Announced at E3 2001, Link (リンク, Link) is a starter character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Link returns as a veteran character from the previous game, acting mostly the same as before, as a swordsman with powerful short range attacks and a wide variety of long range attacks. Link, however, has received some large buffs, making him a considerably better fighter in Melee.
Nobuyuki Hiyama reprises his role as Link in Melee, albeit via recycled voice clips from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Link is ranked 18th in the tier list, in the E tier, which is much higher than his second to last current rank in the Smash 64 tier list (11th out of 12), and two places below his clone, Young Link. Link's placement is due to his low lag aerials (with his neutral and forward air), a good variety of projectiles, several kill confirms, multiple strong tech-chasing options and a very high air speed. His disjointed hitbox also gives him a slight advantage against others, as well as a fully functional shield that can block a wide variety of projectiles. Link is also a potent edgeguarder in the NTSC versions of the game; his Spin Attack is possibly the best semi-spike in the game, though he still has many other options like his notoriously active neutral air. Link, however, suffers from a rather high falling speed and a high weight, making him an easy target for chain grabbing and combos. His recovery is also predictable, though he can extend it slightly.
Link generally falls under the "slow, but powerful" archetype of fighter, though many of his attacks are fairly versatile and long reaching. Link has a rather high weight, as well as an average falling speed and high air speed, an unusual combination of physics for someone of his weight class.
Arguably Link's greatest asset is his range. His sword has a large, disjointed hitbox (though not as large and disjointed as Marth's sword), allowing him to attack safely from a distance; unlike the duo of Marth and Roy, Link only has one hitbox on his sword, allowing his approach to be considerably less "specific" than either. Additionally, Link has a multitude of projectiles on his Special moves; while the Bow is decidedly situational due to its low range, speed, and power, Link's boomerang and bombs allow him to start combos, continue them, or simply deal damage; the latter also can extend Link's recovery if he slashes them with his Spin Attack.
Another benefit are his variety of useful attacks in his arsenal; a majority of his grounded attacks have good KO potential, including his tilts, with his up tilt having rather decent speed and acting as an excellent combo starter that takes advantage of his above-average air game. Link's air game is solid; his fast, low-lag back, forward, and neutral aerials coupled with his low short hop and high falling and air speeds give Link among the best SHFFLs in the game. Link's boomerangs and bombs also give him excellent zoning abilities, with the former's modifiable trajectories potentially making it a good approach tool as well. In addition, Link has a variety of powerful finishers; all of his smashes have decent power with acceptable start-up and cool-down lag, his forward smash can be extended should the first hit fail to connect, and both his up and down aerials can be potent finishers, especially when combined with his aforementioned SHFFL. In the NTSC regions, Link's Spin Attack is also a deadly edgeguarding technique when used on the ground; its later hitboxes sharply semi-spike the opponent, and if Link can land this attack on recovering opponents, he can quickly and safely gimp opponents. While the attack lost its semi-spike properties in PAL regions, the attack's long range and high power still make it a decent edgeguarding technique.
Link's grab game has a variety of positive and negative attributes; while his grab has a long range, it also has high ending lag. Link's grab also cannot grab opponents in the air, limiting his chaingrab potential. Link's throws, however, have low knockback and relatively high hitstun, as well as low ending lag, allowing Link to potentially string in a few hits against his opponent. Common options include using his down-throw into his spin attack, giving Link a reliable kill confirm vs mid-fallers and fast fallers. His up throw is also useful in several matchups, allowing him to combo into up-tilt and sometimes down-smash vs fast-fallers, and into several aerials vs other characters and high percent fast-fallers. In general, Link's grab has reliably high reward, but is extremely committal and somewhat hard to hit with.
Link's recovery is also considered to be above-average. Link by himself is difficult to edgeguard, as his recovery has a wide variety of options; his wall-grapple can allow him to enter "safe-zones" underneath the ledge, and his spin attack covers the top of him, with his bombs also potentially allowing for some form of recovery if he slashes them with his spin attack. In addition, Link's high weight and falling speed make him rather resilient to the upper blast line, though these attributes impact his horizontal survivability.
A high falling speed and being a rather large target, however, reveals Link's primary flaw: Link is a particularly easy target for chain throwing and combos. Against fast characters, such as Fox or Sheik, Link players must read opponents very well as to avoid such techniques; unlike most others, however, Link's only fast move that can potentially break combos is his neutral air, causing him to be rather predictable in these cases. In addition, he is arguably the easiest character for Fox to waveshine, for Falco, shine to down air, as well as one of the easiest characters for Sheik to chaingrab. These major setbacks with three very common characters in tournaments is the main problem. In addition, Link boasts among the worst out of shield options in the game; Spin Attack is relatively slow compared to other up-b's out of shield like Bowser's or Samus's, neutral-air is large and fairly fast but limited by Link's long jump-squat animation, and whilst Link's up-smash out of shield is very fast, it is easy for opponents to SDI out of and only covers above him. Combined with his grab not being able to hit airborne opponents, Link has some of the worst tools for dealing with shield pressure in the game, especially against Fox and Falco.
Exacerbating Link's ease to be comboed is his poor overall mobility. While still rather fast for a character of his strength, weight and range, Link still has a rather slow, inflexible approach on the ground, due to his slow dash speed, poor dashdance, and short wavedash. Additionally, Link has multiple high-lag attacks, notably his down and up aerial attacks; while this can be alleviated with L-cancelling, they can still be punished, requiring Link players to carefully set up combos and KO moves. Link also struggles to quickly cover space immediately in front of him on the ground, as his grab and down-tilt are both very laggy and his short hop aerials are a little too slow to come out. He also can struggle against crouch-cancelling and ASDI down, as his fastest aerials like back air and neutral air are easily beaten by crouch-cancelling and counterattacking, and some of his strongest combo starters are poor against grounded opponents SDI'ing down, such as his otherwise very good dash attack.
Changes from Super Smash Bros.
In his transition from Super Smash Bros. to Super Smash Bros. Melee, Link received numerous buffs, most of which made him a more potent fighter, going from bottom tier to mid-low tier. One of his largest weaknesses (his awful recovery) has been greatly improved as his Spin Attack covers more distance and he now has a grab aerial which when combined with the addition of air dodging vastly improves the amount of options he has to recover. He is also lighter making him more difficult to combo although he is still one of the easiest characters in the game to combo. Many of his attacks also have decreased ending lag while some attacks also have decreased startup lag.
He has also received some nerfs as some of his attacks are weaker while others are even slower (notably his down aerial which also heavily suffers from the changes to L-canceling). While his grabs are significantly faster, they also have less range, he cannot grab aerial opponents unless he is right in front of them and his throws are drastically weaker.
Nevertheless, he is overall a stronger character than in Smash 64 although he is still considered to be unviable in competitive play.
Grabs and throws
Like other characters, Link received some changes in the PAL version of Melee which slightly nerfed him overall as his spin attack's late hit no longer semi-spikes making it worse for edgeguarding. Despite this, he has a slightly easier time against higher tiered characters due to them also being nerfed and he is currently ranked higher on the current PAL tier list at 16th.
For a gallery of Link's hitboxes, see here.
In Competitive play
Link has below average matchups. He is hard countered by four characters, countered by one, soft countered by seven, and has four even matchups. On the flip side, he soft counters five, counters three, and hard counters one, which is Bowser. Link does well against characters with bad range, like Pikachu and Ness. He also does well against Ice Climbers, where he is equipped with the perfect tools to zone, separate, and eventually KO without getting grabbed. However, he does pretty bad against characters who possess deadly chain grabs on him, such as Mario and Sheik. He also does bad against characters who can wall him out with projectiles, such as Falco, and characters who can gimp his recovery, like Fox. It is also worth noting he's one of the only characters in all of Melee to have an even matchup against Kirby, the current worst character in the game.
Tier placement and history
Link currently ranks at eighteenth on the current tier list. Historically, Link has always been regarded as an average to below-average character in the competitive metagame, having most frequently appeared at the thirteenth spot on the tier list. While Link's spacing ability and his above-average air game have been noted, his poor mobility on the ground is widely seen as the reason for his high-low tier ranking; even Aniki's impressive performance with Link in the Jack Garden Tournament could not move him up in the tier list, and Link's metagame has not become particularly powerful in Melee. In the eleventh tier list, Link was ranked lower than his clone, Young Link, for the first time, owing to Young Link's better mobility. Link currently does not place particularly high in tournaments, even in smaller tournaments, and there are very few dedicated Link mains in the present metagame.
As part of an April Fools' joke, Link has once ranked sixth on the tier list; in the two days that this version of the tier list was declared official, the Melee Back Room claimed that Link's high-tiered ranking was due to having untapped aerial prowess. While another prediction on the tier list involving Jigglypuff eventually came true in the post-Brawl metagame, Link has failed to rise out of the low-mid tier range.
Link can appear in Classic Mode as a solo opponent, an opponent or ally in team battles (paired up with either Luigi, Young Link, Zelda or Marth), a giant opponent, or a metal opponent. Link will always appear on either Great Bay or Temple with the exception of when on a team with Luigi, where they will be fought on Mushroom Kingdom, as well as the metal battle, where, like everybody else, he will be fought on Battlefield.
Link's sole appearance in the Adventure Mode is in the Underground Maze stage. In the stage, the player must find the Triforce in one of six stages; however, five of these stages contain a Master Sword, where the player will fight a Link. While players have the option to skip these matches by merely jumping over the stage, the player receives the "Link Master" bonus if they KO all five Links in the stage.
In All-Star Mode, Link and his allies are fought on Great Bay.
Link is featured in the following event matches:
In addition to the normal trophy about Link as a character, there are two trophies about him as a fighter, unlocked by completing both Adventure and All-Star modes respectively with Link on any difficulty: