Ice Climbers (SSBB)
They rank 2nd on the current tier list, an improvement over their 7th out of 26 ranking in Melee, making them the highest-ranking veteran and sole representative in the game. This is primarily due to their extensive and intricate grab game that can completely shut down opponents once it begins. Professional Ice Climbers players are known to chain grab opponents from 0% to a KO inescapably. The partner mechanism of the character also forces opponents to rethink their approach, as one target can easily break combos and chain grabs. The duo also have two decent projectiles, and they are armed with a relatively powerful meteor smash along with one of the largest disjointed up aerials in the game. However, if the partner is KO'd, the leader cannot use special moves correctly and is somewhat helpless during recovery; a lone Ice Climber also has drastically lowered damage output and KO potential, especially due to its inability to perform a meteor smash, and is considerably more open to chain grabs and combos. Regardless, the Ice Climbers have very strong matchups (losing to only four characters, with Meta Knight being the only top tier they lose to), and very strong tournament results.
The Ice Climbers are lightweight characters that have the unique property of being a "two in one" character, wherein the game considers each Climber to be a unique character in its own right. The follower is always slightly weaker than the leader, but only the follower can meteor smash with his/her forward aerial. The Ice Climbers are able to grab two different items and are even able to grab two separate characters. In addition, their unique property also makes them much harder to grab and throw effectively (when one Ice Climber gets grabbed, the partner can simply counterattack, making them immune to chain-grabs), and conversely allows them to have a superior grab game entirely unique to them (see "chain-grabbing and desynching" below). However, they can easily be separated by strong enough attacks. In this scenario, it is advisable to stick to and protect the partner, even if it puts the player in additional danger. Should the CPU Climber get KO'd during the stock, the remaining Climber will have drastically reduced damage output, KO ability, and recovery, with Belay becoming practically useless and Squall Hammer loses a good deal of distance (whereas with both Climbers they are excellent recovery moves).
The Ice Climbers are great at dealing damage when together, have decent attack speed, and possess a few interesting attacks in their arsenal. Their neutral special move, Ice Shot, is a projectile fired by each Ice Climber which slides along the ground, making it impossible to avoid by crouching/crawling. Blizzard, the down special move, can freeze opponents and even cover both sides if the partner is present, or alternatively can be made to cover one side if performed while jumping with the partner, giving the attack more power. Squall Hammer is a decent approach attack with good damage and speed, spinning the Ice Climbers around each other in a forward-moving hammer attack. Belay, the up special, is a powerful KO move should the second Climber connect with the opponent, but it is generally a risky use of the move given that it separates the Climbers and puts them into a helpless animation. A unique addition to their character is that the Ice Climbers are not affected by the conditions of slippery surfaces such as ice, and they won't slide on it. This is due to the fact that they are wearing cleats. Oddly, their cleats do not affect their traction on normal surfaces, as it is second-lowest in the game (Luigi has the lowest).
The Ice Climbers are not very good at using their standard arsenal of attacks for continuous hits, normally speaking. With weak throws, small hammers, and slow movement in general (slow falling, air, and dash speed), the Ice Climbers can usually only manage one or two good hits in close before they need to resort to Ice Shots or Blizzard again. With both Climbers present, KOing generally is not too much of a problem, although their smashes are generally better at racking up the damage than at KOing.
Chaingrabbing and desynching
Many players consider the Ice Climbers to be "the King and Queen of all chain grabs" due to the fact that their two-in-one property allows for a variety of infinite chain-grab options that can combo into kill moves. For example, the lead Ice Climber can grab onto one opponent and use the forward throw. In the middle of the throw animation, the player can gain control of the CPU Climber, commanding him/her into performing a forward aerial spike, or grabbing again with the CPU Climber. while once again bringing the original, player-controlled Climber in for a new grab. Infinite chain grabs of this nature can be performed at any percent, on any character, on nearly any stage. One hindrance to this strategy is the Ice Climbers' short grab range and low traction, making it almost impossible to grab an opponent when they hit the player's shield(s) unless the Climbers powershield the attack.
The Ice Climbers have many different options to perform an infinite chaingrab. They can use any combination of forward throw, down throw, and back throw, but each option has different timings for every character. For example, against Meta Knight it is most common for players to infinite using a combination of down throw and back throw, as these two throws have the largest time windows to achieve a regrab. Against large characters that are diffucult to chaingrab, like Snake and R.O.B., the down throw can be used in conjunction with the footstool hop and ice shots for another infinite: the hobble. A hobble is performed when the Ice Climbers' down throw sends opponents into the air, the second Ice Climber jumps and footstools the opponent back onto the ground, and as the opponent bounces, the first Ice Climber traps them with an ice shot causing a reset for another grab. The only possible break to a perfectly executed infinite is Brawl's random tripping, which can occur if either climber dashes for any length of time. This can be avoided by only performing infinite chaingrabs while walking. When a chain grab has raised an opponent's damage enough, the most typically used move to KO the opponent is their up smash, if a forward air meteor smash is inapplicable. All of these chain throws can be considered 0-KO combos.
For further two-in-one tricks, it is even possible to de-synchronize or "desync" the CPU partner by confusing it with erratic movement (such as dash-dancing), putting the player in control of both Climbers for as long as they are capable of maintaining it. Once the partner is desynced, the player can have it perform any move while the main Climber is in the middle of one, providing for all sorts of possible attack strategies that can be exceedingly difficult for opponents to escape from (alternating Blizzard, alternating Ice Shot). While desynced, the partner Climber has restrained movement within an invisible box around the main Climber; should he/she be separated or removed from this box, the CPU will take over again. This invisible box makes it so that if the player desyncs from the AI so that it charges a smash attack and they start walking or running away, the AI will slide in the player's direction while charging the smash. A unique thing that the player can do when desynced is that if they desync the AI to charge a smash attack, their Belay will cancel the AI's charging sequence and teleport it into the belaying sequence. Such techniques are extremely difficult to perform in combat, even for advanced players, due to the constant string of precise commands required for the Climbers to move/attack as intended. Nevertheless, these techniques are considered the backbone of playing the Ice Climbers at a competitive level.
Changes from Melee to Brawl
The Ice Climbers have received a mix of buffs and nerfs. Due to the changes in grab mechanics, they can no longer wobble, which previously played a part in their competitive viability. Additionally, the loss of wavedashing has also served to be problematic due to their already poor traction inhibiting their approach and mobility, though not as much as Luigi. Their damage output is also lower, some of their moves have reduced KO power and all of their grounded moves have more ending lag.
However, due to the influence of chaingrabs, the Ice Climbers are considered to be overall buffed due to the improvements to their chaingrabbing ability in which makes them even more deadly than in Melee. The player now has full control over the second climber during a grab allowing the player to freely chain grab and combo out of a grab. In addition, their standing grab is slightly faster and the changes to shields makes it easier for the Ice Climbers to grab their opponents. The Ice Climbers are one of the only characters in the game who can consistently 0-death the entire cast which is especially helpful as combos are generally significantly less deadly and plentiful in Brawl than in Melee due to the introduction of hitstun canceling. The partner climber is also more intelligent than they are in Melee making them more useful and less vulnerable. While the Ice Climber's grounded movement was reduced, the rest of the cast received the same treatment and some of the moves which gave the Ice Climbers the most trouble (such as Fox's Shine and Peach's down smash) have been significantly nerfed making it harder for opponents to play around their grabs and separate them. Lastly, Blizzard is a much stronger tool than in Melee and can be a strong tool to allow the Ice Climbers to grab their opponents.
As a result, they are one of the few characters considered to have been truly buffed from Melee to Brawl and they are widely considered to be the best character behind Meta Knight.
Note: This assumes that both Ice Climbers are present.
In competitive play
The Ice Climbers have one of the best matchup spreads. On the SmashBoards matchup chart the Ice Climbers have the third highest unweighted rank and the second highest weighted rank. The Ice Climbers are soft countered by four characters, have seven even matchups, soft counter 8 characters, counter 10 characters, hard counter 5, and have 2 nearly unloseable matchups. The Ice Climbers' 0-to-death chaingrabs give them an enormous advantage against the rest of the cast. The infinite chaingrab is the easiest and most consistent infinite to perform in the entire game. Their ability to camp from far away with their projectile and their desyncronization abilities make them a threat to any opponent. The Ice Climbers do well against characters that cannot approach while getting grabbed, like King Dedede, Falco, and Olimar. They also do well against heavy or slow characters, and as a result have nearly unloseable matchups against Bowser and Ganondorf. They perform more poorly against characters that have ranged KO moves, like Zero Suit Samus, who can sweetspot her Plasma Whip. The Ice Climbers also perform poorly against floaty characters or characters who specialize in zoning, such as Meta Knight, Toon Link, and Peach. Even the Ice Climber's disadvantageous matchups are debatable, as many are exaggerated against them due to their top-tier status.
Tier placement and history
In the first few years of Brawl's metagame, the Ice Climbers were only ranked in mid-high tier, given their poor fighting abilities and vulnerability when the partner Climber dies, and their powerful grab tactics were unrecognized at the time. However, Ice Climber players soon began to utilize their infinite chaingrabs, giving them an extremely powerful zero-to-death option against any other character. Players soon found the technique difficult to handle, as it completely changed the way players fought the Ice Climbers. The Ice Climbers matchup now involved avoiding getting grabbed into a death, which can be difficult to avoid, and the Ice Climbers were able to completely shut down characters who lacked effective tactics to deal with the zero-death chaingrabs. Because of this, the Ice Climbers quickly shot up the ranks, rising to #5 in the fourth tier list (February 2010), and remaining in top tier; the Ice Climbers then rose to 2nd place on the current tier list, placed right underneath Meta Knight in their own tier above the rest of the characters. Some players even argue that since the Ice Climbers have access to a zero-death on every character that works at any percent, they could be tied for first place with Meta Knight, or could even be first place themselves. The Ice Climbers are among the most disliked characters in Brawl by both casual and competitive players, since they possess a zero-death option against any character, something no other character has access to, and they have been considered cheap and broken, with many players supporting the ban of the infinite chaingrabs in tournaments; however, with the definition of what construes an "infinite chaingrab" usually being rigid, players of the Ice Climbers have found many loopholes to avoid using it while still nearly securing stocks with each grab, making opponents' predicaments effectively the same. Many recent tournaments in the post-Smash-4 era, such as Glitch 2, have even banned the Ice Climbers altogether, due to their unpopularity among opponents and spectators alike.
Role in The Subspace Emissary
The Ice Climbers were first seen climbing up a mountain together, possibly in pursuit of the Halberd or they were just climbing. When Meta Knight passed them going up the mountain, the Ice Climbers took it as a challenge and jumped up the mountain with Meta Knight. Once they reached the top, the Ice Climbers celebrated with their "victory" for getting up the mountain first, until they and Meta Knight found Lucario, who was looking for a fight with Meta Knight, so the Ice Climbers watch from the side nervously. After the fight, the winner revives the loser, to their relief, and the Halberd crashes the Great Fox into the mountain. Although Meta Knight and Lucario managed to board the Halberd, the Ice Climbers (ironically) are thrown back to the ground towards Marth, Lucas, the Pokémon Trainer, and Ike. After facing some more Subspace Army troopers (with help from Mario and Link's group), the Ice Climbers teamed up with the other heroes as they journeyed into Subspace but are turned into trophies by Tabuu. Ice Climbers are then revived by King Dedede, Luigi, Ness, and Kirby and help the other smashers defeat Tabuu and restore the World Of Trophies to normal.
These stickers can only be used by the Ice Climbers, or a select few including them:
In Event Matches
Nana becomes the leading, player-controlled character when using the 2nd, 4th, and 6th costumes shown below. The stock icons for these costumes change to reflect this, but the character select portraits always show Popo in front.
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