Lucario (ルカリオ, Lucario) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. Its return to the series was announced on January 31st, 2014, six years to the day of the year that Super Smash Bros. Brawl was released in Japan. According to an extra post for its Miiverse reveal, this timing was done to commend the Brawl developers for succeeding in adding Lucario to Brawl.
Lucario is now voiced by Sean Schemmel in the English version, who replaces Bill Rogers from Brawl and voiced Sir Aaron's Lucario in Lucario and the Mystery of Mew. As in Brawl, Lucario is also voiced by different voice actors for SSB4's Spanish, French, German and Italian versions. However, Daisuke Namikawa reprises its role for the Japanese version.
Lucario is currently ranked 22nd out of 58 on the tier list, placing it at the bottom of the C tier and making it the lowest ranking high-tier character. This is a fairly noticeable drop from its placement in Brawl, where it was ranked 11th out of 38. Lucario's signature Aura has been strengthened, which is further supplemented by the new rage mechanic. This makes most of Lucario's attacks among the strongest in the game when it is extremely damaged, such as all smash attacks, up/back throws, up aerial and back aerial (the latter being the strongest outright). The new Aura mechanics also grant new benefits to Lucario's special moves; at high Aura, Aura Sphere grows even larger than Lucario itself, Force Palm's blast gains significantly increased range, Extreme Speed covers huge distances (and can now damage opponents at the end), and Double Team becomes the among strongest counterattacks in the game. Altogether, this grants Lucario huge comeback potential, with a single opening being enough for it to KO careless opponents, much like the hard-hitting heavyweights such as Ganondorf, but with significantly faster moves.
However, Lucario still maintains its below average movement speed, making it difficult for it to force an approach. Lucario's new Aura mechanics also causes its moves to deal drastically lower knockback and damage at lower percentages, making it almost impossible to KO opponents until 150%. While this allows Lucario to combo reliably at lower percentages, this makes it much harder for it to combo or create setups when it is at a high percentage, due to the aforementioned strength of its attacks at high Aura. Additionally, some of Lucario's moves have been worsened in other ways, making it more dependent on Aura to secure KOs and thus giving it a riskier playstyle than before; some examples are its smash attacks, which are significantly laggier, and Force Palm's grab, which is escapable at low Aura. Finally, Extreme Speed now gains so much speed at max Aura that it can easily cause a self-destruct if Lucario isn't careful, and the move has two seconds of landing lag if it ends in the air, making Lucario heavily open for punishment.
Overall, Lucario has below-average representation and decent results in the competitive scene, although its dependence on its Aura mechanic has caused its viability to be viewed contentiously; while some players view it as a capable fighter who can hold its own at comboing or KOing depending on the strength of its Aura, others view its reliance on Aura as too volatile to be depended on. Regardless, it is still considered a solid pick in competitive play, with dedicated mains (such as Serge and Day) continuing to expand its metagame.
Lucario's attributes are overall balanced. It is a mediumweight with below average walking and dashing speeds, above average falling speed, average air speed, gravity and air acceleration, and the highest traction. It is also able to crawl and one of the only five characters that can wall cling.
Lucario possesses a unique mechanic that no other character in the game has: Aura. Aesthetically, aura appears as blue, concentrated energy and affects every single move Lucario performs. Mechanically, aura is a damage multiplier, starting at 0.66x when Lucario is at 0% and capping at 1.7x when Lucario has taken at least 190%. The multipliers also get multiplied whenever Lucario has a stock lead or not, effectively increasing or decreasing Lucario's aura presence. When Lucario is 2 stocks or more ahead, aura is affected by a 0.6333x multiplier, when at 1 stock ahead it is affected by 0.8x, when at 1 stock behind it is affected by 1.3333x, and when at 2 stocks or more behind it is affected by 2x. This means that, even though most of Lucario's moves have high knockback scaling, their power is extremely low with low aura, and insufficient to KO until well beyond 150%. However, with high aura, Lucario's moves have incredible power, with many of them easily surpassing every other character's at max aura, including Bowser's and Ganondorf's. In addition, the rage mechanic further boosts the knockback of Lucario's attacks, which complements their already high power.
Aside from that, another big strength of Lucario is the good versatility throughout its moveset. Its aerial game has good uses: neutral and forward aerials are good combo moves, either for starting or continuing them. Down aerial is Lucario's fastest one, and has the interesting property of cancelling Lucario's momentum, which can lead to mindgames or gimps. Up and back aerials are Lucario's strongest ones, and since they have immense power when Lucario is at high levels of aura, they serve as very effective KO moves. Meanwhile, its grounded game also provides decent options, with its neutral attack, forward and down tilts serving as good anti-pressure options, up tilt serving as a decent combo starter, dash attack being a great option to punish laggy moves and Lucario's smash attacks having immense strength overall. Next, its grab game boasts impressive benefits. Since Lucario's pummel is the fastest in the game, it can deal large amounts of damage at high percents. Its up throw has decently knockback, and can combo effectively at most percents. It is also the most damaging and one of the strongest when Lucario's aura is high, making up for its increased power. Down throw can serve as a combo starer as well, but only on light opponents and at low levels of aura. Its forward throw is the fastest throw in the game, as well as the third strongest with high aura. Finally, its back throw is a very powerful semi-spike, making it excellent for edgeguarding, tech-chasing and, with sufficiently high aura, KOing.
Lastly, Lucario has a very useful special moveset. Aura Sphere is a strong projectile very similar to Charge Shot, but since its size and power are affected by aura, it is much more dangerous at high percents. Additionally, its high damage output when fully charged allows it to out-prioritize most moves in the game. The charging hitbox is also infamous for having a true followup into Lucario's up smash, which is particularly dangerous at high percentages. Force Palm shoots a blast of aura forward, with its range and power increasing with aura. If used at point-blank range, the move is treated as a grab, bypassing shields, and has immense power with enough aura. Extreme Speed is Lucario's recovery move, and is able to cover extremely long distances if Lucario has taken much damage, making it virtually impossible to gimp. It can also launch opponents that get hit head-on. Finally, Double Team is Lucario's counterattack. It is the strongest counter in the game with enough aura while possessing impressive range, but it is also the slowest, since any opponent that is not in hitlag will most likely avoid it.
However, Lucario has its slew of significant flaws. Despite its good endurance, Lucario is vulnerable to combos (though its down aerial can help alleviate this weakness). Extreme Speed also has numerous flaws. The move has high ending lag and, unless Lucario grabs the edge or lands before it concludes, very high landing lag. With low Aura, the move is also very slow and does not grant much distance, while at high Aura, it is possible to overshoot the stage if Lucario is not careful. In addition, it is difficult to hit with, since Lucario can only damage the opponent head-on, without having very high power to compensate. Its combo game is also heavily reliant on throws, as most other combo moves have either very limited follow-up options or awkwardly positioned hitboxes.
Its most serious flaws, however, is the polarized strength throughout its moveset, as well as the fluctuating aura mechanic itself. Its fastest moves are the weakest, and its strongest moves are the slowest, making the latter very punishable if not spaced well. Lucario's aura can sometimes work against it, as attacks with high knockback scaling are bound to finish Lucario off before it has a chance to make use of its rage and/or aura at the same time. With low aura, its powerful moves are too weak to KO, and with high aura, its combo-oriented moves are too strong to be chained together. This makes it imperative to keep in mind how Lucario's attacks function depending on percentage, as it cannot afford to make mistakes at higher percentages. It also often restricts Lucario to using a bait and punish playstyle, as it cannot perform rushdowns without getting punished most of the time. This gives Lucario some kind of disadvantage against heavyweight characters, as one strong move is usually all it takes to end Lucario, preventing it from utilizing aura effectively after it gets KO'd.
Lucario's custom moves can give it notable benefits. Snaring Aura Sphere has a wind effect that pulls opponents in and moves slower, essentially re-purposing the move from a spacing and camping tool to a stage control and edge-guarding tool. Piercing Aura Sphere moves much faster, hits at a lower angle and goes straight through opponents, making it even better at spacing and camping, but at the cost of its immense power. Long-Distance Force Palm has less power, but as its name implies, it has more range, allowing Lucario to strike distant opponents more easily. The grab is also stronger and a semi-spike, making it lethal in any situation. Ride the Wind gives the full distance at any percent, as well as greatly improved maneuverability. Lastly, Glancing Counter is considerably weaker, but always allows Lucario to attack even if it is not hit.
In the end, Lucario is a very technical character whose weaknesses are outweighed by its strengths. While aura makes Lucario's moveset stronger and it boasts great utility at all kinds of percentages overall, it cannot use all of its moves as effectively at certain percentages as others, meaning Lucario cannot afford to get too predictable when approaching as it can take high damage if not approaching correctly, and it might not be able to KO the opponent or even approach it if they know what Lucario will do. This makes playing with Lucario very methodical, as a small error could cost Lucario for it, even if it manages to regain the advantage in any way. Even so, Lucario does have a small but dedicated playerbase, with smashers like Day, Gomamugitya, Motsunabe and Serge achieving strong results with the character.
Changes from Brawl
Lucario has received a mix of buffs and nerfs in the transition from Brawl to SSB4, but was overall nerfed. Lucario's combo game has been nerfed on some attacks, such as Force Palm and its neutral, forward and down aerials. Lucario's smash attacks are also slower, have less utility, and are harder to land. Lucario's falling speed and gravity have increased, making it more susceptible to combos. While Aura cap has been increased and thus makes it easier to KO at max Aura, Lucario's attacks depend on Aura much more so than in Brawl. As a result, they deal less damage and knockback at low Aura. But at high Aura, its moves tend to have too much damage and knockback to reliably combo opponents.
However, Lucario has received some buffs. Its overall mobility has been improved and the influence of Aura has been increased, giving it a better recovery and increased range on some of its attacks, as well as significantly increasing its power when it has taken damage. As a result of its dependency of high Aura to secure KOs, Lucario has become much more of a "high risk, high reward" character than in Brawl. Lucario has a relatively small playerbase with above average low-level results, but sparse high-level results.
Like the base changes it received from Brawl in the game's initial release, it is debatable whether Lucario has been buffed or nerfed directly by game updates. Due to the shieldstun increase in 1.1.1, Lucario could attempt to break shields by using Aura Sphere on the edge with the opponent shielding so the opponent could fall for an unavoidable KO if they did not attempt to SDI out of the move. However, this was very situational and was not used at high-level play. Furthermore, it became even more situational as of update 1.1.3 due to it being impossible to perform with a charging Aura Sphere charge at low rage, although it is still possible to perform with a charging Aura Sphere at high rage thanks to Aura Sphere's hitlag being decreased.
Even so, Lucario's most damaging moves, such as its smash attacks and Force Palm, are benefited by these changes due to their ranges, and in the case of its forward and down smashes, their hitlag. However, the same update also improved Lucario's mobility by increasing its walking, air and falling speeds, the latter of which makes it slightly less susceptible to vertical KOs.
Tier placement and history
Lucario achieved lukewarm results in the early lifespan of SSB4, but more recently, it has achieved better tournament representation in competitive play, thanks to notable players such as Day, Motsunabe and Serge. At Smash Factor 5, the latter, along with fellow smashers Daimy and richi, placed among the top 10 using Lucario. Day also managed to place 17th at Super Smash Con 2016, a much bigger tournament which had many top level players attending and notably saw him defeat ZeRo, which sent him into the losers bracket of said tournament, a feat achieved by only a select few. Gomamugitya also managed to place 1st with his partner in the doubles tournament of Super Smash Con 2016 while using Lucario. The aura buffs, which vastly increased Lucario's kill power to the point where a max-aura Lucario could consistently KO opponents under 75%, and improved its recovery to become one of the best, as well as a powerful combo game, leads to many professionals thinking of Lucario as a blanket high-tier.
However, a group of players that grew steadily bigger around late-2015 began seeing Lucario as having one of the worst neutral games due to its laggy attacks and subpar movement speed, and viewed its recovery as blown out of proportion as its flaws were surprisingly easy to exploit, especially with its extreme landing from a helpless state lag post 1.0.4. This group considered Lucario as a poor character who suffered from overspecializing with the aura gimmick, thus leaving it as little threat to a cautious player. As time went on, Lucario's tournament results grew barren, with fewer and fewer maining it, thus causing more and more to look down on it. However, Lucario's results then notably improved as time went on due to some new developments in its metagame, especially in Japan, leading it to be perceived more positively again. Lucario also has seen improved results in the Mexican scene as both Serge and Richi have been placing consistently very well in spite of very skilled competition. In the US, players like QD, Shiny, and Day have been finding ways to improve lucario's movement speed and neutral by pioneering techs like buffered shield drops, b reverses, wavebounces, and perfect pivots. Lucario players have also been learning to perform extend dash dances and foxtrot cancels to improve their neutral.
Nowadays, Lucario's tier position is considered one of, if not the most contentious, of all characters in SSB4, with some still believing it to be a poor character, and others viewing it as very viable. The latter is the more common view, though, and with its recent developments, Lucario's tier status was reassessed, resulting in it going from a mid-tier placement of 23rd within the first tier list to a high-tier placement of 22nd within the current tier list. Despite only rising a single spot, this rise indicates a strong positive shift in community perception of Lucario. As such, Lucario is still seen as a viable pick in tournaments.