The Case For Hungrybox and his Jigglypuff
Super Smash Brothers Melee for the Nintendo Gamecube came out on November 21st in 2001, this game features 26 playable characters that you can chose to fight your friends with in a battle for victory. 15 years after the release and the competitive scene is still growing, longer than any other competitive video game scene in history. What sets this game apart from other fighting videogames is that while in other fighting games you fight to diminish your opponent’s health bar, in Melee every attack you land on the opponent increases their character’s percentage and the higher that percentage gets to be, the farther they get knocked back the next time they are hit. When a character is knocked off of the stage in a way where they cannot return they will lose one of their lives. How you win the game is by taking all of the lives of your opponent. Another aspect that sets this game apart from others is the mechanics involved. In other fighting games individual combos are guaranteed granted you input all of the right buttons at the correct time, while in Super Smash Brothers there needs to be creativity and any given “combo” is never guaranteed.
One character that has been the target of a lot of hate throughout the competitive scene is Jigglypuff, from the Pokemon universe. After being picked up by the player Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma, Jigglypuff became he face of slow and boring play. Some have even gone so far as to say Jigglypuff could ruin the competitive scene because she doesn’t promote the fast play that draws in viewers. I however believe that Jigglypuff is the one of the main contributors as to why melee has grown to the point that it has, because of the need for a common nemesis throughout the community.
Back in 2007, a player named Joseph “Mang0” Marquez emerged as a top-player within the community and became the player representation of everything that made melee the beautiful game that it is. He mained (Smash lingo for “exclusively played”) a character deemed unable to win national tournaments. Before his take on the character, Jigglypuff was known as a slow character with pretty low damaging moves. “His Jigglypuff play is the last thing that shows off what Mango is about. In 2015, Jigglypuff is a well-respected character that sees a fair amount of play. But in 2008, when Pound 3 (the tournament that Mang0 solidified himself as a top player in) was going on, Jigglypuff was a mid-tier (middle of the pack) at best, and almost nobody played her seriously. And that’s just the way Mango likes it”(Melee it on Me). He turned this otherwise unplayed character into a thing of beauty. Instead of fighting straight on he would try to pull tricks and kill his opponent early also known as a “Gimp”. This strategy proved to be extremely successful, however he didn’t optimize his play to it’s full capacity and instead chose to go for a cooler and flashier play-style, switching his main characters to two of the top tier characters, Fox and Falco. “I only switched off of Puff,” he told me, “because people were saying that Puff was a gimmick and I was only winning because of the character. So I was like, ‘uh, no, I’m better than you guys,’ switched to spacies, and kept winning.” (Melee it on Me) Even then people harbored resentment for the character because they believed that it is unfair that someone can work really hard to gain percentage to eventually take a life away and Jigglypuff can kill someone off of one grab.
Then in 2008, a player who goes by the name of Hungrybox quickly rose to be one of the best players in the world. Hungrbox played Jigglypuff as well, however is method of play eventually lead to him becoming one of the most hated Melee players of all time. He used Jigglypuffs extremely disjointed move the “back-air” to in a way construct a wall that an opponent cannot pass with out getting hit to draw games out to the point where the opponent would get angry and make mistakes to the point where they would lose. He was the inspiration for Mang0 to switch to Fox. Neither knew at the time but this dispute of the character would develop into a full fledged rivalry that still continues to this day.
Do to Mang0's massive approval rating, and his contempt for Hungryboxes play style, this dispute turned into a full fledged communal hatred for Hungrybox and his patented Jigglypuff. He became the player that nobody wanted to win.”There’s a huge stigma against Puff. I’ve had Florida crowds cheer against me at nationals. It’s the fact that no one really likes giving Puff credit. You can’t really combo her… and she seems easier to play. Puff is a weird character altogether. She has five jumps so she doesn’t have to worry about being gimped or dying suddenly out of nowhere (Redbull). In 2009, the best player in the world at the time, Jason “MewTwoKing” Zimmerman said in an interview that “(Hungryboxes) Jigglypuff is so lame that it will ruin the competitive melee scene”(Redbull).
While this continuing disgust for Hungrybox is certainly understandable, without Hungryboxes presence within the community, the level of play would never have advanced to the point that it is today. He took on a very undervalued role as the nemesis of all players who desired melee to be controlled by the fast-paced characters alone.
Hungrybox lit a fire under almost all top players, that was certainly needed for the survival of melee. From 2007–2012 the competitive scene remained stagnant. Hungryboxes continuing improvement bothered Mang0 to his core. Mang0 is known for playing with his heart and sole, he leaves everything out on the battlefield whether you like it or not, and Hungrybox forced him to play with a patience, rather than his typical hyper aggressive style, something that Mang0 to this day absolutely detests. To adapt Mang0 adopted a game plan for his matches against Hungrybox and became a better player because of it. Mang0 wasn’t the only one who bothered. No matter how fast or tough someone played, Hungrybox would systematically beat them because of his defensive style. As a result people started to work harder, to become as perfect as possible in the matchup, and in the process become a thing of beauty to watch. This did not go unnoticed as the viewership within the last 5–6 years has skyrocketed itself to become one of the biggest spectator E-Sports in the world.
Even though this defensive style didn’t promote the quick and flashy play style Melee is known for, it brought on a new level of optimization never before seen in any fighting game. Before players would rely mostly on their speed and their character’s brute strength to out-gun the opponent, now you not only need speed, you need reactive intelligence to outwit your opponent with every button input. With the introduction of this new wave of optimization, players now have to be atop of their mental game at all times to win not only the Jigglypuff matchup, but every other matchup as well. Hungrybox and his Jigglypuff brought forth a defensive playstyle that could be replicated with almost every other “slow” character and no longer was the metagame bound to the fastest characters in the game.
Now I don’t want to give Hungrybox sole credit as to why the competitive scene grew to the extent that it has. For the scene to get where it is today it took thousands of hours of effort and organization from top-players who continually put their heart and soul in the game, to organizers who make sure there is a platform for the top players to display their talent to the online viewers. However, viewership and tournament attendance in the scene was on a decline until Hungrybox filled this void in the community. The 2008 tournament Pound 3 was supposed to be the last tournament in Melee’s nationally competitive lifetime. When Mang0 pulled out an incredible run and beat his sworn rival Hungrybox in the grand-finals it gave melee a major push to make it through 2009–2013. He gave everyone throughout the scene something to cheer against, and in in doing so boosted viewership exponentially
Competition brings the best and worst out of everyone . I believe that without competition we would never have advanced to the place that we are as a society. The Super Smash Brothers Melee example is just a small representation of what can come from intense competition and rivalry. Hungrybox pushed the other competitors to their limits and as a result created this fantastic spectator sport that even if you don’t understand the mechanics of the game, you can still enjoy and recognize the amount of thought going into every input. Even though Hungrybox is the target for significant hate all through the community, he revolutionized the way Melee was played and played a large part in the reason as to why the scene is still alive today.
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