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Smash Spotlight: Who to Watch For, and What To Watch For 4

We just passed the month and a half mark for the release of “Smash Ultimate.” Yet, gameplay of many characters, including an invitational tournament and some exclusive demo releases, have been given out, and it’s brought up a lot of character based questions. How viable will this character be? Does this combo still work? Is this strategy still useful? I wanted to highlight five more of the most interesting characters, and forecast how they will impact (and be impacted on) by the new iteration of Smash.

1) Captain Falcon

One of my favorite Nintendo characters, and arguably the most woefully underrepresented in all of Nintendo. Captain Falcon was an original Smash 64 character. Since then, he is still the only character from that group to still be the solo rep of his franchise, “F-Zero.” F-Zero also hasn’t actually received a modern game on a Nintendo platform in nearly 15 years. With all of this as it is, it’s fitting that Captain Falcon’s dynamic really hasn’t changed since his days on Smash 64. This character is insanely fast, is a fan favorite (you wouldn’t believe the hype he generates whenever a Captain Falcon player makes it to a stream), hits hard and has taunts that are absolutely amazing. He also has a really bad disadvantage state and is rather linear. Such is the life of this character since Smash 64 came out in 1998. For the fourth straight Smash game, Captain Falcon’s moveset and general dynamic don’t change, but his role in the metagame and the way he interacts with the specific mechanics of each game change. Captain Falcon is one of a handful of direct beneficiaries from revamped offensive play and nerfed campy play. However, he is also one of the direct casualties resulting from heavy nerfs to air dodges and footstools. Captain Falcon struggled a bit with weapon based spacing in Smash 4, something which figures to be mitigated fairly moderately in Ultimate. With air dodge no longer being as spammable as before, Captain Falcon will be a sitting duck offstage to a lot of characters in the cast. He also still has difficulty getting out of a juggle situation. The nerf to footstool is particularly unkind to him, because footstooling on stage was a large part of his combo game in Smash 4, and was largely what led to chaining into a kill confirm for him. The icing on the cake is that his two worst matchups in Smash 4, Sheik and Pikachu, have gotten a lot better in Smash Ultimate. Captain Falcon will definitely take a moderate step back in Smash Ultimate. He will still be viable, but I believe his days in the top 20 as he was in Smash 4 are over. He is going to be an intriguing wildcard/counterpick in the Ultimate metagame, and he will still be very splashable as a fairly straightforward character to learn, but you will be hard pressed to see him win any high levelled tournaments. Look for him to be a middle of the pack character.

2) Pikachu

Everyone’s been talking about how great Pikachu should be in Smash Ultimate. I am absolutely backing this hype up. All it took was for Pikachu to receive Mewtwo’s godlike nair, and we are talking about what will no doubt be a top 20 character in the game. The only downside to Pikachu in Ultimate will be that it will undoubtedly draw unending comparisons to Mewtwo, who has various pros and cons it holds against Pikachu in competing for usage statistics. Because I believe Pikachu is going to be very good in the game, I want to take the time to primarily compare it to Mewtwo, who will have very comparable viability. For starters, Mewtwo probably puts its nair to better use simply because it gets more out of it. Mewtwo’s up smash is better than Pikachu’s, which means Mewtwo’s kill confirm will be slightly better than Pikachu’s. Mewtwo also does a better job making use of its nair, because it has superior air mobility, and because it shield pressures a lot better than Pikachu does, which creates mind games that inherently favor Mewtwo and create more openings to make use of its nair. However, Pikachu can boast that it doesn’t have anywhere near as big a hurtbox as Mewtwo does, which means Pikachu breaks out of combos and generally gets hit by much less than Mewtwo does. Mewtwo still does have a superior combo game, and fares slightly better against defensive play than Pikachu does with its reflector and its Shadow Ball to pressure an approach. Pikachu will probably be slightly less viable than Mewtwo, but this is hardly a bad thing when you consider that Mewtwo will no doubt be returning to fringe top 10 status itself. In fact, Pikachu will still even have reasonably common scenarios where it will outperform Mewtwo, primarily against combo heavy characters and heavy characters, such as facing Bowser, Donkey Kong, Bayonetta and Mario. Mark Pikachu down as a lock for the top 20, and as a more than viable contender for the top 10.

3) Pichu

It’s easy to assume Pichu will be unviable garbage, and to simply end it there. However, unlike its first appearance in Melee, there is more to it than that. I should start off by clarifying that Pichu will, when all is said and done, probably not be particularly close to Pikachu’s level in this game. A fairly grim outlook, of course. However, mechanics which have changed over the last 17 years since Melee came out stand to benefit Pichu. For one thing, it unfortunately dies extremely early, being even lighter than Jigglypuff. However, being quick and small as it is, relying on brute forcing smash attacks and long, outstretched hitboxes to kill Pichu won’t work too easily. In fact, Pichu damaging itself with its specials is actually not as doom and gloom as it might seem; this will allow Pichu to deal enough damage to itself to take it out of range of being comboed into various kill confirms, which is actually really awesome. That being said, it’s time for the other shoe to come down; Pichu will probably still suck in this game. Its effective range is miniscule, it dies really, really easily, and it doesn’t seem to have anything for a kill confirm, which means it will take ridiculous amounts of work to close stock. I can’t find any real, significant reason, for using Pichu over Pikachu, or a swath of other characters who are visibly viable in this game. Pichu still sucks, but at least it has a couple positive traits about it that won’t make it totally unusable. Still, look for it to end up in the bottom echelon of characters in the game.

4) Rosalina and Luma

My potential main-to-be, Rosalina has an ambiguous profile entering Smash Ultimate after a lengthy period of dominating the Smash 4 scene. The nerfing to campy play coming up in Ultimate has been well documented, but here we have arguably the only character who won’t suffer at all from it. Sure, having a slightly worse nair is unfortunate, but this is more attributed to Rosalina’s personal character than the mechanics of the upcoming game. The Luma will be as useful as ever, as will Rosalina’s ability to basically destroy projectile based gameplay with her famous Gravitational Pull. This means that Rosalina won’t just be a stellar character, but she will also be anti-metagame in about every way imaginable; a predominantly campy character with the tools to be a serious pain in the ass for fellow top tiers, particularly characters on the rise such as Snake and Link. That said, don’t think Rosalina doesn’t have an offensive game to speak of. The Luma can just as easily be used to meat shield in neutral as Rosalina closes the gap, and continues to use said Luma to empower her attacks and combo game. Rosalina’s disadvantage state is mediocre, but she has a top level advantage state, when the Luma is alive. When you combine this with Rosalina’s only two bad matchups in Smash 4, Meta Knight and Cloud, getting nerfed to oblivion, Rosalina’s prospects have never been higher. Look for Rosalina to be a no doubt top ten character, and a return to fringe top five is likely as well.

5) Cloud

I like how Cloud looks in Ultimate a lot more than I did in Smash 4. Not from a viability standpoint, but from a wholesome, metagame healthy, “this character is a solid character who isn’t mostly BS and has insane splashability” perspective. That is to say, of course, that Cloud got hit very hard by the nerf hammer in Ultimate. Smash 4’s undisputed second best character in the game will be taking lots of steps back here. For one, all of Cloud’s hitboxes have been nerfed; they are no longer anywhere near as lengthy, and they are quite a bit slower as well. This means Cloud isn’t as ridiculously safe and easy to use as  he was in Smash 4. Having a miserably bad disadvantage really hurts in Ultimate as well. However, neither of these nerfs are anywhere near as impactful as the nerf to Cloud’s Limit; Cloud can now only hold a fully charged Limit for a brief period of time before he loses it for nothing, as opposed to Smash 4 when he could hold Limit infinitely. This makes Cloud less threatening, pressuring, and means his matchup against characters who aren’t inherently inclined or forced to approach him becomes a lot worse. He used to have great matchups against Rosalina and Luma, Sonic, Mewtwo and Ryu because of this, and this nerf will ensure that the former one and latter two will be able to handle him significantly easier as a result. Cloud’s viability will ultimately plummet, likely to being a middle of the pack character, from his positioning as Smash 4’s second best character. That said, I believe this is good for the metagame as a whole, as he was quite honestly the dumbest character in Smash 4. He was so ridiculously splashable, that everyone had a “pocket Cloud” that would see frequent usage in tournaments, that could be had from taking about two or three minutes to learn how to play Cloud. It won’t be so easy this game, count on that.

 

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