Smash Ultimate is out, and if you’re anything like me, you’re wheeling around every character shouting about how you’re going to main them. I swear, since the initial announcement, I’ve been bouncing between newcomers and returning fighters as my chosen mains. Although I have finally settled, I think laying out some of the more exciting changes will help you pick your roster. So in no particular order, here are the known changes that I think are the most exciting. I will not share my roster until the end, to avoid perceived bias.

Get it? Got it? Good.

Bayonetta has been made less reliable. Thank Sakurai.

During the initial invitational, MkLeo vs. Pulp, a fresh Ridley stock was taken by a Bayonetta ladder combo, twice, and thus, Sakurai shook his head. Although she can still ladder combo, it is less reliable, as hitboxes have been changed slightly. Her up tilt is also less reliable on medium to smaller characters, although massive heavyweights like K.Rool and Bowser will still have a bit of an issue getting out of it. Her Afterburner Kick never auto canceled upon miss, and ends with some pretty spicy lag on landing. This, of course, means that Bayonetta will have to be a bit more careful with her side special. Witch Time has been nerfed. Again. Which means its a bit slower than it used to be. It’s literally just a thirtieth of a second, but that makes all the difference in the world of competitive video gaming.

It gets even spicier though, as Papa Sakurai has granted even more penalties to goofing up your timing on the Witch Time counter, coming in the form of increased lag due to the miss. I’m hoping there are more changes to prevent the absolute dumpstering at low percentages, but from what we know in the now, all of these are very welcome changes.

Pac attack has gotten stacked

Smash Ultimate Pac Man

I’m sure you were expecting something about a newcomer, but I need to talk about Pac-Man. There’s something viscerally satisfying about Pac-Man, a thrill I cannot describe as anything but disrespecting your opponent by simply existing. The Pac has now gotten faster, a literal passive move speed buff. So that dashy doofus is now much more dangerous. Added to that, his side special now whips out and travels MUCH faster, meaning that your opponent is now a heat-seeking missile of death. But that’s not all — call now, and we’ll make neutral b change faster, and even let you shield out of it for no extra money down!

Another significant change: if Pac grabs you, you barely have a second to react. Pac-Man has a pretty nasty tech chase out of his down throw, and if he messes that up, his side special and dash attack give him some pretty good options. This change makes Pac-Man ever so scarier to deal with. Pac-Man is like Jevil, a goofy chaotic character who exists solely to bring you pain with uncertainty. The hydrant didn’t get any changes, which it didn’t need. I just really wanted to see what other tomfoolery one could get up to with the dang thing. My personal favorite trick with the hydrant was to try to set up combos that in some way required the hydrant to shift up my movement, if you can add in that random element, this updated Pac-Man is a lot of fun.

Plant, Piranha

Smash Ultimate Piranha Plant

The not-Geno announcement of the century, Piranha Plant is now just, apparently, kind of here. Much like the Blue Mage announcement at this years FFXIV fanfest, I was pretty saddened at the announcement of the Plant at first. But much like Blue Mage, I’ve given it time to simmer, and I think I may be in love. The issue is since Plant hasn’t appeared in ANY demo footage, as he is technically a DLC bonus (Like Mewtwo’s last smash entry) for preordering the game. But you may question, how can I write about such a being if no data exists? Well my fine eyeball and/or text to speech wielding friend, you underestimate fighting game fandoms. The data exists, and it is succulent (get it? It’s a plant joke).

There’s no use going into what has changed since this is a new fighter who isn’t Geno or Waluigi. We can’t speculate much on its neutral game based off its trailer, but what I want to talk about is that stretchy neck move. The Plant rolls about in place, apparently being aimed by the player’s inputs, then it shoots its head out on the world’s longest stem. And apparently thanks to some Game Theory-esque pixel measurements, it’s speculated that this move is going to outrange the whip of Simon and Richter Belmont, making this the farthest hitting melee attack in the game. It also comes out rather fast, meaning it’s going to be a pretty decent poke. Its aerial game is also interesting, as its neutral air seems to be a multi-hit ability that can get players from 0% to 20% in nothing flat. This toothy plant is going to be scary — be ready, be apprehensive, and fear the Plant.

Incineroar, the grappling muscle cat of your dreams

Smash Ultimate Incenaroar

Incineroar is on my roster, there’s no debate about it. He is the ultimate Bad Match character, given his nature to pose after EVERY attack. He’s a true grappler in Smash, a giant grabbing, throwing and maiming monster of molten fur. His goofy Luchador attitude and Gurren Lagann taunt are not why I have picked this fuzzy fighter, though. It’s due to his specials — specifically, revenge. Revenge is going to get nerfed, I am calling this right now — it’s actually too good to exist. You might ask, “what does revenge do?” Well, I will tell you, dear friend, it is what nightmares are made out of. Revenge is a counter that rips out in 3 frames. Bayonetta’s Witch Time counter starts at 6 frames and was the previous defacto instant counter. Now for reference, as frames mean nothing to some of you, let me put it into seconds. On a 60 frame per second game, Bayonetta can hit the counter button, and it takes a tenth of a second for it to activate and allow her to counter. If she gets hit before that time, she takes damage. After the window? She takes damage. But it was known to be wiley and tricky to play around due to its insane speed to activate. Incineroar is half that, and his Revenge mechanic is possibly more damning to deal with than getting hit by Witch Time.

Some context for you. Witch Time slows you down and allows Bayonetta to basically stomp you, as she is moving at regular speed. Revenge is nothing of the sort. Due to its insanely quick animation, the only way to really tell if you just killed yourself on a giant buff cat is if you notice him explode in flames and then start glowing red with embers. If you see this, it is already too late for you, your life is over. What Revenge gives to Incineroar is an insane potency buff — his next attack hits harder based off a multiplier. There is footage from the post-reveal Treehouse of a fully charged Incineroar smash attack, killing at 30% — a rare occurrence, but still possible in competitive play. Not through some insane ladder combo or anything, but legitimately just punching a man in the face and watching him soar through the air like some kind of hellbound eagle. That’s power. That’s the Incineroar experience. Although not as handsome as others, he’s still grappled his way into my heart.

Richter and Simon Belmont

Simon and Richter Belmont Smash Ultimate

Speaking of chiseled jaws and classic poses, we have the Belmonts. Although Richter looks like a Joestar displaced through time, and Simon looks like he’s going to try to sell you car insurance through a Casey Neistat commercial, they both have a shocking amount of information already. People have gotten their hands on the Belmonts at conventions, they’ve analyzed player data to the best of their ability, and what they’ve found is shocking. At first, people were thinking that the insane reach of the whips would make the Belmonts something of a force to be reckoned with. While it has, they don’t have the kind of frame data people were expecting, leading them to be good, but not great. But here’s the thing: they bust out some tricks that are pretty incredible. Their Back Air and Forward Air, for example, can grab the ledge. So if you’re going off and you’re a Belmont, you can crack that whip and get right back on the horse. If you need to edge guard, you have axes.

The tradeoff? The Belmonts do not have the world’s strongest recovery — but here’s the rub, the real fun: you can aim their flails. That’s right, you have more precision control over your forward air, which can go into your neutral air, which can drag to the ground, which can lead to MORE COMBOS. Their thrown cross stays out for a considerable amount of time and will keep going past where you were even if you’re not there, which allows you to set up some really cheeky plays with it if you’re smart. If that’s not enough, their holy water stun locks other fights in it — meaning if you land that holy water, your combo is going to be fire. Which sounds, all bias aside, horrifying. You know what else is horrifying?


Smash Ultimate Isabelle

If you told me that one day I would live in fear of the small yellow puppy assistant from Animal Crossing, I would have laughed and called you a fool. But sweet mother of whatever various beings you hold in higher regard, the things this pup can do spook me greatly. There is footage of this little pooch grabbing people from a mile away with her fishing rod. Her recovery rivals that of the demonic spawn we call Villager. Her taunts render your heart unable to process, and her moves leave you unable to move. Her gyroid has multiple hits as it carries you into the stratosphere, her neutral air hits multiple times and can lock while you’re grounded. Do you get what I’m saying yet?

Somehow this pup has as many traps as Snake, with a cutesy Animal Crossing aesthetic. Her fishing pole, that instrument of aquatic enjoyment and of deep-sea horrors, is something I will need therapy over. It can pick you off the ledge, it can pick you from a distance — she does not have to be on the same level as you. If you are below Isabelle, you are her prey. It’s possibly a command grab, which means you can shield through it, unlike a normal grab. But the sheer range, the audacity of this canine is just affable. Her passive is probably the most overpowered thing about her though; it’s a fact that no creature living or dead can bring itself to hurt this precious pooch.

King K.Rool

Smash Ultimate King K. Rool

I will be honest, I am in awe at the size of this lad. Just look at him — if he’s not too big for Smash, nobody is anymore. We’ll get into this large lizard’s litany of moves in a bit, but I want to talk about something this boy has in droves. Say it with me: Super. Armor. K.Rool is completely armored on most of his attacks that should leave his gut open. You can power through almost everything, which is amazing. Falcon Punch? Fuhgettaboutit. Bayonetta’s Ladder Combo? Not even a threat. Little Mac’s KO Punch? Actually, show some concern. That armor can break if you rely on it too much, which leaves you as stunned as if your actual activated shield broke. Which means if somebody punishes your ferrous fupa too much, and you don’t adjust to give yourself time to heal your gut, then you’re finished.

But having a strong stomach isn’t the only thing this regal reptile has in his repertoire. The clap — the horrifying clap. This isn’t a Smash attack. It needs no charge, it has no style, it has no grace — this move goes across your face. The knockback on this clap is simply staggering for something that just kinda comes out of nowhere. It’s not like a back air where it requires something of a set up to bust out, or a good ol’ fashioned Mario forward air. It’s just straight up his forward tilt, and it just sends you flying. K.Rool also has some spicy recovery with his up special having not only a moderately sized hitbox but also high move priority, meaning many things do not get to attack through it. Atop of all this, he has Kirby’s suck ability, but with the added benefit of having an opening projectile you can bust out with. He has a throw that just sticks people in the ground for him to punish. Do you know how horrifying it is? One moment you’re just fighting, the next you’re head first in the ground, legs flailing, praying that the beast thinks you dead and walks away. Absolutely terrifying. Truly and genuinely the stuff of nightmares.

So What Should You Know?

super-smash Ultimate

A lot of things changed across the board, many jab combos getting reduced to 10% damage over their full combo, evening the board. Shields changing, graphics improving, but all of it is coming together to make what will probably be the definitive Smash experience. I have been jokingly calling this the “Cam is not a furry” list. The reason for that is the roster I have chosen to play.

You see, my friends and I all attempt to compete at a local level, just for fun and goofs. Those friends have been having a laugh at my expense, because for my roster I have picked Incineroar, Isabelle, Snake, Pacman, and Richter Belmont. All Anthropomorphic animals, a yellow orb, and a Joestar. But it seems like for once, most everybody will stand a fighting chance at the lower levels, away from the higher echelons of the Smash Gods. There will be tier lists, that is certain, but at the end of the day, they no longer matter as much as they did in Smash WiiU and 3DS. We are free from the curse of the Bayonettas and the Ditties, the horrors of For Glory Little Macs launching themselves off the edge with a side b.

Thanks to the following for some spicy information:
PushBlock Gaming for his fantastic series breaking down fighters with Frame Data
The Smash Brothers Subreddit for also providing a lot of useful data to extrapolate and theorycraft around.
And my personal friends who helped by correcting some of my assumptions with hard facts.