The Ice Climbers (アイスクライマー, Ice Climber) are the titular protagonists of the game Ice Climber. Individually, they are known as Popo (ポポ, Popo) and Nana (ナナ, Nana), and are differentiated from each other primarily by the color of their parkas. Fittingly, the Ice Climbers seek to scale various mountains, yet must also avoid various obstacles and enemies en route to each summit. In order to successfully accomplish each level, they must catch a vegetable-stealing condor.
The Ice Climbers made their Super Smash Bros. series debut in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Although they returned in that role in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, they made a cameo as a trophy in Super Smash Bros. 4 before returning to a playable role in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Ice Climber was one of the first NES games that allowed for two people to play simultaneously. Its playable characters are a pair of mountaineers wearing color-coded parkas: a male in blue named Popo, and a female in pink named Nana. Although hardware limitations originally limited them to simple 8-bit sprites, official artwork depicts them with chibi proportions.
The Ice Climbers both wield wooden mallets, which they use to break ice layers in order to further ascend each mountain, and to protect themselves by striking icicles or enemies like Topis and Polar Bears. On the route to the mountaintop, they can gain bonus points by collecting vegetables that are stolen by a condor at the beginning of each level. Ultimately, the Ice Climbers must catch the condor in order to proceed to the next mountain.
Relationship between the Ice Climbers
Although Ice Climber did not give precise details about Popo and Nana, their subsequent appearances in the Super Smash Bros. series have somewhat elaborated on their relationship. Initially, two specific instances in Super Smash Bros. Melee hinted at them being in a romantic relationship. Firstly, the opening movie features Popo and Nana high-fiving each other, with a small heart emerging from where their hands meet. Secondly, the Japanese title of Event 21: Ice Breaker roughly translates to "Those Who Interfere People's Romance".
However, a subsequent translation of the Ice Climbers' Smabura-Ken page revealed that Super Smash Bros. series creator Masahiro Sakurai confirmed that their relationship is platonic by saying, "By the way, Popo and Nana are a childhood friends-like boy-and-girl pair. The "more than friends, but less than lovers" kind." Much like Sakurai's explanation, the Ice Climbers' Classic Mode trophy in Melee forgoes any romantic undertones, and instead simply mentions that "they're rarely seen apart."
Despite Sakurai's aforementioned explanation, issue 152 of Nintendo Power seemingly lost his comment in translation and instead referred to Popo and Nana as siblings. Following this, Super Smash Bros. Brawl reaffirmed Sakurai's stance on the relationship both in-game and in supplemental material. The Ice Climbers' Smash Bros. DOJO!! page refers to them as friends in two instances while detailing their special moves. In addition, Solid Snake's codec conversation regarding the Ice Climbers sees Mei Ling mention that Popo and Nana have a "blood bond", which is a long-standing custom practiced around the world that involves two unrelated people swearing loyalty to one another.
Although the Ice Climbers do not make any sort of appearance in Super Smash Bros., the game's Japanese website included them in a poll to gauge interest for potential playable characters in a sequel.
As playable characters
Main article: Ice Climbers (SSBM)
The Ice Climbers make their Super Smash Bros. series debut in Super Smash Bros. Melee as newcomers. They share a single spot on the roster despite consisting of two characters, and would be the first characters in the series to establish this format. Due to appearing in 3D for the first time, the Ice Climbers' designs were modified accordingly: they retained their chibi aesthetic from Ice Climber's official artwork, yet also gained distinct hairstyles in order to further differentiate them, alongside gloves, ice cleats, and more detailed parkas.
According to Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of the Super Smash Bros. series, he and the development team wished to include a character that originated on the Nintendo Entertainment System. However, Sakurai also stressed the importance of character selection additionally involving "things only that character can do". In addition to the Ice Climbers, other candidates included the Balloon Fighter from Balloon Fight, the main character from Urban Champion, Bubbles from Clu Clu Land, and a biker from Excitebike.
Ultimately, the Ice Climbers were selected; Sakurai explained that the other candidates failed in certain aspects in regard to feasibly becoming playable characters, whereas the Ice Climbers were selected because he and the development team were interested in using Ice Climber's simultaneous 2-player gameplay as the basis for the climbers' tag team playstyle.
Like in Ice Climber, Popo is the leading climber by default; however, the Ice Climbers' third and fourth alternate costumes will instead make Nana the leading climber. While the Ice Climbers boast the seventh highest jump, they are burdened with slow air and falling speeds as a reference to Ice Climber. Although they possess the second lowest traction, this also grants them the second longest ranged wavedash that, when coupled with the disjointed ranges of their mallets, grants the Ice Climbers a formidable approach.
Unlike the rest of the cast, the Ice Climbers feature the player controlling the leading climber, while the partner climber is controlled via artificial intelligence. Although the partner climber does not share the leader's damage meter, their CPU level scales with the amount of damage the leader has received. These mechanics result in the Ice Climbers possessing an extremely high learning curve, as players must ensure the safety and proper utilization of not one, but two characters at the same time.
Although the Ice Climbers are technically demanding and require astute micromanaging, their tag team mechanics also grant them an exclusive advanced technique known as desyncing. Thanks to the vast utility provided by desyncing, as well as the considerable offensive potential provided by wobbling (another exclusive advanced technique that is derived from desyncing), the Ice Climbers are currently ranked 8th out of 26 on the tier list. This places them in the B+ tier, and posits them as high tier characters.
Main article: List of SSBM trophies (Ice Climber series)
As playable characters
Main article: Ice Climbers (SSBB)
The Ice Climbers appear in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as starter characters. As in Melee, players can still choose between Popo or Nana as the leader of the duo, depending on which costume is chosen. Like their fellow veterans, the Ice Climbers now have a Final Smash; in their case, it is Iceberg, which fittingly consists of a large iceberg that occupies a large portion of the screen and inflicts damage and/or freezes opponents.
Although Brawl's game engine removed wavedashing and wobbling, the Ice Climbers were nevertheless buffed in the transition to Brawl. Compared to their appearance in Melee, the partner climber's AI is smarter while separated from the leader. Most notably, the partner will be controlled by the player when the leader grabs an opponent.
This, coupled with the modifications to their back and down throws, result in the Ice Climbers being among the handful of characters capable of zero-to-death chain grabs. On a similar note, the Ice Climbers' recovery has improved: Belay now functions as a tether recovery, and both climbers can now hang on an edge at the same time.
Due to the combination of their buffs and largely retained strengths, the Ice Climbers are currently ranked 2nd out of 38 on the tier list. In addition to positioning them as top tier characters, this makes the Ice Climbers and Meta Knight the only characters who are the sole occupants of their own respective tiers (S for the Ice Climbers and SS for Meta Knight).
The Ice Climbers did not appear as playable characters in Super Smash Bros. 4. According to Masahiro Sakurai, the Ice Climbers were actually playable in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, but he and the development team were unable to make them function properly in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS because of the Nintendo 3DS' hardware limitations. Sakurai also mentioned that the old age of the Ice Climbers' Melee frame data made it difficult to transfer said data to SSB4.
Aside from functionality, Sakurai stated that the Ice Climbers were lower priority inclusions, due to them being an example of characters whose home series had little to no possibility of having a new installment. While they could've been Wii U exclusive characters, Sakurai wanted the rosters to be identical for both games. Altogether, these issues ultimately resulted in the Ice Climbers being cut as playable characters, and instead relegated to being a trophy.
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (Others)
As playable characters
Main article: Ice Climbers (SSBU)
The Ice Climbers return as playable characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. They were formally announced alongside the rest of the cast within Ultimate's E3 2018 trailer on June 12th, 2018. Unlike their previous appearances, they are unlockable characters.
Although the Ice Climbers are still capable of desyncing, the technique itself is more difficult to perform because of changes to the partner climber's artificial intelligence brought about at launch and via game updates. This is further compounded by the loss of chain grabbing as of SSB4 and the partner climber no longer being capable of attacking when the leader has or is grabbed. As a result, more creative techniques are required in order to fully utilize their gameplay.
Names in other languages
Popo and Nana