It involves the character delivering an immensely powerful slash that deals a devastating amount of knockback, more than enough to one hit KO if directly in the line of sight of a blast line (with the exception of Roy's version). If it hits, a HP gauge from Fire Emblem is displayed alongside each hit character, which starts at full and quickly drops to zero.
The critical hit is a staple feature of many role-playing video games, often being an attack that has a certain ratio of occurrence with the payoff usually being double the current amount of damage done normally.
However, in the case of the Fire Emblem series, critical hits inflict three times the standard damage if performed (as opposed to two times the damage in most other games), accompanied by a unique attack animation. Since a Fire Emblem critical hit is usually much more than enough to kill an enemy in a single hit, the damage output and particularly the knockback of Marth/Lucina's Critical Hit has been made extremely high to reflect this. The animation for this Final Smash was likely inspired by the critical hit animations of the various Lords in the series' past; Marth's Critical Hit animation is loosely based on his Critical Hit animation from the first Fire Emblem game, while Roy's Critical Hit animation is based on his Critical Hit animation from Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, provided he has the Sword of Seals equipped (this also applies to the airborne version's recovery flip, which is a nod to the very same one Roy does when he sheaths back his sword).
The gauge that appears represents the Hit Point system used in the series. In Brawl, it has a graphical style similar to those of Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, whereas in Super Smash Bros. 4, the gauge seen in all three versions of Critical Hit resembles the HP gauge used in Fire Emblem Awakening. The health gauge in Brawl has 60 HP units, matching Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light and Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem and their remakes, all of which star Marth, where units could have up to 60 HP. Marth dealing 60% damage with Critical Hit in Brawl is presumably to match the listed HP of damage inflicted; this carries over to SSB4 and Lucina's cloned version therein despite the Awakening-style HP meter having 80 units in SSB4, which matches the maximum HP for units in Awakening.
Marth & Lucina
Marth or Lucina raise their respective swords in the air, where it catches the light and shimmers brightly, before dashing forward with blazing speed to catch any unfortunate opponents with an extremely powerful slash. In both games, Marth does not say anything while performing this move (apart from a grunt), but Lucina in Super Smash Bros. 4 announces "Time to change fate!" (運命を変えます！, I will change fate!).
In terms of knockback, it is by far the strongest Final Smash in Brawl and Smash 4, and its power and damage also make it one of the strongest attacks in all of the games. It deals 62% damage in Brawl (60% base plus 2% fresh) and deals more than enough knockback to KO any character at 0% under most normal circumstances. However, the power of this move is somewhat hampered by its larger time frame in which to perform a dodge (the time during which Marth raises his sword), making it deceptively predictable and avoidable. Landing the blow is hence easiest against opponents suffering from ending lag or helplessness, or who are simply unaware, as all other players in range can completely dodge the move by air dodging, sidestepping, or simply moving away with good timing. In Smash 4, the startup slows down time by a slight amount, making the main attack harder to dodge.
Until the attack animation completely ends, the entire sword carries the move's hitbox, meaning that the attack can also hit anyone directly behind Marth when he swings his sword. Because the attack itself gives such an high amount of freeze frames, it is also possible for a fighter to walk into Marth's sword once it hits another opponent and still be given a OHKO, even after half a second. Critical Hit only hits once, so with proper timing, moves that provide armor can be used to survive it. Of course, this will not stop the target from taking the move's full damage.
On the ground, the initial dash will follow the platform's contours, and the move will end without Marth swinging if he reaches the edge. In the air, Marth will travel at high speed directly forward. The dash can be canceled immediately by pressing an attack button, which also causes Marth to swing his sword. The dash will automatically travel its maximum distance if uninterrupted, which is approximately the same distance as the width of the largest area available in the Stage Builder; missing with this attack on the ground on a walk-off stage, or in the air without any intervening terrain, usually results in a self-destruct unless the player manually triggers Marth to swing early. The distance the Final Smash grants allows it to be used as an extremely effective horizontal recovery move if needed, although this is situational.
In Brawl, this attack has such immense knockback that it is possible for the main victim to KO other opponents by simply knocking into them.
Roy's Critical Hit involves him standing in place while spinning the Sword of Seals in a backwards arc around him with two hands. It then flashes with light (similar to the startup of Marth/Lucina's Critical Hits) before Roy swings his sword violently downwards, creating a massive fiery explosion in front of him. Roy will then sheath his sword (a purely aesthetic animation that ends in a second); if he finishes the Final Smash in the air, he leaps a small distance upward, which does not count as a second jump. The flaming slash deals 40%, and anyone hit by it is sent flying with high knockback, although the slash is not a OHKO unlike Marth/Lucina's version which can KO at any percentage, and deals considerably less knockback at 0%, making it unable to KO fresh stocks (starting to KO only at 40%).
Unlike Marth/Lucina's Critical Hits, it is possible to force opponents into the final, powerful hit; touching the Sword of Seals during the move's startup (when Roy slowly circles his sword) traps victims within the swing, dealing multiple 1% hits while it moves. A total of 11% can be dealt by the startup alone, and the final hit positions trapped opponents in front of Roy, making them vulnerable to the brunt of the finishing blow. As the swing starts from behind, it is easier to catch opponents behind Roy when compared to the front.
Because Roy's Critical Hit does not involve him moving forwards, the range of his version is severely lower than Marth/Lucina's. The hitbox of the flaming slash also does not cover below Roy, making it possible to miss if Roy jumps and unleashes the move. However, the explosion itself has a large hitbox, and because the start of his Critical Hit can trap opponents into the final blow, it is more reliable at connecting and far less predictable than Marth/Lucina's Critical Hit, which has a highly predictable startup and a somewhat small hitbox; it even has a decently quick startup and can combo into Roy's throws at low percents, which can almost guarantee a KO.
Similar to Marth/Lucina's, a purely aesthetic health bar appears for every victim sent flying, showing them dropping from full health to zero.
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