The world of Melee has been beset by a question in the last few months of who exactly is the best player in the world. The same is true here at Inven, where our end-of-year voting saw Joseph “Mango” Marquez, Zain Naghmi, and Cody "iBDW" Schwab all receive significant support in the player of the year voting, with the former eventually emerging victorious.
However, while the two spacies and a Marth have scrapped it out, others have been waiting in the wings for their chance to prove themselves worthy. In darkest Sweden is a man fueled by hatred and anime — and in the US itself lurks perhaps an even greater menace. Juan “Hungrybox” Dibiedma: multiple-time major winner, former world number one, and perhaps the fiercest LANimal the world of Smash has ever seen.
What is a LANIMAL?
For those not in the know, LAN refers to a local area network, which essentially means gaming without an internet connection. For years, games like CSGO, Dota, and others had online events that ran alongside the live ones, which players treated mainly as an afterthought. If you did well online it meant nothing, at least not until you’d proven yourself on LAN.
Of course COVID changed a lot of that and forced many games to become online-only — and thanks to the work of some community members, Melee was able to pivot. The online era was dominated by Zain, while Hbox was in the group that focused on content more than competition, dividing his time between Melee and the more lucrative Smash Bros Ultimate, which caused a dip in his performance.
When we got back to LAN, it initially seemed like this was just the new way of things, with Foxes having solved the Puff matchup, and moving on to tearing their collective hair out over the sword guy. However, as time progressed, and in-person events began to become a more common thing, Hbox began to show what he can do again, culminating in a second-place finish to Zain at Pound this weekend just gone.
Hbox is inevitable
If you know the Box, you will already know that he has a reputation for pop-offs, and rightly so. His run at Pound saw him roar with delight, volley a chair across the stage, and engage in other such bombastic behavior. Whether this is to pump himself up or intimidate his opponents is hard to say, but it is undeniable that LAN Hbox is a different beast.
He also feeds off the crowd like no other player, having endured more abuse than pretty much any contender the game has seen. During his Pound run, he even engaged in some good-humored banter around the famous incident at a previous iteration of the event, where a disgruntled fan of another player lobbed seafood at the Puff main, taking the shine off what was an otherwise epic win.
There are other factors that make Hbox more dangerous at LAN too, among which the most important is probably his character. Puff is not just one of the simpler mains you can have, but is also far more forgiving than any other top tier, with plenty of jumps and very few ways to flub or SD, compared to Foxes that take their life into their own hands with every ledgedash.
All of this has combined to make Hbox pretty much the perennial threat, and it seems like the post-COVID version of the greatest Puff is no different. As SFAT, Fiction, Kodorin, Amsa, and more found out at Pound: you can beat him online, you can even outplace him at a few events, but Hbox is inevitable, a LANIMAL, and an enduring, eternal force in a game that is constantly evolving.