Captain Falcon (SSB4)
Captain Falcon (キャプテン・ファルコン, Captain Falcon) returns as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. He was confirmed during a live stream on July 14th, 2014, which is exactly 16 years after F-Zero X was released for the Nintendo 64 in Japan in 1998, alongside Lucina and Robin. Captain Falcon is once again voiced by Ryō Horikawa, using recycled voice clips from Brawl.
Captain Falcon currently ranks 23rd on the SSB4 tier list, in the last spot of B tier. His placement is a vast improvement over his bottom tier 34th out of 38 ranking in Brawl. His rise in the tier list is largely due to the changes to hitstun canceling, restoring Captain Falcon's previously lost combo game. As usual, he combines speed and power, with an impressive combo game and several powerful, effective finishers; for example, his dash grab is formidable and covers a long distance, and his down throw serves as an excellent combo starter into multiple aerial attacks or as a finisher into the powerful, semi-spiking Knee Smash. Captain Falcon, however, still has a short, linear recovery, and even with the various buffs to ledges in the game, Captain Falcon's recovery is generally considered among the worst in Smash 4. Furthermore, Captain Falcon is still vulnerable to combos and camping due to his tall size, high weight, and high falling speed. Despite this, Captain Falcon has returned to the very viable position he held in 64 and Melee, and he has had above-average representation and placings at tournaments.
Captain Falcon has a unique combination of traits. He has the 2nd fastest dash speed, 4th fastest falling speed, and 12th fastest air speed, though his walking speed is rather slow. At the same time, he boasts remarkable KO power, and his heavy weight, combined with his falling speed, grants him excellent endurance.
Despite lacking a projectile, Falcon has an overall effective neutral game, thanks to his mobility. His dash grab covers a long distance, making it a reliable approach option, and his back aerial is quick, has good range, and autocancels in a short-hop, allowing it to lead into his grab. From there, he has many tools with which to rack up damage. His pummel is quick, and his down and forward throws are effective combo-starters, with his combo ability being arguably his greatest strength. His down throw leads into multiple up aerials, or his neutral aerial, and his forward throw combos into his dash attack or even his neutral air at low percents. Falcon's up aerial demonstrates the versatility of his combo game. At a wide range of percents, it can chain into any aerial including itself. Starting at mid-percents, it can even lead into his down air meteor smash on grounded foes, which can either extend combos onstage, or finish opponents near the ledge. Alternatively, Falcon can chain his up aerial into some his deadliest finishers, which include his down air meteor smash and the famed Knee Smash forward air, and end his opponent's stock below 100%.
Captain Falcon also boasts excellent KO power, as well as a formidable edgeguarding ability. His smash attacks and back aerial deal high knockback, and his aforementioned Knee Smash is an extremely powerful semi-spike that KOs at early percents offstage. His down aerial is relatively fast, has a large hitbox, and its sweetspot is one of the most powerful meteor smashes in the game, while its sourspot deals high horizontal knockback. His down tilt is a semi-spike, being useful for putting opponents offstage. His back and forward throws are good for starting edgeguards, and KOing at high percentages. Due to his heavy weight, he is a proficient user of rage, boosting his already strong KO power.
However, he has his weaknesses. Though he has numerous hard-hitting moves, most of them are difficult or slow to land, some prominent examples being his smash attacks. His Knee Smash is faster than those moves, but it suffers from a small sweetspot that lasts for only one frame, making it hard to land without an air dodge read or setup off of an up aerial. As a result, he often has to rely on edgeguarding to score his kills. Though his neutral game is good overall, his lack of a projectile leaves him susceptible to camping, especially against characters like Villager. Falcon suffers from a poor out of shield game and, while his dash grab has a long range, his standing grab range is average at best. His dash grab is also very easy for players to whiff should they use it carelessly, especially since Captain Falcon's overall high mobility may make him a bit difficult to control properly. His high weight and fast falling speed give him endurance, but they also leave him especially vulnerable to combos, and he has no fast options with which to break them.
Captain Falcon's greatest problem lies in his recovery, despite having an impressive air speed. His two recovery options, Falcon Dive and Raptor Boost, are linear and do not grant enough distance, making them predictable and easily intercepted, and they have small ledge sweetspots. These two moves do not have hitboxes above him, leaving him open to meteor smashes, which he usually cannot survive due to his short recovery and falling speed. To his merit, he can reuse Falcon Dive if it connects with an opponent, and even stage spike them, though this is easily teched. Although he has a wall jump, he will be in danger offstage without his double jump.
With customs on, Captain Falcon gets many benefits. While Falcon Dash Punch is weaker and has slower startup than the default Falcon Punch, it propels himself forward, forcing his opponents offstage for him to KO them with his aforementioned above average edgeguarding tools. Heavy Raptor Boost, while being slower and giving less distance, has super armor throughout and much more power. Wind-Up Raptor Boost, while being weaker than the regular Raptor Boost, allows for mindgames as Captain Falcon backs up a bit before charging forward, and it moves faster as well. Falcon Strike, while being unable to grab opponents, thus sacrificing reusability, has a hitbox during the entire ascent, granting better overall protection. It also goes higher and has much more horizontal momentum, not only giving Captain Falcon a better vertical recovery, it also gives him one of the quickest horizontal recoveries in the game, as his already fast air speed is put into even better use. The Explosive Falcon Dive is similar to the Heavy Raptor Boost in that while it is slower and has less recovery potential than the default, has much more launching power KOing at 80% in the air. Finally, even though Lightning Falcon Kick has slower startup and weaker knockback than Falcon Kick, it travels significantly faster and the landing hit paralyzes opponents, which allows numerous setups should the Captain Falcon player be skilled and lucky enough to pull it off. It also goes straight through opponents, allowing for easy cross-ups.
Overall, Captain Falcon's strengths outweigh his weaknesses. With speed, power, and easy-to-use combos off of throw setups, he has a comparatively low learning curve and high payoff. While Falcon is not as common or as dominant as other perceived top-tier characters such as Bayonetta and Rosalina & Luma, he has a dedicated playerbase that brings his usage in line with many characters said to be better than he is, with many top players continuing to use him as a main or a secondary. As a result, he has achieved notable tournament success at high-level play and even stronger results in low- and mid-level play (including regional tournaments), and is considered by the competitive community to be a viable choice for tournament play.
Changes from Brawl
Captain Falcon has been significantly buffed from Brawl, in which he was a low-tier character despite his speed and power. Several of his moves have been given more reach and knockback, and some of his situational moves, such as his up tilt, have been greatly improved. Falcon's grab game has also been buffed, as his throws have less ending lag, allowing him to string together combos more reliably, much as he could before Brawl. Complementing this is his newly buffed dash grab, which comes out very quickly and covers a lot of distance. Falcon also significantly benefits from the changes to two of Brawl's mechanics - hitstun cancelling, which is now only possible at higher percents and restored his comboing ability for lower percents, and chain grabbing, which is now impossible and was one of his biggest weaknesses in Brawl. As he is a heavyweight character, Falcon also benefits from the rage mechanic, without his combos being affected. As in SSB and Melee, Falcon is mainly a heavily offensive rushdown character who relies on overwhelming his opponents with rapid combos and powerful finishers.
On the other hand, some of Captain Falcon's previous staple moves were nerfed; for example, his Knee Smash now has much more landing lag and can no longer autocancel from a short hop, and Falcon Dive has decreased safety due to its higher ending lag, weakening some of his possible recovery mixups. As a result, while being considered noticeably better than in Brawl he is often still considered to be slightly inferior to his Melee incarnation. However, these nerfs are very minuscule compared to the massive buffs he received, and Captain Falcon is one of the few characters to get truly buffed in his transition from Brawl to SSB4.
Captain Falcon has been slightly nerfed in most balance patches so far, mostly to his KOing power. However, changes to the shield mechanics in 1.1.0 and 1.1.1 have indirectly buffed Falcon, as the increase in shieldstun and the application of hitlag on shields benefit many of his moves, improving his offensive playstyle.
Technical changelist 1.0.8
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
During the early lifespan of Smash 4's metagame, Captain Falcon's buffs were immediately noticed, with the most notable of them being the heavy changes to hitstun canceling and the improved combo ability on his moves. As a result, he has always been considered a high tier character, thanks to his quick mobility, high power, and the ability to perform heavily damaging combos and juggles with his throws and aerial moves, with his combos being quite easy to start due to his far-reaching dash grab. His representation has been strong throughout the game's lifespan, both due to his own strengths and his general popularity as a character. However, perceptions surrounding Falcon have not grown as much as other higher tiered characters than him, due to his poor recovery and difficulty escaping pressure and combos, along with receiving nerfs to his damage output and KOing ability through game updates. Players also began to cite his troublesome match-up against Sheik, who would go on to become the perceived best character in the game for a long period of time. Despite this, his playerbase is among the largest in the entire roster, with players such as Acid, Fatality, Nanon, Pichi, Souther, Tearbear, ZeRo and z0mfg achieving strong enough tournament results with the character.
He would rank at 14th on the first iteration of the 4BR tier list, at the very top of the mid-tier, then dropped six spots on the second tier list to 20th, and dropped once again to 23rd on the third and current tier list. However, the change in the arrangement of the tiers caused him to be ranked more positively than in the initial tier list. Falcon has had the third highest rise from the Brawl tier list, and is one of the characters to have improved the most from that game. His tier placement is a topic of debate amongst players, due to the recent appearances of many noteworthy results. Most notably, Fatality placed 2nd at 2GGC: Civil War, which is one of the largest Smash 4 tournaments to date. Afterwards he went on to decisively eliminate ZeRo from MomoCon 2017, even while ZeRo counterpicked, and thus become the 25th player to take a set off of him. This has resulted in many believing that Falcon should be placed higher on the tier list.
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