjoyable about the tournament.

“They’ve got the stream set-up separated, so there’s like a viewing area downstairs where a bunch of people can sit and watch the stream without crowding around one normal-sized monitor, which is really good. It’s been moving along really well — matches have been on time [and] you’re not sitting around waiting,” Bury-Jones said.

This viewing area filled up as the grand final match drew near, and the crowd became quite enthusiastic. Every successful combo heralded shock or a rush of cheers from crowd members — many of whom frequently jumped up in amazement.

The final match came down to Manitoba’s Ryan “Strike” Duff and British Columbia’s Landon “Captain L” Trybuch. Captain L made it to the grand final by defeating his doubles partner, Don “Exodia” Goldreich of Alberta — sending Exodia to the losers’ final, where Strike would triumph against him — leaving Exodia to watch as Captain L and Strike fought one another in the final match of the evening.

Captain L took the first two matches in this best-of-five series against Strike and — with only one victory to go in order to take the championship — made the switch from his triedand- true Pikachu to the lesser used character Jigglypuff. As Jigglypuff is widely considered a poor character choice, it was obvious that Captain L wanted to send a message.

Captain L managed to pull off a sing-to-rest combo, not only once but twice, against Strike — using the sing move just under the ledge, in order to catch the edge-guarding Strike playing too close, and then quickly finishing with rest to take the stock. Captain L stated in an interview with an SKL sportscaster after the match that his goal was to avenge Exodia with his off-meta Jigglypuff pick.

“I really like my Jigglypuff. She’s considered the worst character in the game by almost everyone, but I honestly think that she’s … decent,” Captain L said. “The Manitoba crowd, they were getting kind of loud. And you know, Exodia is … my doubles partner — he’s also my best friend — so I kind of wanted to send a bit of a statement that … this is our turf.”

While I had to stream the final match from home, I still felt more invested in the game after seeing some of the players compete in person and joining in the hype generated by the crowd. Based on my own experience, I would recommend Smashfest to anyone who has an interest in the game.

Anyone can look up epic clips of Smash on YouTube or watch a high-level tournament on Twitch, but watching it in person is a whole different experience — as Smash is a very personal game — and it shines in community events like these.

Jack Thompson / Sports & Health Editor

Photos: David Hartman