Kirby (カービィ, Kirby) returns as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. He was confirmed for Brawl in the first preview shown at May 2006's E3 show. Of all the characters shown, Kirby appears to be almost completely unchanged graphically. He is once again voiced by Makiko Ōmoto, using some recycled voice clips from Melee, while providing some new, slightly lower-pitched voice clips akin to his appearances in the Kirby: Right Back At Ya! anime.
He ranks 20th on the current tier list at the top of mid tier, which is a drastic improvement over his last place ranking in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Kirby has one of the strongest combo abilities in Brawl, as he has many great setup moves, and attacks that string together well. Additionally, Kirby possesses a strong grab game, with an above average grab range, two great setup throws, and a throw that can even KO (which is rare among characters in Brawl). Kirby also has a far reaching and generally safe recovery, disproportionately far disjointed reach in his attacks, fast and solid tilts, an all-purpose attack in his back aerial, solid edge guarding capabilities, and both fast and very powerful finishers (with his forward smash being especially effective). However, Kirby suffers from slow movement speed, which when combined with his lack of a solid projectile, creates difficulty approaching and dealing with opposing camping. Additionally, with his very light weight and poor momentum cancelling abilities, Kirby has one of the worst endurances. Kirby also has his power taper off greatly outside his finishers (giving opponents very high survival potential if Kirby can't land his finishers), and poor to mediocre aerials outside his back aerial. Overall, Kirby has above average matchups (with generally poor matchups against top/high tier characters, most notably, being countered by three of the four best characters), and has achieved average tournament results.
Kirby is a small, lightweight character. His small size allows him to avoid many attacks (his initial dashing animation can go underneath Pit's Palutena's Arrow when not aimed). He is also able to crouch underneath attacks, which can be used to his advantage against tall characters such as R.O.B. and Ganondorf. His light weight is both advantageous and disadvantageous; he is less vulnerable to chain throws (including King Dedede's down throw), but he also gets launched farther when hit, making him easier to KO. He also has poor momentum canceling abilities, with slow falling speeds, and his fastest aerial attack, his up aerial, is only slightly shorter than his air dodge. His momentum canceling abilities, combined with his light weight, give him one of the worst survivabilities in the game. However, he makes up for this with a safe and one of the longest-reaching recoveries, with five midair jumps and Final Cutter to help him return to the stage. This has made Kirby a popular choice for beginners to learn with. His multiple jumps also give him good edgeguarding potential. Kirby has above average reach in his attacks for a character of his size, with many disjointed hitboxes, and a strong combo ability, with his forward throw, forward tilt, up tilt, and up aerial all being great damage rackers and setups. He also has high KO power with good finishers, with his smash attacks, back aerial, Hammer, and Stone all being able to KO opponents (although his back aerial stales quickly and his Hammer and Stone are laggy and generally require good reads to land). Kirby lacks a solid projectile, and his only projectile, the wave produced from Final Cutter, is slow and predictable. This complicates matchups against campy characters with solid projectiles, such as Falco and Pit. Kirby's biggest problem is his poor mobility. He has only the 25th fastest walking speed, the 28th fastest dashing speed, the second lowest jumping height, a slow air speed, and a slow falling speed. His poor air speed prevents him from being able to maneuver in the air well despite being an air-based character (his back aerial is his most used attack and all of his throws send his opponent upward), limiting his edgeguarding ability, and combined with his poor dashing speed and lack of a solid projectile, creates difficulty approaching and dealing with opposing camping.
One of Kirby's strong aspects is his ground game. His ground attacks have good range, start quickly, and end quickly as well. His forward tilt is a versatile ground attack that is good for spacing. His up tilt is one of the fastest up tilts in the game, has disproportionately long range, and is a good juggler and setup move at low percents. His down tilt has a chance to trip opponents, creating additional setups. His forward smash delivers high knockback and has low startup lag for such a powerful attack. It is considered his best KO move, along with his back aerial. His up smash is also a powerful finisher. However, it has a sourspot behind Kirby that cannot reliably KO. His down smash covers both sides, and delivers powerful vertical knockback. It also delivers horizontal knockback at the tips of his feet, making it good for edgeguarding.
Kirby also has a strong grab and throw game as well. He has a fast grab with above average range. His pummel is very quick and can deal some extra damage before a throw. His forward throw can lead to combos that can deal over 40%, depending on the weight and falling speed of the character. His back throw is useful for getting opponents off of the stage, and his up throw can even KO at high percents. Kirby's down throw is a good damage-racker, and is able to chain throw fastfallers at low percents. However, its ending lag hinders its combo and setup potential, though it is still decent.
Kirby's special moves have varying degrees of usefulness. His neutral special move, Inhale, gives him the unique ability to copy the neutral special moves of his opponents. He can use this to cover some of his weak areas, such as a lack of a solid projectile. However, the Copy Ability can be lost rather easily if he is hit hard enough. Kirby can also perform Kirbycide by walking off the stage with the opponent in his mouth. He can also spit out characters with poor recoveries below the stage, where the opponent is unlikely to recover, and Kirby, with his good recovery, can easily get back onto the stage. His side special move, Hammer, is a powerful attack and good finisher, but it has high startup lag. When used in the air, the first hit has less startup lag, and the second hit is a powerful semi-spike, making it a good edgeguarding tool. His up special move, Final Cutter, is his primary recovery move, and produces a shockwave upon landing, creating his only normal projectile. However, it can be edgehogged rather easily, it is too slow to be used effectively for camping, and experienced players will be able to shield the wave without much difficulty. When Kirby descends from Final Cutter, a meteor smash hitbox is produced, making it useful for edge-guarding from above. Kirby can also perform "Cuttercide" by using Final Cutter in midair and bringing down an opponent, where both players will usually die. His down special move, Stone, is powerful and can KO at high percents and leaves him invulnerable to attacks, but it has high ending lag, is predictable, and an opponent can punish him with a grab. It is useful as a surprise KO move, and on stages with water, where he can easily land a hit on swimming opponents.
Kirby's best aerial attack by far is his back aerial, one of his most versatile and useful attacks and is a staple part of his metagame. It has low startup and ending lag, almost no landing lag, is a good edgeguarding tool, can be used for Wall of Pain techniques, and can KO at high percents. Kirby players commonly approach by jumping while facing away from the opponent, getting closer, and using a back aerial when the opponent comes in range. Unfortunately, a wary opponent will be able to shield and punish rather easily. However, despite his strong back aerial and air-based play, the rest of his aerial attacks are poor. Outside of his back aerial, his aerial attacks suffer from a combination of high startup and ending lag, poor knockback, and poor range. His forward aerial is not particularly useful; all three hits will sometimes not lead into each other, depending on the opponent's position, and can be SDI'ed out of. It also has poor knockback, and the back aerial is considered superior for most uses. His up aerial is a decent juggler and has good combo potential, but its power was nerfed from Melee; it can no longer KO reliably under 150% unless near the upper blast line. It also has noticeable, albeit small, startup lag. His down aerial is a meteor smash, and is useful for "dragging down" opponents recovering vertically, and Kirby can easily recover. However, it has high startup lag, and is weak for a meteor smash, so it's not very effective if Kirby does not land many hits. His neutral aerial is his worst aerial and is often considered one of the worst aerial attacks in Brawl. It has incredibly high ending lag, mediocre knockback, and poor range. The ending lag makes it impractical for offstage use. However, it is not completely useless; it has no landing lag, and can be used as a air-to-ground transition, and can potentially be used as a setup for tilt attacks. Kirby can also use his side special move, Hammer, as an aerial attack, since it has powerful knockback, and the second hit is a semi-spike, making it useful for edgeguarding. However, the small hitbox is difficult to land and it leaves Kirby vulnerable if he misses. Kirby's poor air attacks outside of his back aerial, combined with his slow falling speed, make him prone to aerial juggling, and complicates matchups against characters who can fight well in the air, such as Meta Knight, and characters with good juggling abilities, such as Zero Suit Samus.
Overall, a competent Kirby player can utilize his strengths, such as his great combo ability, which, when combined with moves such as his solid tilts and back aerial, make him a competent force. Despite this, Kirby has weaknesses, in particular his poor mobility and approach options, that bring him down as a character.
Changes from Melee to Brawl
Possibly due to being considered by many the worst character in Melee, Kirby has been significantly buffed in the transition to Brawl, and many of the flaws that severely crippled him have been addressed. Kirby has seen significant improvements to his aerial game, his recovery, his grab, and his hitboxes/range. The changes in mechanics also helped out Kirby as he still maintains a strong combo game despite the introduction of hitstun canceling, and the introduction of tripping benefits some of his moves such as his down tilt. The changes to locks also benefits him as he can use his jab and down tilt to lock his opponents and build up a lot of damage. Lastly, the overall slower pace of the game combined with his improved range makes it a lot harder for his opponents to zone him out.
Despite his buffs, he also received a few nerfs, mainly to his damage output as well as the frame data on some of his moves. Kirbycide can also no longer kill his victim first, making sacrificial KOs a much larger risk.
Nevertheless, Kirby has been significantly buffed overall, resulting in him going from arguably the worst character in Melee to an average character in Brawl.
When Kirby does a taunt, his Copy Ability gets discarded.
All of Kirby's animations are variations of the Kirby Dance, performed when he completes a level in his games.
In competitive play
Kirby has a decent matchup spread overall. He is countered by three characters, soft countered by seven, and has twelve even matchups. Conversely, he soft counters 9, and counters 5. Kirby generally does well against characters he can crouch under most of their moves, can combo with ease, have difficulty hitting him, or have some combination. These include characters such as Falco and Sheik. His light weight is beneficial against King Dedede, since the latter specializes in chain grabbing opponents, with Kirby's light weight rendering this strategy moot (although his light weight also renders him more vulnerable to KOs). However, he tends to struggle against characters who can outspeed him at most departments, such as Meta Knight, or camp him, such as the Ice Climbers and Olimar.
Tier placement and history
Players almost immediately saw Kirby's improvements from Melee (which included a stronger aerial game, grabs, and a more reliable recovery) and combined with the slower pace of the game to which he can keep up with, he was ranked 14th on Brawl's first tier list, and then rose to 13th place on the second and third tier lists. However, due to characters of higher tiers having more prominent strengths, and the flaws of Kirby's poor endurance along with speed, he dropped to 16th in the fourth one, 19th in the sixth edition, and to 20th in the seventh and eighth versions. Regardless, Kirby has considerably improved from Melee, and has his results and playerbase significantly increase, albeit still having trouble with most of the top and high tiers.
Role in The Subspace Emissary
Kirby is one of the main protagonists in the SSE. In the beginning, a trophy of Mario and Kirby are thrown into an arena, come to life, and have a friendly match. The player chooses the one they want to play as. After the battle between the two, the victor revives the fallen loser, and the two fighters celebrate and wave to the crowd when suddenly, the Subspace Army attacks Peach and Zelda, who were watching their match, and both come to their aid. After the brief battle, the Ancient Minister shows up with a giant Subspace Bomb that is quickly armed by two R.O.B.s. When Mario attempts to stop the bomb, he is ambushed by a giant cannonball and is blasted away from the stadium. Meanwhile, the two princesses are captured by Petey Piranha, and are thrown into separate cages. Kirby then faces off against Petey, but only one princess can be freed. After defeating Petey, Wario appears carrying a giant gun called the Dark Cannon, turns the princess Kirby didn't save into a trophy, and runs off with her. As Kirby and the remaining princess begin to leave, Kirby, seeing that the Subspace Bomb is about to explode, flees the Midair Stadium via Warp Star. However, they are soon chased by the Halberd and are forced to land on it. Soon after, an Arwing gets shot down, blowing both Kirby and the princess off the Halberd and onto a series of ridges. After climbing down from the ridges, Kirby sees/hears something and runs ahead, leaving Peach/Zelda behind. She is then turned into a trophy from behind by Bowser's Dark Cannon, and is copied by a Shadow Bug clone of Bowser. After a fight, Mario and Pit/Link and Yoshi are turned into trophies, and are captured by an arm from a cargo drove by King Dedede, which also has Zelda/Peach, Luigi, and Ness's trophies. Suddenly, Kirby appears from behind and uses Final Cutter to sever the arm, and revives the pair's trophies in the process. When Dedede attempts to escape, Pit/Link fires an arrow at his cargo, slowing it down a little, and the five pursue Dedede to save their friends.
Eventually, they find a cave that Dedede's cargo is parked by, and after getting through, they find Dedede's hideout. Upon exploring his hideout they see a hole in the wall, and decide to enter it. They then see Bowser, who escapes to the Halberd after avoiding Mario and Pit's attacks. After the scuffle however, Kirby finds a mysterious badge that fell off Zelda/Peach's trophy.
Some time after that, Kirby and the others pursue the Ancient Minister in a desert, trying to stop him from detonating another Subspace Bomb. Despite their best efforts, the bomb still explodes, and they barely managed to escape it (Kirby flies on a Warp Star with Pit and Link on it while Mario rides on Yoshi). Kirby and the others then aided Marth, Ike, Lucas, the Ice Climbers, and the Pokémon Trainer in warding off the Subspace Army troops that had come to face them.
After defeating them, the Falcon Flyer, and the Halberd (now under Meta Knight's control) land in front of them, and they all join forces to defeat the Subspace Army. The Subspace Gunship, commanded by Bowser and Ganondorf, appears out of a large sphere of Subspace where the Isle Of The Ancients used to be, and after destroying the Halberd, tries to attack 4 smaller ships emerging from its wreckage. Fortunately, Kirby manages to save them by destroying the Gunship with Dragoon (suggesting that the Halberd and smaller ships were a distraction so he could launch this surprise attack), and follows the others into Subspace.
When they confront Tabuu, Tabuu unleashes his Off Waves that turn everyone, including Kirby, into trophies. However, Kirby is miraculously revived thanks to the badge he found at Dedede's hideout earlier, which he had swallowed prior to Tabuu's attack (when Bowser escapes with the Peach/Zelda trophy in his Clown Car). After going through Subspace alone and reviving some of the fighters along the way, Kirby finds Ganondorf's trophy. Before he can do anything, Bowser appears and attacks Ganondorf's trophy in revenge for turning him into a trophy earlier, before throwing it aside. King Dedede then runs over to Kirby and hugs him before pointing the staircase to Kirby, and dragging Kirby up it. Kirby then helps the others fight Tabuu.
These stickers can only be used by Kirby, or a select few including him:
In Event Matches