Announced at E3 2001, Fox (フォックス, Fox) is a playable starter character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. He is emblematic of speed and he can dominate foes with his rapid attacks, quick movement and overpowering offense in all areas of his game. He is placed 1st on the Melee tier list due to these advantages.
True to his position, Fox is an extremely efficient fighter with fast attacks, excellent comboing and damaging ability, long recovery options, and numerous approaching methods boasting some of the best neutral game options among the entire cast. He has KO options and setups at a wide variety of percentages, and his high falling speed makes him resilient to vertical KOs. His aerial game also includes several low-lag yet effective and powerful moves to complement his ground game, especially when SHFFL'd, and is incredibly effective at approaching and edgeguarding. Fox's main tool in his success, however, is his Reflector (also known as the shine), which is one of the most versatile tools in the game. Aside from its intended purpose, the Reflector activates on frame 1 (making it the fastest move in the game), has set knockback, and can be jump canceled; this allows for shine spike gimps, neutral stance resets, getup option mixups, and even combos when wavedashing is incorporated.
Despite being top tier, Fox is not flawless. His high falling speed makes him very easy to combo and chaingrab off of a single conversion from the opponent, and his light weight can result in extremely early horizontal KOs if the player's DI is poor. Although he boasts a very long recovery distance, he only has linear recovery options, which makes it easier for certain characters like Marth to predict his recovery path and edgeguard or gimp him. Fox also has an extremely high technical learning curve, as most of his techniques require extremely nimble fingers and fast reaction time. Also, due to his aforementioned flaws, Fox is considered to be a glass cannon, where he could lose a stock if a single mistake is made, giving him a high cerebral learning curve. So while Fox has incredible fighting process and potential, many consider Fox to be arguably the hardest character to play as and master, requiring a lot of practice.
Regardless, his pros greatly outshine his cons, and Fox is notable for being one of only four characters in the series (the other three being Pikachu in Smash 64, Falco in Melee, and Meta Knight in Brawl) to have no disadvantageous matchups, with only three (Falco, Marth and Samus) being considered even.
Fox falls into a unique archetype: He is exceptionally quick, yet he is equipped with a plethora of viable finishers. He has the second fastest dashing speed (which remedies his low air speed somewhat), tied with Marth for the fastest walking speed, the third fastest normal falling speed, tied with Captain Falcon for the second fastest fast falling speed, fast dash-dancing, and fast attacks. His low traction and fast jump (only 3 frames before he leaves the ground) gives him a fast, moderately long wavedash.
Fox's primary reason for his top-tier placing is his unparalleled comboing and damaging ability, helped by a powerful approach game. His fast fall and low, fast short hop contribute to an extremely quick SHFFL, which can let him almost effortlessly start combos or act as a deadly approach option. Additionally, Fox's specials act as powerful ways to aid this; his Reflector makes for a potential combo starter, as well as a potential infinite combo with his waveshine infinite, and his Blaster is an almost unstoppable damage-racking method, due to its long range, inability to cause hitstun, high speed and its ability to be combined with Fox's short hop as part of the short hop laser technique. Additionally, a majority of Fox's attacks inflict significant damage while being very fast as well; his neutral aerial, back aerial, and tilts are especially notable in this regard, with the remainder of his aerials having little ending lag.
Additionally, Fox's KO ability is also among the best in the game, with numerous powerful vertical finishers in his arsenal, most notably his up smash and up aerial, both of which are among the most powerful in the game with huge hitboxes. Fox's Reflector also makes for a valuable tool for KOing, due to its set, semi-spike knockback properties that makes it extremely useful for edgeguarding or gimping. Its instantaneous startup time and its ability to be jump-cancelled also means that it is of very low risk to use off the edge. While not the strongest, Fox's forward smash is an effective horizontal finisher at higher damage percentages, capable of KOing even heavyweights like Bowser under 150%.
While not the best, Fox's grab game is decent. His throws' low knockback allow him to set up potentially lethal combos. His up throw can lead into a sweet spotted up aerial, one of Fox's primary KO methods, and can even chain throw fast fallers. His forward and back throws force opponents a fair distance off the stage, aptly setting up opportunities for Fox to use his smashes, aerials, or shine spikes to edgeguard. In rare situations, Fox can use his down throw to meteor smash his opponents off the edge of a stage. Despite this, Fox's grab range is average, though his high dashing speed gives him a potential method to "extend" its range. Fox also cannot reliably chain grab at higher percentages, though he retains his ability to hit most opponents out of his up throw with guaranteed aerials, depending on DI.
Despite being a top-tiered character and considered among the most powerful in Melee, Fox is not completely infallible. Because he is a light fast faller, he suffers more hitstun but less vertical knockback. As such, nearly every character can juggle or chaingrab him for decent damage or even to KO percents with little chance for Fox to escape (Marth and Peach being notorious for having deadly chaingrab combos on Fox at Final Destination). As a result, Fox can be considered somewhat of a glass cannon, as while his attack prowess is high, a single blunder by the player can cause the loss of a stock.
In addition to an ease of being comboed, Fox also suffers from a rather exploitable recovery. On paper, despite being a fast faller with poor air speed and the highest gravity value amongst the fighters, Fox's recovery is among the best in the game, as his two options, Fire Fox and Fox Illusion, both travel extremely long distances. He can also mix up his recovery options by angling Fire Fox in nearly any direction and shortening his Fox Illusion, making the opponent second-guess themselves about where they should be on the stage to intercept Fox's recovery. However, such techniques are also extremely dangerous if incorrectly spaced, as if the opponent obtains the correct read or gets into a position where they can hit him out of his recovery, Fox will most likely not be able to recover again. A multitude of attacks can intercept both moves, such as Mario's Cape or Falco's down aerial, and top-tiered characters generally have the options to cover several of Fox's recovery options at once, or even chase Fox off-stage before he even has the chance to recover. Fox has the option of wall jumping in an attempt to further his recovery attempts; this technique, however, is situational, as there are very few positions where wall jumping would be more beneficial to him than simply recovering conventionally.
Fox received a mix of buffs and nerfs upon making the transition between games but was buffed overall, with an increase in K.O power, recovery, and movement options, all thanks to the introduction of wavedashing. Fox also received a new special move, known as Fox Illusion, which can be used as an alternate recovery option, allowing for recovery mix-ups. Another noteworthy buff is his Reflector, as it can now be jump-cancelled. This buff alongside the introduction of wavedashing eventually became the birth of a new technique known as waveshining. When successfully performing a waveshine, Fox can easily follow-up into a range of many different attacks.
Fox has also received notable nerfs, however, with one being his Blaster. Although Blaster's projectile travels faster and can fire rapidly, it deals less damage overall and can no longer deal knockback, making it slightly less effective for camping. This also means that Blaster can no longer be used to gimp opponents. Fox also suffered a decrease in his air speed, limiting his recovery. However, none of these nerfs were enough to stop Fox from being viable in competitive play.
Grabs and Throws
Like other characters, Fox has received some changes in the PAL version of Melee, which nerfed him overall, but it does not severely affect his tournament viability, as he is also ranked 1st on the PAL tier list.
For a gallery of Fox's hitboxes, see here.
In competitive play
As one of the only two characters in the game to not have any disadvantageous matchups (the other being Falco), Fox has, undisputably, the best matchup spread in Melee. He has only three matchups that are even, while he soft counters six characters, counters seven, and hard counters nine (second most in the game, behind Sheik). Fox has many advantages that help him against any character, such as his quick, versatile combo ability, great aerial attacks, and his very effective shine techniques, including a potential waveshine infinite that, even if performed to a limited degree, can shut down a large portion of the cast. Fox, however, does suffer from flaws; his very high falling speed and very low air speed undermine his otherwise relatively long recovery, making him predictable off the stage and easy to gimp and edgeguard by characters such as Falco, Jigglypuff and Marth. With his said falling speed, characters such as Marth can easily chaingrab him, and his light weight attribute makes him easy for characters such as Samus to KO horizontally.
Tier placement and history
Fox has been a top-tiered character, along with Falco and Sheik, since the very first Melee tier list, and has never fallen below third place. However, he was not at the top of the list for the first seven revisions, as Sheik was then considered to be the best character in the game. In the early metagame, although dedicated Fox professionals such as Thunders and Chillin showed early signs of great technical ability, they were considered far too inconsistent; many of the top players of that era, including Ken and Azen, used Fox only as a secondary for specific matchups, and only a few dedicated mains made any impact with him in serious tournament settings.
Eventually, more dedicated Fox mains, such as PC Chris, FASTLIKETREE, KoreanDJ, and Mew2King began to revitalize his metagame, incorporating much higher levels of technical skill that not many had seen before. These players began placing within the top 8 of MLG-sponsored tournaments, and their consistency and dominance against the majority of other top professional players resulted in Sheik's dethroning from first to third place on the eighth revision of the tier list in July of 2006. Later that year, PC Chris and KoreanDJ placed 1st and 2nd, respectively, at the MLG Las Vegas national championships, using Fox primarily in both sets of grand finals. This cemented Fox's position on the tier list, and since then, he has never fallen from the top spot.
Some smashers, however, are currently disputing Fox's standing on the tier list. Although Fox has one of the most developed metagames and the largest notable player base in Melee by far, his players are unable to win as many tournaments as professionals of characters below him, because he is one of the hardest characters to play consistently at the top level; even the best Fox professionals frequently lose in important tournament matches due to technical errors or mistimed reads. Additionally, the Fox matchup is almost universally known, making it extremely difficult for newer players to find tournament success with him. However, due to Mango's victories at EVO 2013, MLG Anaheim 2014, and EVO 2014 with almost only Fox, as well as his amazing raw potential, Fox's spot on the tier list is currently considered secure.
Recent trends in the metagame have seen a major increase in the usage of Fox; he is by far the most common character in doubles matches, and the most common character in singles matches as well. Many players who mained a lower-tiered character, most notably Hax, have abandoned their former character in favor of using only Fox, and other players, such as Armada, switch to Fox when they are having trouble against certain opponents. This overwhelming presence has lead to Fox being placed in his own tier at the top of the most recent tier list (much akin to Pikachu in the previous iterations of the 64 tier list or Meta Knight in Brawl). However, two of the "gods" — PPMD, who uses Falco/Marth, and Hungrybox, who uses Jigglypuff — have not recently used Fox against high-level opponents in tournaments.
Fox was nerfed in the PAL version of Melee. While his nerfs seem insignificant, they actually affect his matchups more than most other nerfed characters. The nerf to his up smash allows several characters to barely survive in that version where they would not have been able to in NTSC, forcing Fox mains to learn later KO percentages for it; at those percentages, however, some up smash setups are no longer guaranteed. Fox's nerfed recovery also weakens his off-stage game, as he can no longer travel as far off-stage to intercept enemies, and hinders his survivability, especially against characters who retain their edgeguarding ability, such as Sheik and Marth. The nerf to his weight exacerbates his decreased survivability, but as a positive note, allows him to escape combos more easily.
Fox's matchups against other top-tiered characters become slightly less advantageous in PAL. For example, many professionals believe that Falco wins against Fox overall, as Fox's nerfs allow Falco to survive much longer and KO Fox earlier, while Falco himself is not significantly hindered by his own PAL nerfs. Fox's matchup against Marth, in particular, is much harder, as he is no longer guaranteed a grab out of a waveshine due to Marth's weight changes. Thus, Fox needs to work much harder for a grab setup, hindering his damage racking ability against equally skilled players. However, Marth retains his fantastic punish game against fastfallers and has a much easier time edgeguarding Fox due to his aforementioned recovery nerfs. Along with harder matchups against Peach and even Captain Falcon, some PAL professionals have vouched that Falco or Marth is the best in that particular version of Melee instead. Regardless, Fox still performs very well in PAL regions of Melee, and maintains first place in his own tier on the most recent PAL tier list.
Fox players who travel to attend large tournaments, such as Leffen, are forced to adjust to these changes in gameplay, which can be an obstacle when fighting in a foreign country or continent. A handful of these players own copies of both the PAL and NTSC versions of the game to allow practice before international tournaments, mainly to practice executing certain Fox-specific setups that are impossible in the PAL version but present in the NTSC version, or to practice accommodating for the lack of these setups with backup strategies.
In Classic Mode, Fox can appear as an ordinary opponent, an ally or opponent in team battles, alongside Falco, Captain Falcon, Donkey Kong or Samus, or as a metal opponent. In Fox's appearances, he appears on Corneria or Venom as a regular opponent, and on Battlefield as a metal opponent. In team battles, he appears on Mute City with Captain Falcon, on Kongo Jungle with Donkey Kong, and on Brinstar with Samus.
Fox appears on Stage 6 of the Adventure Mode on Corneria. In the first part of the stage, the player battles Fox, who will try and avoid the player. After defeating Fox once, the player will have to face him again, this time on offense donning his red costume and featuring "trigger happy" Arwings, which fire at the stage considerably more often. Additionally, there is a chance that the player will fight Falco instead of Fox, if the former is unlocked.
Fox and his allies are fought on Corneria.
Fox is featured in the following event matches:
In addition to the normal trophy about Fox as a character, there are two trophies about him as a fighter, unlocked by completing both Adventure and All-Star modes respectively with Fox on any difficulty: