Throughout Duck Hunt, the goal is to shoot all of the ducks with a limited amount of bullets and time. By plugging a controller into the player 2 slot in the NES, a duck can be controlled to a limited extent by another player.
The hunter is the playable character in all versions of Duck Hunt and is supposed to represent the player. Accompanying the player is a non-playable scent hound, who flushes out the ducks for the hunter to shoot and picks up any ducks that are shot down by the player. If the player fails to shoot down any ducks, the dog infamously laughs at the player's misfortune before slinking back down into the grass.
Although the home console version of Duck Hunt does not allow players to shoot the dog, the arcade version, Vs. Duck Hunt, actually allows players to do so in the bonus rounds. However, successfully shooting the dog immediately ends the bonus round and yields no points.
Super Smash Bros. Melee marks the debut of the Duck Hunt universe within the Super Smash Bros. series. The universe is represented by a collectible trophy that consists of two ducks, and its description references both the hunting dog and the player as the hunter.
A concept similar to Assist Trophies was considered for Melee, with one example being the ducks from Duck Hunt flying around the stage and interfering with characters. However, the idea was scrapped due to developmental circumstances.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl marks the second appearance of the Duck Hunt universe. Instead of a trophy, the universe is represented with a sticker of a duck. Fittingly, the sticker can only be applied to the Ice Climbers, Mr. Game & Watch, Pit and R.O.B., all of whom debuted in the 1980s like the hunting dog and ducks.
As a playable character
Main article: Duck Hunt (SSB4)
Super Smash Bros. 4 marks both the third appearance of the Duck Hunt universe, and the debut of unlockable representatives for said universe. Masahiro Sakurai stated that the inclusion of playable Duck Hunt representatives was influenced by that respective game's worldwide sales numbers, and his feeling that the Duck Hunt universe had not been viable for such representation until SSB4. Like the Ice Climber universe, the Duck Hunt universe's playable representatives (the hunting dog and a duck) function as a tag team that is referred to by their home game's name. Duck Hunt were the final newcomers to be officially revealed.
Three of Duck Hunt's special moves also reference other "Light Gun Series" games contemporary to their home game. Their neutral special involves a tin can from the "Trick Shot" game mode from Hogan's Alley; their down special involves the gunmen from the NES game Wild Gunman; and their Final Smash collectively involves a flock of ducks from Duck Hunt, the cardboard cutouts from the Hogan's Alley, and the gunmen from Wild Gunmen. Outside of these moves, their smash attacks also make use of the NES Zapper.
Duck Hunt are currently ranked 30th out of 55 on the tier list, placing them at the top of the D tier, and rendering them the highest ranking mid-tier characters. Duck Hunt's projectiles make them capable at stage control and zoning, with Trick Shot being the most useful due to its remote controllable property. They also have a good air game, as their sweetspotted neutral aerial, up aerial and sweetspotted back aerial are capable KOing options, while their forward aerial is useful for edge-guarding and spacing. However, their KO potential is very inconsistent, due to having a very small number of KOing options and because of their smash attacks' very awkward hitbox placements making them liable to fail at landing all of their hits.
Although Duck Jump is a maneuverable recovery move that grants a decent amount of vertical and horizontal distance, it is slow and unprotected, which leaves Duck Hunt wide open to edge-guarding and forces them to use the dog's wall jump more often than not. Their reliance on projectiles is also highly ineffective against characters who can counteract them, such as those with reflectors and especially against Rosalina & Luma, who can completely nullify their projectiles with Gravitational Pull.
As a playable character
Main article: Duck Hunt (SSBU)
Duck Hunt return as unlockable characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Duck Hunt has been given a mix of buffs and nerfs from the transition to Ultimate. Duck Hunt's notoriously mediocre KO power in SSB4 has been improved in many ways: dash attack, forward- and down tilts all have more knockback, while their infamously unreliable smash attacks now connect more reliably (though the final hit may still fail to connect in some instances) and have more knockback. In addition, Trick Shot, which was already a powerful, versatile projectile, has been improved in many ways: it KOs earlier, travels further, has less endlag and can now be hit in air, increasing it's utility even further. In addition, Wild Gunman also deal more knockback, with orange and sombrero Gunmen being able to KO at realistic percents.
However, the changes have resulted in very low tournament representation in early metagame of Ultimate, especially outside of Japan, with even some notable Duck Hunt players in SSB4 having completely dropped the character. Due to Duck Hunt's lack of representation in tournaments, their true viability remains to be seen.
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