Every Smash game is full of mechanics that aren’t mentioned in-game. Dash-dancing, pivots, crouch cancelling, and shield dropping were all present in Smash 64, Melee introduced a plethora of other mechanics, Brawl had DACUS, momentum cancelling, and wavebouncing, and Smash 4 brought us vectoring, frame cancelling, and a bunch of new ledge shenanigans. None have been referenced in official materials (official materials being in-game explanations, instruction manuals, or official websites). Some seem to be strange physics interactions, corner cases that were simply left untouched (wavedashing being the poster boy for this), but others are mechanics that are intentionally programmed, put in the game, and never mentioned. Sakurai maintained a website for Smash 64 called the “Smash Bros. Dojo!”, which was started after the release of the game, it was intended to be an official guide of sorts for players to be able to access, instead of having to buy a guidebook. It introduced some techniques that weren’t in the manual, like SDI, and went in detail about mechanics like shields, detailing the depletion rate, for example.
A point of contention in regards to Smash has been the intent behind certain mechanics– wavedashing was intentional! No it wasn’t! And so on. One mechanic that falls under such scrutiny is Z-cancelling and L-cancelling, and a large part of that has to do with a lack of knowledge regarding where these techniques are mentioned in an “official” capacity. Even today, it’s clear that this information is not common knowledge. A thread on /r/ssbm from three days ago demonstrates this. So hopefully this post can clear all of that up.
Z-cancelling is mentioned in the following:
Smash Bros.Dojo! (Japanese site): on the official post-release website that was maintained by Sakurai, he lists some specific techniques, one of which is “空中攻撃着地,” or translated literally, “aerial attack landing” or “aerial attack land.” The relevant part:
“If you press Z right before you land after you perform an aerial attack, you can cancel the landing lag and land normally.”
Smashbros.com (English site): here, it is called “Smooth Landing”:
“After performing a Mid-Air Attack, each character has a special landing pose. Even though the attack may have been successful, your character can become vulnerable while recovering from the landing. If you push the Z Button just before you hit the ground after a Mid-Air Attack, you’ll land normally and immediately be ready for action.”
Places where Z-cancelling is not mentioned:
- The Japanese instruction manual: site admin PushDustIn has the Japanese instruction manual and has confirmed to me that Z-cancelling is not mentioned.
- The English instruction manual: Z-cancelling is not mentioned here either.
- In-game tutorials/videos: not mentioned.
L-cancelling is mentioned in the following:
- As far as I know, nothing. It isn’t in the manual, in-game, or the Japanese website (this one was also written by Sakurai, but it was pre-release). The American site also does not mention it as far as I can tell.
Non-official mentions of L-cancelling:
Question: Why is it that L-cancelling*, which you could do in Melee, was removed in Brawl?
Sakurai: It’s the same reason as the reduction in game speed. First, doing all that on the Wii Remote would be close to impossible, and again it considerably increases the gap between beginners and high level players. But that method, of being able to do cancels with one button is fun on a game level, it’s something that when you pull it off just feels very good…It is something I already introduced into the world, so I did feel some resistance to removing it, but more than that I wanted a game where everyone could have fun, and I thought directing the game towards not being a tiring game would be more important, so this time I’ve taken it out.
Sakurai: In Super Smash Bros. Melee, there was a technique where you could cancel the landing lag of aerial attacks when you landed, but that technique doesn’t appear in the games after that. Pushing buttons with precision is undeniably fun, but if you keep adding mechanics that require skill, beginners can no longer play. If you make a game that’s aimed at players who are good at competitive fighting games and go to tournaments, the game becomes more and more hardcore. Smash aims to be a game that anybody can play, so I don’t think Smash should go down this more tapered path.
There’s almost no doubt that L-cancelling was an intended mechanic, given its existence in its predecessor, along with the fact that Z-cancelling was explicitly mentioned on both the Japanese and English websites for Smash 64. It was, however, a “hidden” technique, in the sense that it’s not exactly something that would be obvious to players if they didn’t know it existed, I suspect very few players discovered Z-cancelling on their own. L-cancelling is even more hidden in the sense that Sakurai didn’t mention it at all until years later, when Brawl came out, but it’s still very much intentional. Anyway, I hope that this post is informational in terms of straightening out where and when Sakurai, or official materials, have ever mentioned Z-cancelling/L-cancelling.