Sephiroth, the main antagonist of Final Fantasy VII, was released as a fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on December 17, 2020. According to top players, his positive attributes will reserve him a place in the metagame.
Among those who think highly of Sephiroth are two experienced professional smash players. One is Larry “Larry Lurr” Holland, a Super Smash Bros. player for over 10 years who has top-level results in Brawl, Smash Bros. for Wii U, and Ultimate. Leonardo “MkLeo” Lopez Perez, the number one-ranked Smash Ultimate Player on the Fall 2019 PGRU, also thinks highly of him. MkLeo is also is known for playing sword characters at a top level such as Byleth and Ike.
First, it’s important to recognize where the character falls short, as they are designed to compensate for his positive attributes. When factoring in his weight in comparison to other fighters, Sephiroth has a weight value of 79, being tied with Olimar, Pikachu, Kirby and Mewtwo as the seventh lightest character in the game.
In addition, his frame data is generally lacking. According to ultimateframedata.com, the only moves in his arsenal which don’t contain start-up frames of double-digits are his nine frame neutral air, his five frame jab, his nine frame down tilt and his seven frame grab.
Sephiroth’s Spacing Game
The moves with slower start up are mostly his sword attacks; however, Sephiroth has the ability to wall out approaches if he spaces them correctly thanks to the massive range it provides. Poorly spaced sword attacks in Super Smash Bros. series are known for a high window of landing lag. Sephiroth is no exception to this design choice.
“If you are going to be looking for a character who is super button-pressy, he is not for you,” said Larry Lurr in his beginner’s guide to Sephiroth on his YouTube channel.
His forward and back aerials are similar to Byleth’s in design, as they are long-ranged pokes with only two active frames. Consequently, these moves have respective startup frames of 13 and 15, respectively. His up aerial, when falling from the middle of the top platform on battlefield, has enough range to cover two platforms. The end result is a safe way to escape that specific form of pressure, according to MkLeo in his beginner’s guide to Sephiroth on his YouTube channel. This compensates for the 16 frames of startup. Additionally, if Sephiroth lands the first up air, he can use his range to effectively juggle opponents. Up smash can be perceived as the grounded method of up air due to its rivaled range. Conversely, the move has a 23-frame startup.
Sephiroth’s forward tilt epitomizes his range. “It’s one of his best neutral tools in my opinion,” said Larry Lurr. “I’m pretty sure no character is able to punish a spaced forward tilt on shield without parrying it.”
Sephiroth’s Pressure Game
Sephiroth also has two projectiles in his kit which are designed to pressure and condition opponents. His Side Special, Shadow Flare, surrounds the opponent in up to five dark orbs. After a certain point in time will attack and stun the opponent. Sephiroth players can condition their opponents to play around the threat of being hit by the orbs.
“They have to pick something defensive,” said Larry Lurr. “Because they have to pick that option, you can be aggressive and capitalize on it.”
His other projectile, his fully charged Neutral Special, Gigaflare, is excellent for ledge trapping. “If you get to the point where you force them to come back to the ledge, it’s really good,” said MkLeo in his beginner guide video. Sephiroth can use his range to send people who escape the move back offstage again, keeping them at a disadvantage.
MkLeo, being a player who favors sword characters, has high regards for Sephiroth. “I think he’s the coming of age of a lot of characters that I’ve been playing before,” he said.
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