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From SmashWiki, the Super Smash Bros. wiki
Samus' Charge Shot being charge-canceled in Brawl.

Charge-canceling is the act of halting the charging of an auto-chargeable special move, such as Samus' Charge Shot. This allows the user to store a partial charge and resume charging the move later.

While charging such an attack on the ground, players can cancel the charge and (usually) store it by pressing a shield or grab button, or tapping sideways on the Control stick or D-pad to roll out of the charge. If they are in the air while in their charging state, canceling it with a shield or grab button will make them cancel it with an air dodge instead. In Ultimate, these moves can also be canceled by jumping.

If a character is hit while charging one of these moves (other than Bonus Fruit and Limit Charge), they will lose the charge completely and have to start over, regardless of whether they had stored a charge before.

Due to its buffer system, charge-canceling Giant Punch in Brawl will result in Donkey Kong performing an air dodge if the input is entered late into the charge animation.

In Smash 4 there is also a variant known as Instant Charge-Canceling who consist of input a neutral attack, tilt attack or Smash attack in a certain timing without having to cancel the chargeable move with the shield. It is exclusive to Cloud, Diddy Kong, R.O.B., and Sheik.

List of moves that can be charge-canceled[edit]

Samus and Mii Gunner are the only characters who cannot charge cancel in midair, since Charge Shot and Charge Blast cannot be charged in midair (However, both moves can be charged and charge-canceled in midair in Ultimate). Additionally, Mewtwo's and Lucario's auto-charge specials (as well as Sheik's in Melee). will continue charging even at max charge unless canceled or fired during that period, as opposed to automatically stopping like everyone else.

Also prior to Melee, characters could use a normal attack button to unleash the charged attack mid-charge as well.

In Super Smash Bros. 4, fully completing the charge of any of these specials will briefly display glowing stars on the character's eyes in their battle portrait. In the case of Miis, the glowing stars will appear on their arms.