We now have LESS THAN A MONTH TO GO until the release of “Smash Ultimate.” In the time leading up to its fateful release, gameplay of many characters, including an invitational tournament and some exclusive demo releases, have been given out. This has 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.
Why am I talking about these two as though they are the same character? Well, in Smash 4, they pretty much WERE the same character—they both had the same exact objectives (build up damage with grab combo, kill with grab combo, spam grabs always, grab is love, grab is life) contrived around eerily identical movesets and they were both heavies. Characters who get a lot out of grabs were very good in Smash 4 almost by default, but these two took this notion a step further; they both absolutely lived and died by how many grabs they could record in a single game. They both would have been unviable garbage without having the best grabs and best throw based kill confirms in the game. Bowser in particular was well renowned for having the hands down best pivot grab in the game. This allowed them to hold a firm place within the top 20 club of the game. Both of them will be taking a step back, but allow me to highlight the differences. Bowser will be unviable. Bowser doesn’t have grab combos anymore, no more kill confirm. Yep, just like that, you have a floaty heavy, with a horrible disadvantage state, with no kill confirms or early-mid % utility. Unfortunately, Bowser will head right back to the bottom 10 worst characters in the game, an area he lurked in for virtually all of Smash Melee and Brawl. DK, thankfully, isn’t as hopeless- he at least will keep his early-mid % grab combos. In fact, DK got a couple buffs worth noting: his Down B has much less end lag, can be used to adequately pressure shield, rack up acceptable damage and, best of all, edgeguard. DK also still retains the one thing he’s always had that Bowser hasn’t; the heavily underrated Donkey Punch. DK can at least give you a reason to approach him, by charging this attack for free if you do not. Historically, DK has fared quite poorly against campy play even with this attribute. He benefits greatly from campy play being not as prominent as it was in Smash 4. Additionally, he benefits from his worst matchup in Rosalina and Luma getting badly nerfed. Bowser benefits from both of these too, but because DK will end up being actually viable, DK benefitting from this will be more noticeable. Look for DK to be pretty firmly entrenched in the middle of the pack, viability wise.
In the wise words of Smash 4’s best player in its history, Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, “If you want to camp (in Smash Ultimate), play Olimar.” Incidentally, ZeRo also believes Olimar is the second best character in the game. I’ve talked a lot about campy play not being as prominent. While this is true, Olimar will pretty much single handedly force those who want to succeed at high levels of play to learn how to wall-break and generally disrupt campy play. Olimar’s not going to make it easy, either: think of Cloud in Smash 4, take away Limit, then give him a better recovery, tremendously better range, a kill throw and a smaller hurtbox with which to be less susceptible to combos with. ZeRo says Olimar is going to be the second best character in the game, and I really have to agree with him. We have a campy character who can kill very effectively, who has great range, fulfilling a nearly uncontested niche, and having some of the best keep-away and shield pressure stuff in the game. I honestly don’t have anything bad to say about Olimar, aside from having a somewhat iffy recovery. At the very least, top 10 should be a lock. But if ZeRo’s prediction rings true, I wouldn’t be surprised.
3) Samus/Dark Samus
In a similar vein to what ZeRo said about Olimar, let me twist his words slightly and alter them to fit Samus and Dark Samus’ context: if you want to camp and would like to pick a character who can’t camp, but is forced to camp, play one of the Samuses. Samus is going to be absolutely terrible in Smash Ultimate, as will Dark Samus. Similarly to that of Duck Hunt, I assumed off the bat that Samus would be negatively affected by the new mechanics in Smash Ultimate conveying a faster paced, less campy conducive metagame. Well, Duck Hunt got buffs to compensate for the new metagame, and should more or less still be viable. What did Samus get? Samus got a slew of nerfs. Samus can’t combo with her dash attack anymore. For a point of reference, Samus was kinda bad in Smash 4, but she was still somewhat viable-ish, because she had a really good dash attack that isn’t going to be worth a damn in Smash Ultimate. Oh, and that’s not all; Samus’ down throw doesn’t combo anymore. So yeah, I’m gonna pick whatever character suits my mood and play a Samus player. I’m going to approach them and fear what, exactly? I won’t fear her dash attack, I won’t fear her horrible grab, I won’t fear her slow and punchless air game, I won’t care about her horrible close quarters game, I won’t fear her lack of out-of-shield options, and I certainly won’t fear her horrendously floaty, huge hurtbox character with no landing options. No, I’m pretty much gonna tear her to pieces doing virtually whatever I want. Samus can’t adequately threaten a single character in this game with anything. She has no setups, she has no combo potential, virtually no kill power, no mid or closed ranged game, and subsequently, she has absolutely no hope, period. Thankfully, Bowser Jr kind of exists as does King Dedede, so they’ll be around to comfort Samus in what I am officially dubbing the “Smash Ultimate Pit of Misery.” Even ZeRo isn’t 100% sure if he’d put Samus over Dedede and Bowser Jr or not, and THAT’S bad. I think enough has been said here.
Chrom has been generating a lot of attention lately, from a number of professional Smash 4 players. Most of it, unfortunately, has been negative attention, but not all of it. ZeRo believes that Chrom has an excellent neutral game, and that if he had Marth’s recovery instead of Ike’s, that we would be looking at a high tiered character. Ally (the world’s best Mario), on the other hand, believes that Chrom will compete with the Samuses, Dedede and Bowser Jr for the dubious distinction of being the worst character in the game. Let me propose a happy middle here: Chrom will be the ultimate glass cannon character. As ZeRo said, Chrom has a great neutral game, and can do a lot of really scary things when he’s not in disadvantage. But, as ZeRo also said, you pretty much throw Chrom off stage, get him to burn a double jump, and just like that, he’s dead. Historically, glass cannon characters don’t fare very well, not just in Smash, but in competitive gaming in general. Having a beyond abysmal disadvantage state has obvious negative implications on Chrom, and he doesn’t quite seem to have the advantage state to completely compensate for this. Honestly, Marth, Lucina and even Roy seem to be able to achieve what Chrom can achieve without being lifeless punching bags whenever they make a mistake. Chrom isn’t hopeless, but you have to be really good at making fast, critical predictions and decisions to make Chrom work, because this is going to be a heavily momentum based character. In lieu of this, I’m going to have to stow away Chrom in the bottom 20 echelon of the cast. Mostly because better, safer options exist, and because Chrom has a game-worst deficiency in one of the worst places to be bad in.
Every time I look at Kirby across the Smash franchise, I often wonder if Masahiro Sakurai had to strike a deal with Nintendo; Kirby would, canonically, be an absolute God, the undisputed most powerful character, canonically, in all of Nintendo, in exchange for being downright mediocre, or worse, in almost every Smash game to date. Kirby was amazing in Smash 64, dreadfully poor in Melee, not much better in Brawl, and not much better in Smash 4. The problem with Kirby is mostly that he’s boring and rather predictable. He lacks options. He’s very linear, and he’s rather easy to predict as a result. Another problem with Kirby stems from his tangibles; he’s pretty slow, has very poor effective range, and doesn’t have a kill confirm or a particularly good kill throw. Kirby isn’t particularly deficient in any one area, he just isn’t really good at anything. As previously mentioned, that creates a boring character without any particularly great options, and those options that are good are extremely well known and easy to prepare for. Kirby didn’t really get anything new transitioning over from Smash 4, so unfortunately all of that seems to be remaining in place for another uninspiring competitive appearance. Go ahead and mark down Kirby as a lock for the bottom 20, and we can go ahead and return to forgetting Kirby exists in Smash for the next however many years until the next iteration of the game comes out.
With the game getting progressively closer to launch, we’ve learned new things by the day which have caused me to reflect on my past predictions. Here’s some new stuff we’ve learned recently about some of my predictions:
Pokemon Trainer: Nothing tangible or confirmed has been discovered about him recently, but the reason I wanted to address him real quick stems entirely from ZeRo’s recent 36 minute metagame analysis video. He spends about 10 seconds talking about Pokemon Trainer, claiming that “Ivysaur is going to be the best, Squirtle the next best, Charizard the worst.” He does not explain his predictions, nor does he mention anything about the Pokemon Trainer or anything other than this very bland prediction. But, given that he was the best player in the world in Smash 4, I, along with many others, place a lot of weight onto his opinion. I went back and looked again at Ivysaur, trying to find what ZeRo thought well of, and I couldn’t do it. I don’t know why Ivysaur is going to be the best, because quite frankly it still looks utterly abysmal, but we may learn more in the coming few weeks about Ivysaur and what caused ZeRo to say this.
Ridley: Sooo… I don’t really know why or how this has come to pass, but Nintendo recently revealed that Ridley is going to… be a midweight?! I totally don’t understand what prompted this change, because it makes absolutely no sense. Funny enough, Masahiro Sakurai himself, in an interview he conducted shortly after the release of Brawl back in 2007, said he thought Ridley would be too big to realistically ever make it into Smash as a playable character, and that trying to make Ridley fit the context of the playable role would, in his own words “break the balance of the game.” Well, it seems that went out the window pretty quickly. Not only did Ridley end up becoming playable, but apparently turning him into a midweight doesn’t “break the balance” of anything at all. Speaking from a competitive perspective, this is a nerf to a character who already looks uninspiring. Take all the drawbacks of being a heavy character, then take away the survivability that heavy characters enjoy, living through harder hits, and for longer. This is one screwed up character mechanic.
Captain Falcon: Not too much to report on here, but for mere formality’s sake, it looks like Falcon’s Knee of Justice (fair) is going to be able to break mildly weakened shields. His Up-B is also somewhat better, travelling a slightly farther distance. I decided this was worth writing about because I’ve seen both of these buffs get overrated by large amounts of the player community. For starters, on what planet is it ever a good idea for Falcon to try to land on top of a stationary enemy with his incredibly laggy and unsafe Knee of Justice? I guess now it could be an okay-ish option if the Falcon player knows that the enemy’s shield is a bit chipped, but this is still an extremely situational, and not terribly impactful buff. The buff to Falcon’s Up-B is a solid, appreciated buff, but the nerf to air dodge overshadows it greatly, and still leaves Falcon in a precarious state off stage.