Duck Hunt (SSB4)
Duck Hunt (ダックハント, Duck Hunt), rendered in-game as Duckhunt in the Japanese version and known as Duck Hunt Duo in the PAL version, are playable characters in Super Smash Bros. 4. After initially being leaked on August 19th, 2014 as part of the ESRB leak, and then being inadvertently revealed via a non-official livestream on September 11, 2014, Duck Hunt's first official acknowledgement occurred via a Director's Room Miiverse post on October 22nd, 2014. This was then followed by their official trailer being revealed during a Nintendo Direct on November 5th, 2014. Like Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong, the dog and duck use realistic vocalizations derived from their respective species.
Duck Hunt is ranked 30th out of 55 on the tier list; in addition to placing them at the top of the D tier, this renders them as the highest ranking mid-tier characters. Thanks to their three versatile projectiles, Duck Hunt have a very capable zoning game, with the remote controllable Trick Shot being especially useful.
Duck Hunt's fast air speed and useful aerial attacks also grant them a decent air game, which in turn syncs well with their projectiles' ability to maintain stage control. Duck Hunt's frame data is also quite good: nearly all of their moves have less than 10 frames of start-up lag and very high knockback growth, which enable Duck Hunt to ward off opponents quite well in close quarters combat.
However, Duck Hunt's most glaring flaw is their KO potential, as their moveset's overall very high knockback growth is offset by their overall low damage output and overall very low base knockback. By extension, their smash attacks are infamously unreliable: despite having multiple hitboxes; respectable overall damage outputs; and the ability to increase their ranges via charging, their initial hitboxes' knockback and launching angles can result in opponents inadvertently evading their last hitboxes.
Due to Duck Hunt's above-average falling speed and being among the lightest middleweights, their endurance is also unimpressive. By extension, their recovery's overall mediocrity compounds this flaw: although the dog is capable of wall jumping, Duck Jump's maneuverability and decent travel distance are offset by its slow travel speed and lack of protection.
Although Duck Hunt's flaws have resulted in them attaining minimal tournament representation, they have made up for it by achieving respectable tournament results, thanks to You3, Dandy Penguin, ImHip, Raito, Brood and Ozone each achieving top 10 placings at the regional level. In addition, Raito, Dandy Penguin and ImHip have achieved top 10 placings at the national level, while Brood has taken a set off of ZeRo. As a result of Duck Hunt achieving better results in comparison to a number of characters that are considered much better than them, their current tier placement is debatable.
How to unlock
After completing one of the two methods, Duck Hunt must then be defeated on Duck Hunt.
Duck Hunt are middleweights, being tied with Palutena as the third lightest members of that weight class. Duck Hunt have slightly above-average walking and dashing speeds, as well as above-average air and falling speeds. However, they have average air acceleration, as well as below-average gravity and traction. As a result, Duck Hunt's overall mobility fairly average. Aside from these general attributes, the dog and duck each possess specific traits: the dog can crawl and wall jump, while the duck has a hurtbox just like the dog.
As their name in the PAL version suggests, Duck Hunt is not a single character, but actually a tag team like the Ice Climbers and Rosalina & Luma. In Duck Hunt's case, their team consists of the dog and a duck from Duck Hunt. In addition to using spins, paw swipes, headbutts and pecks, the dog and duck each partake in special moves. The dog initiates their neutral and down specials, Trick Shot and Wild Gunman, whereas the duck performs their up special, Duck Jump. However, Duck Hunt also have five moves that reference the NES Zapper: their smash attacks; the remainder of Trick Shot; and their side special, Clay Shooting.
Duck Hunt's offensive special moves are oriented at zoning and stage control. Trick Shot is useful for not only playing mindgames, but also helping Duck Hunt with edge-guarding. However, the explosion also damages Duck Hunt, which forces careful spacing between them and the tin can. Clay Shooting's long range makes it useful for luring opponents from a distance, and especially for hindering an opponent's approach. Wild Gunman is best suited for mindgames like Trick Shot, and both moves can synchronize rather well with each other.
Unlike Trick Shot, however, Wild Gunman has minimal offensive use because of its varying damage outputs, unimpressive knockback, and each gunman being unable to fire if they are dealt at least 5%. Another perk that each of Duck Hunt's offensive special moves is their inherent defensive capabilities: Trick Shot's tin can, Clay Shooting's clay pigeon, and Wild Gunman's gunmen are each able to block an opponent's projectiles, similarly to Link and Toon Link's Bombs. Lastly, Duck Jump is a maneuverable recovery option that covers a decent amount of vertical and horizontal distance.
Duck Hunt's air game is perhaps the strongest aspect of their offense after their projectiles, and typically synchronizes well with the latter's suitability for stage control. Duck Hunt's neutral aerial is useful for edge-guarding thanks to its minimal start-up lag and sex kick properties, while its clean hitbox is strong enough to reliably KO even on-stage opponents at reasonable percentages. Both their forward and back aerials are useful for edge-guarding, while the latter's sweetspot and their up aerial are also strong enough to KO reliably. Lastly, Duck Hunt's down aerial is their most damaging aerial and is able to meteor smash.
Although Duck Hunt's grounded attacks are less effective than their aerial attacks, they still have their uses. Their neutral attack is their most useful grounded attack, thanks to a number of perks. Its second and third hits have disjointed hitboxes; its neutral infinite is reliable for damage racking even at high percentages; and its last hit and infinite's finisher are reliable for spacing, thanks to their very high knockback growth.
Despite having very minimal horizontal range, Duck Hunt's up tilt is perhaps their second most useful grounded attack. It is a reliable combo starter against middleweights, heavyweights and fast-fallers, yet its very high knockback growth and fairly minimal start-up lag also allow it to function as Duck Hunt's most consistent KOing option. Their forward tilt, down tilt and dash attack are decent for spacing, yet are also useful for launching Trick Shot's tin can back into the line of fire. Lastly, all of Duck Hunt's smash attacks have respectable power, and can increase their ranges via charging.
However, Duck Hunt possess glaring weaknesses. The most notable one is their KO potential: even though almost the entirety of their moveset has very high knockback growth, this is offset by their overall low damage output and overall very low base knockback. To compound this, Duck Hunt's smash attacks are infamously inconsistent: due to their initial hitboxes' very high knockback growth and unfavorable launching angles, it is possible for opponents to inadvertently evade their concluding hitboxes, even with minimal smash directional influence. Duck Hunt's aerials do not fare much better: only their clean neutral, clean back, and up aerials have KO potential, while all of their aerials are best suited for edge-guarding because of their short ranges.
Duck Hunt's endurance is also unremarkable. In addition to their above-average falling speed and fairly unimpressive weight, Duck Hunt's overall recovery is mediocre at best, owing to Duck Jump's slow travel speed and lack of protection often forcing the dog to wall jump. These traits also make Duck Hunt susceptible to rushdowns and combos, although their neutral aerial, Trick Shot, and Clay Shooting can somewhat help alleviate these types of pressure.
While it is not as burdensome as their KO potential and recovery, Duck Hunt's grab game is nevertheless very polarized. Their grabs have deceptively long ranges; their pummel is among the most damaging in the game; and their forward and back throws can help them launch an opponent into Trick Shot's trajectory if they initially dodged the tin can. Forward throw can also combo into a dash attack beginning at 0%, and into a dashing, short hopped forward aerial from low to medium percentages. However, none of their throws possess KO potential; down throw is extremely ineffective at starting combos; and their pummel is tied with Mega Man's as the fifth slowest in the game.
Duck Hunt possess a few notable custom moves. Zigzag Shot is very unpredictable and travels an impressive distance upward. When the shots are timed correctly, it functions as a capable, albeit gimmicky, KOing option. Super Duck Jump covers more vertical distance and has a windbox that pushes away nearby opponents, but has more start-up lag and covers almost no horizontal distance. The variations of Wild Gunman are the most promising, however: Quick Draw Aces makes Duck Hunt's zoning game more powerful and even more difficult to counter at the cost of covering less distance, whereas Mega Gunman's improved defense and larger hurtbox grant them a way to ward off pressure at the cost of weakening their zoning and stage control games.
Overall, Duck Hunt's projectiles make them very capable at maintaining a strong defensive presence and playing mindgames. However, due to relying heavily on their projectiles in order to maintain an offensive presence, Duck Hunt can be very vulnerable to characters that can counteract them, such as those capable of reflection. As a result, players must also properly synchronize their projectiles with their useful air game in order to maintain a precise, varied, and pressuring offensive presence on the ground and in the air.
Duck Hunt have received a handful of buffs via game updates. Update 1.0.8 made their neutral aerial safer by decreasing its landing lag. Update 1.1.0 improved the utility of their neutral attack's last hit, and slightly improved their forward smash's reliability by increasing the sizes of its second and last hitboxes. However, this same update also slightly toned down their neutral infinite's damage racking potential. Lastly, update 1.1.5 slightly improved Duck Hunt's KO potential by marginally increasing the knockback growth of their smash attacks' last hits.
Tier placement and history
Duck Hunt's viability has been among the most contentious throughout SSB4's lifespan. They were initially considered to be among the best characters in the game, largely thanks to their zoning game offering them excellent set-ups and stage control. Later, it would become clear that Duck Hunt's overall average mobility, smash attacks' awkward hitboxes, handful of KOing options, and over-reliance on set-ups collectively hindered them in competitive play. As a result, their playerbase in the Western scene declined dramatically, even in light of the nerfs to Diddy Kong and Sheik, two of their most challenging matchups.
Despite this, Duck Hunt managed to achieve respectable tournament success in Japan, thanks to Brood, Raito and You3. These players also expanded Duck Hunt's metagame by employing even smarter set-ups, frame traps and pressure options. Western players that continued to main Duck Hunt, such as Dandy Penguin and ImHip, would also achieve decent success in tournaments. These instances of success somewhat improved Duck Hunt's perception: they were tied with Little Mac for 42nd/43rd on the first tier list, and then ranked 42nd on the second tier list.
However, Duck Hunt's perception continued to improve following GENESIS 4: Brood, You3 and Raito placed 25th, 33rd and 49th, respectively, while Brood scored an upset against ZeRo, who was the best SSB4 player in the world at the time. This upturn resulted in Duck Hunt being ranked 37th on the third tier list, which saw them reassessed as mid-tier characters. Thanks to Raito's consistently high placings since GENESIS 4, Duck Hunt's perception has improved even further. To reflect this, they were ranked 30th on the fourth and current tier list, which rendered them as the highest ranking mid-tier characters. However, some players, such as Dabuz, view Duck Hunt as underrated and deserving of high-tier status.