Super Smash Bros.: ZeRo Wins 2018 Smash Invitational
Super Smash Bros.: ZeRo Wins 2018 Smash Invitational

This article is part of our Super Smash Bros. series.

Despite technically being in retirement, Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios stepped back into the scene like Jordan in ‘96 to win the 2018 Smash Invitational at E3. Showing off a taste of what the newly-debuted Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has to offer, ZeRo made a great case for taking that GameCube controller off the shelf for good once the competitive circuit for Ultimate kicks off in 2019.

ZeRo’s still got it, y’all

Widely considered to be the best Smash 4 player of all-time, ZeRo looks like he hasn’t lost a step since his “retirement” back in January. He opened things up in a doubles match (yeah, this Invitational had a wacky format of a different team composition in each round) with the legendary Melee player Adam “Armada” Lindgren. Using Mario along with Armada’s Samus against the Ridley and Corrin of Yuta “Abadango” Kawamura and Justin “Plup McGrath, respectively, ZeRo and Armada didn’t have too much trouble moving on to the next round.

In the winners’ semifinals, ZeRo and Armada faced off in a dream matchup between the best Smash 4 player and a Melee god. This is what we live for in these Invitationals. The match lived up to the hype, with both players pulling off some impressive combos even in the game’s early stages. The highlight was certainly when ZeRo grabbed the Smash Ball and unleashed Ike’s Final Smash to take a stock off Armada’s Pokemon Trainer. In the end, ZeRo’s prowess with Smash 4 (which is essentially the foundation from which Ultimate is built) was clear, giving him a fairly easy win to advance into the winners’ final.

In both the winners’ final and grand final, ZeRo went up against Leonardo “MkLeo” Perez, who is the current king of Smash 4. All three of their sets were by far the closest of the entire INvitational, frequently going down to the last stock.

ZeRo struck first in the winners’ final, pulling off an incredible Bouncing Fish With Sheik off in the corner to confirm the kill on MkLeo to move into the grand finals.

While the winners’ final was close, the grand final was even closer as these two went back and forth through two sets. MkLeo was on his game in a big way during the first set, winning both games as Bayonetta and Sonic to reset the bracket with a 2-0 win. (Quick aside on Bayonetta: She is 100 percent going to be nerfed between now and the final release. Masahiro Sakurai, creator of the franchise, was seen shaking his head when MkLeo pulled off the BnB combo off the top. So expect her kit to be heavily retooled come December 7).

In the bracket reset, though, ZeRo was back in rare form, wading through a tight three-game set with tactics that fans have come to know and love. Playing in a Mario against MkLeo’s Sonic in all three games, ZeRo showed off some extreme patience as he paced his smashes perfectly almost every time. In the final game, he got a big two stock lead by taking a full stock with over 100 percent damage taken. With that lead in hand, it was but a formality for ZeRo to take the game and win his second Smash Invitational title.

While this was just a small taste of what Smash Ultimate has to offer, what we saw paints a bright picture on the future of this game. The community seems positive and ready to dig deeper into a new game. Time will tell how people will react once they have the full game in hand, but for now, life as a Smash fan feels good.

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