Top Tier History: Jigglypuff

For most people who play Super Smash Bros. Melee, Jigglypuff is an equally adorable alternative to Kirby, but for competitors, she’s quite a bit more. Melee enthusiasts are well-accustomed to her immortality within the game’s tournament history.

Before becoming a mainstay within the Super Smash Bros. franchise, Jigglypuff was popular within the Pokemon franchise, known as Purin in Japan. Her success was notable because of her franchise’s boom within the late 90s and early 00s, thanks to the television show’s and video game series’ popularity.

Though she gained a little bit of criticism for having a, well, simple appearance, Jigglypuff was still beloved, leading to her inclusion within the original Super Smash Bros. Here, she’s the game’s first unlockable character.

Although she isn’t as good as Kirby, mostly due to not having as good frame data, Jigglypuff still has quite a few tricks you can use. Most notably, her down-B, also known as “rest,” was a great combo finisher, able to end opponents’ stocks relatively early.

Better than Kirby (late 2001 to late 2003):
Notable players: Anden, KishPrime, Grid

After Melee’s release, both Jigglypuff and Kirby switched roles in terms of dominance. While Kirby lost all his ground speed and was severely nerfed, Jigglypuff gained greater aerial mobility within Melee’s engine, bigger hitboxes and greater power in her attacks.

Although she was initially seen as within the bottom half of the cast, due to her extremely slow dashing speed and light weight, it soon became clear that Melee complemented Jigglypuff far more than its predecessor. Previously, her floaty characteristics made her easy to knock off stage, edge guard and maintain positioning against. In Melee, her buffed aerial mobility gave Jigglypuff a distinct advantage.

Moreover, she still had rest, which was now harder to hit, but also even more powerful, adding eight percent more damage and also having even more knockback. Jigglypuff also had one other move that made her dangerous to deal with in the neutral game: her back air. Having ridiculous range and speed, this attack also did double-digit damage, meaning that getting hit by multiple back airs could quickly build up percent.

It’s easy to see why people might have hated playing against Jigglypuff. Her ability to safely poke her opponents and endlessly space retreating aerials eventually became known as “the Wall of Pain,” though this term isn’t used as much any more.

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 3.26.14 PM.png
The December 19, 2002 NTSC tier list, per SSBWiki.
Puff Stuff and Puff Struggles (early 2004 to mid 2006)
Notable players: AOB, KillaOR, KishPrime, KishSquared

Though  Jigglypuff was a bit of a nuisance for less experienced players, she still wasn’t seen as favorably as characters like Sheik, Fox, Falco or even Marth, as shown by Ken’s success. However, it soon became clear that the character had quite a devastating combo game if she could get started.

In January 2004, a Melee video maker, tournament organizer and Jigglypuff player by the name of AOB released a combo video called “PuffStuff.” To this day, it’s one of the earliest examples of a combo video ever, along with being one of the first examples of a video showing players how to use their character.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If anyone has the original version of this video, with the proper music, please post it! I wasn’t able to find a working link.

Along with showcasing Jigglypuff’s ability to combo well in the air, AOB showed simple edge guard techniques with Jigglypuff, along with her ability to weave in and out of her opponents’ space. Using even basic moves like her crouch to duck grabs and the range of her forward smash, AOB essentially innovated how to use Jigglypuff – even if he wasn’t her top-level representation.

For Jigglypuff players, this video was the equivalent of Shined Blind for Fox players. Rather than just being seen as a campy character, based around defensively walling out opponents and playing conservatively, Jigglypuff now had deadly mixups and combos that could lead to early stocks. Upthrow rest on both Fox and Falco was now becoming more standardized, along with combos like uptilt rest, upair rest and any flurry of aerials off stage.

Of course, the character didn’t immediately benefit. After a quick April Fools Joke by the Melee backroom put Jigglypuff as Melee’s second best character in early 2004 (due to her “ruling the air”), future iterations of it estimated her impact on the meta fairly conservatively. Ranked beneath characters like Peach, Captain Falcon and Samus, Jigglypuff still had a way to go before national recognition.

That didn’t mean she lacked success. In October of 2005, KillaOR, a Jigglypuff main from New York and member of Deadly Alliance, became the first player to ever to be sponsored by MLG. Along with being featured on MTV, KillaOR also is given credit for his pound to rest combo on Balefireboy at the FC3 regional crew battles, along with his third at MLG Los Angeles 2005.

However, as KishPrime details in his “Melee History Lesson” post on Smashboards, these three years signified a bit of a dark time for Jigglypuff.

Following MELEE-FC3, when the highest placing Jigglypuffs were only able to manage 65th place, it was a bleak time for the character. Most Jigglypuff players started giving her up for good, including long time Jigglypuff mainstays KillaOR and AOB, and I myself put considerable effort into other characters again.

KishPrime also brought up how the stagelist was particularly unfavorable toward Jigglypuff. Because stages like Green Greens, Corneria and other low-ceiling stages were still around, Jigglypuff could easily lose a stock and have to play from behind. With Fox and Falco players now being inspired by technical mains like Zelgadis and Bombsoldier, it felt like AOB’s path for Jigglypuff was fairly limited.

However, as KishPrime noted later, once many of these stages started being banned, the character started doing a lot better. AOB’s path for the character was just the beginning.

The Villain of Melee (early 2006 to mid 2010)
Notable players: Mango, Hungrybox, The King, Darc, Raistlin,

Before moving into the more well-known names, let’s talk about the birth of aggressive Jigglypuff. Hailing from the famous West Coast crew DBR and originally from Calgary, Alberta, The King was a source of inspiration for Jigglypuff mains.

Creatively coming up with combos like nair-rest, using drill as an edgeguarding tool and being far more proactive in how he approached his opponents, The King broke out at MLG Dallas 2006, beating players like Tink, Dope and NEO en route to a fifth place performance: a notable breakout for the character. He also was an avid Smashboards poster, regularly answering questions about his character and giving matchup advice online.

Even as the character still had up and down showings, one particular Jigglypuff main was inspired enough to begin playing her in tournament a lot more. Ever heard of Mango?

While he did this with all of his characters, Mango’s Jigglypuff was deadly because of how she showcased his ability to mix up subtle attack timings to condition his opponent and exploit them. Mango both reactively covered what his opponents did in these situations and went for flashy reads, showcasing Jigglypuff as the best she had ever been seen.

After shocking the world by initially defeating Mew2King and Ken in his third place showing at EVO World 2007, Mango proceeded to finish third at Super Champ Combo (defeating PC Chris in winners) and then deliver Melee’s greatest losers bracket run ever at Pound 3, in what was supposed to be Melee’s final national tournament.

At the time, many dismissed the tournament as a fluke – or at least just proof that no one knew how to deal with Jigglypuff. But at Revival of Melee, he beat Mew2King so badly with Jigglypuff that he played Falco in grand finals just because Mew2King begged him to play someone else. It became clear that not only was Mango legitimately better than everyone else, but his character was also extremely deadly.

A bit after Mango’s rise to prominence, Hungrybox soon became the best in his state, eventually becoming a mainstay in national top eights. This is especially impressive because of how people intensely hated Jigglypuff, often underseeding her mains or straight up rigging brackets to give them unfavorable matchups, like when Hungrybox was matched up against Mango in GENESIS a round before winners quarters.

In contrast to Mango’s aggression, Hungrybox had a knack for simply zoning better than his opponents and playing patiently and defensively. In contrast to Mango, who went for extended combos and rests out of shield when threatened, Hungrybox often chose to back air safely from his opponents and maintain a long range, making him difficult to hit.

This garnered both Hungrybox and Jigglypuff derision. Mango himself hated how Hungrybox was “gimmicking” his way to victory by playing passively and abusing Jigglypuff’s frustrating strengths. For a long time, Mango and others in the community begrudgingly admitted Hungrybox’s results, but not his overall skill.

From Pound 3 to Apex 2010, Jigglypuff won every single notable major, including the Revival of Melee, GENESIS, Revival of Melee 2 and Pound 4. That’s a six tournament stretch for a character’s success – the most Melee had seen since Ken’s reign with Marth. At Revival of Melee 2, the tournament’s top eight had more Jigglypuff representatives than any other character, with Darc, one of New England’s best at the time, as its lowest placer at a still-impressive fifth.

In the game’s 2010 tier list, she was originally tied for first with Fox and Falco, but the results clearly showed that Jigglypuff was then easily the game’s most successful character in the post-Brawl era. Most people agreed that she wasn’t ban-worthy, but many hated how relatively easy her combos were to execute and how simplistic her playstyle looked.

The Gatekeeper: late 2010 to mid 2015
Notable mains: Hungrybox, Darc, s0ft, Tekk, BlueFoxXT

Around this period of time, Mango stopped playing Jigglypuff in tournament, now playing his secondaries (Mario, Captain Falcon and Marth), Falco or Fox. Part of this was because he wanted to prove that Jigglypuff didn’t carry him, but he also lacked faith in the character, at numerous times saying that he thought she was overrated.

Even as players like Darc and s0ft managed to do well, Jigglypuff slowly became figured out a lot more. Hungrybox was her only consistent representation at the top level – and with the threat of Armada’s Young Link, along with Hungrybox losing to KirbyKaze at Apex 2012, Jigglypuff slowly became more exploitable herself. Even Doctor Mario and Ice Climbers were seen as a tough matchups for her by the 2013 matchup chart.

Hungrybox continued to do well and place consistently at each national, but his frequent losses to Mango, Dr. PeePee and Armada illustrated a barrier for his character. To this day, Armada’s Young Link is the only character that Hungrybox has ever attempted a serious counterpick against, trying Ness and Fox in different times.

At The Big House 3, Hungrybox lost his first set in years to Mew2King and was dominantly put down in grand finals, making people wonder if even the former “gatekeeper,” who notoriously struggled against Jigglypuff, had figured out how to abuse her.

Though s0ft’s out-of-nowhere seventh place showing at Apex 2014 showed that there was still hope, Hungrybox’s overall decline gave a different picture. With Leffen now posing as yet another threat to consistently beat him, other Fox players like Lucky began to give Hungrybox fits or close calls in bracket, even as he finished second at EVO 2014 (finally overcoming Armada’s Young Link).

However, Hungrybox’s seventh place at MLG Anaheim 2014 and ninth place at The Big House 4 showed both a god – and his character – on the way out. Moreover, at Apex 2014, Mango’s attempt to play Jigglypuff against Mew2King also failed, showing that the most dominant Jigglypuff player in Melee history was both rusty and perhaps not as well-translated to the modern Melee era.

After initially silencing Jigglypuff doubters at Paragon Orlando 2015, Hungrybox faltered at a lackluster fifth place performance at Apex 2015, losing to Armada in losers and PewPewU in winners: the first time a Marth had defeated Hungrybox in years. As Hungrybox continued to struggle, losing to Lucky at Press Start and remaining mostly an underdog against Leffen, the Paragon Orlando title looked more like the exception for an era in which Jigglypuff struggled.

With many wondering if Jigglypuff had a successful future, Tafokints announced his June 2015 tier list, in which he listed Jigglypuff in the same tier as Captain Falcon, Ice Climbers, Peach and Pikachu.

This sounds unreasonable, but think about how it looked at the time for Jigglypuff. Leffen, Mango, Armada’s new Fox and almost every second-tier Fox were scary propositions for any Jigglypuff player in bracket. With Hungrybox also having dropped sets to Plup, Colbol, Wizzrobe and Westballz, the character looked like she had no way to safely approach her opponents.

In particular, people learned to abuse her lack of ground mobility and light weight, with many characters like Marth and Sheik playing the neutral game with far more discipline than in the past. Some hypothesized that Jigglypuff’s path toward success involved stalling and timing out her opponents instead of only aiming to take their stocks out.

According to Captain Crunch, Hungrybox’s coach and best friend, around CEO 2015, the Florida Jigglypuff considered quitting Melee because he felt that Jigglypuff couldn’t win any more. Yet with the help of his hometown friend Crunch, Hungrybox showed refined execution of previous Jigglypuff ideas and new ones, could prove Jigglypuff as a force to be reckoned with.

Crouching Puff, Hidden Monster (mid 2015 to now):
Notable mains: Hungrybox, Prince Abu, 4%, PsychoMidget, 2Saint, Envy, Aglet

Unlike other representatives for their characters, Hungrybox didn’t innovate as much as he showed the kind of unbreakable discipline, consistency and execution that Jigglypuff needed to succeed in the modern, Fox-ravaged, punish-game heavy era.

Known previously as a passive player, preferring to back air safely from his opponents when threatened or conceding stage position, Hungrybox’s first anti-Fox strategy involved a whole lot of camping. For example, at FC Return, he defeated Armada through taking a lead, camping the ledge and simply waiting for his opponents to get impatient.

Many at the time wondered if this strategy was even effective as much as it was psychologically annoying, but at EVO 2015, Hungrybox’s renowned patience and discipline rewarded him.

It gave him the edge over his arch nemesis Mango, who gave his own stocks by accident while trying to pursue Hungrybox on the ledge. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, Hungrybox defeated him yet again at The Big House 5. If you’ve been following the scene from 2016 onward, you know the rest – Hungrybox won a flurry of titles, including EVO 2016 and finished the year as the world No. 2 player.

It’s easy to dismiss Hungrybox’s success as him playing campy and exploiting his opponent’s mistakes, but you could argue that his resurgence – along with Jigglypuff’s resurgence – came because of how aggressively he converted off hits.  Outside of maybe Armada with Peach and Mew2King with Marth, no one has consistently pushed the limits of their character’s punish game as much as Hungrybox, who converts off grabs as brutally as anyone in the world. Furthermore, with more Fox’s attempting to camp Jigglypuff, she’s often forced to approach, causing a player like Hungrybox to “optimize” her neutral game and find ways to win skirmishes with her tool set.

It would also be silly to ignore the massive amount of modern resources for the Jigglypuff meta. Both contributing to Hungrybox’s success, as well as being influenced by it, the popular blog “Alex’s Puff Stuff” remains a valuable tool for all Melee players, as well as holding far more forward-thinking and influential ideas about the future of Jigglypuff in Melee. If you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend this blog for more modern Jigglypuff insight than I could ever go into.

Today, players like Armada and Mew2King have the character within their top three, pointing to her rest setups, powerful edgeguarding ability and Hungrybox’s success as proof of the character’s potential. However, some are fairly skeptical of her often pointing out that despite her theoretical ability, Hungrybox is still the only Jigglypuff to enter the highest echelon of play. Additionally, many are now wondering if Wizzrobe’s latest victories over Hungrybox are proof of the character perhaps struggling against Captain Falcon.

Either way, consider some of Melee’s biggest moments. Perhaps it’s hindsight, but almost all of Melee’s most memorable moments involve Jigglypuff, whether it’s the GENESIS grand finals, EVO 2016 grand finals, Mango’s Arwing rest at Pound 3 or the first MLG-sponsored player to be a Jigglypuff.

There’s a lot about this pink puffball, one that’s kept Melee’s legacy growing. Maybe instead of killing Melee, as many initially thought in the post-Brawl era, it’s only added to the game’s rich, immortal history.

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4 Comments

  1. Nice, extremely comprehensive article! Got a surprising number of old details right, with just a few exceptions – Grid and KishSquared weren’t ever Puff players, and Zulu was a notable Puff from Texas that didn’t travel much but played well when he did through 2006. 🙂 Let me know if you ever want any other details.

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