Little Mac (SSB4)
Little Mac (リトル・マック, Little Mac) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. He was revealed on February 13th, 2014 during a Nintendo Direct to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Punch-Out!! series, which debuted in Japan in 1983, but later debuted in the West in 1984. Instead of retaining Brawl's 3D version of his original design from the NES version of Punch-Out!!, Little Mac now sports his updated design from the Wii version of Punch-Out!! Despite this, he is now voiced by Kōsuke Toriumi instead of Matt Harty, the latter of whom voiced him in the Wii version of Punch-Out!!
Little Mac is currently ranked 43rd out of 58 in the tier list, placing him in the upper portion of the E tier. Little Mac's playstyle is significantly focused on strong, ground-oriented offense, with unarguably the best grounded attributes in the game: he possesses extremely fast grounded movement and dodging speeds, while his traction is among the highest in the game. These traits allow him to position himself quickly and effectively while also heavily complimenting his grounded frame data, which is the overall fastest in the game.
Despite being a lightweight, Little Mac is notable for his array of finishers, which in turn grants him a very effective punishment game. In particular, his KO Uppercut grants him notable comeback potential, as it can be performed from multiple set-ups even at low percents and can KO the entire cast extremely early. In addition to his outstanding power, Little Mac possesses an effective grounded combo game: his neutral attack is particularly notable for being one of the best in the game due to its high priority and very fast speed, while his neutral and tilt attacks also benefit from anti-rebounding priority.
Little Mac's most advertised flaw, however, is his extremely ineffective aerial abilities. He is burdened with a deliberately weak air game, while his off-stage endurance is infamously terrible due to his status as a fast-falling lightweight with extremely unimpressive recovery options and below average aerial mobility. As such, Little Mac's ability to KO quickly is counterbalanced by his glaring susceptibility to gimping, juggling, aggressive edgeguarding, and combos, each of which can result in him being KO'd quickly.
Although Little Mac's grounded attacks boast impressive power, several of them lack the shieldstun necessary to prevent punishment despite their nearly unrivaled speed, in addition to dealing minimal shield damage. This makes characters with fast movement speeds and/or long ranges difficult for Mac to safely approach even if he spaces correctly, while his lackluster grab game makes him unable to reliably punish opponents who frequently use their shields. Finally, Little Mac's excellent ground game is offset by his sheer reliance on staying grounded, giving him extreme difficulty with contending against platform camping and ground-hugging projectiles, especially if he is required to waste his second jump.
Ultimately, Little Mac is deceptively difficult to master; while his fighting style is straightforward, his polarized attributes and dangerously risky playstyle forces him to optimize every recovery and opening, due to a single well-placed attack being capable of gimping him instantly. As a result, he maintains only an average level of representation, with only a handful of his playerbase being dedicated mains. Despite this, Little Mac has managed to achieve success at varying levels, with Cagt achieving several top 10 placings and a few top 25 placings at the local and regional levels respectively, and Destany winning several local tournaments in both singles and doubles play along with achieving a handful of high placings at the regional level. Lastly, dedicated mains such as Sol, Vash, and Alphicans have each achieved a few respectable placings in singles play and a few high placings in doubles play at the regional and national levels.
As displayed in his trailer, Little Mac is a lightweight who performs optimally on the ground, but cannot fight effectively in the air. His mobility is measured in a way that reflects this: he has the eighth fastest walking speed, the third fastest dashing speed, and is tied with Zero Suit Samus and Wario for the third highest traction. Altogether, these attributes give him arguably the best out of shield game of any character. His grounded presence is further supplemented by his sidestep and rolls being the fastest in the game, with the latter also being long-distanced. His dash's animation compliments his short frame, as it consists of him lunging forward and thus allows him to avoid attacks with high hitboxes or certain projectiles such as Hadoken and uncharged Water Shuriken. His below average gravity and fast falling speed also give him exceptional vertical survivability for a lightweight, while his fast air dodge (surpassed only by Mewtwo's) and high wall jump (surpassed only by Lucario's) give him decent protection against edge-guarders so long as he is near the stage. Conversely, Little Mac's aerial traits are notably subpar; while his air speed is average, he is burdened with the fourth lowest jumps and the second slowest air acceleration, making it mandatory for him to stay on the ground whenever possible.
Little Mac's greatest strength is his incredibly powerful ground game. He possesses the overall fastest set of grounded attacks, with none of them having more than 15 frames of start-up and only one (his up smash) having more than 30 frames of ending lag. Additionally, all of his ground moves have high utility, with his weakest ground attacks being effective combo starters, while his strongest attacks have little overall lag despite their high power, making them difficult to punish. This makes Little Mac's ground game immensely useful due to his ability to easily find openings before racking up damage and KOing opponents very quickly, which forces his opponents to play very cautiously. His jab canceled neutral attack, up tilt and down tilt are great combo starters, with his down tilt being especially effective due to its vertical launching angle and low knockback scaling allowing it to combo into any move except his back aerial, down aerial, and Straight Lunge. Altogether, these moves grant him a very fast and unique grounded combo game, in addition to giving him an abundance of grounded KO moves.
The speed of Little Mac's tilt attacks can even allow him to perform shield break combos by pressuring his opponent to keep their shield up while whittling down its health. However, if this is not possible to do in a given situation, the speed can instead initiate shield stabbing on many characters, with a prominent example being Ganondorf. He additionally possesses a very fast semi-spike in his down smash, giving him a deadly edge-guarding move. Lastly, some of his moves have high hitlag, most notably his downward angled forward smash, which makes said moves difficult to punish out of shield.
In addition to their strength, Little Mac's grounded attacks are nearly impossible to interrupt. His neutral attack and tilt attacks, in particular, boast a form of priority known as anti-rebounding priority. This means that when an opponent's attack within priority range clanks with any of these attacks, Little Mac's attack will continue uninterrupted while the opponent's attack is not only canceled out, but also results in them suffering from lag relative to how powerful the attack they used was. However, this trait only applies to grounded attacks. With this level of priority, Little Mac can take advantage of the opponent's more powerful attacks, hindering them with large amounts of lag while allowing Mac to punish immediately due to the low ending lag of his neutral attack and tilt attacks. Besides these, his smash attacks are also difficult to interrupt as well. While they follow standard rules of priority, they have super armor from start-up to the end of their final hitboxes, making them impossible to interrupt during this period of time and allowing Mac to effectively tank an opponent's attack as a unique way of punishing them. All these factors make Little Mac arguably the most difficult opponent to deal with on the ground.
Little Mac's special moves also have some very useful options. Straight Lunge can be long-ranged, boasts very high power and grants damage-based launch resistance when it is sufficiently charged, allowing him to tank low damage attacks and retaliate immediately afterward. It can also be used to escape some weak multiple hit moves, such as neutral attacks, Witch Twist, and Greninja's up aerial, in the event he gets caught in the middle of them. It can also be used as a situational move mid-match to enforce a bad approach or input from a reckless opponent. However, Straight Lunge is held back by its very slow speed and considerable ending lag even if uncharged, limiting its usage and making it easily intercepted in almost every other case, which offsets its overwhelmingly high strength. Jolt Haymaker is a strong leaping attack that travels far, can be unleashed on command and grants intangibility during start-up, making it ideal for tech-chasing, re-positioning, and escaping/punishing laggier moves. Despite this, it should not be used excessively, as it does not stop at an edge upon performing it, which can inadvertently lead to an inevitable self-destruct if used near an edge.
Rising Uppercut covers fairly long vertical distance and grants brief intangibility upon start-up if used on the ground, making it Little Mac's most reliable aerial finisher and a very good out of shield option. Its last hit also deals extremely high knockback, making it quite a potent finisher, especially when used as a follow-up from his up tilt or his down throw. Its extremely fast start-up and initial intangibility also allows Mac to use it out of even the smallest pause between an opponent's combos, and thus potentially shift momentum in his favor. Slip Counter is overall the fastest counterattack in the game and grants intangibility at both start-up and during its counterattack. In addition, it is great for escaping pressure (especially aerial combos), and is one of the few that slides a distance before attacking.
Lastly, the Power Meter is a mechanic unique to Little Mac. It is a visible meter that charges by either dealing or receiving damage. When it is fully charged, Straight Lunge is replaced by the KO Uppercut, which is strong enough to KO any character at roughly 30%. It also has fast start-up, is unblockable (except on Witch Time), and can be used as a follow-up from Little Mac's tilts for almost guaranteed KO combos, allowing it to easily turn the tide of a match upon a successful hit. However, it is lost after holding it for 4 seconds and then being tumbled by any move (except footstooling), which enforces quick and precise use. Additionally, Little Mac must either receive 100% or deal 333% (assuming the player is never hit) in order to be granted the usage of KO Uppercut, while KO Uppercut itself has considerable ending lag regardless of whether or not it hits, making it a "high-risk, high-reward" attack.
Despite his impressive strengths, Little Mac is held back by two very easily exploitable weaknesses. The most serious and notorious of the two is his recovery. As mentioned earlier, Little Mac's aerial mobility significantly hinders him, with his horizontal survivability being one of, if not the shortest among the cast, along with his aerial mobility being unarguably one of the most unrewarding among the entire cast. His very fast falling speed makes meteor smashes, semi-spikes and even footstool jumps capable of almost instantaneously gimping him, even at 0% and especially if he cannot use his double jump. His special moves also receive drastic downgrades when used in the air, further worsening his air game. Straight Lunge loses its long distance and high power, to the point where it cannot KO even well beyond 150%, and suffers from drastically higher ending lag, to the point where one would not be able to recover even after jumping from the edge of a stage and using it. By extension, KO Uppercut loses the majority of its power, to the point that it only KOs around 150%. Jolt Haymaker loses half of its momentum and start-up intangibility, Rising Uppercut loses half of its distance, and Slip Counter's counterattack loses its intangibility.
The severe lack of aerial distance for both Jolt Haymaker and Rising Uppercut burden his already poor off-stage survivability. Additionally, they are further compounded by their small edge sweetspots and lack of invincibility frames until they conclude. These two traits result in Mac being unable to grab an edge unless he is directly beside it, and an opponent being able to launch him away before he grabs on, even if his arm pokes above the edge. Even though Straight Lunge and Slip Counter can be used as recovery options, they are very situational as such and require extremely precise timing in order to be properly used for recovering. Unsurprisingly, these traits collectively result in Little Mac having the most difficulty with recovering out of any character in the game, which in turn results in him being commonly cited as having the overall worst recovery in the game.
Furthermore, Little Mac has an infamously weak air game. All of his aerials can auto-cancel with a short hop, while each one has certain perks: neutral aerial can initiate intricate combos, forward and back aerials are semi-spikes, up aerial is a fast anti-air attack, and down aerial is the fastest meteor smash in the game. However, they are all overwhelmingly offset by a combination of high landing lag, very short ranges, and abysmal power, which results in Mac's aerial moveset having the lowest damage output in the game. These factors make Little Mac an easy target in the air, as he has no means of defending himself outside of point-blank range. This is further compounded by the fact that none of his aerials make the opponents reliably flinch until medium to high percents. Additionally, his down aerial is unable to reliably meteor smash opponents until around very high percents, while its sweetspot only lasts for 1 frame. Unsurprisingly, Little Mac has no way of reliably KOing in the air without Jolt Haymaker, Rising Uppercut or, in extreme cases, Slip Counter, all of which are very likely to result in inevitable sacrificial KOs if used off-stage.
Compounding his aerial weaknesses are his low survivability and vulnerability to combos. While his below-average gravity and fast falling speed gives him high vertical endurance for a character of his weight class, these (when combined with his previously mentioned attributes) make him extremely susceptible to combos and juggling, with one or two short combos being enough to force him to KO percentage due to his low weight and weak recovery. The super armor granted by his smash attacks are also a double-edged sword, as tanking an attack simply tacks on even more damage that can be game-ending in the future. As a result, Little Mac is very prone to momentum shifts, as his underwhelming aerial presence can allow opponents to combo him very easily, and in some extreme situations, zero-to-death him with a single attack or combo even if he has been dominating the entire match. These issues are what force Little Mac to almost always stay grounded, as he cannot afford to be trapped within aerial combos and dragged offstage just for initiating an aerial approach.
Lastly, even though Little Mac's ground game is immensely effective, it has its flaws. The most apparent one is his grab game, which has very minimal utility. While his throws deal respectable damage and his pummel is fairly fast, Little Mac is tied with Cloud for the third shortest grab range among the cast. The ending lag and knockback values of his throws also prevent them from starting combos of any sort under normal circumstances: down throw is able to combo into aerial Jolt Haymaker for damage, or Rising Uppercut to potentially score a KO, but can be avoided with DI, while forward throw is able to combo into a dash attack or Jolt Haymaker, but only if the opponent misses a tech. As such, Little Mac's throws are generally only used to deal damage, as he cannot add any grab options that can truly give him the upper hand when an opponent is shielding.
While Little Mac's attacks have decent ranges and fast speeds, spacing is still essential for him to avoid getting punished. Neutral attack, up tilt and dash attack are particularly prone to this, as they lack hitlag and have just enough ending lag to be punished out of shield. With the exception of his downward angled forward smash and sweetspotted up smash, none of his attacks deal extra shield damage, making it deceptively difficult to get free punishes on opponents who overuse their shield. Characters with counterattacks can also be detrimental to Little Mac, as a countered smash attack is often enough to be fatal due to the high power of his smash attacks (although the super armor granted by both up and down smashes last long enough to endure quicker counterattacks, such as forward-held Vision). Lastly, Little Mac is the character most adversely affected by stale-move negation and projectiles; as only half of his moveset has a respectable level of utility, Mac may find his finishers KOing later than usual compared to other powerhouses, while his dependence on being grounded leaves him comparatively vulnerable to ground-hugging projectiles without the use of his fast dodges and Jolt Haymaker.
Little Mac has a number of useful custom moves at his disposal. True to its name, Flaming Straight Lunge is a flaming variation that also hits multiple times and is a semi-spike that charges almost twice as quickly, but is considerably weaker and covers less distance. Stunning Straight Lunge is an electrical variation that travels farther and faster than Straight Lunge, but at the cost of damage and launch resistance. Grounding Blow moves higher and can bury grounded opponents or meteor smash aerial opponents, but its lower power and downward momentum make it much less effective for recovering. Compact Counter is weaker and faster, opening up opportunities for follow-ups, but lacks the default version's immense power and one-hit KO potential. Dash Counter is a double-edged sword, since its added momentum can either greatly help or greatly hinder his recovery. It should be noted, however, that none of these moves are unarguably better than Little Mac's default special moves. As such, the best option depends entirely on the player's preference.
Ultimately, optimal Little Mac play requires the user to think just like a boxer: keeping constant control of the middle of the stage and effectively reacting to the slightest openings, minimizing any damage taken with his extreme ground mobility, and staying out of the air as much as possible. Little Mac has just as many strengths as he does weaknesses, though due to them being polarizing, his potential can be deceptively difficult to use to the fullest despite his straightforward fighting style, as even a single mistake is often enough to completely shut down his momentum. These aspects have resulted in Little Mac attaining average tournament representation, although he has achieved varying levels of success: Cagt and Destany consistently place very well at regional tournaments, with the latter having also won several regional tournaments, while Sol, Vash and Alphicans have managed to achieve a few high placings at national tournaments.
Little Mac has received a mix of buffs and nerfs via game updates, both directly and indirectly, but is overall considered to be buffed. His recovery was noticeably nerfed in update 1.0.4, though he has received minor buffs since update 1.0.6, such as giving some his specials longer lasting hitboxes, and also receiving knockback increases on Jolt Haymaker, making it a reliable KO option, even when stale. However, the changes to shield mechanics brought about in updates 1.1.0 and 1.1.1 have also considerably affected Little Mac for the better, as they improve his ability to pressure his opponents on shield, or even break shields more reliably.
Little Mac was further buffed in update 1.1.4, in which the damage outputs of his smash attacks were increased. While their knockback was compensated, their increased damage outputs make them even more devastating on hit than they already were, as well as safer on shield. In particular, his downward angled forward smash now possesses enough shieldstun to combo into his down or forward tilts, which in turn can break full shields. In addition, his up tilt's start-up was decreased by 1 frame while its duration was increased by 1 frame, which eliminated the blind spot it had near the front of Mac's torso.
Overall, Little Mac's ground game has been improved, making his most dominant trait even more imposing. However, the worsening of his already terrible recovery has resulted in it becoming even more exploitable.
As shown in his trailer, Little Mac has a unique mechanic called the Power Meter. When fully charged, it replaces his neutral special with the KO Uppercut, an extremely powerful uppercut. Although it was claimed by Masahiro Sakurai to be a one-hit KO attack, this is not true. Nevertheless, it is strong enough to KO opponents at extremely low percents, depending on their weight. In keeping with Little Mac's abysmal air game, an aerial KO Uppercut deals significantly lower damage and knockback, to the point that it cannot KO an aerial opponent unless they are at least around 150%.
The Power Meter charges when Little Mac deals and/or receives damage. However, when he is attacked, the Power Meter will fill by double to quadruple the amount compared to if he hits an opponent. The Power Meter will also be maxed out if Mac receives exactly 100%. The uppercut can be canceled by another character's attack, blocked by a perfect shield or dodged, meaning that you have to catch opponents off-guard to guarantee it hits.
Unless the match is a Team Battle, all of Little Mac's victory poses involve Doc Louis. If Little Mac's team is victorious but he does not have the most points, Doc Louis will not appear and Mac will perform his second victory pose.
In all of Little Mac's victory poses, Doc Louis will say one of the following at random:
In all of Wireframe Mac's victory poses, Doc Louis will say one of the following at random:
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Since SSB4's release, Little Mac has been a very contentious character among casual and hardcore players alike. He was very controversial among less experienced players who struggled against him (most notably on For Glory), due to his excellent grounded game, abundance of KOing options and outstanding frame data. However, he has never been considered a serious threat in competitive play due to his abysmal recovery and nearly useless air game, making his endurance and aerial escape options significantly poor in a highly-skilled environment where flaws were heavily capitalized upon. Players were quick to note that Mac's vulnerability to juggling and gimping would allow a competent opponent to swiftly KO him more often than not, and with his inability to move safely between platforms, he was derided as only being able to fight effectively on Final Destination.
With a lack of high-level results during SSB4's early days and the gradually shifting perceptions of the community, Little Mac's popularity diminished immensely, due to being frequently perceived as a gimmicky character in competitive play, especially after he was nerfed in update 1.0.4. This was reflected in him being tied with Duck Hunt for the 43rd/44th place on the first tier list.
However, the efforts of dedicated Little Mac players like Sol have shown that Little Mac can perform well when played intelligently, even on stages with platforms, and proved that Mac's comeback potential was significant enough to be a considerable mindgame despite his aerial weaknesses. Furthermore, the buffs Little Mac received from game updates made his grounded moves even more rewarding and granted him more reliable combo potential from his grounded game. Improvements in Little Mac's metagame also resulted in newfound techniques for him, which further reinforced his fearsome comeback potential. While he is still considered too polarized to be truly viable in singles play, Little Mac is considered to fare much better in doubles play, thanks to a teammate covering his weaknesses and assisting him in setting up his powerful attacks.
These traits, combined with the expansion to his metagame and better, albeit still rare results, resulted in him being ranked 39th on the second tier list. While he has since dropped back to 43rd on the third and current tier list, Little Mac's tier placement remains very contentious even within the current metagame, due to his results being relatively sparse and volatile.
In Event Matches
Little Mac has sixteen alternate costumes, half of which sport a wireframe design based on the original arcade version of Punch-Out!!
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