It’s been a busy year already for Nick “Extra” McKenzie. Having signed for esports organisation Dark Sided in early January prior to jetting off for EVO Japan, Australia’s best Super Smash Bros. Wii U player has been making his mark in (arguably) the game’s final big year on the local tournament circuit.

A run of impressive results continued on in style when he managed to beat one the best Ness players in the world, Freddie “FOW” Williams, at Wollongong’s Expand Gong 3 event in early April. Speaking about his win, Extra was happy to have finally registered a big victory against an international player.

“That’s the first time I’ve gone up against an international player in Australia since I’ve been #1, so to have everyone cheering for me was a fantastic feeling,” he said. “When you’ve got everyone wanting you to win it’s hard to keep all of that pressure held inside of you, and so I kind of let it all out when I did get the win. I was just really relieved and really happy that I got one big win over an international player — it’s something that I’ve been looking for.”

While it was a big win for him personally, Extra also believes big performances from other players against FOW throughout the tournament is a sign that the local competitive scene is slowly — but surely — getting better.

“Throughout FOW’s bracket, it wasn’t just me taking him to last hit. [Kanga Esports’] Joshua “Ghost” Francis in winners semi-finals also took him to Game 5, and that was a super close set,” he explained. “A lot of people managed to take games off of him, so I was really proud of the community — it shows how far we’ve come.”

With the focus now turning to Battle Arena Melbourne 10, Extra’s going in hoping to win it all — something he managed to achieve last year.

“BAM’s always been the major that I value the highest — it was my first major, and of course I’m a native Melbournian so it’s very important to me as it’s the Victorian major. I want to take it home not just for me, but also for Victoria,” he said. “Being the biggest and probably the most prestigious of the Smash Wii U tournaments, there’s actually a lot of pressure on me [to win it] since I won it last year.”

In terms of preparation, Extra says examining VODs on Twitch has been an essential part in preparing himself for what promises to be a highly competitive bracket.

“I’ve mostly just been trying to keep up with the Australian Smash scene via VODs and things like that. A lot of what Smash 4 is about is being prepared — if you’re not prepared for people coming from left-field that are way better than you might think, then there’s a very real chance you’ll get sent to losers bracket and eliminated really early. So I’m just trying to prepare for every situation, and I know that if I’m prepared I can definitely bring it home.”

BAM is well regarded as the biggest Smash Bros. tournament in Australia, and the Wii U singles bracket often manages to register around (or over) 200 competitors prior to kicking off proceedings. As such, a slew of different play styles will be something Extra will need to prepare himself for. However, he believes the array of competition can only be a good thing for the scene and for his development as a player. Some matchups against certain characters can really give him a run for his money, though.

“I’ve never been one to struggle with matchup experience, though I suppose the worst character that I struggle against the most is Zero Suit Samus, who is still a top 5 character. I don’t think Mr. Game&Watch does particularly well [against her], as he can die very early to some of her combos — so that’s been a bit of a thorn in my side.”

Extra promises that, if necessary, he’s got a handful of secret characters he’s been working on that he can bring out in a worst case scenario. Whether that happens or not, we’ll have to wait and see.

A new addition to the weekend’s proceedings is a specialised Smash Bros. Wii U ‘all star’ crew battle, which is happening on the Friday night of BAM10.

Crew battles are essentially two teams going against one another, with each player in the team given a number of stocks (or lives). Each team starts with the same amount of stocks, and players will then face each other in 1v1 matches. When a player beats another player, the winner will then move on to the next competitor in the team and take them on — though they have to subtract the amount of lives they ended up with at the end of the match prior. It’s akin to a gauntlet-styled matchup, with the winning team being crowned after all members of the opposing team are eliminated.

Rather than having a state-versus-state crew battle this time around, two team captains in the competitive scene have been selected for BAM10’s Smash Wii U crew battle, with players on each side being drafted and voted in via social media.

“We wanted to do something big for BAM10,” Extra explained. “With state-versus-state crew battles it’s often a little bit of a wash because sometimes we don’t get every single good player from a state come down to compete. So we decided to turn it around and have two crew battle captains, and they drafted a team out of both invited players and players who got voted in by a poll — so some of the fan favourites and a lot of the top Australian players are involved.”

“It’s going to be one massive (I think it’s 12-versus-12) crew battle that’s happening on the Friday night [of BAM],” he continued. “It should be really good to see, as it’s one of the tournaments where you don’t know who’s really going to win just because there’s so much top tier talent involved on both sides.”

BAM10 is likely to be the place where Extra would like to settle one final rivalry prior to Smash Bros. on Switch launching, as well.

“Right now, I’d suppose it’d be against Joe, who’s a Zero Suit Samus player. Last year he was the only top level player that I had an even record against, and in our last encounter at the December monthly for Couch Warriors he ended up taking me out in the losers bracket.”

“I ended up getting 9th because I lost that game, and so that’s one of the matchups that I’d like to conquer and prove once and for all that I’m really #1. I think he knows that he’s one of the few people that can really give me a run for my money.”

Further, with the next Smash Bros. game officially on the way, Extra wants to prove that he is the decisive #1 in Australia heading into the new game. He thinks that a definitive victory at BAM10 is the perfect way of sending that message.

“I feel like right now I’ve established myself as the pretty clear #1 in Australia, but if I don’t win BAM10 there’s always going to be that little bit of doubt in my head — I’m just trying not to think about it too much. But in the end the only thing that really matters is that I play well, and I know if I play well I can take out the whole thing.”

All eyes will be focused on Extra’s performance this weekend, and he’s got quite a bit riding on his performance at BAM10. That said, the best Smash Bros. Wii U player in Australia has all of the tools to make this tournament a successful one.

Images credit: Expand Gong