Top Tier History: Captain Falcon

Frequently described as the “hype” character of Super Smash Bros. Melee, Captain Falcon is one of its most recognizable figures, from competitive players to casuals. Known for his trademark “Falcon Punch!” along with a plethora of other flashy moves and his comically masculine aesthetic, Captain Falcon has many innate qualities that make him a fan favorite.

Although his original franchise F-Zero is all but wiped out from the mainstream gaming culture, Captain Falcon remains a popular character because of his inclusion in all the smash games. In the first one, he was one of its four unlockable characters.

One of Captain Falcon’s most noticeable strengths is his combination of power and speed. Boasting strong aerials and powerful ground moves, the original Nintendo 64 version of Captain Falcon also converts off grabs extremely well, with his upairs leading into more upairs and his downair being a strong edgeguarding tool or combo finisher. His fast ground speed also gave him yet another advantage on the ground over slower characters.

Falcon didn’t come without flaws. While he certainly thrived in a game where combos off grabs seemed to rule over every other part of the game, his neutral game tools were limited. He also had a bad recovery game, laggy moves and could be comboed pretty easily by other characters.

Nonetheless, he was one of the best characters in the original Super Smash Bros. You might be wondering why I’m talking about Captain Falcon from the original Super Smash Bros. Similar to Fox and Jigglypuff, understanding Captain Falcon’s role from Melee’s predecessor will give insight into what kind of a character he became in Melee.

Falcon is Bad (late 2001 to mid 2003)
Notable players: Isai, Darkrain, Ken, MikeMonkey

In the first game, Captain Falcon is considered by most to be a top tier. This is because of his deadly conversions off grab, along with his ground speed and heavy weight. However, in Melee, the speed racer looked to initially be nerfed.

Though some of his moves were more powerful (the addition of a forward air in knee gave Falcon an amazing aerial), his Falcon Punch was slower and many of his moves were even laggier. Since grabs were heavily nerfed from 64 and the movement engine of Melee was more technical than 64, Captain Falcon was initially seen as too hard to play.

With smash attacks, shield grabs and dash attack as a cornerstone of competitive play, Falcon struggled. Look at any major tournament in this era and you’ll find a shared general lack of Falcon players outside of Isai, who also played secondaries in tournament and used Fox against top players in bracket as well.

Even as Isai represented him well, there were not really other Falcon players that gave strong national representation. From the game’s first tier list to its fourth in July 2003, Falcon consistently ranked under tenth on the NTSC tier list. For a long time, people even thought of someone as bad as Kirby to be a Captain Falcon counter, due to his ability to duck under Captain Falcon.

The Last Hero and his disciples (late 2003 to early 2007)
Notable players: Isai, Darkrain, SilentSpectre, Azen, Jiano, NES n00b, G-Reg

However, as more people kept playing Melee and the scene began to grow within the MLG era, the game’s technical limits were being pushed. What was initially thought of as impractical or unlikely to do was now becoming a very normal part of the game, like wavedashing, short hopping, fast falling and L-canceling.

The widespread use of these techniques, particularly by Isai, showed that Captain Falcon wasn’t too far off from his skill cap in 64. They contributed to show that when used correctly and with the proper technical proficiency, Captain Falcon had one of the most devastating combo games in Melee.

Isai was way better than every other Falcon and, as shown from the clip above, could pull off moves that people previously scoffed at being able to consistently do in tournament. Keep in mind that at this point, Captain Falcon had slowly risen to being considered the seventh best character in the game or so – and that the Sheik in the clip above was Captain Jack: someone who by all means was a contender for being the greatest smasher in the world.

Even if Captain Falcon wasn’t necessarily at the top tier the same way someone like Sheik was, he also was thought to have had really good matchups. After losing the Marth ditto to Azen at Game Over, Ken picked Captain Falcon to success, due to the perception of the time as the character soft countering or going close with Marth. Similarly, with Chu Dat showing that the Ice Climbers were better than others initially thought, Captain Falcon was seen as a counter to them, with Azen often dominating Chu Dat in their head to head while playing Captain Falcon.

If smashers at the time thought Isai vs. Captain Jack was impressive, they were in for a surprise just a few months later at MOAST 3. Not many remember it now, but at the time, it was unarguably the greatest set in Melee history. To this day, you could argue that the tournament’s grand finals, featuring both a Marth and its victorious Captain Falcon, set the path for what would be the future of Melee.

You might not see what Captain Falcon has to do with any of this, but look at how Isai punishes Ken in the above video, along with other parts of his tech skill. Perhaps part of Captain Falcon’s appeal and popularity comes from how he highlights the beauty of Melee’s movement and combo game. This set is obviously not as impressive by modern standards, but keep in mind that consistently being able to edgeguard and hit followups like stomp into knee showcased far more control of a character than what had been seen previously.

Though Ken dominated most of 2005, the MOAST 3 grand finals is considered Isai’s crowning moment. Later in the year, the NorCal Captain Falcon won MLG Los Angeles 2005. Since then, no Captain Falcon has won a national tournament featuring three or more top five players. As a result, Isai is unquestionably his character’s greatest player.

As Isai began to play Melee less, sandbagging when the opportunity arose and never practicing the game any more, new Captain Falcon players started to take his place. In the Midwest, the rise of Darkrain – possibly the region’s greatest player ever and certainly its most beloved – gave way for yet another Captain Falcon player to become elite. Later on, Darkrain took sets off the likes of PC Chris and even Hungrybox, also winning Tipped Off 4.

Meanwhile, another NorCal Falcon began to follow in Isai’s footsteps, as the former great began to host “bootcamp” sessions for fellow Falcon players in his regions. Known for his DBR combo videos, SilentSpectre had crowd-pleasing combos, creative recoveries and a wacky style that messed with his opponents. Years after his rise, SilentSpectre defeated Armada at Pound 4, becoming the only Falcon player to ever do so.

Another notable Falcon run at a national was Jiano’s at Pound 2, where he defeated the likes of Cort and Chillin en route to a third place performance. This was especially notable as the tournament also featured Chu Dat, Mew2King and Drephen, giving it many top ten players that Jiano ended up outplacing. His Pound 2 run is still one of the most impressive underdog runs at a tournament ever.

The Golden Age (mid 2007 to late 2013)
Notable players: Hax, Darkrain, SilentSpectre, Scar, Mango, S2J, Gucci, Lord

Though Melee’s decline took a toll on its competitive population, with old school legends like Ken, Isai, Azen, Chu Dat, PC Chris and KoreanDJ playing less, the meta continued developing. Through most of the post-Brawl era, every relevant American region had its Falcon representative. Yet even as Darkrain won the Pound 4 Falcon round robin, many wondered which Falcon could be the true successor to Isai’s throne.

From NYC came Hax, a young, cocky, but brilliant Falcon player known for his incredible game near the ledge (coining the term “Haxdashing”), patient dash dance game and commitment to using Falcon’s speed to whiff and punish his opponents. This was a different style of Captain Falcon play than most were used to, as it was methodical, calculated, risk averse and patient. Hax quickly gained a reputation as a floaty slayer, often being considered an auto-loss to play against in bracket if you were a Marth or Sheik (that wasn’t Mew2King).

While Hax’s Falcon is slightly overrated in comparison to the later part of his career, it’s hard to deny how consistently strong his results were at nationals. Though he never defeated a god at a national (outside of a forfeiting Mew2King at SNES in 2009 and Apex 2012), Hax placed eighth at GENESIS, fourth at Revival of Melee 2, 13th at Pound 4, 13th at Revival of Melee 3, seventh at Apex 2012, fifth at Zenith 2012 and fifth at Revival of Melee 5.

By the end of 2013, Hax had risen to being considered No. 6 in the world, with top eight placings at Apex 2013, Zenith 2013 and The Big House 3 (and ninth place at EVO 2013). At this point in time, he was the closest thing Captain Falcon players had to Isai.

South of Hax in Philadelphia was another Falcon player named Scar. But unlike Hax, Scar was known for his flashy and read-heavy playstyle, often opting to for hard DI mixups and risky off-stage player over Hax’s reserved and conservative approach. The term “Scar jumping” came from Scar’s use of consistent wall jumps on Yoshi’s Story, both to extend combos and recover.

Scar wasn’t just a fan favorite either – in addition to placing sixth at GENESIS, he also was a forefather for the character’s metagame, commonly posting on Smashboards with Hax and also being an elite player of his own within the East Coast.

In the West Coast, both NorCal and SoCal had its own Falcon representatives. With Mango often opting to go Captain Falcon at tournaments to swag out on his opponents, players like SilentSpectre and S2J gave the character more representation at tournaments, but with different styles than their East Coast counterparts.

S2J wasn’t anywhere near as conservative as Hax was, but he also wasn’t as committal as Scar. Instead of throwing moves at his opponents or refusing to make the first commitment in the neutral game, S2J often positioned himself closely to add pressure to his opponents, both baiting them to make a mistake and also cornering them, while also not being afraid to attack. S2J (along with Mango) also was one of the first Falcons to manipulate his aerial drift in tricky ways and has been described by others, like HomeMadeWaffles, as a “spacie” playing Captain Falcon.

The Renaissance (early 2014 to now)
Notable players: Wizzrobe, S2J, n0ne, Gravy, Gahtzu, Captain Smuckers, Lord

Hax quitting Captain Falcon near the start of the year/end of 2013 temporarily rid the character of its best representative, as well as disappointed much of the community. But for those who were close to him, the move to start playing Fox came after quite a bit of deliberation, as Hax still hadn’t gotten a big god-level win at a national, even as he came close to defeating Dr. PeePee at EVO 2013.

Hax had several reasons for quitting Falcon. In addition to Falcon’s bad recovery, he was still easily comboed, had laggy commitments and overall worse frame data than other top tier characters. In his 2014 tier list, Hax claimed that Falcon was even worse than Samus and Pikachu: characters long thought to be a mid-tier.

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Yet it didn’t completely squash claims of the character being viable. Many, like S2J, still had faith in Falcon’s ability to compete at the top level, claiming that Hax still hadn’t optimized numerous aspects of Falcon.

Inspired by his own growth as a player and motivated to prove Hax and other doubters wrong, an upper-level player named Gravy set out on his journey to show that Captain Falcon was indeed a top tier character. Although Gravy’s accomplishments as a player were certainly impressive in their own right, his contribution to the Captain Falcon metagame is pretty self-explanatory: 20GX. If you don’t know what 20GX is, it’s a movement started by Gravy and other Captain Falcon players (like his Florida contemporaries in Wizzrobe and Gahtzu) to “optimize” the character to even further levels than Hax.

Of course, saying that 20GX “solved” Falcon (or “invented” as Gravy later stated) is an oversimplification. But even if his work didn’t prove Falcon as the best character (as he once claimed in the past), Gravy and his intense frame data work paved the way for revolutionary ideas about tech chasing. This showed Falcon’s potential to be at an even higher ceiling than Hax’s own play.

Gravy’s insight into what Falcon could reasonably do paved the way for other Falcons to “optimize” not just their punish games, but also how they approach neutral exchanges, incorporate shield dropping into their platform game, etc. Such innovations turned what were once considered bad or “unwinnable” matchups for Captain Falcon (Sheik on Fountain of Dreams) into ones where Falcon held notable advantages across different areas.

Even as Gravy quit playing Melee on a GameCube controller (a topic that I’ll fortunately not be opening a can of worms about) and switched to playing Fox, Falcons began to rise again in the absence of Hax. Though many were publicly “anti-20GX” or at least showing the appearance of being against it, players like n0ne and S2J still incorporate elements of 20GX strategies, like dashing out of crouch canceling a getup attack, regrabbing during a tech chase, etc.

Because of his extremely read-heavy and aggressive playstyle, n0ne is often thought of as an “anti-meta” counterpart to 20GX. But watch how he tech chases Mew2King, keeps him pinned in the corner, abuses crouch cancel and also SDI’s up out of jab reset. These are all 20GX-style ideas (though not exclusive to them) that are incorporated in different ways even by a player like n0ne: the first Captain Falcon to defeat Mew2King at a national in decades. As easy as it is to say some Falcons are 20GX and others aren’t, the reality is that “optimized” Falcon play incorporates 20GX with old school tricks, fundamentals and strong player v. player skill.

Even as Falcon mostly thrives today, there’s still a debate about how viable he really is. Yet as I’ve written before, it’s hard to define “viability.” If it’s by results, the only characters in the modern metagame that qualify to be viable on their own are Fox and Jigglypuff.

With Wizzrobe’s second places at Smash Conference LXIX and Smash Rivalries this year, along with other notable performances like his 3-0 over Mew2King and sets over Hungrybox, the Melee scene has its best Falcon not only since Hax, but since Isai. Nonetheless, one question remains: can Falcon win a championship?

Top Tier History: Ice Climbers

The Ice Climbers are weird. In addition to being from an obscure franchise, they’re the only character in Super Smash Bros. Melee that requires controlling two people on the screen at the same time.

Other than Yoshi, I would argue that the Ice Climbers are the most bizarre character in the game. They require a whole new perspective to understand, both in their meta development and history.

The Dark Ages (late 2001 to early 2004):
Notable players: Chu Dat, ???!?!?!??!?!?!?!

Early on, the Ice Climbers were considered too strange to be of any use in competitive play. The idea of playing as two characters at once was complicated back then, especially when you could just play Sheik and get started comboing your opponents.

One of the other big problems with Ice Climbers early on was their lack of good range on their grab. In the early metagame, shield grabbing and crossup moves were seen as really important, but the Ice Climbers grab range was too short to be used effectively and they had no good offensive tools.

Out of shield options were not as developed as today, so characters with strong hitboxes to pressure both climbers in shield gave them a rough time. Characters like Peach, Captain Falcon, Ganondorf and even Luigi were considered really difficult for Ice Climbers to deal with. For example, Chu Dat losing to Kamaal, a Deadly Alliance Luigi at DC Super Smash #2.

Watch the video below to see how most people played Ice Climbers back then. Based on what I could find, this is the earliest known footage of the character in a match.

“Degenerate” doesn’t begin to describe what this video looks like by modern standards. As you can tell, the Ice Climbers have a good wavedash, but outside of their strong, but laggy smash attacks, they were limited. This is reflect within many of the NTSC tier lists made – in a tier list made on April 2, 2004, they were ranked No. 15. In September of the year before, they were No. 18.

The Jump/Yahyuz (mid 2004 to early 2008)
Notable players: Chu Dat, Azn Lep, Trail, Kei, NealDT, Tetsuya

The perception of the Ice Climbers’ viability started to change when Chu Dat broke out at Tournament Go 6. Here, he finished third, defeating Sastopher, Wes and double eliminating the legendary Isai. This was especially impressive because these wins were in matchups that were difficult for the character at the time. Some even saw them as previously unwinnable.

Not only did Chu show how strong the Ice Climbers’ punish game was off grabs, but also how the two climbers could position themselves in tricky ways to out range his opponents. It’s important to recognize Chu Dat as the godfather of his character, as well as one of the first relevant Ice Climbers players to use desyncing.

Chu Dat’s run at TG6 and successful 2004 didn’t immediately prove that his character was top tier, but his sustained excellence impacted how people viewed the Ice Climbers. In 2005, the Ice Climbers rose to No. 12 on the NTSC tier list – but by 2006, with many more inspired by Chu Dat’s success, they ranked seventh. At the time, it was the most remarkable jump by a character on a Melee tier list.

Around the MLG era (before MLG Las Vegas 2006), a Japanese player named Tetsuya posted a combo video of several characters performing flashy combos on CPUs. Notice what’s pulled below by the Ice Climbers.

If you’re familiar with competitive Melee, you already know what this is. If you’re not, it’s a grab infinite done by any Ice Climbers player who gets a grab on their opponent. It consists of rhythmically tapping the A button to pummel the opponent mid-grab with the main climber. After initiating this, the Ice Climbers player also tilts the stick forward to forward tilt them (or down to down tilt) with the backup climber, while still pummeling the opponent with the main climber.

This technique is notorious for being extremely easy to pull off, while having an insane reward of either leading to immediate death for the opponent or leaving them at absurdly high percents. At NorCal Tournament 2, known as Wobbles’ breakout tourney (although you could argue his victory at EVO South was also impressive), he used the grab infinite to massive success against a strong Southern California Peach player at the time in Edrees. Because of Wobbles’ success at this tournament, the grab infinite garnered its name: wobbling.

There are a few caveats to wobbling. Though it’s easy to do, actually grabbing an opponent who can outrange the Ice Climbers is extremely difficult. Often, whiffing a grab attempt can expose the backup climber and lead to the main climber being the only one left on stage – or worse, a quickly lost stock. Moreover, this technique only works with the backup climber nearby, otherwise opponents can and will mash out.

Either way, wobbling had a profound impact on the meta, both in terms of how Ice Climbers were perceived and actual tournament ruleset. Some tournaments banned it, due to thinking that wobbling was non-interactive, broken, unintended and loathed by most tourney attendees. Others defended wobbling, saying that it was no more broken than Fox shining an opponent off-stage at an early percent.

Many of the early MLG-era tournaments banned wobbling, due to it being seen as non-interactive and game-breaking. Moreover, because the average tournament back then did not have as big pot bonuses or strong payouts as today, there wasn’t as much incentive for Ice Climbers players to wobble. It was also frowned down upon by most in the community, so many Ice Climbers simply used handoffs – an alternative technique popularized by Wobbles – in tournament.

However, despite technically having a unified ruleset for the first time through MLG, the Melee community hadn’t permanently solved the issue of wobbling’s legality. For example, at MLG Las Vegas 2006, wobbling was made legal, as well as EVO World 2007.

Nonetheless, with the golden age of Melee out of the way and with Super Smash Bros. Brawl coming up, the Ice Climbers had one unquestionable king: Chu Dat. To this date, he is the only Ice Climbers player to ever win a national title (Pound 2).

Flying High, No Lie (mid 2008 to early 2013):
Notable players: Wobbles, Fly Amanita, Chu Dat, Nintendude, Boback, Tomber

Although Chu Dat was still talented and showed up at bigger tournaments (later finishing third at Zenith 2012, beating Hungrybox), moving onto Brawl as a Kirby main certainly drew his time away from Melee. This opened up the path for other top Ice Climbers players to develop new strategies and grow new legacies.

Starting off as one of the rising players within Southern California, Fly Amanita rarely traveled for Melee, but quickly started taking names, even winning a set over Mango’s Captain Falcon in early 2009. Although this doesn’t sound too impressive, this was at a time when Mango easily destroyed most of his contemporaries with secondaries. Taking games off any of his characters was certainly noteworthy.

Ranked No. 9 in the SoCal PR in 2009, Fly Amanita eventually made it to No. 5 in 2010, just below Mango, HugS, Zhu and Lucky, surpassing even the veteran Larry Lurr. By the end of the year, Fly Amanita also boasted a set win over Hungrybox – and he beat Mew2King and Zhu at Winter Gamefest in early 2011.

There’s a common misconception that Fly Amanita chooses not to wobble because he thinks it’s unfair. In fact, he’s gone on record as saying that he’d wobble every stock if he could, but doesn’t because he played in an era where most of the tournaments he attended banned wobbling. As a result, he lost his natural rhythm for the wobble.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Though series like GENESIS consistently allowed wobbling, Apex used to ban it, along with Pound and Don’t Go Down There Jeff. Keep in mind that at this point, even stages weren’t completely agreed upon. Some of the more unusual stages, like Corneria, Rainbow Cruise and Brinstar, had features that made wobbling impractical in some situations. 

Nonetheless, Fly was a pioneer in different handoff setups. While Wobbles is technically the first top player to use handoffs, Fly innovated them far beyond what was initially seen, showing a keener sense for what Nana would do in different situations, like near ledge.

Closer to the South, Wobbles had been around for a while, even taking a set off Ken in late 2007 at Super Champ Combo – just after Ken won EVO. But up to this point, Wobbles was mostly a second tier West Coast player with decent national results and strong regional performances. NCT2 was his breakout tournament for recognition, but Wobbles got even better in the post-Brawl era.

After moderate disappointments at Pound 3 and The Greatest Melee Tourney Since Brawl Came Out, Wobbles returned to form at Mango Juice, where he outplaced Lucky, Forward, Taj, Pink Shinobi, and HugS en route to a strong fourth place finish. It’s easy to remember Wobbles’ performance at this tournament for his infamous ragequit to close a set against SilentSpectre, but this was still a great run for him.

At Apex 2010, Wobbles placed sixth (forfeiting the tiebreaker to Axe), beating Mango (sandbagging as Scorpion Master), DaShizWiz and Silent Wolf. A year later, Wobbles finished a strong ninth at GENESIS 2, even defeating Mew2King, Lovage and Axe in pools. To prove the win over Mew2King wasn’t a fluke, Wobbles beat him again at Apex 2012, where he placed ninth, losing to Dr. PeePee and Hungrybox.

This marked three straight years for Wobbles where he placed top 12 at a national tournament. In the short-lived ELO rankings of 2012, Wobbles actually ranked ahead of Mango as the No. 5 player in the world, likely due to his consistently outstanding national performances and Mango’s penchant for sandbagging.

For most people, this would be satisfactory – but for Wobbles, three years of strong nationals was only the beginning. After an unfortunate Peach-ridden bracket at Apex 2013 garnered him 17th place, Wobbles had one of the best losers bracket runs of all time at Kings of Cali 2, defeating Sung, Westballz, Fly Amanita, PewPewU and Shroomed to get second place to Mango.

As if that wasn’t enough, Wobbles then had one of the greatest cinderella runs in Melee history – one that was initially going to be his last tournament ever.

The Wobbler Era (mid 2013 to now)
Notable players: Chu Dat, Wobbles, Nintendude, dizzkidboogie, Infinite Numbers, ARMY, Drunk Sloth

Wobbles’ run at EVO 2013 may as well transcend time and space. To even conceive of such a tournament from a non-god at the time was ridiculous, considering that Jman was the only person to ever win a tournament with two gods in attendance – no one had ever come close with all five.

Through winners bracket, Wobbles defeated Fiction, Lord, Shroomed and then beat three gods in a row between Mango, Dr. PeePee and Hungrybox to make it to grand finals of easily the most important Melee tournament of all-time. This was the first time an Ice Climbers finished top three at a national tournament featuring four or more attending top five players since Chu Dat in the previous decade. Had Wobbles actually won the tournament, it would have surpassed even Mango at Pound 3 as the biggest underdog run ever.

Though it would be foolish to dismiss Wobbles’ run as a mere account of Mr. Wizard legalizing wobbling again at EVO 2013, it unquestionably played a factor into Wobbles’ success. It also proved that the Ice Climbers had a place in the modern metagame, but weren’t necessarily overpowered with the technique.

Not every tournament was on board with wobbling being legal. Juggleguy, creator of The Big House and one of the Melee community’s biggest tournament organizers, banned it at his tournaments.

However, after a little over a year of community pressure, with tourneys like Apex now legalizing wobbling, along with Ice Climbers still succeeding at his own tournaments without it, Juggleguy caved in. Though he still stood by some of the reasons he held for why he banned wobbling, in a blog post for Melee it On Me, he announced his intention to legalize it for The Big House 5.

Although this hasn’t stopped the decade-long community debate over wobbling’s legality, Juggleguy’s decision concurred with Mr. Wizard’s from 2013 and effectively set the standard for most majors. As a result, the Ice Climbers have seen a bit of a renaissance, with more top level representatives across the world than ever before.

Along with players like dizzkidboogie and Infinite Numbers, who have risen in recent times with other wobbling prodigies, the character’s greatest player of all-time is back: Chu Dat.

Moreover, he’s at the best he’s ever played, consistently placing top eight, boasting a solo climber better than anyone else in the world, taking games off Armada in tournament, winning three consecutive sets on Mango and generally making 2017 look like 2007. You’d be hard pressed to dismiss Chu’s results as unsustainable or coming from only wobbling, given his long-term legacy.

At one point in his career, Wobbles wrote about why he was reluctant to wobble, even in tournament. You can read the post here, but the gist was that Ice Climber players had a tendency to rely on it too much and struggle in other areas of their game, like tech chasing, DI, etc because they were too one dimensional.

Today, not only are Ice Climbers players more intelligent, balanced and varied in their wobbling setups, but they also have other tools that keep them successful, even if they don’t opt to do it. For example, take Infinite Numbers, whose game against Falco is so strong that he once boasted how he’d never lose to a Falco again. 

It’s hard to say whether Ice Climbers are actually top tier or not. By results, they are inarguably up there, but many argue about how sustainable their success actually can be at the top level. Just as easily as they can exploit a grab infinite, players can still exploit many of the Ice Climbers’ weaknesses, making them an innately high variance characters. Ask Kira and Mew2King about where they’d place them on a tier list and you’d get two wildly different answers.

Whether they’re simply a high-execution test level opponent or a broken gimmick, the Ice Climbers are here to stay – and they deserve a place in top tier history.

Top Tier History: Peach

Peach may look like a helpless princess, but she’s a force to reckon with in Super Smash Bros. Melee. A mainstay of competitive play, Peach is one of the most consistently high-placing, played and influential characters in Melee’s metagame.

Although she may not be technically “top tier” by the current Melee tier list, today’s smashers view the character as synonymous to Armada: the world’s unquestionably best Melee player of all-time. However, Peach’s success and impact was present even before Armada.

Downsmashers (late 2001 to mid 2004):
Notable players: Mike G, KrazyJones, Azen, Eric, Vidjogamer

Peach’s downsmash is possibly her most recognizable move in the game. You don’t have to be an expert to know that when used correctly, it can work as a combo starter, “get off me” defensive tool and combo finisher. In one of the oldest guides for Peach available online, a GameFAQs player called “SPACE CATS SOIREE” wrote the following about Peach’s downsmash:

Spinning cyclone attack. Very useful to clear out foes if you are
ambushed. Also good if you and your opponent roll around a lot. This is also
one of her strongest moves and should be used often.

His description of downsmash is pretty much spot on for 2002. Because strong hitboxes, range and knockback were prioritized over movement back then, Peach’s downsmash gave her a tool to already compete with anyone else she faced.

Moreover, because crossup moves on shield were seen as a counter to a popular strategy of shield grabbing, Peach’s dash attack gave her yet another effective attack. When combined with the strength of her aerials and range of her projectiles, Peach was a character that had intuitive spacing and combos. Her float also gave her one of the game’s best recoveries, as well as made her difficult to hit without her getting away or suffering a trade.

After initially being placed at ninth on Melee’s October 2002 tier list, she eventually moved up to fourth on the next one in December. Characters like Sheik, Fox and Marth were almost always seen as superior throughout Melee’s history, but Peach’s success and solid matchup spread gave her a wealth of advantages over other characters, like the Ice Climbers and arguably even Falco.

Within the modern competitive era of Melee (post-Game Over in early 2004), Peach’s first notable finish at a major from her main came from Deadly Alliance’s Mike G, who is often considered one of the character’s forefathers. He finished second at MLG Atlanta 2004, higher than Chillin, who defeated Ken earlier that year, and just under the East Coast’s best in Azen.

Around June 2004 came Smash 4 Cash – a New York Melee tournament that featured some of MDVA’s best, DA and the Fall River crew from Massachusetts. Here, a player named KrazyJones, from New England, upset the DA captain Wes, who had practice against Mike G. Though KrazyJones ended up placing fourth, Mike G placed second, just under Isai.

Two months later, Peach was shown as a character capable of beating even the best player in the world, with Washington’s Sastopher defeating Ken’s Marth in winners at Tournament Go 6. Keep in mind that at this point, Marth was seen as Peach’s most difficult matchup. For a modern comparison, this victory would be like if Trifasia suddenly defeated Hungrybox before top eight at EVO.

Royal Treatment (Mid 2004 to Late 2007):
Notable players: Cort, PC Chris, Sastopher, Mike G, Vidjogamer, Kei, Wife, Kupo, Mikael, Mikey Lenetia

Unlike other top tier characters of the time who had one or two clear contenders for best representatives, Peach was different. During the MLG era, nearly every region had a Peach that played differently, was among the best players of their contemporaries and were close in skill level.

For instance, take Wife, who was considered around a top 20 player at the time, but consistently attended MLG tournaments enough to finish in the top ten for points. At the time, he was known for his immense prowess in the Marth matchup, notably almost defeating Ken at MLG Atlanta 2005.

If Wife’s moderate success wasn’t enough, the international success of East Australia’s Kupo and East Japan’s Mikael gave another perspective to view Peach’s character growth through. These players were dominant in their respect regions, rarely losing and also giving the character its first bit of notable representation outside of the United States. Mikael was especially one of Armada’s biggest motivations for improving his game.

Another underrated contributor to the Peach metagame is Australia’s Quetzlcoatl, who frequently posted on Smashboards and gave advice to newer Peach players. In July 2006, Quetzlcoatl posted one of the most notable and still-useful resources for smashers in his extensive turnip guide.

This set the bar for what would later become standard Peach techniques, including using them as edgeguards, Z-dropping, etc. When you take into account Peach players also now adjusting their float heights, going off-stage to edgeguard opponents and also using turnips more effectively, Peach now had a new level of technicality, in sharp contrast to her previously simplistic playstyle.

Also helping Peach’s success was how she was perceived on her counterpick stages. Today, stages like Dreamland and Fountain of Dreams are seen as favorable Peach picks, but back in the MLG era, she also had Brinstar, Mute City and Kongo Jungle 64. These were seen as great counterpicks against space animals and places with large ceilings, which prevented opponents from getting easy KOs and also made her frustrating to play against.

The Armada Mob (Early 2008 to early 2014):
Notable players: Armada, Cort, Vwins, Pink Shinobi, VanZ, DoH, Hanky Panky, MacD, Bladewise

I’ll try not to go into too much detail, but chances are that you’re already familiar with Melee’s greatest player ever. When word started getting out about his skill and dominance in Europe, reception was mostly skeptical in the United States, as Europe lacked significant representation (outside of Amsah) within the Melee scene.

Back then, several smashers argued that his combos only worked on opponents who couldn’t DI or didn’t know how to fight Peach. Given the massive amount of notable Peach players in the United States, it wasn’t unreasonable to think Armada was talented, but you would have been crazy to predict his success translating seamlessly as it did to the top-level.

Think about how young Armada was at the time. Could you imagine that a teenager from Sweden, with no experience playing in the United States, could come there and beat all of the world’s established players in one fell swoop? Peach wasn’t anywhere close to being a bad character, but Armada brought a level of meticulous positioning, destructive punishes and mental grit that no other Peach before had ever had.

With most characters, several players contributed equal amounts to their technical development and tournament results, like Ken and Mew2King with Marth and PC Chris and Leffen with Fox. Yet with Peach, it was more like a group of players each contributed to the rise of a person who far surpassed his contemporaries.

A top eight performance at a major wasn’t initially unthinkable for Peach, but beating DaShizWiz, Mew2King and Mango en route to a second place at GENESIS was the most significant tournament run for the character in years. If you’ve followed Melee for any period of time and know anything about its competitive history, you know that this was just the beginning for Armada.

It would be unfair to claim that he was the only Peach of note – or that there were no other good Peach players. DoH and Smiles were notable powershielders with aggressive play styles, while people like Vwins, VanZ and Pink Shinobi were more defensive and able to swing of Peach’s more traditionally tricky matchups (like Ganondorf) swing more in her favor. Often, it’s easy to “Armada-wash” Peach’s history, as these players and the Peaches before them played a crucial role in advancing her as a character. For reference, I had Cort as my No. 3 player of 2008, based on results.

But while it’s not true that Armada’s success somehow invalidated them, he was clearly different. For smashers back then, Armada looked like he had actually solved Peach, since he was winning matchups that many thought were at least her soft counters (Fox, Marth, Sheik, etc).

Any Peach main could tell you something different that Armada does from other Peaches, but in a nutshell he’s faster and more responsive. His success in the post-Brawl era, where shield pressure was becoming more advanced, was also partially due to out of shield game, which was years ahead of its time in terms of application and how he’d quickly flip losing situations into ones where he could turn the table on his opponent.

Armada’s success with Peach gave a strange conundrum with how she was considered. While he had wins over nearly everyone in America with Peach, only one player looked like the natural Armada and Peach counter: Hungrybox, who dominantly 6-0’d him at Apex 2010. Peach was clearly good, but not exactly carrying him.

When Armada successfully brought out Young Link to counter Jigglypuff, it proved two things: that Armada was just that good and that Peach could still be countered. Outside of maybe Pikachu with Axe and Yoshi with aMSa, I would argue that Armada is the only all-time great whose character is primarily associated with him, rather than vice versa.

Yet even when Armada first retired, Peach still had strong representatives. MacD, a Southern California Peach player who broke out at Revival of Melee (3) when he defeated Hax, was known for both his teams excellence and for his expertise against Fox and Falco. Washington’s Bladewise, who ruled his region with Silent Wolf continued to be one of the premier Peach players in the world, having also taken a set from Mango in 2012.

Top Tier? (Mid 2014 to now):
Notable players: Armada, MacD, Bladewise, Trifasia, Mafia, Azusa, CDK, Llod and Kalamazhu

Judging by representation, it’s hard to deny Peach’s place in the current meta. Almost every region has its own top-level Peach, with a claim to be right under Armada as part of the next tier of skill.

Trifasia and Vanity Angel in particular are not exactly identical to Armada, but as European Peach mains, they still show a great deal of inspiration from his punish-heavy and deliberate play style. New England’s Mafia has a reputation as a rushdown Peach, but is well balanced in his skill set, having taken sets off Jigglypuff players Darc and s0ft: a matchup that Armada claimed was the most lopsided among top tier characters (though it’s still debated today).

MDVA has Llod, who Smash G0D – a man who took Armada to last stock, last game at EVO 2016 – called the best Peach against Marth in the world. NorCal’s two Peach players: Kalamazhu and Azusa also are underrated, with Kalamazhu notably making a legendary ninth place run at The Big House 4: the third of the tournament series’ notable Peach runs (VanZ at TBH and Hanky Panky at TBH2).

In practice, Peach seems to be doing just fine, but her sixth place ranking on the current NTSC tier list shows a character that’s still not quite respected enough to be technically considered “top tier.”

However, her matchups among the top tiers are concerning for her long-term goals. Though Peach-Falco is intensely debated to this day (with even Armada claiming that Falco slightly wins), in theory, she still struggles against Fox, Marth, Sheik, Jigglypuff, and Captain Falcon. Against Leffen in particular, Armada’s Peach was so thoroughly dismantled during his return from his initial retirement that now Armada opts to ditto him. This was years after dominating Leffen in their head to head.

So is Peach top tier or not? The truth is more ambiguous than a simple “yes” or “no.” It’s important to consider that Armada’s Peach to this day is the most terrifying player/character combination in the world, but if he runs into Leffen or Hungrybox (maybe healthy PPMD), he almost assuredly would have played Fox instead. Winning GENESIS 4 attests to both Armada’s skill, Peach’s ability as a character, but also her need for a bit of bracket luck in today’s metagame.

Regardless of whether you view her as top tier, high tier or just hate her, you have to admit that Peach’s impact on Melee’s history has been pretty sweet.

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.

Top Tier History: Sheik

If I told you that there was a time when Fox wasn’t considered the best character in Super Smash Bros. Melee, who else would you have guessed? It’s not a particularly big secret, but from the moment you play Melee, you can already tell that Sheik is different from every other character. And it’s not just that you can’t see her on the character select screen.

Understanding Sheik’s popularity requires looking at her counterpart: Princess Zelda. When Nintendo announced its upcoming title in Melee at E3 2001, the ability to play as Zelda, along with Ganondorf, added hype to what was already expected to be an even bigger cast of new characters to the smash series. Being able to use Zelda to transform into Sheik also highlighted the GameCube’s technical depth.

Remember that at this point, games like Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask were critically acclaimed successes and massively influential games in the realm of 3D gaming. Being able to play as Link in the original Super Smash Bros. was fun, but in Melee, gamers now had three characters they could play from one of the most beloved franchises. After Melee’s release, it became clear that Sheik was more than just a cool feature.

The Queen of Melee (late 2001 to late 2005)
Notable players: Azen, DieSuperFly, Recipherus, Manacloud, Isai, Derrick, Mild, Chillin

Even if you’re completely new, you can tell that Sheik is a really good character. Out of everyone in the game, she arguably has the best “standing” frame data. This is hard to explain in full-detail, but essentially, she just has better hitboxes and moves than other characters.

In an era when directional influence wasn’t quite developed, her moves were simple-to-use and high-reward. Attacks like dash attack, forward tilt and her grab were solid combo starters – and her aerials were deadly finishers, as well as strong trading moves. Sheik also had a great projectiles (her needles) that gave her the ability to camp and abuse other characters’ lack of approaches.

Sheik was a character that could shield grab effectively, hit combos more consistently than other characters, camp them out, out-prioritize them and edgeguard better than them. Back then, out of shield options weren’t as developed, so even something as simple as Sheik’s crossup dash attack on shield was seen as high reward and low risk.

It’s to almost no one’s surprise that for years, Sheik was seen as the best character in Melee, finishing first in the first seven NTSC Melee tier lists. She wasn’t exactly ban-worthy, but many disliked how easy she was to use and thought of her as cheap – or more likely back then, used other colorful words to describe her.

On the East Coast, players like Azen, Derrick, Chillin (yes – that Chillin!) and Mild had decent success with her, while the West Coast’s Recipherus and The Doug were also notable, not to mention Isai, who also played Sheik. Within the Midwest and South, players like KishCubed and Joshu gave the character even more representation. In Japan, Captain Jack gave the character its best main in Melee’s early ages.

His play doesn’t look particularly flashy, but that’s because Jack used tricks, combos and strategies employed by every Sheik main today. Defining his influence on the metagame is a little difficult because similar to PC Chris’ impact on Fox, Jack was a better spacer, more consistent and, well, just better than most other Sheiks.

Although Sheik certainly had strong regional results to back her popular perception up, additional proof of her dominance also came from one of the greatest Melee upsets of all-time. At Tournament Go 6, the first great international smash major, the relatively unknown DieSuperFly became the first person ever to knock Ken out of a tournament.

The tournaments’ winners finals only seemed to further give credence to Sheik’s greatness. Both players, Azen and Captain Jack played Sheik against each other, with Azen infamously opting to chaingrab in the ditto despite Jack’s refusal to do the same.

Months later, Captain Jack won MLG San Francisco 2004, giving the character yet another title. Strong regional placings for yet another year kept Sheik strong – even as videos of players like Zelgadis and Bombsoldier ushered in a new generation of technical Fox and Falco players to eventually dethrone Sheik. Yet, the character still thrived.

Edgeguards and Downsmash (early 2006 to mid 2009)
Notable players: KoreanDJ, Drephen, DieSuperFly, Rob$, Omar, Aesis

Anyone familiar with modern Melee will tell you that when it comes to edgeguarding, Mew2King is the first name. But what if I told you there was a player known for aggressively going off stage before Mew2King?

It’s bizarre to see Mew2King on the receiving end of brutal edge guards, but KoreanDJ pushed Sheik’s combo game, both on and off stage. Most Sheiks like DSF preferred to camp or wait their opponents out, but KoreanDJ was proactive and far more in-your-face.

Though KoreanDJ didn’t travel as much as his contemporaries, the few results he had were both proof of his greatness as a player (as he played Sheik/Fox/Marth regularly in tournament) and of Sheik’s potential. Based on use through a tournament’s top eight, KoreanDJ is the last Sheik player to win a title (MLG Long Island 2007). By the time of his first retirement, you could have argued him as the best Sheik of all-time.

On one hand, KoreanDJ creatively pushed Sheik in ways that made her deadlier than ever. But on the other hand, another player showed that Sheik could be even more frustratingly simple than ever before.

When compared to KoreanDJ, Drephen doesn’t look visually impressive, but he was an extremely influential Sheik main that further affirmed how her tools were good enough to confuse and beat opponents with. Unlike KoreanDJ, who overwhelmed his opponents with aggression, Drephen forced them into favorable and simple “RPS” situations where he could downsmash, spot dodge or grab.

You could consider him the original “Borp,” but it’s also unfair to Drephen’s legacy to think of him that way. With wins over everyone in his region, as well as even Mew2King, Drephen was (and still is) a legitimate threat for anyone at a tournament and one of the smartest players of his time. He was one of the Midwest “big five” (along with Vidjogamer, Dope, Darkrain and Tink), also keeping Sheik alive and feared.

The success of both KoreanDJ and Drephen was great for Sheik because it showed that she had bigger punishes than previously thought. This kind of development was crucial for Sheik to keep up with characters like Fox, Falco and Marth, who each had better punish games now. Little did smashers know that even in the game’s dark ages, the former queen of Melee had even more coming for her.

The Dynasty (late 2009 to early 2012)
Notable players: Mew2King, KirbyKaze, Amsah, Lucien, Tope, Overtriforce, Ice

Mew2King played Sheik before as early as Evo World 2007, but in 2009, he began playing her more than any of his other characters, due to his belief that she was Melee’s best character. I mentioned before that KoreanDJ initially innovated Sheik’s combo game, but Mew2King was uniquely precise, ruthless and efficient in how he converted off hits.

Darkrain is an all-time legend. Unfortunately, this is one of his most memorable moments, due to it highlighting just how scary Sheik could be. Combining both KoreanDJ’s typical off-stage aggression with Drephen’s simplistic tech chasing and positioning, Mew2King was even more brutal and more deliberate in his punish game than any other Sheik before him.

As a sidenote: a couple of years ago, I spoke to a Connecticut Sheik named Spawn about whom his favorite Sheik players were. When asked, he simply told me “Mew2King” multiple times. He also added that because of the relative lack of information back then, it was fairly common for Sheik mains to download entire videos of Mew2King edgeguards and study them.

That said, it’d be foolish to discount the efforts of other Sheik players within the post-Brawl era. From Europe, there was yet another Sheik played who ushered in a whole new level of success for the character, even in a version of the game that nerfed her follow-ups off grabs.

Most Sheik players develop their games around her insane grab game, but having experience in PAL, Amsah made the most of Sheik’s natural zoning tools, using her powerful forward air, needles and tilts to outspace his opponents. In fact, the video above is the last time Armada ever lost to a non-god and non-Leffen player.

Amsah’s impact on the European metagame came before him beating Armada at Pound 4. Before Armada became the best in Europe, Amsah easily held that title, winning eleven consecutive tournaments within the continent from mid-2006 to early 2009. However, I included him within the post-Brawl era of Sheik players because he paved the way for fellow European Sheik mains like Overtriforce and Ice, who also enjoyed modest success in this era, even if they didn’t have consistent results in the United States to back their skill up.

In Canada, KirbyKaze, a man who has been described as the Mango of Sheik players, brought new levels of creativity and innovation to a character that most people assumed that, like Marth, Mew2King had figured out. KirbyKaze was also noticeable because he was one of the most active Smashboards posters. Here, he frequently gave advice to other players, sharing tidbits of Sheik knowledge across a variety of matchups and theorycrafting how she should improve.

The Ontario Sheik broke out at Revival of Melee 3, showcasing a level of expertise and assertiveness that few expected the character was capable of. Though they aren’t as “optimized” as modern tech chases, KirbyKaze abused knockdown situations creatively and with more flashy tools than Sheiks before him. In particular, was his epic “dynasty” combo on Dr. PeePee, in which he finished a combo with an upsmash.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The upsmash was called the “dynasty” because of how similar her upsmash looked to throwing a “Roc-A-Fella Records” sign in real life. Throw your diamonds in the sky if you’re feeling the vibe, folks.

The North Carolina Falco main certainly had more consistent results than KirbyKaze, but both were still as extremely knowledgeable Melee minds, as well as possibly “future” gods.  Even if Dr. PeePee won the tournament, Sheik taking both second and third place was quite promising for the character.

Sheik was flashier, faster and cooler to play than ever before. She had both strong national results, but also great local representation with a variety of different play styles, whether it was the NorCal Lucien’s heavy emphasis on fundamentals and spacing or MDVA’s Tope, known as a deadly tech chaser for his time (and who also defeated Dr. PeePee in GENESIS 2 pools).

In fact, throughout this time, it was fairly common to think, as Mango did, that Sheik was the best character, given her track record of success against all characters – save for Jigglypuff. But soon, even that was questioned.

KirbyKaze beating Hungrybox is by far Sheik’s greatest accomplishment in the post-Brawl era. Since becoming a top five player, Hungrybox had never lost to a Sheik player at a national and the matchup was seen as a direct counter to her. For reference, Mew2King, by far the best player with Sheik at the time, said that beating Hungrybox with Sheik was impossible before this set.

For KirbyKaze to directly defy these expectations and prove all the naysayers wrong showed tremendous growth and potential for the character to grow even more.

The Fox and Ice Climbers Problem (mid 2012 to early 2015)
Notable Players: Mew2King, KirbyKaze, KoreanDJ, Darkatma, Tope, Flash

Though she still had strong regional representation, her meta unquestionably stagnated. In particular, Sheik now saw a whole new problem: resurging Fox mains inspired by tech skill videos online and Javi’s performance at Apex 2012.

Fox players were starting to abuse crouch cancel against Sheik, along with abusing her lack of effective approaches to effectively camp her out, as well as smartly pressure her, with better tech skill than before. Keep in mind that even in the previous era, Unknown522 was known to be a monster against Sheik, winning almost every set across that period of time against KirbyKaze.

Moreover, Sheik also saw another difficult matchup in the Ice Climbers, whose incredible ground game tools practically negated anything Sheik could do to them. Players like Chu Dat, Fly Amanita, Nintendude and Wobbles were especially strong against Sheik, making their presence at nationals as rising players a particularly difficult problem for her to deal with at the top level.

Sheik just seemed completely spent. Even with Shroomed flirting with maining the character, he didn’t seem committed to playing her, still bringing out Doctor Mario every now and then. Her best bit of representation still came from Mew2King, but with him playing more Marth now and using Fox for some of her difficult matchups, it was difficult to solo main the character to success, similar to how people saw Marth at the time.

For the most part, Sheik was still a really good character, but it’s easy to see why her brief flashes of brilliance were just seen as a brief flashes, rather than what her potential was. For a while, the above set was the gold standard for Sheik players to follow, but if you watch it, the play isn’t significantly different than it was in the years before, only the execution is significantly better.

Several people at the time wondered if Sheik could consistently beat Fox – and even her once favorable matchups were beginning to be seen as significantly harder for her than previously thought. PPMD showed that Marth-Sheik could possibly be even, while Falco mains like Mango rarely lost the matchup, even with Mango’s loss above. Many at the time wondered if Sheik had long-term viability.

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Not my photo – this was posted by a Reddit user name Okaioken!

Shield Droppers/Tech Chasers (mid 2015 to now)
Notable players: Plup, Mew2King, Shroomed, DruggedFox (temporarily), Swedish Delight, Laudandus, Android, Captain Faceroll, Santiago

Though Sheik struggled in her ground-game, her platform game became a new point of emphasis for her players to develop. Today, Sheik has one of the best shield drop and platform games, thanks to players like Plup and Shroomed.

In the above set, notice how threatening Shroomed is – even when he isn’t on the ground. Using a combination of Sheik’s strong aerial hitboxes, along with her excellent platform movement game, Shroomed escapes Mango when he needs to and demonstrates an aggressive use of Sheik’s needles, while also showing the power of her out-of-shield options. This is the first time Shroomed ever beat Mango in a full-set.

Even then, Shroomed only highlights a style of play a little more freestyle and reminiscent of what people thought of KirbyKaze’s Sheik. Today, Sheik has a far more “optimized” grab game, with more efficient tech chasing than players like Tope or Drephen ever had. Before switching back to Fox, DruggedFox showed the apex of how devastating Sheik’s tech chasing could be.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Although I listed DruggedFox as a modern Sheik, this is mostly due to how his playstyle and efficient tech chasing influenced players like Swedish Delight and Captain Faceroll, who are seen as modern stars. DruggedFox was also an active poster on Smashboards and regularly gave his thoughts on how to use Sheik throughout the post-Brawl era. If you wanted, you could consider him a “Dynasty” Sheik, though I thought it was more fitting to list him here due to his ninth place at EVO 2015 and his epic Tipped Off 11 losers run.

It’s hard to envision Sheik winning a national on her own, but with players like Laudandus revolutionizing how she plays against even Ice Climbers, it shouldn’t be doubted. Moreover, as I mentioned with Marth and Falco, if the standard for a character being “viable” only came down to a character’s ability to win a national as a solo main, wouldn’t Fox and Jigglypuff be the only characters with the results to back them up in the modern meta?

Sheik is different from other top-tier characters in Melee in that she’s never really struggled to prove herself. Even when people began to sour on her, Sheik’s regional representation was still fairly solid. Today, her results are exceptional and well-documented within the top-echelon of play. To add another element to Sheik’s resurgence, her matchup against Jigglypuff isn’t seen as negatively as it used to be in the past.

If there’s anything you notice about Plup’s Sheik more than anyone else, it’s how fast he plays. Plup has better movement, discipline, patience and a more balanced skill set than his contemporaries. Though you could say his lack of beating Armada shows a weakness for Sheik, this is a standard that applies to pretty much every character or non-god player.

Though you might find people who disagree about how good she is, Sheik has a surprising amount of depth, showing that she’s clearly more than the “cheap” character she was initially seen to be. Whether it’s on her own or with a secondary for more difficult matchups, there shouldn’t be any doubts to Sheik’s viability in the current meta – and if history’s shown anything, she can never be counted out.

Top Tier History: Marth

Anyone who plays Super Smash Bros. Melee and has access to all characters will either find themselves in love with or infuriated with Marth. Somehow elegant, slightly effeminate and terrifying, he’s also one of the most hated and popular Melee characters. He’s both the bane of casual players, but also their easiest way to enter competitive Melee. Emphasizing fundamentals more than arguably any other character, Marth has been called by many, including Mango in the past, as the “spirit of Melee.”

Whether you agree with this statement or not is another topic – when I’ve mentioned this before to my college smash friends, it’s been met with both ridicule and skepticism, due to my own bias as a Marth player. Either way, it’s hard to understate his influence on the competitive Melee community.

Rolling C-Stickers (late 2001 to early 2003)
Notable Players: Ken, Eduardo, your friend who keeps spamming forward smash, etc.

The first thing you’ll notice if you play Marth for the first time is his ridiculous range. Unlike other characters that use their body for direct hits, he has a sword that consistently covers more space within its moves than any other character. Although Marth doesn’t have any outstanding hitboxes (like Sheik’s nair), due to the arc-nature of swinging a sword, his ability to swat anything in his path is by far his biggest strength.

Because movement hadn’t advanced to the point where opponents could whiff-punish Marth’s moves, the threat of getting forward smashed was something that everyone had to consider when playing against him. Keep in mind that using smash attacks was a huge part of the early meta.

Due to Marth’s ability to control space, most of the strategies based around how to beat him involved quite a bit of camping or using characters with projectiles. Effectively speaking, Marth initially started as a defensive character, used to preemptively wall out his opponents and punish them for coming close.

It’s impossible to mention Marth in the early stages of competitive Melee without bringing up his far inferior counterpart in Roy. The latter was extremely popular within the game’s initial years and still is among casual players. For any competitive player today, even comparing the two is pretty laughable, but in 2002, tier lists were anything but definite conclusions for Melee.

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A comment on Neoseeker forums.

Marth was still seen as one of the better characters within Melee, even if he wasn’t quite on the level of Sheik/Falco/Fox. After all, Eduardo dominated his small regional scene in Illinois and Marth was popular across all levels. But in the next four years, that changed – and many wondered if he was secretly Melee’s best character.

The King of Smash (mid 2003 – mid 2009): 
Notable Players: Ken, Mew2King, Azen, EK, KoreanDJ, Tink, Husband

The King of Smash isn’t just a title for Ken’s dominance. If we’re talking about which characters actually ruled Melee, it’s hard to argue that this era was not predominantly ruled by Marth.

Ken’s use of the dash dance in particular revolutionized how Marth could be used to condition, bait and manipulate opponents. Since most of the Melee meta in its early ages was based around shield grabs, cross-up dash attacks and using projectiles to control stage, Ken’s use of movement to keep his opponents guessing illustrated a far greater understanding of Melee than his contemporaries. Marth’s movement and tools in the neutral game highlighted these strengths.

On the East Coast, Azen’s influence as a Marth player manifested itself in another way. His natural sense of spacing, guessing his opponent’s intent and knowing the innate risk-reward ratios behind specific in-game situations were enhanced by his Marth more than any of his other characters. Though it’s easy to look at Azen’s play and see it as someone spamming forward smash to win, keep in mind that the game hadn’t developed to where using such moves was significantly punishable.

Sheik was still thought of as superior based on the Melee tier list – and as shown through people who beat Ken, it’s not like Marth was unstoppable. But at the same time, think about Ken’s 4-2 Jack Garden Tournament victory against Bombsoldier. Facing an opponent with greater technical ability and a bigger punish game than anyone he might have ever played against, Ken adapted, showcasing how devastating Marth’s chaingrab could be. But if Ken showed a glimpse into how far Marth’s combos could be pushed, Mew2King went even further.

The video above isn’t just a showcase of what the top standard was for Marth’s combos in those ages. These are punishes and follow-ups that Marth mains still struggle with executing today. Claims of “2007 Mew2King” being the best player ever are righteously treated with a bit of skepticism, but any look into actual footage of his combo game proves that he was way ahead of his time.

Not only could Mew2King chaingrab both Fox and Falco with unbelievable consistency, he was also quite ahead of everyone else in the Marth ditto, in which he casually embarrassed his opponents. Consider it this way: if Ken invented Marth, Mew2King back then “perfected” his ability to convert off hits, off juggling opponents and going for low-percent kills off-stage.

Marth’s ability to finish stocks early, along with everything else Mew2King contributed, led to him being ranked second in what was supposed to be Melee’s “final” tier list on October 14, 2008. Yet based on results, you could have just as easily argued him as No. 1.

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This briefly continued even in an era when Mew2King didn’t even treat Melee as his first priority. Even Azen, playing mostly Marth, placed ninth at the Revival of Melee, despite not having played seriously for almost a year. In fact, when Mew2King lost to Armada at the first GENESIS, many thought of it as a fluky upset. Unfortunately, this loss, along with his inability to overcome Mango with any of his characters, was a sign of stagnancy to follow for Marth.

The Betrayal (late 2009 – late 2012)
Notable Players: Mew2King, Taj, PewPewU, Tai, Arc, G$

In 2009, Mew2King posted a topic on the GameFAQS Melee board, claiming that Sheik was the best character. At the time, Mew2King played both characters, but he eventually began playing a lot more Sheik. This played a big role in Marth’s decline.

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Part of why Marth dominated in the past was because of how successful he was against Fox. But remember that Fox players were also in a bit of a decline for most of the post-Brawl era. With less top-level Fox mains, Marth players had lost what was their most historically favorable matchup. It’s no surprise that at a time when Fox struggled, so did Marth.

Early in the MLG-era of smash, it wasn’t uncommon to come across people that thought Marth also held a distinct advantage over Falco. But in 2009, top-level Falco players weren’t the kind of people you could just spam shield grab against. They now had shield pressure and movement that made Bombsoldier look like he barely scratched the surface of tech skill.

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Note: Mango beat Mew2King in both sets of grand finals at Pound 3.

As if that wasn’t enough, think about all the representation from other characters that traditionally give Marth a hard time. Captain Falcon players like SilentSpectre, Darkrain, Hax, Scar and S2J (later) were on the rise. You could also argue that the Sheik meta, pushed by Mew2King himself, KirbyKaze, Lucien, Tope and even the Netherlands’ Amsah made it difficult for Marth to succeed. That’s not even going into the reign of Mango – and later Hungrybox – showing how difficult Jigglypuff could be to fight.

For the first time, Marth looked like he had peaked. In the final tier list of 2010, he finished a disappointing fifth on the tier list – the lowest he had ever been since 2002. Yet in one of the most memorable bracket runs of the post-Brawl era, one old-school Marth managed to put together old-school tricks with new-school movement and combos. Enter Taj at GENESIS 2.

Usually when you hear about Taj, you think about two things: his Mewtwo or the notorious losers finals set at GENESIS 2 against Mango. The former is understandable, but the latter is unfair.

Taj was known to be particularly proficient against Falco, due to practicing with Axe’s Falco and being particularly good at edge guarding him. At GENESIS 2, Taj lost to ORLY in pools, but also turned heads with his dominant win over Dr. PeePee, while playing Marth. Even though Dr. PeePee was dreadfully sick at the tournament, it wasn’t as if this was a one-set fluke.

Making his way to top eight, Taj beat Larry Lurr (another Falco), Hax with Mewtwo and clutched out a long set with MacD. In winners semifinals, he faced Mango: a Falco that routinely made Mew2King look foolish and in the last round had four-stocked Mew2King’s Marth at the same tournament.

Mango’s talked about how this was the set in which he “got gimped twelve times” and lost. Either way, Taj showcased that Marth could still keep up with Falco at a top level, with a mix of hard reads in the neutral game, Mew2King-esque conversions off stage and slick movement to trick his opponents. Losing to Armada and Mango doesn’t change that.

To put in perspective how impressive his GENESIS 2 run was, Taj had previously finished ninth at Don’t Do Down There Jeff, `17th at Apex 2010 and 49th at Pound 3. His bracket run at GENESIS 2, no matter how favorable it was for Taj, was the first top three finish by a non-Mew2King Marth since Azen’s victory at Viva La Smashtaclysm. Clearly, there was more to be done with the character.

It doesn’t sound like much to note now, but at Rule 6 NorCal Regional – a tournament won by Mango after he threw a set as Fox against Bladewise in winners – a rising NorCal Marth named PewPewU raised quite a few eyebrows when he took the first game of a set off Mango in losers semifinals: the same Fox that made Taj quit mid-set.

Though he still ended up losing the set, the hype behind PewPewU was through the roof. In the post tourney thread, S2J wrote of the NorCal Marth’s play: “best fucking Marth that ever lived to play the game.” Others added to the hype, with Bob$ writing that PewPewU was “godlike” and “better than Mew2King’s Marth.”

Statements like S2J’s were almost certainly exaggerated, but it wouldn’t have been to crazy to think that PewPewU’s potential was extremely high. What’s noticeable with his Marth, more than with being “aggressive” or “defensive” is his willingness to skirmish. Even in comparison to Taj, who mostly used tricky movement to get his opponents to whiff moves, PewPewU was far more proactive, also incorporating shield stops in his game as early as 2012.

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By the end of 2012, Marth was still struggling, but there was a glimmer of hope for the once reigning character – not to mention, Mew2King playing him a lot more again at tournaments like Zenith 2012. The years of stagnancy were contradicted at Apex 2013, in which Marth had his best performance in over half a decade.

The Unstoppable Secondary (early 2013 to now)
Notable Players: Dr. PeePee/PPMD, Mew2King, Mango, PewPewU, The Moon

It’s not entirely accurate to portray Dr. PeePee playing Marth at Apex 2013 as completely unexpected, given that he had tried playing him in tourney before. Additionally, PPMD was fairly active on the Marth forum in Smashboards, where he regularly gave advice to fellow Marth players. Either way, the smash world was shocked when his secondary managed to take a set from the world’s best player.

Prioritizing fundamentals like no one else did at the time, Dr. PeePee’s dash dance and ability to maintain stage control captivated spectators at the time. Trained by Cactuar, Dr. PeePee somehow managed to aggressively channel Marth’s positioning strengths while also being patient and aware enough to avoid overextending.

Remember that since his ascent to godhood, Armada had never lost to another Marth player. He had gone close with Mew2King, but still held an undefeated record against him and every other Marth. But at Apex 2013, Dr. PeePee posed a challenge to Armada in one of his historically strongest matchups, all while playing a secondary.

A month later at a special edition of a Xanadu weekly, Dr. PeePee decided to play all Marth, shocking people given that Mew2King was attending the tournament. In fact, when the two played the matchup at Zenith 2012, Mew2King beat him solidly in those games.

As anyone who watches this set can tell you, Dr. PeePee put on a clinic, revolutionizing the Marth ditto in ways that Mew2King hadn’t. Not only having far better control of Marth’s movement than the latter, Dr. PeePee maintained an extremely disciplined style that emphasized dictating the tempo of a match and using DI mixups to trick his opponents, rather than going for lengthy, Mew2King-esque explosions.

Perhaps more than anything else, Dr. PeePee’s sheer control of center stage seemed to negate what one of Mew2King’s biggest strengths as both a player and a Marth ditto specialist – his ability near the ledge. After getting swept in the first set of their rematch in grand finals, Dr. PeePee, to everyone’s surprise, stayed with Marth and defeated Mew2King, handing his Sheik the first loss it ever had to a Marth in a full set.

Dr. PeePee’s success with Marth was particularly exciting because it seemed to highlight that Marth could be pushed even further than Mew2King pushed him. He also showed that the character could deal with Sheik: his biggest nemesis. With a Marth player also taking a set off someone who was considered the world No. 1, suddenly the character was alive again, with many resources not just being put online for the character, but also players beginning to apply new concepts to Marth that even Mew2King hadn’t done.

It’s not like the character lacked any meta development over the post-Brawl era, but on June 7, 2013, frame data master and Austrian Marth player Kadano posted one of the most read and studied topics on Smashboards. In it, he covered different types of Marth tactics, along with ideas on how Marth could punish certain characters, including Jigglypuff, Sheik and Captain Falcon – three matchups Marth had struggled with over the previous years.

Much of Kadano’s guide provided the basis for what PewPewU later would apply in his game, including how to successfully use DI mixups off throws to dash pivot tipper forward smash Jigglypuff. Though a lot of the “technology” written by Kadano was based off what Marth players theorycrafted or did in the past, his guide gave Marth players a centralized location to view how to use their tools, leading to more character representation through 2013 and 2014 than in years past.

At Apex 2015, at the time the biggest Melee tournament of all-time, Marth finally broke through. Playing him in the majority of top eight and returning after a massive break from competing at national tourneys, PPMD gave the character its first big victory since Azen at Viva La Smashtaclysm.

It feels weird to say that this set is historical, mostly because it was just over two years ago, but it’s a good representation of how most Marths try to play against Fox today, while also showing just how valuable the character could be as a counterpick. Without Marth, Dr. PeePee probably doesn’t win this tournament, SKTAR 3 or Apex 2014. This isn’t going into how valuable Mew2King’s Marth was at both The Big House 3 and Shine 2016 – or even Mango’s Marth at WTFox 2.

As of late, players like Shroomed, Axe, DruggedFox and Colbol have had success experimenting with playing a lot more Marth  having taken sets off several top players in a variety of different matchups. Upstart Marth mains like Smash G0D, Zain, Nightmare, Reeve and Rudolph in the last two years also show a new group of mains  with varying play styles.

Earlier last year, I wrote about Marth’s worrying lack of strong national placings, along with his lack of successful “solo” title victories. Within a Reddit thread I posted about Marth’s troubles, PPMD wrote back, disagreeing with much of what I wrote.

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-11-08-19-amI’m not going to mince words here: PPMD’s response, along with every other bit of data that we have from 2013 onward, proved that my previous conclusion was full of shit. What I was particularly wrong about was the ambiguous implication that Marth struggled because of his placings, use as a situational counterpick over a serious main and Fox players getting more representation. For reference, Marth did extremely well against Fox and Falco within the Top 100 in 2016, per this excellent article by smash.gg’s Kelly Goodchild.

If anything, Marth’s now at least have examples of the character doing well in “unfavorable” matchups. Even if you ignore PPMD, players like PewPewU, The Moon, Smash G0D and Zain have victories over Top 10 and 20-level Sheiks. PewPewU, a rising star of the previous era, has also improved  his game plan against Captain Falcon, while also becoming the first Marth in years to take a set from Hungrybox.

Even worse, by the same data I used to suggest that Marth wasn’t as good as his perception, you could just as easily say the same for any character that isn’t Fox or Jigglypuff in the modern era (and maybe Peach).

He might not be the king of smash anymore, but Marth is currently thriving in the modern era, with many mains and being ranked third on Melee’s current tier list. In fact, players like the The Moon, the Crimson Blur and ZoSo have said before that they believe Marth could be the best character in the game. Time will tell if the Fire Emblem swordsman can return to the throne.

Top Tier History: Falco Lombardi

Last week, I wrote about how Fox became seen as the best character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. However, throughout the game’s history, he’s been complemented by his fellow top tier and Star Fox counterpart: Falco.

DISCLAIMER: Falco has obviously developed in more ways than I could describe! Per usual, please take what I’ve read as a general overview for his character, with embellishments. Outside of what’s been verified, any opinion I have about Falco certainly isn’t the final word!

Lasers and Forward Smash (late 2001 to early 2004)
Notable players: Justin Junio, Sultan of Samitude, DA Dave, Azen

If the original Super Smash Bros. and Nintendo 64 edition of Star Fox contributed to Fox’s popularity in Melee, it also helped Falco.For 64 players who liked the hitstun and range that Fox’s laser provided him, Falco’s lasers were a good recreation. Take a look at what MMassey’s Falco guide (from late January 2002) says about Falco’s blaster.

They make a pretty big deal about his Blaster (neutral
B), which is actually one of the best edge-guarding tools
in the game since you can just eat most characters'
second jump. They can't deflect it in midair (unless they
have such a move), and that means they'll need a good 
third jump to make it back. Sometimes the CPU will try to
use the midair dodge. When you dodge in the air, that 
counts as your third jump. Instant win for you if they 
can't make it. This  works best in one-on-ones, 
obviously.

The concept of short hop lasering (frequently attributed to Deadly Alliance’s Dave) wasn’t widely used yet, but from Melee’s inception, it was clear that Falco’s lasers gave him a tool to control space better than other characters. In the next paragraph of the guide, you’ll notice another of Falco’s immediately recognizable traits.

Falco was also blessed with the game's absolute 
fastest Meteor Strike; his aerial down+A, that drill 
kick. No matter what part of it you hit with, they'll go
down if they're at 70% or so with empty air beneath them.
Here's where balancing comes into play - Falco falls 
fast. There's a great chance you'll go down with your foe
if you jumped after them to land the spike, but they'll
be going down first. To Falco, that's pretty much all
that matters. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a first time casual Falco player or Westballz – Falco’s downair is one of his biggest strengths. Even if it wasn’t quite developed as a combo starter or shield pressure tool, his downair was still seen as a really good attack. When you combine this with the strength of his projectile and shine, it’s clear that even in the early ages of Melee, Falco was viewed quite favorably.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I wasn’t able to find something I could definitely say was the first ever video of a Falco in tournament, but based on the level of gameplay seen in the above video, I’d guess that this was taken at some point in mid-2003 at a Midwest tourney.

Although tech skill among players hadn’t quite developed, Falco still saw success early on across different regions. Consider his representation within NorCal (Justin Junio and the Sultan of Samitude), the South (Rob$) and the East Coast (DA Dave and Azen).

As Falco did well for part of Melee’s early ages, his weaknesses were also highlighted. Along with having an easily gimpable vertical recovery, Falco being a lightweight and fast faller made him an exploitable character. Moreover, while Falco had strong grounded moves and aerials, he also wasn’t particularly fast on the ground, relative to someone like Fox.

Even if Falco still had good placings across the board, it was hard to tell whether someone who solo mained him could ever become the best player in the world. Most of his players played him defensively. Suddenly, that changed.

The Pillaring Era (mid 2004 to mid 2007)
Notable players: Bombsoldier, Forward, PC Chris, Dope, Rob$, Zhu, Helios

Forward is often credited with being the “godfather” of Falco – and for good reason. Along with being the first player to consistently shine waveland to follow up on platforms, Forward also was the best player in Arizona.

Unlike other Falcos, who frequently went for things like forward smash or back air after landing a shine, Forward also linked aerials to one another and was just more consistent in actually following up on a positional advantage. Keep in mind that back then, Falco was much more of a defensive character, due to being in a meta where taking risks was frequently discouraged.

Around August 2005 came the breakout of a little-known, but technically proficient Falco named Bombsoldier. If you’re an old-school player or somewhat familiar with Melee’s history, you’ll know of his legendary second-place performance at the Jack Garden Tournament.  Though there’s a popular misconception that Bombsoldier was a nobody – he was still one of East Japan’s best – his placing was still impressive, especially since the JGT featured the best of East Japan, West Japan and the United States.

Although he eventually lost in grand finals to Ken, Bombsoldier’s Falco pushed the character in ways that people didn’t think was possible. It’s discussed more in-depth here, but the difference between Bombsoldier and every other Falco was remarkable. For example, most American Falco players preferred to run away, shoot lasers, run away and use single hits to conservatively follow up a shine.

Bombsoldier was different. In addition to mixing up consistent SHFFL aerials on shield with grabbing, Bombsoldier converted off hits harder than any other Falco. Even though he never replicated his JGT success, without Bombsoldier, Falco isn’t the combo-heavy character we think of today. You could argue that his innovation goes beyond Falco – it effectively showed that Melee was deeper than anyone expected.

In the same way that Zelgadis inspired countless Fox players to step up their tech skill game and push their character, Bombsoldier looked like he came from the future. Falco was still considered one of Melee’s best characters, but before Bombsoldier, it was hard to envision a Falco ever coming close to beating someone like Ken, let alone playing so quickly.

Before the world knew it, PC Chris, a then-rising Falco and Fox player from New York, defeated Ken twice at MLG New York Opener 2006. Here, he showed a mix of Bombsoldier’s punish game, Forward’s ability to keep pressure on his opponents and PC’s own style. By the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Falco was a far more aggressive character than he was in the past. You can check out one of the oldest written Falco guides on Smashboards here. Highlights include a lot of “teh.”

In early 2007, Zhu released a combo video that’s still today one of the most watched combo videos ever.

He wasn’t quite a top player yet, but Zhu had ideas for the character that set the basis for what the next era of Falco players would look like. These included, but weren’t limited to using tools like jab effectively to follow up hits, how Zhu held center stage against his opponents and his creative edgeguards.

The Long Reign (early 2008 to mid 2013)
Notable Players: Mango, Dr. PeePee, Zhu, DaShizWiz, Lambchops, Eggm

Melee was coming close to its end – and with it left a lot of the game’s premier players. But what if Bombsoldier didn’t maximize Falco? What if there were even more ways you could push his character?  Was there even more to Melee that the pre-Brawl players hadn’t figured out?

You can look at Lambchops as one of the forefathers in one particular area: his unrelenting use of lasers. When combined with his tendency to prioritize winning neutral-interactions and strong hits over going for guaranteed punishes, it’s easy to see how Lambchops, as seemingly crazy as his playstyle looks, was influential to other Southern Falco players.  His lasers were especially difficult to deal with because no one back then could consistently powershield.

Under his tutelage came the rise of another Falco player: DaShizWiz, who was one of Florida’s best players and had solid placings, but hadn’t broken out yet. That changed at FAST 1. Watch the game below, in which he three-stocks Mew2King: a man who many still thought was the best player in the world at the time. If you’re interested, you can also watch the full set, which is still considered one of the most exciting Melee sets of all-time.

DSW took Falco’s aggression, but somehow dialed it up to yet another level, calling out his opponents with strong hits, using Lambchops-esque lasers, extending his combos in creative ways. This doesn’t mean that some of the traits never applied to other players, but like Bombsoldier and Forward, DSW set the groundwork for the kind of Falco that people looked up to for inspiration.

As if lasers, tech skill, speed and extending combos weren’t enough, soon Falco began to grow in yet another way: aerial drift. Guess who also mastered manipulating Falco’s attack timings on shield, revolutionizing how the character could be used to both overwhelm an opponent and keep them frozen in fear?

From 2008 to early 2010, Mango’s Falco could have been argued to be around the same level, if not as good as his Jigglypuff. Somehow baffling opponents in how mercilessly fast it was, while still always being in a safe position to react to their options, his Falco was somehow both aggressive, while also being smart enough to avoid getting hit. His other characters were the same way, but Falco gave him a character with the kind of vertical speed that Mango could manipulate to dazzling effect.

Around this era was when people (especially Mew2King) wondered if Falco was the best character. Though Fox still technically stood at the top of the tier list, Falcos like DSW, Zhu and even Mango were routinely defeating other top Fox players of their time.

Falco was successful, fun, fast, exciting and seeing more development in his direction than any other character. You could argue that for a long time, his potential played a huge role in Melee staying alive (in contrast to the popular perception of Jigglypuff, though Falco certainly had his share of haters). While tech skill videos and good players existed for almost every relevant character, it’s hard to argue that anyone other than Falco saw as much of a jump in players, success and playstyle changes.

Dr. PeePee was notable before, but around 2011 was when his style of Falco became the standard for other players to watch. Emphasizing discipline in how to control stage, safely follow up on hits, dash dance and more, Dr. PeePee quickly grew into one of the world’s best players, as well as its best Falco main, winning Pound V and several other tournaments.

The set above used to be considered the greatest Falco ditto of all time. While some of the gameplay is outdated, take a look at how Dr. PeePee and Mango play the character. This is a good representation of what the highest level of gameplay looked like within the United States back then.

The Decline (late 2013 to now):
Notable players: Dr. PeePee/PPMD, Mango, Westballz, Zhu, Santiago, Squid

It’s not as if Falco hasn’t seen any development within this era. In fact, he started off fine, with Dr. PeePee/PPMD and Mango winning many tournaments in the “post-documentary” era. But even those two have needed to dual main (PPMD’s Marth and Mango’s Fox), if not play more of their other characters in order to win.

As time keeps passing by, it becomes harder to ignore that the once glorious bird has gone through a national decline. Even Westballz brings out Fox for certain matchups.

This doesn’t mean that Falco hasn’t developed at all. For example, Westballz is an example of someone who’s represented Falco well in the modern era. Along with pushing his punish game further than any other Falco,  Westballz has also revolutionized a new way of playing defensive.

It’s difficult to categorize anyone as a solely “defensive” or “aggressive” player, but Westballz deserves quite a bit of credit for having a stellar defensive game, along with his mind boggling punish game. Most people categorize defensive play with lasering or platform camping, but to this day, Westballz DI’s hits and converts off crouch cancel better than nearly any other Falco player.

There’s also reason to believe that Falco is due for another breakout. He still has good regional representation, with players like Santiago, Squid, Trulliam, Porkchops and more being highly regarded. If any of these players breakout on a national scale, suddenly the narrative of Falco being “unviable” changes.

The biggest problems for Falco, however, are Peach (particularly Armada) and Jigglypuff (Hungrybox). Depending on your perspective, these matchups are either solidly in those characters’ favor or simply underdeveloped from Falco’s perspective. You could even argue that the recent rebirth of Marth, Sheik and Ice Climbers has also hurt Falco. As Fox becomes more and more successful, it’s harder to tell: has Falco already been solved or is his recent lack of national representation just a result of his dwindling player base?

No one knows the answer for sure. On one hand, it’s difficult to deny that in the current meta, Fox simply does better in nearly every matchup. But on the other hand, this is only shown by recency bias. As PPMD mentions above, back in the post-Brawl era, those same results could have easily shown that Falco was the best character in the game. You could say that Fox has been more developed and has more players, but it doesn’t mean that Falco can’t win.

If Melee history’s taught its fans one thing, it’s to never think the metagame is solved. Predicting Falco’s future is near impossible, but it’s undeniable that he’s played one of the biggest roles within both Melee’s growth and rebirth. How fitting would it be – if someday it’s on the brink of death again, only for Falco to save it?