Young Link (SSBM)
Young Link (こどもリンク, Child Link) is a character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. He is a direct clone of Link, with some minor differences. Young Link was replaced with Toon Link in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
He ranks 16th on the tier list in the E tier, two places higher than Link. Young Link has a very good approach due to some low lag aerials, a great SHFFL and a good wavedash, as well as three projectiles. Young Link also is a potent comboer due to his projectiles, and can also edgeguard and space well. However, Young Link's primary flaw is that he has trouble KOing, due to the lack of an efficient quick KO move and having difficulty in hitting cleanly with his smash attacks (except his down smash). Additionally, like Link, Young Link has a slow and predictable recovery, though his ability to wall jump, bomb jump and use his hookshot give him some options. Young Link's recovery, however, is rather poor for his weight class.
How to unlock
For players to unlock Young Link, the Classic or Adventure Mode has to be completed with ten characters. Alternatively, the player can take part in 500 VS. matches.
When fought, Young Link appears on Great Bay, with Saria's Song playing in the background.
As a fighter, Young Link appears as a lighter, weaker, and faster form of Link, and generally falls under the same archetype as a character, similar to characters such as Ness. Other properties of Young Link, however, are almost identical to those of Link. His airspeed and falling speed are identical to Link's, and he has only slightly lower traction, giving Young Link a slightly longer wavedash than Link. Unlike his 17-year-old self, who is a heavyweight, Young Link is a lightweight and gets sent farther and higher (due to having the same fall speed) than Adult Link. Young Link's primary asset is his range. His Kokiri Sword gives him a disjointed hitbox that can allow him to strike from farther ranges, and his neutral, down, and side specials all give him access to a variety of projectiles that can cause damage and start combos from significant distances. Young Link's projectiles are surprisingly damaging, especially in comparison to Link's; his bombs catch opponents in the blast with multiple hits, allowing for combo potential, and both his boomerangs and Fire Arrows inflict more damage and hitstun than Link's, allowing for some dangerous combo starters against his opponents. Coupled with a long-ranged grapple, Young Link's range is among the highest in the game.
Additionally, Young Link has access to a surprisingly good approach game. In addition to his aforementioned range boons, Young Link's aerial approach is very good. Fast, low-lag aerials and a small short hop coupled with a high falling speed gives Young Link a very good SHFFL, and his high air speed can allow him to easily pursue enemies in the air. These traits also give Young Link a surprisingly good edgeguarding game; Young Link's recovery options are great as well, with a relatively high third jump and a wall-grapple to assist him, and the ability to wall-jump.
Young Link's KO options are varied and often different than those found on most other characters. Young Link's neutral aerial and down tilt are quite powerful, with the former having almost nonexistent ending lag when L-canceled. Additionally, Young Link's forward smash has the unusual property of being two hits: one with fixed knockback, and one with powerful vertical knockback, acting as a trap of sorts. One of Young Link's most reliable finishers is his dash attack, which can KO at as low as 95% on some characters, and is unusually fast.
Young Link's primary flaw, however, is his inability to easily and efficiently hit with his finishers. His neutral air requires him to be in the air first, and the remainder of his attacks can prove too awkward to hit with. His dash attack requires the first few frames to connect, and its ending lag can prove to be problematic; that and the inability to send the opponent upwards unless hit at a precise point of the sword and being a semi-spike, which characters (like Fox and Link) can tech out of. With proper use of DI, it's possible to avoid the second hit of Young Link's forward smash. Furthermore, Young Link's down aerial, which can act as one of the most powerful meteor smashes in the game, has a very small and situational sweetspot, significantly hindering its usefulness off the edge. His forward aerial is also among the weakest forward aerials to both combo and finish with, and his back aerial is significantly worse than his counterpart's.
Young Link's light weight makes him considerably easier to KO than other characters; this itself acts as a problem for Young Link due to his poor recovery in comparison to other characters of his weight class (such as Mewtwo or Jigglypuff).
Also, Young Link's hitboxes act much like Roy's hitboxes in that they are significantly weaker near the tip of Young Link's sword, especially in knockback, meaning that Young Link's approach and control must be with complete precision.
Young Link's Kokiri Sword, being made of wood, makes "smacking" sound effects when it connects for every attack except for Young Link's up throw and up special. Young Link's Deku Shield is also slightly less durable than Link's (higher-damage projectiles will phase through the shield).
However, under the hands of a player with skilled precision, Young Link's projectiles, approach options and mobility can prove to be quite deadly.
Grabs and Throws
For a gallery of Young Link's hitboxes, see here.
In Competitive play
Young Link has a somewhat below average matchup spread, notably without any even matchups; he is hard countered only by Falco, countered by 5 characters, soft countered by 9 characters, soft counters 3 characters, and counters 7 characters. With the exception of Yoshi, he has a losing matchup against everyone above him in ranking (as well as Donkey Kong) due to a lack of range and KO power, a relatively slow projectile game despite having three different types of projectiles, and a mediocre recovery, though he fares slightly better against the floatier characters. On the other hand, Young Link has a winning matchup over everyone else due to his speed and using their weaknesses to his advantage.
Tier placement and history
Young Link has always been placed in the mid-low tiers, ranking as low as 20th, due to his slow projectile game and lack of KOing power. For a long time, he was considered inferior to Link due to his adult counterpart having greater range, better KOing power, and just as good of a recovery, but Young Link has seen greater usage in major tournaments. Most notably, Armada used to play Young Link to counter Hungrybox's Jigglypuff, and Axe also has considerable practice with using Young Link in tournament; both of them take advantage of Young Link's speed and better combo ability to win matches, and these traits eventually allowed Young Link to pull ahead of Link in the tier list. However, outside of Armada and Axe, active dedicated Young Link mains are few and far between; as a result, Young Link is considered a very niche character in the metagame, and is expected to remain in the mid-low tiers.
In single-player modes
In Classic Mode
Young Link can appear in ordinary one-on-one matches, in a team as an ally or opponent (paired up with either Link or Zelda), in a giant battle, or as an opponent in the metal fight. In these cases, Young Link either appears on Great Bay or Temple, with the exception of the metal battle. In all such instances, bar the metal fight, Saria's Song will play.
In Adventure Mode
The Adventure Mode makes no concessions to Young Link when he is unlocked.
In All-Star Mode
In All-Star Mode, Young Link and his allies are fought on the stage Jungle Japes, with Saria's Song playing, as the remainder of the Zelda stages are instead taken by Link and Zelda.
In Event Matches
Young Link is featured in the following event matches:
Young Link (Classic Mode, Trophy #287)
Young Link (Smash Red, Adventure Mode, Trophy #288)
Young Link (Smash Blue, All-Star Mode, Trophy #289)