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The Competitive Failings of Low Tier Characters in Smash Ultimate: Kirby

This is a biweekly series on non-Meta characters within Smash Ultimate. The goal is to dive into a few of the character’s shortcomings and why they are not usually seen in an offline competitive setting.

Kirby’s Standings

Kirby doesn’t have much of a presence when it comes to competitive Smash. With him only being a top-tier character in Smash 64. In Ultimate, Kirby is usually placed in the low-mid tier. While he doesn’t get much play in Ultiatme’s competitive scene, some notable players use him as a main or a secondary such as Thibauld “Jesuischoq” Martin, the best Kirby player in the world. Still, it seems almost impossible for Kirby to win a major offline tournament. This article aims to answer why Kirby is not “viable” at a top-level.

Kirby’s Archetype

Kirby utilizes both brawler and a “bait and punish” style of play. He has incredible “tilt attacks” that are fast and set up for combos like down tilt and uptilt. Kirby wants to stay just outside of the enemy’s range to whiff punish with his incredible combos from his forward throw. Still, Kirby lacks range, making it difficult for Kirby to deal with zoners or projectiles.

Kirby’s Air Speed

Guess Who's the Star of the Show? - A SSB4 Kirby Guide | Smash Amino
Picture depicting Kirby’s Jump animation

One of the main things holding Kirby back is his abysmal air speed. Despite having six jumps, Kirby’s air speed is incredibly slow, having a 0.84 air speed. With a ranking of 84/88 for air speed in Ultimate’s roster. This slow air speed makes it easy to camp Kirby off stage and call out his landing options.

His six jumps theoretically balance out Kirby’s air speed. However, Characters like Pikachu, Mewtwo, Olimar and Sephiroth all share the same weight of 79 with Kirby. In contrast, these characters have different ways of balancing their weight with hard-hitting moves, incredible combo game, zoning potential or faster air speeds. Kirby unfortunately only gets the six extra jumps that don’t go very far horizontally, making his recovery and landing options predictable. Out of the characters listed, Olimar is the closest to Kirby in terms of air speed, with 0.861, compared to Kirby’s airs peed of 0.84. While this may seem insignificant, every bit of air movement is key in a platform fighter.

Kirby’s Inhale

Hitbox Image
Kirby’s Neutral B (Inhale) from ultiamteframedata.com

Kirby has the ability to inhale enemies with his neutral-B, allowing him to copy the opponents Neutral-B replacing Kirby’s in the process. Kirby can also inhale projectiles, which heal him for one percent of his health. The move has 51 frames of lag when inhaling projectiles, which is easy to punish and not worth the one percent in healing.

Wario, a top tier in Ultimate, has a similar neutral-B to Kirby’s called “Chomp.” Chomp can grab opponents and throw them out and inhaling projectiles that also heals him for one percent of his health. However, Wario’s lag when eating projectiles is only 25 frames instead of Kirby’s 51 frames, making it more difficult to punish Wario for a move that functions similarly.

Hitbox Image
Depiction of Wario’s neutral B (Chomp) from ultimateframedata.com.

Kirby’s Inhale has its flaws for sure, but it was much worse in earlier versions of Ultimate. When Ultimate was first released, Kirby’s copy ability was easy to knock out of him, making his copy abilities unreliable. In Patch 3.0.0, Kirby received a few buffs, but the buff to his inhale the most notable. The buff increased the time for how long Kirby is guaranteed to copy ability from five seconds to ten seconds. It also made Kirby less susceptible to sling his copy ability by getting hit. In Patch 6.0.0, Kirby’s inhale was buffed again, increasing the time Kirby can’t lose his ability from ten seconds to twenty seconds and made it even more difficult to take away his copy ability. While these buffs are fantastic for Kirby, they didn’t address his issue with projectiles and still do not have something to combat against them.

Kirby on Platform Stages

Kirby 60% KO Setup GIF | Gfycat
Gif depicting one of Kirby’s forward throw combos

Kirby has great combos with his forward throw, with the most efficient combos dealing 50-70% to the opponent. While this setup is advantageous, it is negated on stages that have floating platforms. This occurs because of the animation of the throw. When Kirby throws opponents, he flips in the air, slamming them on the ground, and pops up with them, letting Kirby hit forward air into imagination. However, Kirby cannot get his forward air to confirm and lands on the platform above when done under a platform. Kirby is easily countered on stages that have platforms. Unfortunately for Kirby mains, players can’t ban all stages with platforms. This makes players focus on a particular part of the stage with no platforms. If the opponent knows about Kirby’s issues with platforms, they can play around platforms to not get combo’d.

Kirby within the Meta

Kirby is a decent character but has big flaws such as his range, combo restrictions on platform stages, and air speed. He is to trap and zone out because of his air speed and lack of approaching options. While Kirby has received buffs in the past, they don’t focus on his fundamental problems in competitive play. This makes it difficult for Kirby mains to go far in a tournament setting.

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