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The Competitive Failings of Low Tier Characters within Smash Ultimate: Banjo & Kazooie

This is a biweekly series on non-Meta characters within Smash Ultimate. These will dive deep into character shortcomings and compare them to other characters in Smash Ultimate’s competitive meta.

Introduction

When Banjo & Kazooie (Banjo) was first announced, the Smash community was ecstatic. Banjo & Kazooie, the characters from the days of the Nintendo 64, finally making a triumphant return to their home with Nintendo. Arguably the most hyped DLC character in Smash history. When Banjo was playable, the character seemed lackluster and underwhelming. In the Smash Ultimate competitive sense, Banjo has had some play. Players such as Tetsuya “Raito” Ishiguro ranked 17 on Panda Globals Rankings (PGR) or Alberto “Trela” Miliziano doing well with the character. Many consider Banjo to be a mid-low tier, not a viable character within the competitive meta. This article will dive into Banjo’s competitively shortcomings by comparing them to the top-tier characters with similar moves.

Banjo’s archetype & playstyle

Unlike Banjo’s DLC counterparts, his movest is relatively simple, almost as if Banjo was a base game character. The common perception in the community is that Banjo is a hybrid character who takes on multiple archetypes: zoner, brawler, and trapper. Banjo seems to be a jack of all trades. While this seems reasonable, he does not excel in any of the archetypes listed. His projectiles are solid but have the potential of being obsolete if the opponent plays patiently. Most of Banjo’s moves are disjointed courtesy of Kazooie, but his close-quarter abilities are not strong approach options. His fastest out of shield option is his Up-Smash, having nine startup frames, and is easily punished with 65 total frames until Banjo can react.

These shortcomings make Banjo rely heavily on their opponents to rush them down while Banjo pelts them with eggs and grenades until they get frustrated and make a mistake. This strategy, however, is circumvented apart in competitive play because players are patient and can wait out Banjo’s projectiles, especially when playing on stages with floating platforms. Combine this with Banjo’s heavyweight and slow airspeed; he becomes combo food.

Banjo’s Grounded Attacks

Most of Banjo’s grounded attacks are solid, with his rapid jab, down tilt, forward tilt and smash attacks being disjointed. These moves are good for poking and keeping the enemy at bay. Unfortunately, his grounded options do not have much combo potential at mid and high percentages. His up tilt is a great anti-air hitting directly above him but cannot “scoop up” players next to them like Snake can with his up-tilt.

Banjo’s Aerial Attacks

Banjo has a low airspeed of 0.92 but benefits from two midair jumps while also having high gravity and low airspeed, making it more of a “bounce” in midair than a jump. All of his aerial attacks excluding forward air, are disjointed and aren’t good approach options.

Neutral Air

Hitbox ImageHitbox Image

Banjo’s neutral air starts at frame ten and is a multi-hit disjoint that surrounds Banjo. In theory, his N-air is a great tool for drag-down combos leading to grabs and tilts. N-air does not have a consistent hitbox. Rather it is four hitboxes that rapidly activate and deactivate throughout the move in addition to having 16 frames of landing lag. A top tier with a similar move, Palutena, has two consistent hitboxes that start at frame five and have 12 frames of landing lag. Against Banjo, an experienced player who knows how to “Smash DI” can orient themselves to always land behind Banjo, making these combs untrue. These drag-down combos are key for Banjo’s potential in the future, if N-air were buffed in a way that made enemies always land in front of Banjo, he would be much stronger with a consistent setup for grabs.

Up-Air

Hitbox ImageHitbox Image

Banjo’s up-air is arguably his worst move. Up-air has seven startup frames and has two hits above Banjo that don’t send opponents far or do good damage, doing 8% in total and having 12 frames of landing lag. Up-air is used as a juggling tool that keeps people from landing. Since up-air can’t kill, opponents aren’t in danger when above Banjo. Looking at another top tier, Mario, his up-air has four startup frames with six frames of end lag and deals 7% while also being a decent kill option off the top. Combining this with Mario’s airspeed of 1.208, he can consistently stay under his opponent for the next consecutive hit.

Back Air

Hitbox ImageHitbox Image

Banjo’s back air is a three-hit move with eight startup frames and 18 frames of end lag. It is a pretty standard back air dealing 8% altogether. B-air also has good drag-down combo potential as well.  However, it has little kill potential on stage, killing at 120-200% depending on the character. Looking at a top-tier zoner, Mega Man, his back air is a quick kill option with four startup frames that deal 5% altogether. Banjo struggles to get kills when Wonder Wing is gone, and this weak back air doesn’t help.

Banjo’s Specials

Banjo’s specials are the key to his game plan. His neutral B (Egg Firing) is similar to Mario’s fireball. It has 13 startups and deals 5.4-3.8% depending on how stale the move is. It helps pock the enemy down and make them frustrated. Holding down the B button transfers Banjo into a new position, holding Kazooi like a rifle (Breegull Blaster).

Breegull Blaster

Best Egg B GIFs | Gfycat

Breegull Blaster is one of Banjo’s main Combo starters, poping up enemies just above Banjo’s head. It can lead to just about any aerial or another shot with the blaster that will pop the enemy up higher. While Breegull blaster is a good latter combo starter, it puts Banjo in a venerable position. Taking out Kazooie is 28 frames while putting her away is 11 frames. Holding Kazooie, Banjo’s movement and attack options are restricted. Regulating Banjo’s walking pace and attack options, having to put away Kazooie before acting. Just about every top tier has a straightforward combo starter that is relatively easy to wield. Breegull Blaster feels acquired in comparison. While some advanced techniques can cancel the Breegull Blaster faster, they are so precise that it is difficult to pull off in the heat of a match.

Rear Egg

Rear Egg - SmashWiki, the Super Smash Bros. wiki

Banjo’s second projectile is down B (Rear Egg). Kazooie pops out a “grenegg” (grenade) that bounces unpredictably like a football behind Banjo, exploding after two seconds or when it hits the opponent. The grenade acts as an item, that anyone can pick up. Banjo can grab the grenade in the air by drifting towards it and pressing the Z button after the grenade comes out, allowing for Banjo to throw it, prolong his recovery, or setting up combos and traps.

Rear egg’s timer is short thus making it difficult to set up like trappers such as Duck Hunk or Link who have traps with longevity. Banjo is forced to drop the grenade promptly or take damage from the explosion. When the Grenade hits an enemy, it launches opponents up and towards the direction they were hit. Unfortunately, it isn’t apparent where the enemy is sent when hit in the center, making combos inconsistent.

Wonder Wing

Wonderwing - SmashWiki, the Super Smash Bros. wiki

Banjo’s side B, “Wonder Wing,” is a hard-hitting, invincible move that goes in a straight line, it is Banjo’s number one kill option and a great recovery tool, getting Banjo on the ledge for free. It is not without its shortcomings, with only five chargers per stock and 18 startup frames, 82 total frames. Since the move is so slow to start, it is easy to react to and punish. Banjo must conserve them for recovering or when he can confirm a hit. Without Wonder Wing charges, Banjo has not only lost an ability, but he has also lost the threatening presence of Wonder Wing, giving their opponent leeway.

Banjo’s Down Thow

Banjo & Kazooie | Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Banjo’s grabs are primarily standard, except for his down throw which buries opponents into the ground, allowing for combos and kill confirms. Unfortunately, the bury doesn’t last long and is simple to mash out of. This is understandable. If the bury was longer, Banjo could potentially get a Wonder Wing off and destroy opponents with a grab. This leaves Banjo with only a moment to punish their target.

Conclusion

Banjo has some solid abilities but cannot take full advantage of them. His traps are good for ledge pressure but don’t have the longevity that other trappers have. His zoning is good but, with few approach options, he can’t capitalize. The most important thing in competitive play is consistency, and this is something that Banjo fundamentally lacks which is why he will likely stay near the bottom tier.


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