Falco (ファルコ, Falco) returns as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. Falco was officially confirmed on October 3rd, 2014, alongside Ness and Wario, coinciding with the North American and European release of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS. As in Melee and Brawl, Hisao Egawa reprises his role in the Japanese version with his re-recorded voice clips of the game. Mark Lund, his voice actor from Star Fox 64 3D, now voices him in the English version, replacing Dex Manley from Brawl.
Falco ranks 47th out of 55 on the tier list, an extreme drop from Brawl where he was ranked 7th out of 38, and an enormous drop from his Melee position where he was ranked 4th out of 26, making this his worst placement in the series by far. The majority of Falco's moves have high speed and very favourable angles, granting him a strong combo game and juggling capabilities. These are further aided by his good grab game and strong jumps, with the latter remaining the highest in the game. His moves that lack speed or reach are also packed with power, giving his moves surprisingly high KO power; for example, his back aerial can reliably KO below 130%. He also boasts an effective grab game and out of shield game, with all of his throws possessing great utility and/or KO power, while the speed of his moves allows him to easily punish opponents out of shield.
However, Falco's neutral game has been drastically weakened, with several of the moves that made him a threat at all ranges being nerfed: his two staple moves, Blaster and down aerial, now being much slower, and both are also incapable of autocancelling in a short hop, eliminating Falco's ability to safely approach; changes to his back aerial by lowering its duration and reach also make it less effective at spacing. These weakened tools amplify the issue of Falco's low horizontal mobility, making it very difficult to keep up with opponents or force an approach. Finally, even though Falco benefits from the changes to hitstun cancelling as they make down throw much better for combos, it can no longer lead into the Gatling Combo or rack up damage on its own. In fact, the changes to game mechanics have hindered Falco overall, as the removal of DACUS, the Gatling Combo, and chain grabbing hurt his damage racking capabilities overall, while the introduction of rage makes him more susceptible to KOs, due to his light weight. His recovery, despite being long distanced and buffed overall, is still slow, predictable, and easily intercepted, making Falco vulnerable to gimps.
Owing to his flaws, especially compared to his Brawl incarnation, Falco has held poor tournament representation and results in competitive play. Although updates to the game have attempted to buff a number of his negative attributes, he still has struggled to make an impact at tournaments at the national level.
How to unlock
Falco must then be defeated on Corneria.
Falco must then be defeated on Orbital Gate Assault.
Falco is a light character with polarized movement. He has the strongest jumping ability, a fast walking speed, fast falling speed and high air acceleration, but a rather slow dashing speed, below average air speed and very high gravity. These stats give Falco slow horizontal movement, but proficient vertical movement. They also give him good vertical survivability for a character of his weight.
Falco's greatest strength is the speed of his moveset. His neutral attack and forward tilt are both exceedingly quick, while up tilt and down tilt can be used to combo into other attacks or even KO at high percentages. His smash attacks are all powerful and have decent reach as well. Down smash is also a semi-spike, making it very good at edgeguarding. His aerial moves are also powerful in their own way. Neutral aerial deals decently high knockback and is very quick, making it an excellent option for disrupting an opponent's moves and a great combo extender/finisher. Forward aerial is powerful and can easily KO offstage, and can be used for gimping by fast-falling during the move then footstool jumping over the opponent, in a similar manner to fellow fighter Fox. It also has a strong landing hitbox with disjointed range. Up aerial sends opponents vertically and is a great move for comboing and KOing off the top, thanks to Falco's high jumps. Back aerial is Falco's strongest aerial, as well as his second fastest, making it a great choice in many scenarios. Lastly, down aerial, while significantly nerfed from Brawl, can still be useful for KOing offstage, as it is a meteor smash. All of these moves grant Falco a versatile combo game.
Another advantage Falco possesses is his grab game. His pummel is quick and decently damaging, making it great at racking up damage. The forward throw is decently strong and can set up a dash attack or an edge guard. Back throw is great for giving Falco some breathing space, since the first hit is a semi-spike, and when combined with the laser's hit, the throw can even KO at high percentages. Up throw sends opponents straight up, and can be used to combo into any aerial or even KO at very high percents. Finally, down throw can combo into dash attack and any aerial at low percentages, or tech-chase if the opponent is past combo percentages, like in Brawl. Coupled with his fast rolls and sidestep, with the former being long-distanced, as well as his aforementioned combo abilities, Falco has an impressive out of shield game.
His special moveset also provides some interesting options. Blaster is Falco's main projectile and, while extremely unsafe at close range, is an invaluable move for pressuring, gimping recoveries (especially those of Ganondorf, Little Mac and Cloud) and halting or even outright preventing approaches. Reflector is, as its name implies, a move capable of reflection, allowing Falco to actively combat camping. It also carries a damaging hitbox that has a high chance of tripping opponents, even at percentages over 400%, allowing for potential tech-chases. Falco Phantasm involves Falco quickly dashing sideways, making it great for horizontal recovery. The aerial version also meteor smashes aerial opponents and has little landing lag, making it useful for gimping recoveries and repositioning, respectively. Lastly, Fire Bird, his primary recovery move, grants him respectable distance in any direction chosen. It also allows Falco to slide across the air, letting him mix up his positioning, and has damaging hitboxes throughout (dealing 31% of all hits connect), making up for its low speed.
However, Falco has numerous weaknesses. His most prominent flaws are his neutral game and recovery. Regarding his neutral game, Falco's horizontal mobility is fairly slow, which limits his movement across the stage. This gives him significant trouble approaching and pressuring opponents, since Blaster, his most reliable tool at doing so, can no longer autocancel. In addition, while Falco's moves are overall very quick startup-wise, many of them are slow endlag-wise, making misused moves heavily susceptible to punishment. When combined with his overall poor reach on his melee attacks and the fact that most of his moves' sweetspots are close to his body, Falco has a below average neutral game, making him have trouble at KOing despite his overall high power. As for his recovery, while his high jumps, Falco Phantasm, wall jump and FireBird all give him a very long-distanced recovery, it is extremely predictable due to how linear it is. These four options are also very ineffective on their own, making his recovery fairly easy to gimp. Outside of low percentages, Falco's combo-oriented moves are prone to being DIed, making it harder for him to rack up damage effectively, which is further exacerbated by the removal of chain grabbing, DACUS and the Gatling Combo. Despite being light, Falco is susceptible to combos, due to his fast falling speed and lack of escape options. His survivability is below average at best, mainly because of Falco's low weight, high gravity, and predictable recovery.
Falco benefits a decent amount from custom moves. Burst Blaster has less range, but is much faster, forcing bad approaches from the opponent much more easily. Falco Phase cannot hit opponents and does not grant any momentum, like in Melee, but Falco cannot be hurt either, and the move is also faster. Distant Fire Bird is slower and has no charging hitbox, like in Melee, but it moves further and has more momentum, considerably improving his recovery. Reflector Void destroys most projectiles instead of reflecting them, but deals more damage on contact, and is the optimal choice against certain characters like Villager or if the opponent lacks projectiles. The other variations of his custom moves are either very situational, or do not have many advantages over the default.
Overall, like Kirby and Luigi, Falco runs hot and cold. Despite having excellent combo potential and KO power, his slow ground mobility, poor range and significantly nerfed neutral game make it very difficult to put his newfound abilities to use. Mainly due to his poor neutral game, Falco's weaknesses outweigh his strengths, resulting in poor tournament representation and similar results, with very few dedicated mains such as Armando and Keitaro.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Falco has received a mix of buffs and nerfs in the transition from Brawl to SSB4. Even though the former is technically of greater quantity than the latter, he is considered to be significantly nerfed overall, due to his neutral game being drastically weakened and the nerfs he received are far more severe than the buffs he received.
Falco's power has been improved significantly, removing his main weakness from Brawl. His down tilt has regained its lost power from Melee and his smash attacks are stronger. His forward aerial is stronger and unaffected by SDI, his up aerial has consistent power and more vertical knockback, and his back aerial while having a shorter duration and less range around him has much more power, to the point of being the eighth strongest overall in the game while also being the fastest in the game. In addition, his grab game has seen some improvements, with up throw having comboing abilities, and back throw now having KO power. His recovery has also been noticeably buffed. While Falco Phantasm can no longer be shortened and its hitbox was noticed nerfed, it no longer puts Falco in helpless state, allowing Fire Bird to be used immediately after, with the latter also granting more distance than before. Due to being slow, both moves also benefit a lot from the removal of edge-hogging.
However, the nerfs Falco received created new weaknesses that were harsh enough to severely cripple his neutral game. The removal of DACUS (and subsequently the Gatling Combo) prevents his newly buffed up smash from being used as an approach option or a combo finisher. The removal of chain grabbing is a double-edged sword for Falco. While he is no longer adversely affected by it, his ability to easily rack up large amounts of damage with his down throw is no longer present. His down throw was also directly nerfed as it deals less damage and has higher knockback, hindering its combo potential. Down aerial, a staple in Melee and Brawl, has been drastically slowed down having immensely increased startup lag and no longer auto-cancelling in a short hop. These changes hinder down aerial so much to the point where it is now useless outside of edgeguarding and even then, down aerial has reduced knockback. Falco Phantasm has increased startup lag, travels more slowly and its hitbox no longer lasts for its entire duration moving forwards greatly hindering its use on stage and it can no longer be shortened hindering its mixup potential. Finally, his Blaster, formerly one of the most reliable tools for approaching and pressuring, is slower and incapable of autocancelling. These changes make Falco much less of a threat in the neutral game, as it is now considerably harder for him to put his high power to good use.
Overall, most of Falco's buffs are not highly beneficial while the nerfs he received practically removed some of his previous best tools. The general changes to the mechanics also did not help him as much as some other characters while taking away a few of his key traits. Due to these nerfs, Falco is considered to be one of the characters to have been nerfed the most in the transition from Brawl to Smash 4. His harmful changes have resulted in many players having poor opinions about him and he has seen far less success in tournaments.
Falco has been buffed via game updates. In update 1.0.4, his Blaster's firing rate was increased, which slightly improved his neutral game. Update 1.0.8 buffed Falco's punishing game by making his neutral aerial more versatile, as well as increasing the speed of his up and forward aerials. The same update also slightly improved his aerial mobility by increasing his air speed and acceleration. Update 1.1.4 increased his down smash's knockback, while improving his up smash by decreasing its start-up, increasing its knockback, and granting intangibility to its first hit. Lastly, the new shield mechanics also aid some of Falco's moves without harming others. These changes gave Falco more offensive options and improved both his KOing and his previously nerfed damage racking abilities, making him better than he was in the game's initial release. However, since none of them have improved his below average neutral game, Falco still remains at a disadvantage compared to most of the cast.
Technical changelist 1.0.8
Technical changelist 1.1.4
For a gallery of Falco's hitboxes, see here.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Falco has been viewed rather poorly ever since Smash 4's release. Players took little time to notice the severe nerfs to his Blaster, which was an essential component of Falco's playstyle in his previous iterations and a driving force behind his top-tier placements in Melee and Brawl. The nerfs to his down aerial, another signature move of his, further contributed to his weak status, as well as being somewhat slower on the ground than in Brawl. As time went on and Falco saw little representation and almost no notable results to speak of, it became clear that his nerfs were indeed too severe for him to be even a mid-tier character in the eyes of the community. This is in spite of the fact that Falco has received numerous buffs over the game's life span, due to them largely failing to address his ineffective neutral game. Meanwhile, characters like Ike, Meta Knight, Marth, and Mewtwo, who were all at some point considered similarly below-average, would go on to receive more meaningful buffs, which served to only worsen Falco's position relative to the cast. Falco's nerfs and his ongoing lack of tournament presence would lead him to place at 38th on the first tier list released by the 4BR. He then saw drops to 49th on the second tier list, and again to 50th on the third tier list.
Towards the end of the game’s lifespan, however, Falco has earned some noteworthy results as of late thanks to smashers like Armando, Keitaro, and Anragon. Many smashers have also learned that Falco has some favorable and even matchups against some of the middle and high tier characters like Villager, Mega Man, Toon Link, Olimar and Lucas. Due to these traits, some players have argued in support of him and believe he is rather underrated, citing his strong combo game, powerful back aerial, feared down tilt and an effective reflector. Due to the discovery of Falco's niche matchups, he saw a slight improvement to 47th with some smashers still claiming he deserves to be even higher. Regardless, Falco holds the distinction of having the largest tier drop from Brawl to Smash 4 and regarded to be significantly worse than his previous iterations due to his overwhelming nerfs and terrible matchup spread against the high and top tier characters.
In Event Matches