A clone (officially known as a "model swap character" (モデル替えキャラ) on Melee's Japanese website, and as an Echo Fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate) is a character with a moveset that is considerably similar to another character's. Often, the clone's moveset will have a few tweaks made, and may have their physics altered to a degree, but on the whole, the characters are similar and typically have the same special move mechanics, to such a degree that both characters can be played optimally using a very similar or even identical playstyle. Clones are a common inclusion in various fighting games, as developing a character using an existing one's moveset and/or model as a base is less time- and resource-consuming than starting from scratch.
Semi-clone is a term used for characters who share some of their moveset with another character, with some similarity in physics, but have enough differentiating moves and characteristics that calling them a "clone" wouldn't be entirely accurate. "Semi-clone" status can differ among players' minds depending on their basis of the term; for example, one basis for dubbing a character a semi-clone would be their differences in special moves from the character they are cloned from. This process of a clone breaking away from its roots and establishing its own identity as it undergoes divergent evolution is known in the Smash Bros. community as Luigification, named after how Luigi originally was a clone of Mario but eventually came into his own in both the Super Mario and Smash Bros. series. Jigglypuff is the only character who started as a semi-clone and eventually became its own completely unique character.
Super Smash Bros. 4 introduces alternate characters that act as alternate costumes, namely Alph for Olimar and the Koopalings for Bowser Jr. They have their own voice clips and the Announcer refers to them by name. However, since they bear no gameplay differences and are not treated as separate characters, they are not considered to be clones.
The term "clone" is also used to refer to individual moves cloned from another character's move. For example, Falco's Blaster is a cloned move of Fox's Blaster, with the former being the same general type of attack with animations taken from the latter, but with altered properties and functioning so that makes it its own move. Usually cloned moves share animations, while altering the cloned move's function and/or properties in some way, though sometimes the inverse happens, such as in the case of Ness's and Lucas's down tilts in Brawl; Ness's down tilt is a low rapid kick where he pokes his foot out, while Lucas's involves him rapidly spinning around while kicking, but both have identical functioning as extremely fast but extremely weak low kicks that semi-spike with a high tripping chance. Cloned moves can also happen between characters who otherwise have no other aspects cloned, such as Charizard's Flamethrower being cloned from Bowser's Fire Breath, both being the same type of move with identical animations and functioning, but with a minute property difference (Charizard's Flamethrower reaches farther with thinner hitboxes in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and in Smash 4 it flinches with all its hitboxes, while Bowser's Fire Breath does not do so, alongside his move covering a larger area).
Clones or semi-clones are almost always unlockable or downloadable characters rather than starter characters. The only exceptions are Lucas in Brawl, Luigi and Toon Link in SSB4, and Ganondorf exclusively in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.
Clones in Super Smash Bros.
Smash 64 only had one clone in Luigi, and a semi-clone in Jigglypuff, with the rest of its cast consisting of unique characters. All of the unlockable characters were created with the premise of reusing some of the preexisting characters' movements and models.
Clones in Super Smash Bros. Melee
Originally, Masahiro Sakurai was going to include significantly fewer playable characters in Melee. However, with fans wanting more characters while time was constrictive, Sakurai decided to add clones later in development to pad out the roster, as these characters would take a lot less time to develop than unique characters. This led to Dr. Mario, Pichu, Young Link, Falco, Roy, and Ganondorf being added to the cast as clones. Luigi and Jigglypuff also returned, though Luigi was significantly decloned into a semi-clone, and Jigglypuff was decloned to the point of not even being a semi-clone anymore.
Clones in Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Among the Melee clones, four were completely cut from the roster (Pichu, Young Link, Dr. Mario, and Roy). The two clones that returned, Falco and Ganondorf, were significantly decloned to being semi-clones. Luigi was also slightly decloned further, though mostly through Mario being given new attacks. Among the 18 new playable characters, none are full clones, with Toon Link and Lucas being semi-clones.
Clones in Super Smash Bros. 4
Super Smash Bros. 4 reintroduces full clones, adding two new clones, Lucina and Dark Pit, and one returning clone from Melee, Dr. Mario. These clones, unlike the Melee clones, were originally developed as alternate costumes of the characters they were cloned from, similar to Alph and the Koopalings. Later in development, they were given moveset alterations from their originals—according to Sakurai, Dr. Mario had to have the differences from Mario he had in Melee in order to avoid disappointing fans of his previous appearance, Lucina was given no tippers to act as an easier-to-play version of Marth, and Dark Pit was given a different Final Smash, as Sakurai did not like the idea of him using the Three Sacred Treasures. Once these changes were made, however, it was decided that they each would be promoted to full characters, as "even a small difference in abilities" requires a unique roster slot. SSB4 groups these clones in their own area together on the character select screen, rather than placing them with their respective franchises.
None of the newcomers are semi-clones. Luigi, Falco, Toon Link, and Ganondorf return as semi-clones, though they were only minimally decloned. Wolf, whose moveset was partially derived from Fox, was cut from the roster, while Lucas and Roy return as DLC. Roy is now a semi-clone, as his moveset is further distinguished from Marth's.
Most clones and semi-clones also share at least one custom move, though full clones (Dr. Mario, Lucina and Dark Pit) have more custom moves in common.
Clones in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Full clones are now labelled as Echo Fighters (ダッシュファイター, Dash Fighter). These characters have movesets that are based on those of pre-existing fighters, and possess very similar if not identical proportions as well. Unlike simple alternate costumes like Alph and the Koopalings, these fighters can have unique entrances, stances, idle poses, taunts, and victory poses, as well as visible gameplay differences, such as Lucina and Chrom's swords dealing equal damage throughout, or Dark Pit's Electroshock Arm dealing electric damage and launching at a different angle. Some Echo Fighters also have completely different moves from their parent characters, such as Chrom having Soaring Slash as an up special instead of Blazer.
Echo Fighters are marked with an epsilon (ε) internationally or a prime symbol (′) in Japanese added to the number of their parent fighter on the character numbering system (in Japanese, the prime symbol is pronounced "dash," hence the term "Dash Fighter"; in mathematics, the prime symbol is used to designate that something is derived from something else, such as x′ which is derived from x).
Dark Pit and Lucina are the only returning characters to be marked as Echo Fighters, while Dark Samus, Daisy, Chrom, Richter, and Ken are added as new Echo Fighters. Isabelle was the only new character added as a semi-clone. Certain characters that were previously officially clones, namely Dr. Mario, Young Link, and Pichu, are not treated as Echo Fighters; this could possibly be due to those characters debuting prior to SSB4.
In the August 8th, 2018 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Direct, it was revealed that players can choose whether all Echo Fighters should have their own slot separate from their parent fighters or be stacked with their parent fighters on the character selection screen, in the Smash section of the Options menu. After stacking the Echo Fighters with their parent fighters, players can toggle between the the original characters and their Echo Fighters with a single button press.
In a Famitsu column, Sakurai noted that during development, Echo Fighters first receive unique taunts and victory poses, then have their remaining attributes and properties adjusted where necessary.
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