Announced at E3 2001, Link (Japanese: リンク, Rinku) is a starter character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Link returns as a veteran character from the previous game, acting mostly the same as before, as a swordsman with powerful short range attacks and a wide variety of long range attacks. Link, however, has received some great buffs, making him a considerably better fighter in Melee.
Link is ranked 16th in the tier list, in the E tier, which is much higher than his current rank in the SSB64 tier list (10/11th out of 12), and just one place above his clone, Young Link. Link's placement is due to a very good approach due to some low lag aerials (with his neutral and forward air), a good variety of projectiles and a very high air speed. A disjointed hitbox also gives Link a slight advantage against others, as well as a fully functional shield that can block a wide variety of projectiles. Link is also a potent edgeguarder in the NTSC versions of the game; his Spin Attack is possibly the best semi-spike in the game, though he still has many other options. Link, however, suffers from a rather high falling speed and a high weight, making him an easy target for chain grabbing and combos. His recovery is also predictable, though he can extend it slightly.
Link generally falls under the "slow, but powerful" archetype of fighting games, though some of his attacks are quite speedy. Link also has a rather high weight, as well as a fast falling speed and air speed, all of which give him an inusual combination for someone of his weight class.
Link has many good attacks in his arsenal; a majority of his grounded attacks have good KO potential, including his tilts. Link's air game is also surprisingly good; with a combination of low power and high power aerials and a good air speed and fast falling speed, giving Link good use of SHFFL and making Link a potent comboer, as well as have many options to KO opponents; Link's down air is one of the most powerful in the game, and his forward smash is relatively powerful and fast, with the ability to be extended.
Link's range is also among the best in the game. His sword has a large, disjointed hitbox (though not as large and disjointed as Marth's sword), allowing him to attack safely from a distance; unlike the duo of Marth and Roy, Link only has one hitbox on his sword, allowing his approach to be considerably less "specific" than either. Additionally, Link has a multitude of projectiles on his Special moves; while the Bow is decidedly situational due to its low range, speed, and power, Link's boomerang and bombs allow him to start combos, continue them, or simply deal damage; the latter also can extend Link's recovery.
Link's projectiles also lend themselves to give Link a good edgeguarding game. While he lacks an effective meteor smash and a spike (his down tilt, while a meteor, is highly situational), Link has multiple options for his edgeguarding game; his low lag aerials (in his neutral and back air) can potentially allow him to jump off stage and disrupt recoveries. The low knockback of his bow can also aggravate recoveries. The NTSC versions of the game, however, give Link what is possibly one of the best semi-spikes in the game: his Spin Attack. With its large range and power, Link can easily gimp recoveries, especially against linear recoveries. While PAL regions remove the semi-spike, its power and range still makes it a valuable edgeguarding technique.
Link's grab game is a mixed bag; while his grab has a long range, it also has high ending lag. Link's grab also cannot grab opponents in the air, limiting his chaingrab potential. Link's throws, however, have low knockback and relatively high hitstun, as well as low ending lag, allowing Link to potentially string in a few hits against his opponent.
Link's primary flaw, however, is his high falling speed and rather large target; while not suffering from extremely large periods of hitstun, this makes Link a particularly easy target for chain throwing and combos. Against particularly fast characters, such as Fox or Sheik, Link players must read opponents very well as to avoid these; unlike most others, however, Link's only fast move that can potentially break combos is his neutral air, causing him to be rather predictable in these cases.
Another one of Link's flaws is his poor mobility. While still speedy for a character of his strength, weight and range, Link still has a slow (but not poor) approach on the ground, due to his slow dash speed. Link also, due to his high traction and high falling speed, has a short, situational wavedash, to the point where most professional players simply don't use it (such as Aniki). Additionally, Link has multiple high-lag attacks, notably his forward, down and up air; while this can be alleviated with L-cancelling, they can still be punished, requiring Link players to carefully set up combos and KO moves.
Link's recovery is also mixed. Link by himself is difficult to edgeguard; his wall-grapple can allow him to enter "safe-zones" underneath the ledge, and his spin attack covers the top of him. However, while his Spin Attack has been heavily buffed from the previous game, it gives only decent vertical distance, and the horizontal distance is lacking (though his high air speed can allow him to move to either side when helpless). Additionally, Link's high falling speed can cause him to fall far before he can use the move. Link's recovery, however, has multiple options to allow for some extension; his bombs can be slashed with a spin attack to allow him to return to the stage, and his hookshot can allow him to wall-grapple on some stages, potentially saving him.
Changes from SSB to Melee
In his transition from Super Smash Bros. to Super Smash Bros. Melee, Link received numerous buffs, most of which made him a more potent fighter, going from bottom tier to mid-low tier. In particular, Link has been given a strongly buffed recovery; Link's recovery, while not the absolute best in the game, is now considerably longer and more flexible; Spin Attack now sends Link a considerably farther distance up and his increased air speed improves his horizontal recovery. The addition of wall grappling and bomb jumps also strongly assists him.
Link's KO power was also increased slightly; his forward smash is considerably stronger, his down air now produces high knockback, and his Spin Attack is now an incredibly powerful edgeguard option. With a higher air speed, a different dash attack, a better up tilt and slightly better aerials, Link now has considerably higher combo potential.
Link's grab game was also slightly improved; the hookshot now has considerably less starting and ending lag, though it can no longer grab airborne opponents.
Link, however, received some nerfs. His Spin Attack, due to added multi hit properties, can no longer KO reliably in the air unless the last slash hits. His boomerangs don't travel as far, though they move considerably faster and they have a higher chance of returning to Link. Additionally, his forward and back throws are now considerably weaker, only KOing at very high percentages.
In terms of cosmetic changes, Link now has an added belt going over his shoulder and around his waist. He now has a new taunt, new helpless animation, and a new dashing animation. Link also received a new projectile, the Bow; his Boomerangs were moved to his side special move.
Like other characters, Link was changed slightly in the PAL versions of the game. Link's Spin Attack lost its semi-spike properties, making it slightly less useful for edgeguarding, though it still acts as a potent attack. Additionally, the Boomerang superjump and chain dance glitches were removed, though these were also removed in NSTC versions 1.2 as well.
In single-player modes
In Classic Mode
Link can appear in ordinary one-on-one matches, as an opponent or ally in team battles (paired up with either Luigi, Young Link, Zelda or Marth), as a giant-sized opponent, or as an opponent in the metal fight. In these cases, Link either appears on Great Bay or Temple, with the exception of the metal battle.
Link's sole appearance in the Adventure Mode is in the Underground Maze stage. In the stage, the player must find the Triforce in one of six stages; however, five of these stages contain a Master Sword, where the player will fight a Link. While players have the option to skip these matches by merely jumping over the stage, the player receives the "Link Master" bonus if they KO all five Links in the stage.
In All-Star Mode, Link and his allies are fought on the stage Great Bay.
In Event Matches
Link is featured in the following event matches:
In addition to the normal trophy about Link as a character, there are two trophies about him as a fighter, unlocked by completing the Adventure and All-Star Modes respectively with Link on any difficulty:
Link (Classic Mode, Trophy #7)
Link (Smash Red, Adventure Mode, Trophy #8)
Link (Smash Blue, All-Star Mode, Trophy #9)