About simplifying inputs; Melee has harder inputs and everything feels so much more satisfying. On the other hand, as much as I like PM, people just throw out special moves without what feels like any rhyme or reason because they know they’ll connect. How many ‘hype’ falcon punches do you see in Melee vs. PM? Or even for moves that are easier to land like falcon kicks or raptor boosts. PM made these moves more viable, sure, but they also reduced the risk of using them (arguable more than these moves warranted). This disproportional (to viability) reduction in execution requirement makes PM less satisfying to play, less impressive to watch, and less hype. So, I would argue that high execution is still important. Sirlin’s idea that fighting games should be all about strategy is not helpful. These are action games first and foremost. Having high execution arguably puts more emphasis strategic play (should I risk it and use this hard move? or in a tight spot, thinking to use an unorthdox move). Also, high execution makes that cathatic release at the end all the more satisfying.
What? Special moves don’t connect more easily in P:M. In competitive play special moves aren’t any more emphasized than they are in Melee. At least, not on a general level. In competitive play we see about the same normal to special move ratio we see in Melee. Easier to connect implies they have shorter startup, bigger hitboxes, which most special moves don’t. Falcon punch has exactly the same number of startup frames in P:M as it does in Melee, the only difference is that you can reverse it now, which allows you to delay the startup a bit.
The risk of using Falcon Punch and Raptor boost has by no means been reduced. Both have the same amount of recovery they did in melee if I’m not mistaken. Raptor Boost is still just as susceptible to shieldgrabbing and counter poking as it always was. Falcon kick had its recovery time reduced and knockback growth changed to make it more useful, especially the air version, because it was a useless piece of shit before. This doesn’t make it easier to use falcon kick, but it does make falcon kick at all useful as something other than a recovery option or kill move.
Falcon was a character that was underpowered in melee relative to the top tier characters. He needed to be improve in order to be viable compared to them. The changes to Falcon were completely warranted with regards to his viability.
The thing making falcon in particular so much more consistent than his melee counterpart is really the removal of stale knockback. Brawl had an extremely horrible implementation of stale knockback, which the PMDT removed completely, thinking they were matching Melee behavior. Turns out Melee has stale knockback too, just more subdued. This makes combos a bit less consistent when percentage isn’t the only thing governing how far someone is hit. Falcon has some relatively simple combos that would otherwise be highly consistent, like his nair into up air string which some people call the air wobble.
The actual factors of execution that were changed in P:M were changed extremely slightly, like by a frame in the majority of cases. Backdashes were made easier by adding the frame of tolerance given to the forward dash input, the dash versus walk range was made larger so it’s easier to end up in the dash range. Shorthops were made easier by fixing the bug where the last frame of jumpsquat doesn’t count for determining shorthop versus fulljump. Various aerials were made easier by the 1 frame physics delay, also probably multi-shining, and chaingrabbing or grab followups. Samus’s super wavedash was given an extra frame on the window.
Then you get things like B-reverse which are still hard as shit, and DACUS which was made harder than in Brawl (2 frame window). Perfect pivots are still frame perfect. Project M decided to make all kinds of edge cancels possible that weren’t before, like Falcon Kick edgecancel, giving players new tricky things to master.
For the most part, the reduction in execution for Project M is extremely extremely tiny. You’re freaking out over nothing.
People still have that type of risk in P:M, like going for a down air as a launcher with Snake instead of Up Air, multiple hits where you need to stay on top of them for the last hit, versus one with more lag afterwards and less ideal knockback. Or Ftilting with just the first hit to get the sticky, which is hard to land, and hard to confirm. In general connecting C4 with Snake is tricky and basically means dropping your combo to do it. Or going for side B combos with Bowser now that there is no super armor on the move, slower than a regular grab, but definitely bigger rewards.
Execution is nice, but it isn’t everything. Something shouldn’t be hard to the point that nobody is consistent at it unless it is something that would ruin the game if someone were consistent at it. Sure Sirlin is crazy for trying to literally remove all execution from games, but saying these are action games or trying to assign a purpose to them or a way they are “supposed to be” is not a good conceptualization. Any sort of statement about how something is “supposed to be” is making assumptions without a basis. It’s like assuming some sort of designer intent without an actual designer. Things either work right, creating a specific effect, or they don’t. Action games don’t need to be about execution primarily, if anything, execution difficulty is a bonus on a decision-making experience. The primary standard of quality I hold for games is depth, and execution by itself doesn’t tend to translate into very much depth.
Having things that require execution to distinguish between outcomes enables a game to create more outcomes in the form of more possible actions that can be performed by the player. Eliminating execution requirements typically means simplifying the game, but frequently it’s possible to make executing easier without a sacrifice, as in the majority of P:M’s implementations of easier execution. Having something be like a 1 frame link instead of a 3 frame link doesn’t significantly impact strategy in the majority of cases, it doesn’t create new outcomes that wouldn’t otherwise exist, it just induces frustration over consistency. If it’s possible to cut corners there without compromising anything, then go ahead. We don’t need everything being as difficult as the super wavedash, because yeah, the guys on top would feel awesome when they pull stuff off, but the other half of the time they’d be frustrated that nothing worked, because nobody can be consistent when everything is that hard.
TL;DR: P:M doesn’t significantly decrease the level of execution necessary to play on anything except borderline impossible shit. None of this affects the possibility space, and thereby depth, of the game. It’s not a significant concern.