Announced at E3 2001, Kirby (カービィ, Kirby) is a starter character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Although tier-wise, he was the second-to-top character in Super Smash Bros. topped only by Pikachu, in Super Smash Bros. Melee, he has been severely nerfed.
Makiko Ōmoto once again voices Kirby in Melee, with some voice clips recycled from SSB, but more higher pitched, along with some new additional voice clips.
Currently, Kirby is ranked 26th in the G tier at the very bottom, an extreme drop from his 2nd position in Smash 64 and his worst placement in the series. While he has several throw options into Kirbycide, a good ground game, a solid defensive game thanks to his crouch and small size and a decent edgeguarding game, Kirby's approach and KO ability are among the worst in the game; slow attacks, a low air speed, an ineffective projectile in Final Cutter, and numerous other flaws both on the ground and in the air prevent Kirby from easily approaching enemies, and he struggles against almost all characters as a result of this. Kirby currently has terrible overall matchups, with seven matchups that are near unwinnable, and only two positive matchups (against Bowser and Roy), and even these can be disputed at length.
Kirby acts as a light, weak character that is intended to outmaneuver opponents. While having an average dashing speed, he has a terrible air speed (being tied with Ganondorf as the 3rd worst in Melee), so his small size is intended to act as his primary way to approach. Owing to his low falling speed and high short hop, Kirby has a poor SHFFL, while his high traction gives him a short wavedash.
Despite his poor air speed, Kirby has a great edgeguarding game. With no one to edgeguard him, Kirby can easily recover due to his multiple midair jumps, while Kirby's back air can be used as a rather powerful edgeguarding technique, the Fence of Pain. Assuming Kirby can knock opponents off the edge, he should theoretically have little trouble keeping them from recovering.
Owing to his small size, Kirby also has an above-average defensive game. His small hurtboxes can potentially allow him to avoid attacks, while his small size also lends itself to a large shield, making Kirby relatively safe from shield stabbing. A low crouch also makes his hurtboxes even smaller, and it can be compounded with his down tilt as a potential camping and spacing tactic, as crouching makes him able to avoid most jabs.
Kirby also has above average tilt attacks as well, as Kirby's three tilts, while short-ranged, have a variety of practical applications; his forward tilt and aforementioned down tilt can act as spacing tools, while his up tilt can potentially be used as a combo starter. Kirby also has an above average grab range, allowing him to potentially use his powerful and unusual throws to his advantage; a notable application of his up, back, and forward throws involves Kirbycide, a specific type of Sacrificial KO that forces both Kirby and his opponent to lose a stock. This technique is able to KO opponents at any percentage.
Despite these benefits, Kirby's most fatal flaw, which is often cited as the reason for his bottom tier placement, is his nearly nonexistent approach. With a poor SHFFL, short wavedash, terrible air speed, short range, a laggy, predictable dash attack, and no viable projectiles, Kirby has extreme difficulty in approaching almost all of the cast; this is especially prevalent against characters with disjointed hitboxes (such as Marth) or powerful pressure games (such as Falco). The lack of a projectile can uniquely be rectified if Kirby uses Inhale on an opponent; doing so, however, is risky, due to the attack's start-up and cool-down lag, and some characters will either fail to give him a useful projectile (such as Ness) or a projectile in the first place (such as Captain Falcon). Kirby's small size can also make some attacks inferior to the original character; Fireball from Mario, for instance, has the Fireballs disappear more quickly than Mario's, as Kirby's lower height causes them to reach the ground faster and to have less kinetic energy when they finally hit the ground.
Assuming he can approach opponents, however, Kirby's various attributes also give him a lack of combo ability; a low air speed prevents him from easily pursuing enemies in the air, and almost all of his aerials (except for back air) either have long startup and cooldown periods (down and neutral air), high knockback (up air), or poor hitbox placement (forward air). Kirby's only noteworthy combos are his up tilt juggles and his Fence of Pain as mentioned earlier, and even the latter combo is inferior to Jigglypuff's Wall of Pain due to Kirby's significantly slower air speed, making it risky to use. Kirby's wild card is his aforementioned Kirbycide technique, and even this is unreliable; his up throw requires proper placement at the edge of a stage, and Kirby always loses when performed in a last stock situation. While his forward and back throws are much easier to perform and Kirby always wins when performed in a last stock situation, they are the only throws in the entire Smash series that can be potentially broken out of. As a result, if the opponent can button mash out of the grab and throw quick enough, they will remain unharmed while Kirby loses a stock. To make things worse, after Kirby uses his forward or up throw, he will lose all his midair jumps.
Outside of his abysmal approach, Kirby also has trouble KOing other characters. A majority of Kirby's finishers suffer from poor range, slow start-up (such as his Hammer), weak knockback (such as his forward smash) or have small sweetspots that make them unreliable (such as his Hammer and up smash). Arguably Kirby's only effective finishers are his down smash and his up and back aerials, which themselves require a proper read and correct timing from the player in order for them to be a low-risk attack.
As a final disadvantage working against Kirby, he has major survivability issues, with his endurance being on par with Mr. Game & Watch and Pichu for the worst in Melee. Having among the lowest weights in the game alongside a low falling speed causes Kirby to be easily KOed from both the upper and horizontal blast lines (Fox is especially notorious in the former category). Outside of this, Kirby's recovery is also slow, linear, and predictable, despite granting decent distance as a result of his multiple midair jumps; once again, Kirby is negatively impacted by his poor air speed, and Final Cutter grants almost no horizontal distance, coupled with being very easy to edgeguard against.
Changes from Super Smash Bros.
Kirby was known as one of the most dominant characters in Smash 64, even after receiving nerfs in the North American release. This was in part to his amazing power, attack speed, range and priority on his attacks, which subsequently gave him excellent KO and shield pressuring potential. In addition to this, he was also a very simple character to pick up and play (especially compared to the other high tiers); making him a highly solid character to pick up regardless of the player's skill level. As a result of this, Kirby was drastically nerfed in his transition to Melee.
Kirby's mobility both on the ground and in the air has been noticeably reduced; which has subsequently hindered his approach. The weakening of pivots have also made Kirby's approach worse and he doesn't benefit too much from the introduction of air dodging; due to his high traction and low falling speed. As a result of this, he has an unimpressive wavedash. When combined with many returning veterans having greater approach potential, this has made his approach among the worst in the game; especially in the air.
In general, Kirby has suffered from Melee's universal changes. Apart from the changes to pivoting, Kirby has greatly suffered from the changes to shields. While Kirby is less vulnerable to shield pressure, his own shield pressure is much worse due to the universal reduction to shieldstun and shield damage. Because of this, Kirby's attacks are much less safe on shield (with Kirby lacking any moves which even leave him at a frame advantage on shield) with the reduced damage/increased ending lag on multiple moves along with the weakening of L-cancelling only further exacerbating this. Because of this, Kirby can no longer perform any shield break combos and his attacks are generally much more punishable. In addition, Kirby's out of shield options are also worse largely due to his new neutral aerial; which is much weaker, slower and has less range than his previous neutral aerial. When combined with his shield drop being longer, this means that Kirby either has to use his grab or back aerial to punish a majority of moves out of shield.
Kirby's damage output and KO potential has also been noticeably reduced (even relative to the cast). A majority of Kirby's moves have reduced KO power including his smash attacks, neutral aerial, back aerial, his up throw (his previous forward throw) and Stone. When combined with his lower damage output on most of his moves, this significantly hinders his ability to rack up damage and close out stocks. His smash attacks are slower and weaker, making them less reliable and more difficult KO moves to land and while his new up aerial is rather powerful, it is slow and difficult to land.
Kirby's oppressive up tilt has also seen rather drastic nerfs both directly and indirectly. The move has a shorter duration, much less range and more ending lag which makes it much less effective at stuffing out approaches and generally makes it easier to punish. The move is also noticeably weaker; dealing much less damage. The introduction of DI has made the move much less reliable as a combo move while the changes to shieldstun combined with the move's decreased damage/increased ending lag has immensely hindered its safety on shield; completely removing its shield pressuring potential. Overall while it is still one of his most useful moves, it is not nearly as effective as it was previously.
Kirby in general has worse frame data (especially relative to the cast), as well as his afforementioned up tilt and neutral aerial, his forward smash is noticeably laggier; no longer being the fastest in the game (in addition to being much weaker). His down aerial has also seen a drastic increase to its startup lag and its hits less times which significantly reduces its duration and maximum damage potential. It also greatly suffers from the introduction of meteor cancelling; significantly hindering its edgeguarding potential. Kirby also naturally suffers from the changes to L-cancelling; especially since most of his aerials have worse auto-cancel windows which remove's his neutral, forward and down aerial's ability to auto-cancel in a short hop. When combined with the changes to shieldstun, this significantly hinder the utility and safety of his aerials.
Kirby is also the character who benefits the least from having an expanded move list. Kirby's grab game is now one of the absolute worst in the game. His new forward and back throws can be used as a sacrificial KO however, they can be escaped from at any time, which can lead to Kirby either self-destructing or at least leaving himself in a vulnerable position after simply using the throws. As a result, his forward and back throws are completely useless; being easy contenders for the worst throws in the game. Kirby's up throw is much weaker than his previous forward throw and it has gained two new issues; the move can no longer land on platforms above Kirby unless they are very close to the ground and Kirby now loses all of his jumps after using it (his new forward throw also has this issue); which has hindered the utility of the throw and has made it an unreliable KO option. Kirby's only useful throw is his new down throw; which can set up tech-chases although it is still not as useful as numerous other down throws. His new side special Hammer is a very slow (yet powerful) move on the ground while in the air, it is a very inconsistent and easy to escape multi-hit; giving it very low utility compared to other side specials.
Lastly, Kirby's few flaws from the previous game have not been properly addressed. While his endurance has slightly improved due to his increased weight and falling speed, it is still among the worst in the game. Kirby also still struggles to deal with opponents above him, especially with the nerfs to his up tilt combined with the universally increased falling speeds. His already limited combo options have been reduced even further due to the changes to his up tilt and his forward aerial; combined with the introduction of DI. His recovery has also become worse. His air speed and jump height have been reduced and Final Cutter covers much less distance, resulting in his recovery becoming very poor.
Kirby has received some buffs. Kirby has greater access to his Kirbycide as he can move around when swallowing his opponents (in addition to Inhale having reduced startup lag) and his new forward and back throws are more reliable tools to Kirbycide with (although this is completely nullified by the fact that those throws can now be escaped from). A few of his moves are also either slightly faster or stronger, such as his new up aerial, which is much stronger and has much less ending lag. All of Kirby's aerials also have less landing lag; with his average landing lag now being among the lowest. This makes the weakening of L-cancelling hinder him less than most other veterans/it otherwise would have.
Overall, Kirby's few weaknesses from the previous game; including his limited combo options and significant survivability issues have been further exacerbated and he has received numerous new weaknesses as well (including poor KO potential, poor range, an extremely ineffective grab game and poor approach). His only remaining strengths are that he can abuse his small size to avoid attacks, his tilts are solid and he still has decent edgeguarding potential although the latter two points are still not as effective as they were previously. Lastly, the universal changes have hindered Kirby more than almost any other returning veteran, with his approach, combo and shield pressuring potential particularly being hindered by these changes.
Due to these changes, Kirby was not only the most severely nerfed character from Smash 64 to Melee but arguably the most nerfed character in all of the series. As a result, he is arguably the worst character in the entire game and he is non-viable in competitive play; with Kirby players rarely making it into top 64 in major tournaments, let alone top 32.
Like other characters, Kirby received some changes in the PAL version of Melee, which slightly buffed him overall as he is faster, heavier and he overall has slightly more range and KO power. These changes however fail to properly address Kirby's flaws so while Kirby is less of a contender for the worst character in the game, he still remains one of the weakest characters overall.
For a gallery of Kirby's hitboxes, see here.
In Competitive play
Kirby has one of the worst matchups spreads in the game. According to the 2010 matchup chart, he has two positive matchups (against Bowser and Roy), has two even matchups (against Link and Pichu), but is soft countered by four characters, countered by ten (the 2nd most out of any character, behind Roy), and hard countered by seven (2nd most behind Pichu). Even in the early metagame of Melee, Kirby suffered from his terrible approach, lack of KO ability, slow overall speed, and severe vulnerability to KOs. Although he still has useful tilts, a strong defensive game and a good edgeguarding game, he struggles in the neutral game and has inconsistent combos, and thus can rarely put his opponent into positions where they are susceptible to edgeguarding. Top- and high-tiered characters such as Fox, Samus, Marth, and Jigglypuff give Kirby the most trouble. Fox can KO Kirby vertically at very early percents in a multitude of ways and Kirby doesn't have many options to react; Jigglypuff, Samus and Peach all have great recoveries, stronger aerials, can easily edgeguard him and cannot be comboed by Kirby at all due to their floatiness; Marth can exploit his very poor approach and vulnerability to edgeguards.
Of particular note is Kirby's matchup against Mewtwo, one of the few true counter matchups among the bottom tiers. Kirby's movement is too sluggish to challenge Mewtwo's rolls well, making the matchup difficult as long as Mewtwo keeps a certain distance away from Kirby and uses its zoning tools such as Shadow Ball appropriately. However, this weakness can be alleviated somewhat by fighting on smaller stages which allows Kirby to catch up.
Due to this matchup chart being outdated, some of Kirby's matchups have changed for the better. He does surprisingly well against characters who can struggle to hit his small frame or are vulnerable to edgeguarding, most notably Sheik, Captain Falcon, and Ganondorf. These characters still win the matchup, and have the tools to defeat him should the opponent know the Kirby matchup well, but Kirby has many ways to aggravate them. Unlike other low-tiered characters, Kirby cannot be chaingrabbed by Sheik, and can crouch under many of these characters' attacks and almost all grabs in Melee, which is very useful defensively against the cast when combined with his small size. He can also exploit the top tier characters's poor recoveries with his good edgeguarding game, as he can notably gimp characters like Captain Falcon, Ganondorf and even Fox and Falco at low percents with his down aerial due to their short or slow recovery. This is particularly notable because many other bottom-tiered characters have seen no success at all against the top- and high-tiers in the modern metagame, indicating that Kirby may be better than the characters around him and stronger than once thought.
Tier placement and history
Kirby has historically always ranked very low on Melee tier lists; compared to Pikachu, Kirby's nerfs from Super Smash Bros. was much more significant, removing almost all of the aspects that made him dominant in the original Smash Bros. and leaving him with considerably fewer options in both offense and defense. Players immediately noticed that Kirby was left with poor KOing power, a poor approach, and a severe vulnerability to edgeguarding and premature falls due to his light weight, low air speed and telegraphed recovery. Owing to Kirby's significant drawbacks, there have been only a few professional smashers that have developed his metagame for serious play, with a large number of them failing to place notably in large tournaments. While more prolific Kirby mains were active in the past, such as t1mmy and Triple R, there exist few such professionals in present-day competitive Melee, causing Kirby's metagame to remain highly stagnant. Additionally, even prior to the stagnation of his metagame, Kirby was considered to rely on the opponent's lack of matchup experience to win matches.
As a result of this stagnancy and Kirby's numerous flaws, Kirby has consistently ranked as one of Melee's worst fighters. He is currently ranked last at 26th place on the current tier list, at the very bottom of the tier list. However, some professional smashers, such as Kira and Ginger, believe that Kirby is underrated and that he is not the worst character in the game, as his tournament results and playerbase have been notably better than other characters such as Bowser, Zelda, and Ness. Armada also disagrees that Kirby should be at the bottom of the tier list, placing him at 24th on his own, citing Kirby's crouch, tilts, and aerials as having mild utility and versatility.
In Classic Mode, Kirby can appear as an ordinary opponent, as an ally or opponent in the team battles, alongside Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Pichu, or the Ice Climbers, as a member of a multi-character battle, or as a metal opponent. In Kirby's appearances, he appears either on Fountain of Dreams or Green Greens, and on a team with the Ice Climbers, he appears on Icicle Mountain.
Kirby's sole appearance is on Stage 5: Green Greens. He first appears in a one-on-one fight then 15 Kirbys appear each possessing a Copy Ability. If the single Kirby and the Kirby team are KO'd in less than 31 seconds, the player must also fight a giant Kirby.
Kirby and his allies are fought on Green Greens.
Kirby is featured in the following event matches:
In addition to the normal trophy about Kirby as a character, there are two trophies about him as a fighter, unlocked by completing both Adventure and All-Star modes respectively with Kirby on any difficulty:
Kirby is also the subject of five trophies that can be considered its own trophy series: the Kirby Hat series, with information about the powers Kirby gains when he uses Swallow on each opponent. The first three are "normally collectible" trophies that can be found during normal play and in the Trophy Lottery, but the last two are awarded once the player has unlocked all the playable characters involved on those trophies.
Finally, the character Kirby himself is depicted on some other trophies not related to gameplay: Ball Kirby, Fighter Kirby and Fire Kirby.