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 hinted at in a Director's Room Miiverse post on October 22nd, 2014, Duck Hunt were officially announced during a Nintendo Direct on November 5th, 2014. In addition to their titular game, Duck Hunt reference two other "Light Gun Series" games, Hogan's Alley and Wild Gunman, via their neutral special move, side special move, and Final Smash.
Duck Hunt are currently ranked 30th out of 55 on the tier list, placing them at the top of the D tier. This also renders them as the highest ranking mid-tier characters. Duck Hunt have a very capable zoning game thanks to their three versatile projectiles, with the remote controllable Trick Shot being especially useful. Their 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 them being tied for the third 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, and Duck Jump is a maneuverable recovery option that covers a decent amount of vertical and horizontal distance, Duck Jump is slow and offers no protection.
Although Duck Hunt's flaws have resulted in them attaining minimal tournament representation, they have achieved respectable tournament results regardless, 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 whose overall mobility is rather average. Their walking speed, air speed, falling speed, and air acceleration are quite fast, while their dashing speed is average. However, their gravity and traction are both low. 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 entity, but actually a team of characters like the Ice Climbers, the Pokémon Trainer, and Rosalina & Luma. In Duck Hunt's case, the team consists of the dog and a duck from Duck Hunt, as well as an off-screen hunter using the NES Zapper. The dog and duck comprise the majority of the team's moveset, such as using spins, paw swipes, headbutts, and pecks. The dog also initiates their neutral and down specials, Trick Shot and Wild Gunman, while the duck performs their up special, Duck Jump. Conversely, the hunter is involved with only five moves: 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 little 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 and covers a decent amount of vertical and horizontal distance.
Fittingly enough for a team with a bird, Duck Hunt's air game is perhaps the strongest aspect of their offense after their projectiles, and it typically synchronizes well with their projectiles, thanks to the latter's suitability for stage control. Their 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, their 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 perhaps their best grounded attack: its neutral infinite is reliable for damage racking thanks to its hits connecting together reliably even at high percentages, while both its last hit and its infinite's finisher are reliable for spacing thanks to their very high knockback growth. Their up tilt is their only consistent combo starter, as it can combo into itself until almost 30% on middleweights, and even higher on heavyweights and fast-fallers depending on their DI. It can also act as a set-up for a short hopped up aerial, or even function as a situational KOing option at very high percentages. Down tilt is useful for launching Trick Shot's tin can back into the line of fire, dash attack has impressive range and decent power, and all of their smash attacks have good ranges and respectable power.
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, their smash attacks are infamously inconsistent, as their initial hitboxes' very high knockback growth and unfavorable launching angles make it possible for opponents to inadvertently evade their concluding hitboxes. Duck Hunt's aerials do not fare much better: only their clean neutral, clean back, and up aerials have KO potential, while they and their forward and down aerials are best suited for edge-guarding because of their short ranges.
Duck Hunt's endurance is also unremarkable. In addition to their aforementioned above average falling speed, they are tied with Palutena as the third lightest middleweights in the game. This is further compounded by their overall recovery being mediocre at best, as Duck Jump's slow travel speed and lack of protection often forces 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 them 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' ranges are deceptively long, 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 then 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 fourth 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.
In competitive play
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. Some smashers however like Dabuz think that Duck Hunt is underrated and deserves to be ranked among the high tier characters.
In Event Matches
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