Full Breakdown of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Gameplay Mechanics
By Maximillian Krchmar, Joseph Cribari on June 14, 2018
Hey guys, Max Ketchum here. Toronto Joe and I have had the unbelievable privilege of getting our hands on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for an extended period of time thanks to Nintendo and some very helpful friends in the Smash community. After about 3 hours of gameplay each, here are all the findings we’ve made! This will be posted in two versions, first about only the mechanics and then later we’ll add in all the character specific stuff we manage to pick up in our final day of playtesting.
Without further ado, here it is.
Dude...this game is fire. As a long-time competitive players in every Smash title, it’s a dream come true. It leans more toward the “modern” Smash experience (like Smash 4, which was more reminiscent of Brawl than Melee but still a bit of a blend in some areas), but we see Ultimate attracting a lot of players from both the Melee and Smash 4 crowds because of its new mechanics.
Almost everything we could’ve put on a wishlist addressed to Sakurai himself has been addressed and implemented. It feels like they really listened to the feedback that multiple community members (ourselves included) gave to the Nintendo staff on the E3 2014 show floor when we demoed Smash 4.
Remember, all of this information reflects a game still under development, so any and many of the things you read here could be changed by the time the game drops on December 7th. Take everything with a grain of salt!
Everyone has a very fast initial dash, similar to Cloud in Smash 4. This is the minimum distance you travel when you tap the stick left or right to run. Since it’s quick, characters only dash for a short distance and can then act out of it right after. Because of this, you can dashdance (repeatedly dash back and forth) very freely and across a wide range, but not quite in the exact fashion as Melee. You no longer have to foxtrot cancel like most of the cast of Smash 4 does.
The extremely rapid, short-distanced Brawl/Smash 4 dashdance is also possible.
Just like Brawl and Smash 4, you can’t shield immediately out of your initial dash.
You can also do an initial dash/foxtrot into any action rather quickly because of the Cloud-esque frame data of the dash, but even more importantly/excitingly… You can perform any action out of your full dash! Once you’ve transitioned from your initial dash state into a full run, you can let go of the control stick and input anything--any smash, tilt, special, jab, etc., and it’ll work seamlessly. This is super significant because you previously could only jump (or perform actions that jump can be canceled into like up smash or up B), shield, special attack, or dash attack from your dash. Approaching and aggressive gameplay are inherently improved by this new giant expansion to the amount of options you have while running.
Just like how you can cancel your full run with anything, you can also cancel your skid (turnaround out of dash) immediately as well by tapping the skid input and letting go of the stick, then performing any attack (I couldn’t get it to work with shield). This is extremely useful because you can either dash away from your opponent and throw a move toward them safely, or run at someone and turn toward them, then immediately do a move with a fast/strong backward-facing hitbox like Fox’s up tilt or Cloud’s down smash.
For high level players, an apt comparison is that this is like an easy form of perfect pivoting that isn’t exclusive to your initial dash. This can be done at any point in your run (technically you must also reach full run in order to do it because you can’t skid out of initial dash).
In my opinion, the dash cancel and skid cancel are the most game defining techniques in Smash Ultimate. They essentially replace and simplify perfect pivoting, as well as some aspects of wavedashing (because it allows you to back up or advance forward on the ground and perform any action quickly). These changes are brilliant, improving movement options as well as accessibility to newer players.
We’ve tentatively called the turnaround skid canceling “reverse ground rush,” or RGR, coined by @delbuster for its strong similarity to the “reverse aerial rush” technique.
Here's the reverse ground rush aka turnaround/skid canceling. Enjoy! This technique completely revolutionizes movement in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate pic.twitter.com/WtVopbKfH1
— CSL Max Ketchum @ Hyrule, CEO, PLAYER'S BALL! (@MaxKetchum_) June 14, 2018
The “instant dash attack” performed by dashing with the control stick and pressing the C stick down immediately after seems to have been removed. You probably have to wait a few frames before inputting anything out of your dash, but not too long.
All existing tech such as pivot grabs, reverse up smashes, pivot forward smashes/forward tilts, reverse aerial rush, etc. seems to have remained intact.
Slightly varied forms of both Melee and Brawl’s air dodges appear. If you input a direction on the control stick + shield, you’ll get a Melee-esque directional air dodge that has landing lag. If you just input shield with no stick input, you’ll do a Brawl-esque one where you don’t move or suffer as much air lag. The Brawl air dodge in Smash Ultimate has BASICALLY NO LANDING LAG, unlike Smash 4’s.
Yes, the directional air dodge from Melee is back! However, it’s not quite the same, and most notably, wavedashing is not very much like it is in Melee.
This is largely because you can’t perform a directional air dodge immediately upon leaving the ground when you jump--there’s a minimum height that the game forces you to rise before the air dodge will bring you back down. Trying to wavedash with the same input timing as Melee produces a “triangle jump” looking movement that recovers pretty slowly because the directional air dodge has considerable landing lag.
However, you still get a slide when you perform a down-angled directional air dodge into the ground, but it has more landing lag than it would in Melee. This means that you can waveland (air dodge down to catch a platform from the air and slide on it), but it’s a little bit slower. This is still useful for spacing and movement purposes, though, and will probably find a decent amount of use in the metagame.
The directional air dodge doesn’t put you into the helpless state like it did in Melee, but it carries a significant amount of ending lag in the air. If you keep falling and don’t touch the ground, it feels like a second or more before you’re able to move again, so be careful.
You can grab the edge relatively quickly after performing a directional air dodge, which makes it a pretty good mixup or last resort for recovery.
One of the first things that pretty much everyone noticed in Smash Ultimate is the super fast knockback acceleration. When you get hit, you travel very quickly to the endpoint of your knockback trajectory, spend a bit of time there in hitstun, and then you regain control of your character.
We haven’t had enough time with the game to accurately speak on the broader implications this has for the combo system, but we’re very confident that the game has a lot of true combos and what feels like certainly more hitstun than Smash 4.
Moves do 1.2x more damage in 1v1 than multiplayer formats, which is a brand new change. (Thanks to @Ruben_dal for the math) Expect people to die earlier in this format, of course.
Although this is unrelated to both hitstun and knockback, the hitlag (freezeframes) on every hit is greatly exaggerated compared to all previous iterations of the game. Everything feels like you’re landing a tipper with Smash 4 Marth--the hits are really crunchy and satisfying. This also feels similar to games like Street Fighter and Dragon Ball FighterZ. Although it doesn’t really affect gameplay, it’s really awesome and helps immerse you in the fight.
Pretty much every aerial (normal moves, not special moves) feels like it has a lot less landing lag than it did before. Our speculation is that it was roughly halved on all moves across the board, with a few gaining/losing some lag for balancing purposes--effectively adding automatic L-canceling to the game.
Update: According to this Reddit thread, aerials have roughly 50% landing lag compared to their Smash 4 counterparts.
Because aerials end faster and are now safer, offensive/aggressive gameplay is promoted even further.
Pressing a jump button + attack button at the same time is a shortcut for short hopping, making it a bit easier for people who have trouble letting go of jump quickly. This is a minor quality of life/accessibility change for newer players, but could end up having applications at high levels as well to make certain input sequences easier.
Performing a jump into an immediate forward or backward aerial with the C stick set to Smash can jolt you forward or backward in the air, similar to Brawl and Smash 4
Smash C stick does not appear to impede aerial momentum
Diagonal C stick nair/jab inputs with C stick set to tilt have been removed
B reversing and turn around specials return and appear identical to Smash 4.
Charge cancelable projectiles like Samus's Charge Shot and Mewtwo's Shadow Ball can be directly canceled with jump. This is particularly useful in the air, because air dodges take forever to end and are thus very suboptimal for charge canceling.
Shield stun seems slightly more significant than Smash 4, but we don’t have the science to make a definitive judgment on that yet.
Walking/running into a shielding character produces a strong body block effect that doesn’t allow you to cross through them. Instead, you’ll continue moving forward and push the shielding character along with you. Sakurai mentioned that he noticed a few bugs during the invitational tournament, and it’s possible that this was one of them. This change was very odd to most players, and it may be changed before the final release.
Powershielding is now performed by releasing your shield at the same time as something hitting you, similar to a parry in Street Fighter. When you successfully perform this, the attacking character will be frozen in place for a length of time proportionate to the strength of the attack you parried.
For example, if you parry a light hit like a jab, they will be stunned very briefly--just about long enough for you to respond with a jab of your own. If you parry a big hit like a smash attack, they’ll get stuck there for a while. This change is really cool and raises the stakes even further on defensive play. If you want to get a lot of frame advantage for blocking an attack with good timing, you have to bet on the possibility that your opponent strikes ever so slightly later than you anticipated, just after you let your guard down in an attempt to powershield/parry. However, the payoff for doing it right is large.
Repeatedly spot dodging or rolling (up to 6 times) will cause the speed and invincibility of your dodges to depreciate. Each consecutive spot dodge/roll will get worse.
While the sixth dodge is pretty slow, the second through fifth ones don’t seem that horrible, but it does feel a lot more reliable to catch a defensive action. More details to come regarding a cooldown timer on these defensive actions returning to normal.
All existing shield tech returns. Jumping/jump canceling out of shield (into up smash or up B, shield dropping, etc. seems to have remained intact. The shield drop input is nearly identical to Smash 4’s.
HUGE CHANGE: Shield release now takes 11 frames (up from 7 in Smash 4 and 14-17 in Melee, depending on character). Credit to this Reddit thread for the find.
According to KuroganeHammer and other sources, shieldstun has been decreased from Smash 4 to Smash Ultimate. The extent to which it has been decreased is still uncertain and I'll update this as we make more discoveries.
The edge appears to function nearly identically to Smash 4’s. You still can’t edgehog, and grabbing the edge when someone else occupies it knocks them off a la trumping, which also seems relatively unchanged. Repeated ledge grabs do not regain invincibility.
Nothing major seems to have changed between Smash 4 and Ultimate when it comes to edge mechanics. Some subtle things may be adjusted that we haven’t noticed yet.
Almost all characters still automatically snap to the edge on the way up from their recovery moves, but the window appears to be more sensitive.
Two characters grabbing each other simultaneously will result in a double grab break, almost like throw teching from games like Street Fighter. This is new to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and has never appeared in the series before. Unlike throw teching, this doesn't give you a reaction window to break a grab, but only occurs when two players simultaneously try to grab each other. (Thank you @TheReflex
The ~1 second regrab lockout window from Smash 4 has returned. If you grab/throw someone, you can’t grab them again until about a second later. Characters will now flash yellow after a throw until they can be grabbed again.
Throw hitboxes/throw “armor” functions very similarly to Smash 4. Throw animations have their own independent hitboxes that can clank out moves or hit other characters/hurtboxes. This usually means that the character performing the throw will successfully throw the opponent without being interrupted, but not always.
Grab armor has not returned, just like Smash 4. Hitting a character attempting to grab will still connect and knock the grabbing character away, and the attacking character will be left in a grab breakout stance.
Smashes can now be charged for significantly longer--up to about three seconds now rather than one.
Footstool jumping has returned. You can now tech footstools on the ground.
Rage is still in the game--the higher your character’s damage, the more knockback they’ll deal. It seems to be toned down a bit compared to Smash 4. Characters and their portraits begin steaming at around 120%, but we’re not sure if this means that’s when rage actually takes effect. (In Smash 4, the visual effects of rage started around 100%, but in reality rage began at 35%) More info to come on rage when there’s more hard science available on the game.
We’re not too sure on the specifics of DI, but you can definitely still use it to help yourself escape combos or stay alive longer.
Smash DI seems to be even less potent than it is in Smash 4. Although moves have lots of hitlag when they connect, players haven’t been able to shift much during it. Things like Bayonetta’s Witch Twist roof combos still worked in the demo version--even @PG_ESAM, one of the best players at escaping the Bayo ladder, had difficulty getting it.
According to @ArmadaUGS, when Sakurai saw Leo perform the roof combos against Plup in the invitational tournament, he shook his head and pulled out a notepad immediately. However, if Sakurai does adjust the game based on that moment, it’s more likely that Bayonetta will receive an individual change rather than a system-wide SDI change.
Similar to how Smash 4 added the red lightning on hits that kill or come close to killing, Ultimate has added a “dramatic finish” to super powerful moves in the same fashion. Just like Smash 4, the dramatic finish can be misleading and not actually kill your opponent, nor will every move that’s going to kill produce a dramatic finish.
That said, this visual addition is awesome. It makes you feel like you landed a super or a Final Smash, and is a huge aesthetic upgrade for hype matches.
Other UI Changes
Certain display changes have been made that don’t affect gameplay, such as:
When a stock is lost in a 1v1 match, the game will display the amount of stocks in large font on the sides of the screen
When a character gets launched really far, a minimap will briefly appear showing where each character is in relation to the stage/blast zones
The stage select screen comes before the character select screen (very subject to change)
The loading screen for a match has the portraits of all the characters playing instead of a black screen/tip
Nametags display underneath character portraits (as well as on the loading screen)
Possibly more that we’re forgetting!
Bonus section: Wishlist
If we could change the game ourselves, here's what we'd add or edit.
Reduce landing lag on directional air dodge and remove minimum height requirement on jump + air dodge to allow wavedashing/wavelanding, and allow wavelanding to slip off platforms better (Max + Joe)
Further reduce landing lag on aerials (Max)
Reduce the window in which characters can autosnap the edge on the way up from their up B (Max + Joe)
Remove the property that prevents you from running or walking through a shielding opponent (Max + Joe)
Make shield push able to knock opponents off of edges/platforms (Joe)
Squirtle Squad costume (Joe)
Make shield push able to knock opponents off of edges/platforms
Bring back the ability to dash attack immediately out of an initial dash (usually done with dash + C-stick down)
Make ledge trumping faster/have greater frame advantage
Allow nametag creation/control settings on the character select screen
Make shield dropping easier
Bring back C stick nair/jab with tilt stick + diagonal inputs, but allow it to be toggled on/off
Remove aerial momentum shift forward/backward from C stick aerials
Increase the time between exiting hitstun and being able to air dodge
Please KEEP the dash and turn around cancels into every move! This makes movement better in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate than any other game!!!
Smaller, more specific changes:
Allow Ike to grab the edge while facing backwards from his up B
Make it harder to destroy Snake's cypher (up B) or make him able to up B again if you destroy it
Make Zelda less prone to colliding with undersides of the stage during her up B
We’re extremely stoked to have gotten so much time with the game. Big thanks to Nintendo of America for providing so many setups and premiere access to the game! Although we figured out a lot of stuff, there’s still much more to be done--especially when it comes to character specifics, so we’ll be sure to test as many of them as we can on the show floor today.
If you noticed a mechanic or character change that wasn’t detailed in this article, please reach out to @MaxKetchum_ or @TorontoJoe on Twitter with your findings and we’ll add it in and credit you.
Thanks for reading, and please share this around so it reaches as many people as possible! Follow @cstarleague on Twitter for more Smash news as we move into the new season.