Nick “Extra” McKenzie has been making waves across the local Super Smash Bros. for Wii U scene for some time now. Having been an avid fan of the series since Super Smash Bros. Brawl launched on Nintendo Wii back in 2008, McKenzie has been competing at the top level in Smash 4 since February 2015 — a choice that was put into motion when he moved to Melbourne in 2013.

“I only moved to Melbourne in 2013, and I had no idea there was a Smash scene there,” he said.

“When Smash 4 came out I decided I’d search it up and see if I could find any tournaments going on.

“I found a couple, and have been playing competitively since February 2015 — around three years now.”

Well regarded as one of the top Smash Bros. players in Australia, McKenzie believes he’s been at the top for quite a while thanks to some big wins in major Australian tournaments recently.

“The most recent power rankings came out in December 2017,” he said, which placed him at #1 in Australia.

“But I’ve pretty much been seen as the number 1 for quite some time.

“I won BAM9 (Battle Arena Melbourne) and that kind of settled it, because I beat almost everyone pretty convincingly.

“And then I competed at OzHadou National 15 and I won that as well, so after that it was kind of a foregone conclusion I guess!”

If you’ve shown any interest in competitive Smash 4 over the years, you’d probably assume McKenzie’s fighter of choice would in the line of Bayonetta, Diddy Kong, or Cloud.

You’d be wrong.

Game&Watch, a classic Nintendo icon, is McKenzie’s fighter of choice — a decision that didn’t come easily, and was pushed by some earlier experimentation with the fighter in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

“I played him back in Brawl when he was regarded as better [compared to Smash 4].

“When I was joining the competitive scene I was like ‘alright, I’m only going to play one or two characters’, cause I just want to focus on them and get as good as I can with them,” he said.

“I played Wario for a little bit but I dropped him because I was struggling with him, he’s really hard to get wins with… yeah [he’s] not the best character.

“So I decided to move back to Game&Watch, who I’d co-mained, and something about him clicked!

“He does a lot of damage really, really quickly, so even though he’s a pretty light character and dies pretty early, you’re never quite out of the game.

“You can really bring it back with one really, really solid combo and that’s what I like about him.”

Having been at the top for so long, it was inevitable that an organisation would look into signing McKenzie, and that was confirmed in January 2018 with esports powerhouse Dark Sided bringing him into the organisation.

Understandably, McKenzie was extremely excited to be the first Smash 4 player Dark Sided have signed, speaking nothing but good things about the organisation.

“I already knew about Dark Sided — they’re pretty popular from what I can tell, and have a pretty big reach, as well as having a good social media presence… so I guess I just thought ‘well, they’ve given me the opportunity, I may as well take it!’ — so far it’s been great.”

McKenzie also revealed that he’d had offers from other esports organisations back in 2016, though nothing ever came to fruition for him. He believes that signing on with Dark Sided is a great step forward for not only himself, but for Australian Smash as well.

“Honestly I feel like Australian Smash is just finally starting to push itself out into the international scene, so I feel like this was really well timed as we’re finally getting our name out there,” he said.

“This should hopefully allow us to take the next step further.

“It also gives me reason to keep pushing now that I’ve made number 1 in Australia, because it can be hard to find the motivation to keep winning, but I think this’ll do wonders for me.”

A few days after it was announced that Dark Sided had signed McKenzie, he jetted off to compete at EVO Japan — one of the biggest fighting game tournaments of the year.

Coming 97th out of 757 entrants, he was happy with the experience and being able to play against some of the world’s best Smash 4 players.

“I wasn’t as concerned about the position I got, but I had to play a really good player called Trevonte in pools who went unseeded.

“He’s from Northern California, and they’re known to be a pretty strong region, but I managed to beat him 2-0 which I was really proud about, so I’m happy with that!”

He also reflected on some of the matches he lost, and what it was like to play against players you really don’t know too much about, in terms of both play style and aggressiveness.

“Overall I feel like I could have won the matches that I lost, but I just kind of got a little bit nervous! It’s really hard playing against someone you honestly have no idea what they’re going to do, and that shook me a little bit.

“So I was kind of happy, I know that I could have done better but Japan’s known to be a really, really strong region and I still outplayed some pretty well known players so I’m happy!”

Returning from Japan at the beginning of February, McKenzie has already set his sights on the next tournaments he’ll be attending, too.

“I’ll probably be going to a tournament called Expand Gong 3, which is a recently established, mostly Smash 4-focussed tournament in Wollongong.

“Last year it was really, really popular and got around 100 entrants — it was really, really good!

“They run a really tight ship, a lot of good people [are] there.

“Aside from that, I’ll probably be going to BAM in May, and after that I’ll play it by ear — I’m not really sure what I’ll be doing by then.”

As well as attending and participating in some local tournaments across the country, McKenzie has also set himself some goals he’d like to aim for — to really cement his place as #1 in the country.

“Obviously I have the big goals, which is to win BAM — I’d like to repeat BAM.

“OHN I’m going for a three-feat (three first-placed finishes in a row), which is kind of insane!

“I’d also like to at least go to another international tournament, and really prove myself there.

“Aside from that, just on a smaller scale I underperformed at our monthly tournaments last year and didn’t do as well as I think that I could have, so my goal this year is to win at least half of those,” McKenzie said.

“That’s just a little personal thing but it gives me a smaller goal that I can probably focus on before the big majors.”

I also posed the question to McKenzie about how the Smash 4 scene in Australia could improve and grow to be more competitive with the international players. He believes that, while Smash as a whole seems a bit more disconnected than other esports games in Australia, getting people behind the game is important in showcasing why it’s so special.

“I feel like Smash in general is disconnected from a lot of other games — we don’t really have the FGC rep because there’s always been that big debate over whether Smash Bros. is really a fighting game.

“So I feel like in general we just need more content, we need more ways to get other people properly interested in us.

“So more videos, more highlight stuff I guess, to [try and] show people why we play Smash and why we think it’s an amazing game — hopefully we can do that this year!”

One way to get a lot of people interested in Smash 4 in particular will be a release of Smash 4 DX (or equivalent) on Nintendo’s latest hardware, the Switch. McKenzie believes this will be a great way of making people not only keen to watch competitive Smash 4, but to also get involved in it as well. Similarly, it could also bring back some older pro players who have slowly fallen out of love with the competitive side of the game.

“We’ve got a really good core base of players [in the Australian scene], but it’s been around three years now since Smash 4 came out and a couple of people who were into the game are playing a bit less.

“I think Smash 4 DX or whatever it’ll be will bring in so many new people, which is what we’ve been struggling with, and it’d also give those veterans another reason to practice and play it.

“In terms of esports, I feel like the Switch is so much more accessible than the Wii U and it’d be amazing for our scene honestly.

“Our community’s literally just waiting for that announcement — for a new Smash game for the Switch, and hopefully it happens soon!”

With a lot of local and international tournaments to come, it’ll be interesting to see what Nick “Extra” McKenzie does next. And with the support and backing of Dark Sided, it’s an exciting time for both him and the local competitive Smash 4 scene.