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Published May 30, 2023

I love content. I love making content. I love watching content. There’s few mediums within the gaming space that inspire as much creativity as Smash. Historical, analytical, silly – it doesn’t matter the flavor. Not a single week goes by where I don’t engage with Smash content. Most of the time, I like talking about Smash content with my friends. The way it normally goes is that I rant to them about what I love, rant to them about what I hate and regardless of what I say, I get ignored.

For this column, I’d like to do the equivalent of that for you folks, who are, in a sense, my “friends.” Today, I want to talk about Leffen’s “Fox Deconstructed” guide. My ears always perk up when I hear about educational Smash content. Though I’m not exactly the world’s greatest player, I have invested time into Melee lessons and would like to consider myself an advanced player. In a future column, I may break down Fiction’s Metafy series on Falco or Armada’s on Peach.

The Series Structure

At about eight and a half hours in total, “Fox Deconstructed” is both efficient and packed to the brim with details. Though it’s not made with the intent of being consumed from start-to-finish, it exists a general guide for beginner and mid-level players. Leffen states outright, from the introduction, that his goal was to create something timeless for Fox players. When he said this, I couldn’t help but think of something like CunningKitsune’s old Fox guide. That was something that I used to point to for years as the model for character guides. Though it’s now obviously fairly dated, I still look back fondly on it.

“Fox Deconstructed” begins with Leffen introducing his background as a fighting games professional, and, of course, his experience with Fox. Following that, he explains the character on the whole, breaking down his strengths, weaknesses, and overall traits. In this section, Leffen dives into what makes Fox such a special character in the context of fighting games. He also describes why he’s such an important character to Melee and, more than anything else, really makes it seem like Fox is the coolest fighting game character ever. Watching this section, it feels like it’s made for anyone with a remote interest in Melee and an innate understanding that Fox is good. I think Leffen’s explanation here will satisfy a lot of Melee long-timers and newcomers alike.

Following that overview, Leffen dedicates five chapters to different universal concepts. In order, he explains the following: tech skill, neutral game, combos, advantage state, and defense. After that, Leffen details each of Fox’s seven most important matchups: Fox, Falco, Sheik, Marth, Captain Falcon, Jigglypuff, and Peach. The last portion of Fox’s Deconstructed guide is a brief controller mods overview.

Positive Feedback

Let’s start with the obvious: the presentation values of this character guide are a refreshing step forward from what used to exist in the past. It’s not hidden in overwhelming text like Smashboards posts, it’s not relegated to a subreddit, and it’s not indigestible like long YouTube videos or stream highlights with no timestamps. “Fox Deconstructed” is cleanly organized and pleasant to watch. When Leffen explains something, it’s almost always backed up with a visual example or summarized later in bullet points, which are easy to remember and complemented by fitting icons.

I also can’t talk about this series without discussing Leffen himself. His communication style really shines – pun unintended – in a format like “Fox Deconstructed.” He has a unique way of articulating his perspective in an easily digestible, measurable and calm manner. More than what he says, it’s how he explains his thought process which stands out. For example, I really enjoyed Leffen’s explanation of “set pieces” in a matchup, which references how he prepares for the most common and important situations. In practice, I’m sure he’s not the only one to take this approach, and yet his way of illustrating such concepts stuck with me. It’s shaped how I view the game and where I place my attention at every given moment.

I now want to bring up the five chapters on fighting game concepts, because they caught me by surprise. In fact, they made up for 3 hours, 39 minutes and 34 seconds, which I initially saw as a little extreme. However, the further I got through this series, the more convinced I became that this approach was appropriate. The feeling I got from these chapters was that Leffen really saw these concepts as so fundamental to understand before discussing matchup specifics. Upon finishing Leffen’s series, I would actually say that more than anything else, these five sections are the most important segments. They provide a lens in which to view Melee through and offer a foundation that you can apply to understand how elements of the game and even players interact with each other. I know I’ll be revisiting these parts of the series quite frequently.

Constructive Feedback

Something to consider about “Fox Deconstructed” is that Leffen’s matchup guides do not always follow the same structure. For example, in the Fox ditto lesson, he discusses two general styles of playing the matchup, broadly describes the neutral game RPS, and then briefly explains what to look for across five different percent ranges. He follows that up by summarizing combo, edgeguarding, and stage selection. It was a great way of describing everything I needed to know at a foundational level for the matchup, so to my surprise, the Fox-Falco lesson took a bit of a turn. Unlike the Fox ditto lesson, he spends a little more time explaining how Falco’s tools interact with Fox’s tools, which makes sense given that it’s a different character, but then he spends a massive portion of the lesson talking about Falco’s laser and all the ways of dealing with it. Among other differences, the two sections also vary in their their sheer length. The ditto is a little under half-an-hour, while the Falco guide is over 50 minutes. Having seen the other lessons, I can say they still occasionally vary in editorial structure and focus.

In all fairness, it could be the nature of how Fox interacts with the rest of the cast. Perhaps Leffen felt like sticking 1:1 in the format of each guide would oversimplify concepts to a learner. Nonetheless, a more consistent template for viewing matchups might have helped. I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed by the guide not having separate sections for the Ice Climbers, Yoshi, Pikachu, or Samus, among other present mid-tier characters in the metagame. Few people have as much knowledge about the whole cast or how to evaluate characters in any fighting game as Leffen. There’s a chance that he may not have felt confident enough in detailing some of these matchups, or that he just didn’t see it as important, but I nonetheless saw it as a missed opportunity.

The only other part of this guide I’d mention here is that I really did not think the concluding chapter he had on controller mods was necessary. At 5 minutes and 55 seconds, it didn’t feel important enough for his target audience. Leffen even states near the end of the section that he wouldn’t worry too much about this part as a low-level or even mid-level player. Although there’s value in hearing his explanations behind how these mechanical factors apply at the top level, it seemed out of place in a polished character guide.

Summary

In spite of a few flaws here and there, Leffen’s “Fox Deconstructed” series remains an excellent guide to Melee’s most iconic character. It’s a highly entertaining and informative overview brought by someone who’s one of the sharpest minds in fighting games. That’s not something you’ll find everywhere, and upon finishing it, I can safely say that it’s absolutely worthy of getting a Metafy membership for – or at least convincing one of your friends to get an account and share it.

I strongly recommend “Fox Deconstructed” for beginners, aspiring competitors, commentators, and frankly anyone who stands to benefit from learning more about Smash. Leffen’s going to have a busy year balancing Melee with Guilty Gear: Strive and Street Fighter 6, but he’s made something quite special with “Fox Deconstructed.” If this is the new standard for teaching Melee, the community is in a great spot.

9/10

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