Fox (フォックス, Fox) returns as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. He was one of the characters confirmed to return in the game during the E3 2013 trailers on June 11th, 2013. He was also among the first wave of amiibo figures that are compatible with SSB4. Kenji Nojima reprises his role as Fox's voice in the Japanese version with re-recorded voice clips. However, Mike West, his original English voice actor who voiced him in Star Fox 64, reprised his role in the 3DS remake, Star Fox 64 3D and in the Wii U title, Star Fox Zero, now once again makes Fox's voice, replacing Jim Walker.
Fox has been ranked 7th (currently tied with Sonic) in all versions of the tier list to date, currently in the A tier. This is a noticeable improvement from his previous position from Brawl where he was ranked 15th of 38 characters as an upper mid tier character, and marks Fox's return to being ranked as a top tier character, like in Melee. He is also the highest ranked of the Original 8 and the "Perfect-Attendance crew" as well as the fourth highest ranked veteran. Fox's strengths include very quick mobility, a fast and transcendent projectile in his Blaster, and an anti-camping move in his Reflector. Altogether, these grant him one of the fastest and safest approaches in the entire game and allow him to easily keep up with almost any opponent. Fox also boasts a versatile combo game thanks to his quick, low knockback moves, along with capable KOing power, with a quick and powerful finisher in his up smash.
However, Fox's fast falling speed, high gravity, subpar air speed and light weight make him one of the easiest characters to both combo and KO, making him prone to momentum shifts. His recovery, while long-distanced, is linear and predictable, allowing for players to edgeguard him. His grab game is also poor, as his throws lack utility due to having no follow-ups past medium percentages or being realistic KOing options. The introduction of rage further burdens Fox, as the efficiency of his combos drops dramatically with it, as well as becoming even easier to KO.
Regardless, Fox's weaknesses are not enough to keep him out of the top tier, which is evident by his high tournament representation, such as from Larry Lurr, and Fox has attained great results.
Fox fits in with the "hit-and-run" archetype, as he has very fast grounded movement and above average frame data. Fox's mobility is proficient overall: he possesses the third fastest walking speed, the fourth fastest dashing speed, below average air speed but high air acceleration, the highest gravity and the fastest falling speed out of the entire cast. Despite his falling speed, he is also one of the lightest characters in the game (sixth lightest).
Along with his mobility, his attack speed is remarkable. Most of his moves come out in fewer than 10 frames, and some, such as his up smash, also boast terrific power. Though his aerials have noticeable landing lag, they have favorable auto-cancel frames, with his up and back aerials auto-cancelling in a short-hop, and the latter two deal high knockback as well. Fox's frame data grants him a formidable approach, as he can pressure and poke with his tilts and aerials without leaving himself open to punishes. His Blaster, despite being nerfed, is an invaluable tool in Fox's arsenal. Its rapid-fire abilities and range give it great utility in zoning, camping, forcing approaches, and racking on damage. All of the above factors give Fox a powerful neutral game.
Another shining strength is Fox's combo game. All of his tilts and aerials are capable of starting combos. His up tilt can combo into itself at low- to mid-percents, and can lead into his aerials at higher percents. Dash attack deals vertical knockback, leading into aerial combos and juggles. Due to its high hitlag, down aerial has reduced landing lag if it connects, allowing different follow-ups at a variety of percentages. Fox's down throw is also a reliable combo-starter at lower damages. Forward aerial has several set-ups, and if Fox lands while doing the move, he can jab lock the opponent with low-angled forward tilt, and may extend the combo after they are forced into their neutral get-up. Fox can also forward air an opponent offstage and fastfall, which can lead into a footstool and kill extremely early.
Fox has good KO power for a character of his weight class. Up aerial is quick, powerful, and has a wide auto-cancel frame, making it relatively safe. Forward smash, while fairly weak, has moderate start-up and ending lag and long range. Down smash can catch opponents off-guard and gives them little chance to DI, along with its decent power and semi-spike angle. Back aerial has low start-up and is a deadly semi-spike as well. Finally, Fox's most potent KO move is his up smash, with minimal start-up and powerful knockback. He also has a few notable set-ups into it, as both his neutral and down aerials can combo into it at high percentages.
However, Fox has a few weaknesses. His recovery, while far-reaching, is average at best. Fox Illusion is fast and grants long horizontal distance, but is linear and can no longer be shortened. Fire Fox can be angled in any direction, but is also linear and slow. Though Fox Illusion can now be followed up with Fire Fox, his recovery is nonetheless predictable. His very high falling speed and low weight leave him at the mercy of meteor smashes, and he usually cannot survive them even at lower percentages. In addition, similarly to Greninja, Fox's walljump is highly situational and grants minimum vertical and horizontal distance.
Despite having several high-power moves, Fox sometimes has difficulty KOing his opponent. Most of his finishers are easily predictable even in spite of their speed, most notably his up aerial and up smash. Up aerial is hard to land without an air dodge read, and because it is commonly used to rack up damage, it is prone to staling. Back aerial and down smash have short reach and durations, and the latter is punishable. Forward smash is one of the weakest of its kind. His most reliable KOing move, his up smash, is difficult to connect without a read or set-up. It also has 45 frames of ending lag, making it extremely unsafe on shield. A majority of his moves also have somewhat short reach in comparison to other characters, forcing Fox to often be up-close to inflict damage most of the time.
Fox's grab game is quite mediocre. His down throw is easily DIed even at low percentages, and none of his other throws can combo effectively. He lacks a reliable KO throw, which further hinders his ability to close out stocks, and this gives him trouble against foes who continuously shield his finishers and set-ups. Fox does not have a particularly strong edgeguarding ability. He cannot maneuver effectively offstage due to his fast falling speed and slow air speed. He lacks a meteor smash outside of a pseudo autolink meteor in his fastfall forward air, and his aerials either have long durations, high ending lag, or both. In such situations, because of his falling speed, Fox often has to use Fire Fox to return to the stage, which is risky and can backfire if the opponent survives the attempt.
Finally, Fox has terrible endurance. His light weight and high gravity allow many characters to KO him below 100%. Not only that, but his falling speed leaves him extremely susceptible to combos, though less vulnerable to juggles. Thus, he loses the main advantage that light-weights possess while suffering from their most glaring weakness. Some characters can easily rack up 50% on Fox off of one combo, a prominent example being Luigi, and he along with other characters can potentially bring Fox to KO percents with one or two combos. His aforementioned recovery issues only exacerbate Fox's frailty. Since Fox aims to rack up heavy damage but can struggle KOing, he is in even greater danger of losing his stock to opponents with heavy rage, and his endurance prevents him from making effective use of the mechanic.
With custom moves on, Fox does gain good benefits. Impact Blaster behaves similarly to how his Blaster did in SSB in that it fires slower, but deals more damage, knockback, and makes the opponents flinch similarly to Falco's Blaster. Charge Blaster fires a single, powerful laser that has slower start-up, but deals good damage, hitstun and knockback. Wolf Flash, originally belonging to Wolf, propels Fox at 35° instead of only horizontally like Fox Illusion does and it can also spike airborne opponents. Flying Fox does not go as far and deals no damage, but has almost no start-up and propels Fox faster, making it harder to gimp. Twisting Fox does not fly as far and propels Fox slower, but has less start-up, sucks opponents in, and is much more powerful, KOing as low as 60% off the top blast zone. It also grants a large momentum boost, making it just as good for recovery despite the lowered distance.
Overall, Fox is a very capable character due to his great grounded mobility, fast attack speed, strong combo game, decent finishers and no crippling weaknesses aside from his poor endurance, poor horizontal aerial movement and linear recovery. He has attained excellent tournament representation, being used by high-level players such as Larry Lurr, and he has strong results at all levels of play.
Changes from Brawl
Fox received a mix of buffs and nerfs in the transition from Brawl to SSB4, but his direct changes nerfed him overall. Fox's neutral game is less effective, with increased lag on his aerials and a weakened camping game due to the removal of auto-canceling on his Blaster. This means Fox can no longer safely bait as many bad approaches from his opponents. Additionally, some of his finishers (such as up smash) have been weakened. He is lighter, and the changes to hitstun canceling makes him even easier to combo at low percentages and worsens his endurance. One of his most significant nerfs was to his Reflector, which can no longer allow him to stall in the air effectively due to its drastically increased ending lag, and can no longer semi-spike, making it much less effective overall.
While he was directly nerfed, Fox benefits from the general changes of SSB4 enough to overcome these nerfs. This most notably includes the removal of chain grabbing, which was a major reason for his mid-tier placement in Brawl, and early hitstun canceling, which restores his ability to perform short combos with some of his more versatile attacks, such as his up tilt and neutral aerial. Additionally, while Fox's neutral game was nerfed, it still remains better than most due to his retained mix-ups, excellent foxtrot and short hop and his overall mobility. Fox also benefits from a better jab cancel, which can set up KOs more reliably. His recovery has also improved, with Fox Illusion no longer leaving him helpless and Fire Fox traveling farther. Fox benefits from the untechable reeling animation arguably more than any other character, as it now allows Fox to combo his weaker moves (such as down or neutral aerial) into his smash attacks for a K.O. Finally, his Reflector was given a slightly longer hitbox duration and a larger hitbox in update 1.1.0, making it more effective than it was initially for edgeguarding. As a result, he is considered to be much better relative to the cast than he was in Brawl, reflected by his much greater tournament success compared to Brawl with many more dedicated mains pushing his metagame.
Fox has been slightly buffed overall in game updates. His jab cancel was weakened and his jab lock was completely removed, though his Blaster and Reflector were improved. Fox also does not seem to be notably affected by the changes to the shield mechanics brought about by updates 1.1.0 and 1.1.1.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
During the game's release, Fox was considered a mid-tier character by the SSB4 community. Players believed the reductions to his overall damage output, the weakening of his up smash, the heavily increased landing lag on his aerials, the loss of Blaster auto-cancelling and shine-spikes, and his increased frailty resulted in him being worse than his Brawl incarnation. However, they slowly reassessed their thoughts on the character, as the removal of chaingrabbing and edge-hogging and the heavy changes to hitstun cancelling would prove beneficial to Fox, as such mechanics plagued him in Brawl. Opinions on Fox improved further as players discovered the first two hits of his jab could perform infinites and easily combo into other moves, including his main finishers. As a result, a massive amount of Fox players rushed into the competitive scene and quickly gained results, with many spamming the infinite as their battle strategy. Ultimately, this "infinite" carried even casual players to victories over experts. While his jab received nerfs in patch 1.1.0 (which removed the infinite and reduced its combo utility, and caused his large playerbase reliant on the infinite to either drop Fox or perform noticeably worse), his results have continually improved, with smashers like Charliedaking, Eon, Light, MegaFox, and Larry Lurr getting excellent tournament results, the latter winning against ZeRo 3-0 in a dominating fashion at CEO 2016. He has also notably benefited from the nerfs to Sheik, Luigi, and Bayonetta, who were among Fox's most challenging match-ups prior to their nerfs, though he still struggles against the latter.
These points have led Fox to be considered a top tier character by the community as the metagame has advanced, which is reflected on him ranking at 7th on all iterations of the 4BR tier list. This also makes Fox the only character to consistently stand on the same placing on each iteration of the tier list (although he currently shares the spot with Sonic on the fourth and current tier list). However, some smashers such as Dabuz and ESAM have claimed that Fox should be ranked higher on the tier list due to his dominant results and overwhelming advantage state with both players ranking Fox among the top 5 characters in the game while some say he should stay where he is due to his poor disadvantage state.
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