Ice Climbers (SSBU)
The Ice Climbers (アイスクライマー, Ice Climber) are playable fighters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. They were confirmed on June 12th, 2018. Although they are a team, the Ice Climbers are collectively classified as Fighter #15.
How to unlock
Complete one of the following:
The Ice Climbers are a pair of middleweights (weighing the same as Lucario, Wolf, Villager, Mythra, and Steve) that are the archetypical tag team characters, though each Climber is a unique character in their own right. The partner (Nana by default) mimics what the leader (Popo by default) does with a seven frame delay. The player is essentially controlling two characters at the same time. The partner has higher mobility attributes (walking, dashing, air and fall speeds, gravity, and air acceleration), but at the same time takes more damage and knockback than the leader. Another unique trait that the partner possesses is their forward aerial's ability to meteor smash. Due to technically being two characters, the Ice Climbers are able to grab two different items. Unlike in previous installments, they are no longer hard to grab and throw unless the partner is the one being grabbed (when the leader is grabbed, the partner will panic). When separated, AI takes control of the partner, and guides them back to the leader. In this scenario, it is advisable to stick to and protect the partner. 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 losing 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, though it can damage the Climbers themselves if the blocks are attacked. Blizzard, their down special move, can freeze opponents and has both Ice Climbers attacking one side whether on the ground or in midair. 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. By mashing the button, they can gain a little height, making it a potential recovery option (albeit not an effective one). Belay, the up special, is a powerful KO move (though not as powerful as in Brawl) 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. It is much more suited for recovery, as well as for saving the separated partner from falling offstage. Although minor, the Ice Climbers nevertheless have a unique fighter ability: their traction is not affected by the conditions of slippery surfaces such as ice, whereas they will slide somewhat on non-slippery surfaces.
One of the Ice Climbers' greatest weakness is their dependability on each other. While having decent damage output and KO potential, it becomes horribly diminished if the partner is KO'd, and the fact that the partner takes more damage and knockback further compounds this problem. When separated, while the AI guides the partner back to the leader, the partner is unable to act and defend themself from any other threats. Because of this, it is important for the leader to hurry back to the partner, though this can potentially lead the leader into dangerous situations as well.
Their main recovery method, Belay, is incredibly situational. If the partner is unable to reach the ledge, then it can put the leader at a disadvantage even if they make it back to the stage. Since the partner flings the leader much higher, it is possible to overshoot the ledge, leaving the leader unable to defend themselves while descending helplessly onstage.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Previously, the Ice Climbers were known for having some of the most infamously powerful damage racking capabilities thanks to wobbling in Melee and infinite chain grabs in Brawl, and additionally achieve a KO from them. Possibly as a result of this, in the transition from Brawl to Ultimate, the Ice Climbers were drastically nerfed. Their grab game was significantly impacted the most; the partner climber can no longer grab or act when the leader is grabbed or throwing someone (except when in the air), the leader's grabs have noticeably more startup and ending lag, and their infamous chain grabs were completely removed.
Outside of this, the Ice Climbers have received a mixed bag. On the nerf side, the base damage output on many of their moves has decreased and many of their attacks connect less reliably when they are together due to reduced hitlag. The partner climber also no longer performs Blizzard behind the leader when used on the ground and Blizzard itself is less effective as a spacing tool due to it being almost useless when used at max range as well as it has increased ending lag. The partner climber is also launched much easier than the leader due to taking increased damage and knockback from attacks, and the AI's intelligence has been reduced leading to more likely self-destructs, making it harder for each of them to stay together. Finally, due to changes in Belay's hitboxes, the move can gain significantly less height if the hitbox is out prioritized, and its overall size is smaller, making it harder to connect against grounded opponents.
However, in terms of buffs, as with almost every other returning veteran, their mobility has been considerably increased and the partner climber is now faster than the leader, making it harder to separate them. Some of their moves, including forward smash, down smash, and forward aerial have higher damage and KO power, and the Ice Climbers have superior combo potential due to the removal of hitstun canceling and the weakening of SDI. This is further complemented by the fact that desynching remains a very powerful tool that gives the Ice Climbers highly effective combos. Thanks to improved freezing properties, the Ice Climbers can freeze opponents easier and longer, which can lead to high damage, KOs while edgeguarding, shield pressure, and follow-ups if performed correctly.
Nevertheless, the Ice Climbers are significantly less effective than in Brawl, although to what extent is unknown, especially since they are difficult to play at a high level and it is unknown how far their desync combos can be developed and be applied into competitive matches. Even with the game mechanics giving them multiple benefits, the changes have either weakened or entirely removed the tools that have made the Ice Climbers prominent. Despite this, players such as Big D, Daiki, and ???? have achieved respectable tournament results while using them.
Throws and other attacks
The Ice Climbers received a mix of buffs, nerfs and glitch fixes via game updates, but have been buffed slightly overall. Update 2.0.0 improved the partner climber's AI in order to make them follow the leading climber more reliably, though at the cost of making desyncing harder to perform. Aside from this, Belay's recovery potential was improved via its enlarged edge grabbox.
Following this, the Ice Climbers would not receive any noteworthy changes until update 9.0.0. This update decreased the partner's damage and knockback multipliers, which made them less susceptible to being separated from the leader. Belay was also improved noticeably, thanks to its tether recovery distance being lengthened and the leader no longer being inadvertently prevented from using it if the partner used it. Aside from these improvements, a few moves received quality-of-life buffs: dash attack has slightly more range and improved consistency, down smash's knockback was increased, and Squall Hammer will sweetspot edges earlier.
Lastly, update 13.0.1 granted the Ice Climbers a few decent buffs. Belay's start-up lag was decreased, which improved both its recovery potential and utility as a follow-up from up tilt. On a similar note, dash attack's overall lag was decreased, which made it safer and improved its utility for setting up aerial pressure. Lastly, down smash's knockback was increased yet again like in update 9.0.0.
Overall, the Ice Climbers fare mildly better than they did at the launch of Ultimate.
For a gallery of the Ice Climbers' hitboxes, see here.
Note: All numbers are listed as base damage, without the 1v1 multiplier.
In competitive play
Before release, players were quick to note that the Ice Climbers lost their most powerful tool from Brawl: their infamous zero-to-death chain grab. That, along with changes to gameplay mechanics removing several combo tools, caused players to believe that the Ice Climbers wouldn't be viable, a belief that held on throughout the early metagame. As such, the Ice Climbers’ representation was minuscule.
It wasn't until a few months after Ultimate's release that the Ice Climbers' playerbase started to make breakthroughs, with the few that stuck with them discovering new desync setups and high-damaging combos. This allowed the Ice Climbers to gain better representation as the metagame progressed, with Kie using them as a co-main in Japan. Most notably, Big D picked up the Ice Climbers up and was able to place well at a national level. Despite this success, many players believe that the character's playstyle is too complicated for them to be viable, and the general consensus agrees that the Ice Climbers are in the lower end of mid tier at best and low tier at worst. The new advanced techniques, however, have helped their mains with how little match-up experience there has been from opponents to learn from.
Most historically significant players
Any number following the Smasher name indicates placement on the Fall 2019 PGRU, which recognizes the official top 50 players in the world in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate from July 13th, 2019 to December 15th, 2019.
Classic Mode: Duos for Days
Referencing themselves being duos, Ice Climbers fight two characters from a given universe in each stage. To go with the duo theme, both Master Hand and Crazy Hand are fought regardless of the difficulty.
Role in World of Light
Although the Ice Climbers have been absent from the World of Light opening cutscene, they were vaporized and later imprisoned alongside the rest of the fighters (sans Kirby) when Galeem unleashed his beams of light.
The Ice Climbers are unlocked in the southern portion of the snowy mountain area. Unlocking them eliminates the ice paths so they can be traversed in both directions, as well as opening a path to the hidden forest.
The Ice Climbers' fighter spirit can be obtained by completing Classic Mode. It is also available periodically for purchase in the shop for 300 Gold, but only after Ice Climbers have been unlocked. Unlocking the Ice Climbers in World of Light allows the player to preview the spirit below in the Spirit List under the name "???". As a fighter spirit, it cannot be used in Spirit Battles and is purely aesthetic. Their fighter spirit has an alternate version that replaces it with their artwork in Ultimate.
In Spirit battles
Conditions in italic aren't listed on the Spirit Battle preview screen.
As the main opponents
Their 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th costumes swap Popo and Nana, making Nana controllable. The stock icons and character select portraits change to reflect this. Popo and Nana act separately in terms of their costume's color.
Fighter Showcase Video