5 of the Most Interesting Competitive Character Designs in Smash Ultimate
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Being the forefather of the modern platform fighter, Smash Bros and its many iterations have seen a number of changes. Many of those changes have been in game play, like the the removal of many mechanics from Melee to Brawl. However, arguably a bigger change is the number of characters available in its latest iteration, Smash Ultimate. Not only does this create a more interesting challenge competitively, with players having to memorize many more match ups, but there are also many new types of characters. Here are five of the most interesting characters in Smash Ultimate.
Zero Suit Samus
Zero Suit Samus (ZSS) was introduced in Super Smash Brothers Brawl and was given the unique identity of starting the game with items that she could pick up and throw. However, it was in Smash for the Wii U/3DS where her current design was finalized. While her combo game and raw kill power were nerfed fairly heavily coming into Ultimate, ZSS still retains the raw speed and mix up game that made her so deadly during competitive Smash Wii U.
The biggest and most talked about part of her kit is her down special flip jump. The move can be used to hop over a given area in both horizontal directions, and can even bury a grounded opponent or spike and aerial opponent if they are hit with the second input of the move. Not only does the move allow her to maneuver through space, it also makes it so that she can go fairly deep off stage and expect to make it back safely.
ZSS also has built in stuns in the form of her neutral b and down smash which give her near guaranteed kills if landed. Combine all of this with her relatively fast air speed and strong aerials and you get one of the the more satisfying characters to play.
Given just how different platform fighters usual are from their 2D and 3D counterparts, it makes sense that a different type of character would excel within the genre, mainly those that are faster, have longer combos and more ability to go offstage. However, one type of character has remained a staple of the fighting game community, an archetype known as the grappler. Grapplers are usually reliant on throw combos to do damage and get wins, and Incineroar, who was introduced in Ultimate, is Nintendo’s nod to this archetype.
Incineroar has a few obvious strengths and weaknesses. First, the characters throws give him a lot of options. His down throw can combo into any of his aerials given the right percent, and can even combo into his special moves like neutral special. Additionally, his other three throws are considered kill throws, meaning at higher percents they can outright take an opponents stock.
However, given his slower movement speed and lack of a projectile, Incineroar can also find himself walled out relatively easily, which means the character often has to rely on an opponent making a mistake in order to get anywhere. This variance in his play has made the character extremely polarizing to many, but also puts him in line with many of the grapplers that came before him.
Unlike his slower, fire-type counterpart, Greninja plays exactly like how you would want a character in this genre to feel. Not only his he fast, with a relatively high air and ground speed, he also has a number of high damage combos and kill confirms. He is, in a lot of cases, the definition of rewarding.
However, it is not just that the character feels good to play that makes him so interesting. Many of the character’s special moves also reflect his origins very well. His side special shadow sneak gives him a decent neutral mix-up as well as increased horizontal recovery. Water shuriken, his neutral special, gives him a projectile that can help wall out opponents and build up chip damage. His down special substitute acts as a counter and gives him another way to edge guard opponents offstage. His up special, much like Pickachu’s, gives him a number of angles from which to recover.
The character does lack significant defensive options, however, as most of his kit is focused on constant aggression. Because of this, his disadvantage can often be pretty bad, allowing opponents to rack up quite a bit of damage, and often times leading to a stock as well. Still, despite this lackluster aspect of his character, Greninja is still one of the most interesting designs in Smash Ultimate.
Despite his reputation among many in the competitive community as a “cheater” due to his strong defensive options, Shulk was not considered much of a strong character until Ultimate. Not only does he have a frame 1 Monado Arts switch, which allows him to change the properties of his character, making him faster, heavier, stronger, etc, his large disjointed sword gives him the ability to wall out opponents fairly easily.
Shulk also has something that not many other characters do. Using a mechanic called dial storage, Shulk is able to store frames of charge on his neutral special, making it easier to pull out his Monado Arts. This mechanic also gives him the ability to do things such as L cancel and wavedash, two mechanics that have thus far been limited to Melee. This means that has access to tools that other characters simply do not. As pro player Salem notes in the linked video, mastery of these techniques will likely mean that Shulk becomes one of if not the best character in the game.
If there was ever a character who just oozes cool, outside of Joker, it would be Wolf. Not only does he just look badass, his move set and fast falling classification given him an extremely smooth feel that a lot of the DLC characters in smash simply don’t have. Moreover, Wolf’s combos and kill confirms all feel incredibly satisfying to hit due to many of them being fairly difficult or being extremely risky to go for.
It is unfortunate, however, that the character does not see much play. Relative to his popularity in the first year of the game’s lifespan, coupled with many nerfs to the character overall, Wolf has seen dramatically less play at the top level. In fact, most of his highest level appearances have been at the hands of Zachray, the best player in Japan, and even then he only uses him on occasion.
Still, at least before the worldwide appearance of COVID-19, Wolf was making a resurgence from players like Charliedaking and Larry Lurr. So, despite the relative difficulty of playing him optimally, Wolf will likely to continue to see play for years to come.
What characters do you think have interesting designs in Smash Ultimate? Let me know in the comments.
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