Kirby (カービィ, Kirby) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. His return to the series was announced during the E3 Nintendo Direct on June 11th, 2013. He was also among the first wave of Amiibo that are compatible with SSB4. Makiko Ōmoto reprises her role as Kirby's voice actor, but instead of doing so via recycled voice clips, she provided new clips that changed Kirby's inflections somewhat compared to the clips from previous installments.
Kirby is currently ranked 50th out of 55 on the tier list, placing him in the F tier. This is a significant drop from his mid-tier placement in Brawl, where he was ranked 20th out of 38. Kirby possesses a great combo game: his up tilt, forward throw and down aerial are very good combo starters, with the latter also boasting guaranteed KO set-ups that are effective even against floaty characters. In addition to complimenting his combo game, his forward and up aerials are also useful for partaking in a wall of pain and juggling, respectively. Despite his size, Kirby also has great KO potential, thanks to his smash attacks, back aerial, and up and back throws each boasting impressive power. The majority of his frame data is also respectably fast, while his crouch has become very useful, as it now allows him to avoid many moves from a variety of characters, such as projectiles that are not affected by gravity, or even grabs from taller characters.
However, Kirby retains many of his flaws from Brawl, the most notable of which is his poor survivability due to both his very light weight and his floatiness, alongside the addition of rage in SSB4. When this is coupled with his predictable recovery, Kirby is left prone to either getting KO'd early either while near the blast zones or due to being edge-guarded. His mobility is also poor overall, which leaves him prone to being zoned out by many characters with better ranges or with projectiles that are affected by gravity. Lastly, Kirby's range has been shortened due to his feet becoming smaller.
While Kirby's flaws have resulted in him being viewed as a non-viable character in SSB4, his tournament representation is average and he has nevertheless achieved some level of success. This is most apparent at the local level, as Poyo and Triple R have each won several tournaments and place very well at them in both singles and doubles play, while Prince Kirby has won a number of doubles tournaments. Outside of this, Kirby has also seen some instances of success at the regional and national levels, owing to the efforts of Poyo, Triple R, MikeKirby, K.I.D.Goggles, Komota and MrRyanNess.
As in previous installments, Kirby is a small lightweight, being tied for the fifth lightest character in the game. This is also reflected in his mobility, which is poor; he has slow walking speed, average dashing speed, the fourth slowest falling speed, the third lowest gravity, the fourth slowest air speed, below average traction and average air acceleration. Despite having the second lowest jumps, he has five double jumps, which counteract that flaw.
Kirby's greatest strength is the versatility of his moveset. The majority of Kirby's moveset is characterized by speed, while his slower moves instead boast very high power as a trade-off. Neutral attack and forward tilt are fast and have decent range, allowing Kirby to quickly fend off opponents. Up tilt is notorious for its combo potential, as its very quick speed allows it to consistently combo into itself or an aerial attack. Down tilt's very low power is compensated by its very fast speed and it launching opponents at the Sakurai angle, which allow it to trip opponents even up to 270%. His smash attacks have good range and high power, yet are not particularly slow, making them excellent at scoring a KO. The usefulness of Kirby's ground game also extends to his grab game. His grabs are fast, while his pummel's meager damage output is counterbalanced by its very fast speed. His forward throw, notorious in Brawl for its highly damaging combo options at 0%, has been improved even further, as it now possesses follow-ups even up to medium percents, including a down aerial to re-grab. Back throw can be followed up by a back aerial at 0% on certain characters, tech-chase fast-fallers, and can now KO at high percents. Up throw is his strongest throw and is able to KO almost all characters around 170%, or even earlier if it lands on a platform. Lastly, down throw is reliable for damage racking when no other throw can yield better results.
Kirby's air game is also useful, due to his aerials boasting versatility and less than 18 frames of landing lag. Neutral aerial has a long duration, and its very low landing lag grants Kirby protection and allows him to take full advantage of buffering. Forward aerial is powerful, chains fluidly and can allow additional follow-ups at low percents. Up aerial has vertical knockback, low landing lag and has a good amount of auto-canceling frames, allowing for many potential follow-ups. Back aerial has slightly disjointed range, a decently long duration, and is Kirby's fastest and strongest aerial, making it a very good all-purpose aerial attack. Lastly, down aerial has considerable start-up, but drags opponents downward before meteor smashing them, making it a deceptively powerful edge-guarding tool. In addition, it is an effective combo starter with guaranteed follow-ups on grounded opponents, even against floaty characters.
Kirby's special moveset has some interesting options. Inhale allows him to either copy the neutral special move of any character he Inhales, or spit them out as a weight-dependent projectile. The latter can be used to Kirbycide or put the opponent below the stage, almost eliminating their chances of recovering. The former, depending on what character he Inhales, can give Kirby a move that provides some assistance (Falcon Punch and Homing Attack) or massive benefits (Monado Arts and Needle Storm). Hammer Flip is very powerful, especially when fully charged. Its slow speed, however, makes it very difficult to use outside of edge-guarding or after a shield break. Final Cutter is Kirby's primary move for recovery and is decent at that, granting good vertical distance and decent horizontal distance, as well as decent protection during his ascent and descent. It also emits a shockwave upon landing, making it difficult to punish if not at point-blank range. Lastly, Stone causes Kirby to plummet straight down and ignore damage by any move that deals less than 30%. It is also very strong and can be canceled at any time, making it useful for playing mindgames.
However, Kirby has noticeable flaws. As mentioned, Kirby has poor mobility, giving him significant trouble approaching and pressuring opponents. It also gives him trouble against fast characters like Sonic, or those with disjointed hitboxes like Marth and Cloud. In addition, his very long-distanced recovery is very slow, making aggressive edge-guarding and gimp-oriented moves, such as F.L.U.D.D. or meteor smashes, detrimental to him. Kirby's range is also mediocre at best, and his strongest moves happen to be his slowest, making it difficult for him to KO opponents outside of edge-guarding or without a set-up. His most prominent weakness, however, is his endurance. Being light and floaty, Kirby cannot survive strong hits at high percents. He is also very vulnerable to juggling, due to his aforementioned slow falling and air speeds. The introduction of rage further compounds these issues, as Kirby will be launched even earlier, while he will typically not endure long enough in order to take advantage of it.
Kirby benefits significantly from his custom moves. Jumping Inhale propels Kirby forward, which often puts opponents in bad positions and can even allow it to function as a quick horizontal recovery option, though it is slower and lacks a vacuum. Ice Breath is a short-ranged projectile that can freeze opponents for a time and function as a great edge-guarding option, but removes all of Inhale's benefits. Hammer Bash is almost identical to Hammer in Brawl, as it is much faster and KOs earlier than the uncharged version of Hammer Flip. Giant Hammer is the most powerful custom move in the game without equipment and grants armor, but is much slower than Hammer Flip. Wave Cutter is overall faster, its descending hitbox is more powerful, and the shockwave has more range and can pressure shields, although it does not allow Kirby to hit opponents while ascending. Upper Cutter is faster, stronger and grants much more vertical recovery and momentum, but immediately cancels at its ascent's apex, and lacks both a descending hitbox and shockwave. Grounding Stone buries grounded opponents and has much less ending lag, allowing for follow-ups, safer mindgames, and acts as a potential anti-juggling tool. However, it is unable to KO grounded opponents and has more start-up lag. Meteor Stone meteor smashes the opponent and can even be used as a suicide move, but takes longer to end.
Overall, Kirby tends to run hot and cold, similarly to Luigi. He can inflict an impressive amount of damage if he gets close to his opponent thanks to his potent combo game, but doing so is difficult for him due to his poor mobility. As such, Kirby functions well with a bait and punish playstyle, although being unprepared for an opponent's approach can be hazardous due to his unimpressive survivability. Kirby has achieved average tournament representation and some degree of success: Poyo, Triple R and Prince Kirby have each won numerous local tournaments and continue to place very well at them in singles and doubles play, while MikeKirby and K.I.D.Goggles have collectively achieved a handful of notable results at regional and national tournaments.
Changes from Brawl
Upon initial release of the game, Kirby had been nerfed very heavily from Brawl, however repeated buffs from balance patches have helped to mitigate this somewhat, although he is still considered to have been nerfed overall. He has retained most of the issues he had in Brawl, but he also suffers from new ones, such as having his range worsened due to his feet becoming slightly smaller, while his standing and dash grabs' ranges were decreased. However, some of his less reliable moves from Brawl, particularly Inhale and his down aerial, have been buffed and now possess much more utility. The changes to hitstun canceling also help Kirby, as they enable him to chain combos together much better. His improved combo game is further supplemented by his newly buffed forward throw, which now possesses combo potential past low percents. His approach was also slightly improved due to his dashing speed becoming significantly faster.
Kirby has been noticeably buffed via game updates, addressing many flaws that he had in the initial release. Update 1.0.6 saw his KO potential improved, with his up and down smash attacks dealing more knockback and the latter being more effective if his down aerial is used to combo into it. Hammer Flip had its ending lag decreased, thus making it slightly less punishable as well. Update 1.1.0 brought about further buffs: Inhale's start-up lag was decreased, neutral attack's second hit now connects into his neutral infinite better and his neutral infinite's finisher comes out quicker, while his forward throw became effective for punishes and had its combo potential improved, which is very useful for Kirby due to his previous lack of a throw that he could combo into. He also benefits from the new shield mechanics brought about by updates 1.1.0 and 1.1.1, as they let him break shields easier thanks to his down aerial's multiple hits and Stone's high damage output and hitlag.
Update 1.1.3 brought about even more buffs: Kirby now dashes faster, all of his smash attacks, his forward and back aerials and all variations of Hammer Flip became slightly stronger, while his up throw became much stronger to the point of becoming a viable KOing option. Update 1.1.4 brought out another minor buff, as hard tripping now grants him 5 frames of invincibility. Lastly, update 1.1.5, buffed all of his smash attacks and all variations of Hammer Flip by slightly increasing their knockback. As a result, he is effectively much better than he was during SSB4's initial release.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Due to the heavy nerfs he received in his transition from Brawl, Kirby has always been considered a poor character within the SSB4 metagame, despite his popularity within his home series. Despite being considerably improved thanks to numerous buffs from game updates, Kirby's viability has been consistently perceived as low. This has been due to his only success occurring at local tournaments, whereas his results at regional and national tournaments have been very sparse. These aspects culminated with Kirby being placed at 33rd on the first 4BR tier list.
Kirby would then drop to 41st on the second tier list, and eventually to 47th on the third tier list, with the latter drop being tied with Pit and Yoshi's for the second largest between the second and third tier lists. However, Komota later scored an upset by defeating Ally at Frostbite 2017 and placing 33rd at said tournament. Due to this, his tier placement has been widely debated, with some players believing he should be placed slightly higher due to niche matchups against higher tiered characters such as Zero Suit Samus and Fox. After not achieving results after Frostbite 2017, however, Kirby has since then dropped to 50th in the fourth and current tier list, his lowest placing so far. Thus, Kirby remains as a poor character in the metagame due to how little impact he has made.
In Event Matches
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