Greninja (ゲッコウガ, Gekkouga) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. It was revealed during the April 8th, 2014 Super Smash Bros. Direct, alongside fellow Pokémon fighter Charizard. Greninja is voiced by Billy Bob Thompson in English and Yūji Ueda in Japanese. Like numerous other Pokémon, it has different voice actors in the French and German versions due to name changes, similarly to Jigglypuff.
Greninja is ranked 26th out of 55 on the tier list, placing it in the C tier. Greninja's greatest strength is its overall mobility: its walking speed, dashing speed, air speed, jump and double jump are each among the top 10 within their respective categories. It also has an impressive combo game courtesy of a number of moves, most notably its up and down tilts, its neutral and up aerials, and its down throw, all of which are decently fast. Its recovery is also above average, with Shadow Sneak being able to cover a noticeable amount of horizontal distance, while Hydro Pump is decently fast and maneuverable like Quick Attack.
Greninja also boasts a decent projectile in Water Shuriken and a variable counterattack in Substitute. Water Shuriken functions as both a decent approach tool and boasts KO potential when fully charged against highly damaged opponents, while Substitute possesses combo, recovery and mindgame potential due to its unique ability to be aimed in various angles during the counterattack. Lastly, Greninja has some of the best smash attacks in regard to overall utility, with its up smash being one of the strongest in the game.
Despite these strengths, Greninja has a number of flaws. It has rather high ending lag on many of its attacks (with its aerials being notorious in this regard), requiring Greninja players to know when they can safely use such attacks. Greninja's recovery is also decent at best: while it has a number of good options to choose from, Hydro Pump and Shadow Sneak can both be predictable. Furthermore, while Greninja does boast a number of powerful KO moves, they are difficult to sweetspot due to their unusual hitbox placements, and some of them are slow and unsafe to use in a neutral situation.
Overall, Greninja has a fairly high learning curve, but can become a potent character when mastered. As a result, it has average matchups with the rest of the cast with decent tournament results along with a few dedicated and noteworthy players, such as iStudying and Some.
Fittingly for a ninja-inspired character, Greninja fits the "hit-and-run" archetype alongside the likes of Sonic, Sheik and Zero Suit Samus. This is clearly evident in regard to its mobility: it has the fourth fastest walking speed, the sixth fastest dashing speed, the eighth fastest air speed and the second highest jumps. It also possesses the ability to both wall jump and wall cling. Unlike said characters, however, Greninja's KO power is more consistent overall, which is evident in its up smash, forward aerial and up throw, all of which are powerful relative to SSB4's cast. As such, Greninja can be considered a good mix of speed and power with addition of pretty decent weight.
Complementing Greninja's fast mobility is a set of relatively fast attacks and a strong combo game, most notably with its jab; when cancelled, it is one of Greninja's best combo starters, being able to set up a forward tilt, down tilt, neutral aerial, or a grab. All of Greninja's ground attacks additionally have no more than 15 frames of startup (barring its down smash, which is active at frame 16), which makes it easy for it to land attacks, while a few of its moves such as its up tilt, down tilt, neutral aerial, back aerial (first two hits only), down aerial (late hit), up throw, and down throw, work effectively for starting combos. Altogether, these traits grant Greninja arguably one of the best neutral games and damage racking abilities out of all middleweight characters.
Greninja, despite being a fast faller, also has a strong recovery, as Hydro Pump covers a very long distance, and can be angled, while its side special Shadow Sneak allows it to teleport a long distance without entering helplessness. Though only situational at best, its counter move and down special Substitute can be used to recover if the control stick is held upward; however, due to its long duration if the move fails, it is best advised to use it if used on a slow attack. Greninja also has above average air acceleration and air friction, which when combined with its already superb air speed and high jumps also gives it a strong air game.
Greninja's air game also extends into the utility of its aerial attacks, with its neutral aerial being a good combo starter and high-percentage finisher. Its forward aerial, despite its awkwardly slow startup for a fast character, is relatively strong as previously mentioned, and begins to KO starting at 105% at the edge. Its back aerial is very fast (coming out on frame 5), its up aerial can drag opponents offstage during a fastfall, and its down aerial is a stall-then-fall meteor smash that can meteor smash with its clean hit or start combos with its late hit. To further add to its already strong air game, none of its aerial attacks have more than 17 frames of landing lag (except for down aerial, at 33 frames).
Finally, Greninja has a versatile set of special moves at its disposal. Water Shuriken is a relatively powerful projectile, gaining KO potential usually starting at 115% if fully charged. However, unlike most other projectiles, it has actual combo potential due to a fully charged Water Shuriken being able to trap opponents, while Greninja can potentially rush them down and follow up with a neutral, forward or up aerial or even an up smash. Even then, a quickly uncharged Water Shuriken can allow Greninja to recover fast enough to punish with options such as a dash grab. Aside from recovery/edgeguarding applications, Shadow Sneak can be used to dodge an attack and act as a pseudo-counterattack if timed properly, and is an invaluable mindgame tool regardless, though it leaves Greninja with a limited number of actions. Hydro Pump can be used to escape pressure from opponents by pushing them away, or even be used to gimp. Finally, Substitute is the only counterattack in the game that can be aimed should it succeed, which allows Greninja to set up a deadly combo (usually into up aerial) for a quick KO, or even recover as stated previously.
However, Greninja suffers from two major flaws that are enough to offset its strengths. The first and more noticeable of the two is the disproportionate amount of ending lag on a few of its attacks, most notoriously with its aerials: neutral aerial and down aerial (and, to an extent, forward aerial) have high enough ending lag to cause an accidental self-destruct if used immediately after dropping from the sides of a stage, especially when considering Greninja's falling speed. Its smash attacks and special moves are also rather heavy with ending lag, making them easy to punish on shield (though it is also worth noting that its neutral and forward aerials are relatively safe on shield, making them slightly more reliable than the aforementioned moves). This makes it easy for even slow attacks to start a combo on Greninja, as none of Greninja's aerial attacks are good at interrupting combos due to slow startup or a lack of lingering hitboxes. In addition, Greninja relies heavily on landing with aerials, and is thus especially prone to being anti-aired or whiff punished on landing. Greninja cannot safely put out rising aerials because none of them autocancel in a short hop. While its down aerial and Shadow Sneak can have decent combo breaking ability, they are both risky to use due to their slow startup and high ending lag.
Although Greninja has a number of powerful finishers, they are usually hard to land from from a neutral standpoint due to hitbox placements or slow start-up. This even applies to its counterattack, as Substitute does not grant intangibility (unlike other counters), which puts Greninja at risk even while returning an attack. In addition, while Greninja has the longest-ranged non-tether grabs, a fast dash grab (being active on frame 9), and one of the best up throws in SSB4 due to its low percent combo potential and KO potential at high percents, the consistency of its grab game is only average at best due to its standing and pivot grabs being relatively slow (being active on frames 11 and 15, respectively) and having one of the worst pummels in the game, while its back throw is its only throw that deals passable damage. Surprisingly for a fast character, Greninja's speed does not necessarily translate to it having a flexible combo game, which forces it to rely on its grabs and tilts to perform combos (with the former being slow and the latter being hard to land aside from down tilt), while some of its most complicated combos, such as those which rely on the auto-link angle of its up and back aerials, require extensive knowledge to perform correctly.
Lastly, even though Greninja has an effective air game, it is still flawed in a number of manners. The previously mentioned ending lag on all of Greninja's aerial attacks makes them risky to use offstage unless Greninja can still make use of its double jump and/or wall cling ability. Its neutral aerial is hampered by its short range, its forward aerial has slow startup, its up aerial has almost no range next to or below it, its back aerial is one of the weakest in the game, and its down aerial is risky to use offstage due to its ending lag and Greninja's fast falling speed.
Greninja's custom moves are rather polarizing, as the majority of them are inferior to their regular versions, while only very few are very useful. One example of this involves its versions of Water Shuriken. Stagnant Shuriken is a very poor alternative due to it only staying in front of Greninja. However, Shifting Shuriken is extremely useful in that while it slightly detracts from Greninja's already poor range, it addresses its combo game's issues: when uncharged, it launches opponents straight up, and when charged, launches opponents toward Greninja. Shadow Dash is an instant warp that can give Greninja a more viable recovery option, but travels a fixed distance, removing Greninja's best mindgame tool. Shadow Strike has more power and covers more distance, but the shadow moves much slower, rendering it useless for both recovery and efficient mindgames. High-Capacity Pump, on the other hand, is very useful, as it covers far more distance and is much easier to control, while only being slightly slower. This greatly improves Greninja's already fearsome recovery. Single-Shot Pump is significantly inferior to Hydro Pump due to it being very linear and lacking any edgeguarding potential due to it only propelling Greninja straight up. Although Substitute Ambush may make it even easier to intercept, it gives the player more time to pick a direction and also does high shield damage. However, Exploding Attack is a superior option to both due to being more practical, powerful, and easier to hit with, though sacrificing the range and recovery potential.
Overall, Greninja is a quick-footed yet somewhat unorthodox combo-oriented fighter, balancing respectable combo ability with stronger yet more punishable KO potential and Weight. True to its name, mastering Greninja requires the art of deception through mastering its unique special moves along with knowledge of its unusual combo and KO setups, while minimizing openings due to the ending lag of its attacks and sluggish grab game. While Greninja's learning curve only gives it an average amount of representation, players such as iStudying have spearheaded its metagame and shown Greninja's strengths in competitive play.
Greninja has received a mix of buffs and nerfs from game updates. Update 1.0.4 notably nerfed Greninja by lowering the knockback on a handful of its amoves, and removing the Shadow Sneak glitch that allowed it to cancel the landing lag of its aerials. The most significantly nerfed move, however, was its up smash; initially one of the best anti-airs and smash attacks in the game, by virtue of its huge range and fast interruptibility allowing it to more easily beat out aerials and juggle opponents while even comboing into Greninja's own aerials, its ending lag and hitbox sizes were significantly increased and decreased respectively, so it is much harder for Greninja to take full advantage of the move. Greninja's hurtbox size at the top of its head was also increased in 1.0.4, making it easier to hit and rendering its once-decent crouch nearly useless. However, these nerfs were slightly compensated for as Shadow Sneak was buffed to a degree. Like 1.0.4, 1.0.5 removed another exploitable glitch, the running Shadow Sneak glitch.
However, Greninja has also seen some improvements in later updates. 1.0.8 noticeably improved its forward tilt's utility for spacing. Update 1.1.0 gave Greninja a mix of buffs and nerfs, though the former was more prevalent than the latter. While its down throw's damage output was decreased and Water Shuriken no longer stalls Greninja in the air after a jump, its down throw's ending lag was reduced, while Water Shuriken's startup was decreased, allowing it to camp more effectively. In addition to its ending lag, down throw's damage decrease indirectly improved its combo potential; one notable combo is into forward aerial for a potential KO at high percentages, although it is nevertheless dependent on DI. Update 1.1.1 only changed Greninja's Shadow Dash custom, decreasing its ending lag.
The changes to the shield mechanics brought about by updates 1.1.0 and 1.1.1 were overall beneficial for Greninja: although its poor out of shield game was further weakened, several of its attacks have increased hitlag multipliers (such as the last hits of its jab, back aerial, up aerial and fully charged Water Shuriken, as well as its forward and down aerials) and are therefore safer on shield; particularly, forward aerial has become a much more useful move thanks to its safety on shield while providing relatively lenient spacing, and its neutral aerial also benefits due to its average damage and low landing lag.
Update 1.1.3 slightly buffed the knockback to Greninja's smash attacks and all variations of Shadow Sneak, which helps compensate for 1.0.4's weakening of its KO potential. Lastly, update 1.1.5 decreased dash attack's and standing grab's startup lag, and its forward and back aerials' landing lag. It also considerably improved Hydro Pump's reliability by tweaking its angle to avoid it from "headbonking".
For a gallery of Greninja's hitboxes, see here.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Upon the game's release, Greninja was played extensively in Japanese tournaments. However, it would soon infamously receive nerfs in update 1.0.4, hurting its KO options, hurtbox, and also fixing a glitch that it had with Shadow Sneak. This, along with better characters up and coming, lowered Greninja's representation in tournaments, and it was beginning to be looked down upon due to its slow aerials, lackluster grab game, and lack of reliable KO options, and was passed over for characters perceived to be more viable. This and its high learning curve made it very distasteful to pick up. Despite this, Greninja still saw solid placings all around at tournaments, which caused its perception to not be as tough as it was after its nerfs. Greninja would at first rank at 25th on the first tier list released by the 4BR.
However, updates 1.1.3 and 1.1.5 gave Greninja noteworthy buffs, with an increase to its KO power and combo options, as well as reduced landing lag on some of its aerial moves. With these buffs, Greninja began to see higher representation and some players began to realize its potential once again, largely due to the work of DarkAura, Eddy, Oisiitofu, Some, Venia, and most notably iStudying, who achieved 2nd place at B.E.A.S.T 6. These results allowed it to rise to 21st on the second tier list.
Despite its slightly rare results, Greninja was ranked 22nd on the third tier list, and is seen to be a viable option in tournaments, while also being backed by excellent tournament representation. After Some placed 9th at Frostbite 2017, however, Greninja's results dropped once again. Greninja was once again thought to not be as great as initially, esecially after 2GGC: Greninja Saga saw it placing rather inconsistently (this is largely attributed to the Greninja players eliminating themselves during the top 48 part of the bracket). Despite an explosion of Greninja's results appearing recently in tournaments, voting for its tier placement was already done, resulting on Greninja being ranked at 26th on the fourth and current tier list, its lowest placement so far. Regardless, it is generally agreed that this burst of good tournament results could cause Greninja's placement on a future tier list to rise, although this remains to be seen.
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