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.
1) Piranha Plant
If you’re still baffled that this character is going to be a thing in Smash Ultimate, don’t worry—you’re not alone. We still don’t have too much knowledge on Piranha Plant, but we have enough to at least vaguely tell what kind of character we’re dealing with here. First, Piranha Plant has some really intriguing close quarters play. It has a Neutral B which seems to poison and stun fighters who get hit by it. The stun doesn’t seem to last very long, not sure how long, or how severe, the poison’s damage is. Piranha Plant has a godlike roll, easily the fastest I’ve ever seen in any Smash game ever. It seems to have okay-ish grabs, with a forward throw that could lead into situational combos via tech chase. Issue with that is that Piranha Plant’s dash is not the fastest, and its aerials are good but not great, which means it lacks the tools to make the most out of any tech chase opportunity. It seems to have a decent horizontal recovery, but its vertical recovery leaves it wide open to getting demolished via most spikes, projectiles, or any good aerials with a downward arc that could strike Piranha Plant’s lengthy, unprotected hurtbox. Notably, Piranha Plant seems to have a good advantage state and fantastic effective range, with a Down-B that can literally reach across the entire length of Dreamland 64. This gives it a good tool for platform pressuring as well as sniping a character who is offstage and securing a kill. Speaking of which, it has a spike for a d-air—though we don’t know how strong it is, its hitbox seems to be pretty effective. It has a projectile, though this spiked ball projectile is extremely slow and seems to have iffy power, comparable to that of King Dedede’s Gordo, meaning it’s not going to be a good zoning tool. As previously said, it’s still too early to get a hardlined gauge as to its viability in the upcoming metagame, but it at least doesn’t seem flat out unusable preliminarily. I can’t really find a character who seems to have quite the moveset or playstyle it has, which means it isn’t blatantly outclassed by something, nor does it fulfill any particular niche. I think not really fulfilling much of a niche – not being a particularly offensive or defensive character – could hurt, but as we’ve seen from other characters who don’t fill these tropes such as Peach, it could also be a good thing. I’d say let’s stash Piranha Plant tentatively into the middle of the pack for now, just because it isn’t obviously particularly good or bad based on what we do know about it.
Another newcomer, Incineroar has, unlike Piranha Plant, had all of its relevant moveset revealed, so we have a better idea as to where it factors to end up in the metagame. For starters, its Revenge mechanic, one of its more ambiguous ones at that, now has some numbers attached to it. After triggering it, Incineroar’s next attack is now increased, both in damage and knockback, by 1.7 times the original value. Additionally, this modifier only exists on Incineroar’s very next attack, hit or miss, and it only lasts for eight seconds before it fades away. However, using Revenge as Incineroar gets struck by something reduces the incoming damage of the attack, something no other Counter in the game does. I’ll get back to how that impacts the character when I offer more context on the character as a whole. Incineroar’s dash speed is slow, and its air and ground mobility in general are rather mediocre. It has a beyond awful recovery, although the Up-B it has, which is terrible for returning to the stage, is actually a great landing option which helps to compensate for this and make Incineroar have a better disadvantage state than it would seem on paper. All of this impacts Revenge because Revenge is very hot-potato esque; it requires Incineroar to quickly pick up a read and act on it, fast, before its benefits fade. Being slow is simply not conducive to this train of thought, and defensive characters such as Olimar or Rosalina and Luma or particularly fast ones like Captain Falcon or Sonic could take advantage of this weakness. Finally, where Bowser and DK lived and died by grabs in Smash 4, Incineroar is going to be very much the same here–its Side B is a command grab, and its best kill options are both kill throws, forward and back, which kill near the edge against a midweight character at about 100%. Not bad. Additionally, while most slow characters who require grabs to function (DK and Bowser in Smash 4) tend to be weak to camping, Incineroar has two countermeasures against this; for one, campy play isn’t as good in Smash Ultimate as it was in Smash 4. For the second, more directly, Incineroar’s Lariat attack seems to be able to go through medium sized projectiles, and it isn’t a stationary attack, meaning Incineroar could punish a point-blank projectile or even use Lariat as an approach option against a campy character, like Duck Hunt or maybe even Olimar. I’m thinking Incineroar is probably going to be a middle of the pack character, and the reason I struggle to go any higher is because of how slow and somewhat linear Incineroar is. We also don’t know to what extent Lariat can beat out projectiles, though the implications of such a subject are questionable because of how situational such a scenario would be anyway. A movement speed buff would be huge beyond words for Incineroar. The moment Incineroar touches you, you’re gonna get hurt, which is more or less the life of a grab-heavy character.
3) Simon/Richter Belmont
Simon and Richter Belmont, original and echo character respectively, look great in Smash Ultimate. Starting off with the tangibles—they have by far the best effective range in the game, have a projectile kit which is actually conducive to camping, and have phenomenal neutrals and close quarters which will allow them to adapt to any matchup on any stage conceivable. They both have great zoning games. So how do they kill? Easy—spam the lengthiest, one of the most lethal forward or up smashes in the game, or even better, use their Side B—an incredibly deadly axe which kills at extremely low %. They don’t really have a good landing option, which will render them susceptible to juggling, and their recovery seems suspect, so their disadvantage states will be pretty bad. Other than that, I have very little negative to say about the Belmonts. They are an absolute lock for the top ten, and should be favored to enter the top 5 as well. The only question is – do we say they both occupy one spot in the top five, or does Simon get, say, third best in the game while Richter takes up fourth best, or vice versa, because they’re virtually the same character? Yep, when stuff like that is an actual point of contention with your character, you know they’re going to be great.
On the other end of the spectrum, Wario is going to suck in Smash Ultimate. The nerf to Wario’s bike really, really sucks, and stops him from aerial camping, which gave him a distinct niche and kept him viable in Smash 4. That’s really about it – Wario can’t make bikes spawn instantly after his previously used one disappears anymore, as there’s now a cooldown to it. This will prevent Wario from remaining in the air, and will prevent him from winning games via timeout anymore. Waft kill setups still exist, and will be what keeps him out of the bottom ten in the game (barely) but it won’t be enough to push him towards the middle of the pack. Because there simply won’t be a real reason to use Wario, I’m thinking he ends up in the bottom 20 in the cast. He just doesn’t have anything inspiring about him worth talking about.
5) Zero Suit Samus
While I recently just considered the Varia-Suited Samus as a contender for the worst character in the game, thankfully, when Samus decides to put the Zero Suit on, she gets a lot better. Still, this is a character who will be taking some steps back after a few years of being fringe top five in Smash 4. Gone are the days where ZSS can pick up a kill at 20% off a single grab, which would lead into the second best ladder combo in the game. We know this combo is dead because Nintendo greatly increased the end lag on ZSS’ up air, which was the focal point of this combo. I’ve seen a lot of people singing doom-and-gloom for ZSS after discovering this nerf. All told, ZSS will probably be a middle of the pack character following this nerf. It’s a catastrophic nerf, but it won’t render her outright unviable in the game like it would if it had happened to, say, Meta Knight. ZSS still has fantastic air mobility, a dash attack which can cross up shields, a great disadvantage state, and an excellent neutral B which can lead into a follow-up killing smash attack. So what are the downfalls of this character? Being outclassed would probably have to be chief among them. Why would I use ZSS when the Belmonts seem to be better at virtually everything she can do? Mewtwo also has better aerial mobility and better combo potential, and of course, Meta Knight and Bayonetta still have ladder combos, with the latter able to cross up shields with his own dash attack, giving them better ground games. The whole ‘stun and kill’ thing is also done better by Ness, and ZSS could see a new challenger in this regard in the Piranha Plant. In all, ZSS would still be a top 20 character, but being so severely outclassed is probably the worst part about her, and it makes it rather pointless using her to begin with. At least she’ll still be pretty decent in the game.
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:
Ganondorf: Ganondorf seems to be a lot faster on the ground than he has been in the past. If you remember from my initial analysis of him, mobility was my biggest criticism of him, so this buff is going to be huge. It seems like it could be enough to elevate Ganondorf to middle of the pack type viability, which is great for a character who has been mired in misery for the last eleven years.
Pikachu: ZeRo has recently stated that he believes Pikachu is the best character in the game. THIS is going quite a bit further than I had initially expected when I predicted Pikachu would be a strong contender for the top ten, but not the best necessarily. Conceptually, ZeRo’s predictions make sense – Pikachu is an extremely versatile character with a good offensive and defensive game, with great tangibles, and a great advantage and disadvantage state. ZeRo’s prediction, though, is quite interesting. I’m still going to call Pikachu a top ten in the game, but we’ll have to see if Pikachu is closer to ZeRo’s frame of mind than mine.
Not really a “prediction” (unless you’re of the belief I’m technically trying to ‘predict’ who I’ll play as) but I made a similar list a couple months ago, talking about my thought process behind who I’ll want to main in Smash Ultimate. I’ve now gone ahead and updated it, to reflect what we’ve learned about the game since then. As of now, King K. Rool is who I think is slightly likelier than the others of being my main, and the others in that particular block go in descending “most likely” to “least likely” order.