Today we will take a closer look at the only Stadium Mode to have appeared in all three iterations of the Smash Series: The Target Test. The premise is simple: One Character. Ten Targets. A timer. READY! GO!
As targets shatter on the slightest impact you are free to use any attack to destroy them. Of course not every attack is well suited to breaking them fast, and in many cases the range of attacks you use is fairly different from an usual VS battle.
As with all the other gameplay modes there have been several big changes to the Target Test in Brawl which we will take a closer look at now.
The biggest change is the removal of character specific stages. Instead of having one stage centered around the moves of the character you can now choose from 5 stages to be played with all characters. That's 175 records to aim for, yikes! The game keeps track of a total highscore for each of the stages seperately so if you prefer one stage to the others you can just concentrate on it without having your total suffer. There are downsides to this change, though. There are less stages to mess around in and it may seem dull dealing with the same ten targets with all the characters, although the early development so far has already led to plenty of interesting routes that make use of the characters' specific abilities and in fact it is quite interesting to see what can be done with certain characters but not with others.
The next biggest change is the inclusion of items. On three of the five stages you can find several items scattered around just waiting to be picked up to break some targets. They range from laserguns to smartbombs and even the very versatile and ultimate long range target destructor: the Cracker Launcher. You can even push a crate on wheels against some unexpecting targets, how cool is that? The items allow for several previously unknown approaches to the target test and certainly enrichen the gameplay.
Just like the other stadium modes Break the Targets can be played in coop-mode, although it is unfortunately not WiFi enabled. So just grab a friend and smash the targets faster than you ever did before.
Of course the gameplay and physics changes in Brawl affect the Stadium Mode as well so here's a quick list of tricks and techniques that may help you with improving your times:
With the removal of L-Canceling landing lag is a real issue in Brawl's target test. Landing Lag is the delay between landing from an aerial attack and being able to move again. As there is no known technique of lowering the lag there has been a change in the way attacks are chosen. In Melee most attacks were used for their range, the ability to hit certain targets from a certain point or hitting multiple targets with a single hit. Landing Lag was a very small issue as L-Canceling reduced it to an insignificant amount. In Brawl the difference between attacks is far more notable. In fact, it may be better to move closer to a target to use an attack with less landing lag. You should also try and see if you can time the attack in a way that will have it end before reaching the ground to avoid landing lag altogether. Be sure to try out all attacks to see which one works best in every scenario. The most obvious choice isn't always the fastest way to do it.
Brawl introduces a small buffering system to the series. If you press a button shortly before one of your action ends you will start the new action right away. There is no need to time the button press exactly, so be sure to use this whenever possible. It doesn't work in all instances, for example pressing the A button during the jump-wind-up-animation will not cause you to do an aerial attack as soon as you leave the ground, and dashes cannot be buffered at all. But if you want to jump right as an attack finishes or use another attack immediatly after this will help you doing it as fast as possible.
Notice how many projectile attacks arc downwards as a result of gravitational pull? Be sure to use this to your advantage. Many targets can be hit with arcing projectiles by shooting them from certain spots. You can even control the arc on some of them, for example, a slightly charged arrow as Link will arc less than an uncharged one. This leaves you with plenty of different arcs to hit distant targets with. Don't forget that you can throw items in different fashions, too!
Hitting targets through a wall
It's fairly obvious but it's still easy to miss. Some attacks have fairly large hitboxes that reach out quite a bit beyond the character. These may allow you to hit a target through a wall so you don't have to waste time getting it from the other side. Although it might not look like it, Ness' Aerial Down A can hit the target to the right of the start on the easy stage through the floor, and many other attacks can as well! Explosives can reach through walls, too.
Many B attacks can be controled in some way. Most up+b moves can be done at different arcs by holding in a different direction after starting the move. Some moves change by pressing B rapidly, for example Luigi's Down+B will make you rise by tapping B quickly. Pit's Arrows can be curved, even multiple times in one shot. In fact, Pit can beat the Easy Target Test without jumping! Be sure to try out different ways to use your B attacks to see if you can hit multiple targets with them or get to a certain spot while destroying a target. Here's another hint: You can turn around with many up and down special moves by holding the control stick diagonally when pressing B and you can do neutral B moves in the opposite direction by either slightly tilting the stick backwards or quickly tapping backwards and pressing B shortly afterwards. Shooting backwards while moving forwards sure sounds fast.
The characters move faster on the ground but you will be destroying most targets with aerial attacks. The obvious conclusion is that you should spend as much time as possible on the ground. Be sure to fastfall to reach the ground sooner whenever possible. At the same time, use shorthops whenever you don't need a full jump's height and do quicker double jumps if a single jump isn't enough but a full double jump is overshooting the target height.
These simple tricks should help you to improve your times further. That's it for our short overview of the Target Test in Brawl. If you are eager to break some targets now be sure to check by in the Brawl Stadium subforum. We look forward to seeing many new faces in the coming days and weeks.
In the next issue we will take a closer look at how a strategy is developed and how it evolves over time.