Smash 4's Duck Hunt stage

Competitive Super Smash Bros. 4 players are asking for silly dog Duck Hunt’s stage to be banned from tournaments. Its architecture forces players into boring, long sequences where they stare at each other and wait.

Dunk Hunt’s stage is, of course, based on the NES title Duck Hunt. It’s a grassy, flat plane. Sometimes, ducks spawn from the grass. It has two “soft” platforms: a tree and a bush. It’s a counterpick stage, so when a player loses the first game of a set, they can “counterpick” Duck Hunt’s stage. It’s a good option if you’re up against a character who would fare poorly there.

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It seems innocent enough, and it is widely tournament-legal, but players are complaining that the best strategy to beat someone on Duck Hunt is a boring one to watch. Players “camp” on the tree, waiting for their enemy to approach. It’s safe, sure. But in such a fast-paced game, sitting on a tree for several seconds can be dull. Also, to the left side of the tree, characters with stronger recoveries than others have a significant, and perhaps unfair, advantage.

Now that Smash 4 will take top fighting games tournament EVO’s prime-time Sunday slot, debate over the Dunk Hunt stage’s legality has flared up. Some competitors are demanding for it to be banned before EVO.

Ally, one of the top Smash players in the world, told me that “The tree on the left is the biggest issue. People will sit on it and get very janky low % kill because the other player had no options but to approach.” He says the stage “forces a lot of camping,” and because of that, players will wait relatively long periods for someone to make a move.

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He adds that “The Ducks can change the fate of a stock by interrupting an attack or delaying it.” He wants it to be banned.

ZeRo, who was 2014-2015's top Smash 4 player and recently lost to Ally at Gen4, “really disagreed” with that perspective. On Twitter, he said it will “remove a ton of counterpick aspect too the game.” In some cases, choosing Duck Hunt may not benefit you, but it could really compromise another player. He’s sympathetic to environment-related losses, but thinks players should meet the challenge.

And, anyway, who would really stop watching a Smash tournament because one rarely-picked stage sometimes provokes boring stare-downs? “Removing Duck Hunt won’t increase viewership,” he said. “Don’t change the stage list under that principle. What will is storyline & proper advertising.”

Omni, a huge Smash YouTuber, takes a more conservative approach to stages. Flat stages with few platforms are “staples while everything else is just extra.”
He commented under Ally’s tweets:

When reached for comment, Omni told me that he’d “ban Duck Hunt for many reasons.” The biggest, he said, is how “polarizing it is to simply sit in the corner of the screen and wait for something to happen. It’s lame. Effective but lame.”

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Omni added that it “comes down to preference.” Personally, I think playstyles are better showcased with fewer environmental impediments. But also, how Smash players react to ridiculous situations can inspire some of the game’s best surprises.

[Update—2/21/17]: Smash 4's new tournament ruleset removed the Duck Hunt stage from the legal stage list ahead of EVO 2017. A heated debate between pro Smash players led up to today’s decision. EVO organizer Bassem “Bear” Dahdouh told me, “Essentially there were matches where people would sit on top of the tree platforms for long periods of time.”