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.
Daisuke Namikawa reprises his role in the Japanese version of the game. Sean Schemmel, who voiced Sir Aaron's Lucario in Lucario and the Mystery of Mew , now voices Lucario in the English version, replacing Bill Rogers. As in Brawl, it is also voiced by different voice actors for SSB4's Spanish, French, German and Italian versions.
Lucario is ranked 17th out of 55 on the tier list, placing it in the B tier. This is roughly similar to its mid-tier placement in Brawl, where it was ranked 11th out of 38, although SSB4's tier structuring renders it as a high-tier character. Lucario's signature Aura has been strengthened, which is further supplemented by the new rage mechanic. This makes most of its attacks among the strongest in the game when it is highly damaged, with its smash attacks, up and back throws, and its up and back aerials each being easily capable of KOing. The new Aura mechanics also grant new benefits to Lucario's special moves: with high Aura, Aura Sphere grows even larger than Lucario itself, Force Palm's blast possesses significantly more range, Extreme Speed covers much farther distance, and Double Team becomes one of the strongest counterattacks in the game. As a result, Lucario boasts very potent comeback potential, with a single opening being enough for it to KO careless opponents.
However, Lucario still maintains its below-average mobility, making it difficult for it to force an approach. Lucario's new Aura mechanics also cause its moves to deal drastically lower knockback and damage at low percentages, making it almost impossible to KO opponents until 150%. While this allows Lucario to combo reliably at low percentages, this makes it much harder for it to combo or create set-ups when it is highly damaged, due to the aforementioned strength of its attacks at high Aura and rage. As Lucario is also dependent on Aura to secure KOs, it has a riskier playstyle compared to many other characters. Some examples are its smash attacks, which have high lag, and Force Palm's grab, which can be escaped at low Aura. Finally, Extreme Speed now gains enough speed at max Aura that it can inadvertently cause a self-destruct if used recklessly, and the move has a full second of landing lag if it ends in the air, making Lucario heavily open for punishment.
Lucario has attained decent results in the competitive scene, though its representation is considered below-average. Despite having a number of upsets, such as at Frostbite 2017, where Japanese Lucario player Tsu- placed 2nd while defeating many top players like ZeRo, VoiD, Kameme and Salem, Lucario's true viability has been contested. While Serge and Day continue to develop its metagame, a number of players feel that Lucario's inherent playstyle makes it too risky to be a truly viable pick in the current metagame.
Lucario is a middleweight with slightly below-average walking speed, average dashing speed, and above-average falling speed and air speed. It also has average gravity and air acceleration, and the highest traction. These attributes render Lucario's overall mobility as average. It is also able to crawl, wall jump, and one of the only five characters in the game that can wall cling.
Lucario possesses a unique mechanic called Aura. Aesthetically, Aura appears as blue, concentrated energy and affects Lucario's entire moveset. Mechanically, Aura is a damage multiplier with a baseline of 0.66× at 0%, and an apex of 1.7× when Lucario has received at least 190%. The multipliers also get multiplied whenever Lucario has a stock lead or not, effectively increasing or decreasing Lucario's Aura. When Lucario is 2 stocks or more ahead, Aura is affected by a 0.6333× multiplier, when at 1 stock ahead it is affected by 0.8×, when at 1 stock behind it is affected by 1.3333×, and when at 2 stocks or more behind it is affected by 2×. This means that, even though most of Lucario's moves have high knockback scaling, their power is extremely low with low Aura; this grants it respectable combo potential, yet makes even its strongest attacks unable to KO until very high percentages. Conversely, high Aura does the opposite: it results in Lucario's combo potential becoming virtually nonexistent, but grants its moves incredible power, with many of them easily surpassing every other character's at maximum Aura. 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 canceling 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 percentages. Its up throw has decent knockback, and can combo effectively at most percentages. 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 Aura. Its forward throw is the fastest throw in the game, as well as the strongest of its kind with high Aura, along with Bowser's. 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 being a true combo 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 sufficiently high Aura while possessing impressive range, but it is also the slowest, since any opponent that is not in hitlag will most likely avoid it.
Nevertheless, Lucario is not without flaws. Despite its reasonable endurance, Lucario's average weight and low air movement makes it vulnerable to most combos. Extreme Speed, while being a potent recovery move, also has downsides- unless Lucario grabs the edge or lands before it concludes, its very high landing lag will render it completely vulnerable, forcing it to mix up its landing spot. With low Aura, the move is sluggish and does not grant much distance; with high Aura, it is possible to overshoot the stage and self-destruct Lucario is not careful. As an attack 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 flaw, however, is the polarized strength throughout its moveset when utilized in tandem with 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 reliably. This makes it imperative to keep in mind how Lucario's attacks and knockback will function depending on how much damage all active fighters have accumulated, as it cannot afford to make mistakes at high percentages. It also often restricts Lucario to using a bait and punish playstyle, as it cannot safely perform rushdowns without getting punished most of the time. This gives Lucario an unusual disadvantage against high-knockback and heavyweight characters; a well-placed and powerful move will often be all it takes to end Lucario at mid or even low percentages, preventing it from utilizing Aura effectively.
Lucario's custom moves offer unique benefits and changes in playstyle. 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, though 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 percentage as well as greatly improved maneuverability, at the negligible cost of removing the hitbox from the move. 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 players like Day, Gomamugitya, Motsunabe and Serge achieving strong results.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Lucario has received a mix of buffs and nerfs in the transition from Brawl to SSB4. The modifications to Aura both help and hinder Lucario, and make it much more of a "high-risk, high-reward" character. Lucario starts off with a lower Aura multiplier and it takes longer for Lucario to reach maximum Aura although Lucario is much stronger once it reaches maximum Aura and Aura charges up slightly faster. A number of its attacks have improved combo potentials with minimum to low Aura (although this is also due to the changes to hitstun canceling), but at the cost of their KO potential.
Like Aura, Lucario itself has been buffed and nerfed both directly and indirectly. The changes to hitstun canceling, make up and especially down throws combo starters with minimum to low Aura despite the former's higher knockback. By extension, up and down tilts have improved combo potential with minimum to low Aura. However, all of them barring up throw deal less damage. Lucario's recovery has noticeably improved as its air speed is significantly higher and Extreme Speed has received a hitbox, and its distance scales with Aura making it safer and travel more distance. However, it is still susceptible to punishment, either by overshooting it while at high to maximum Aura, or by failing to mitigate its noticeably higher ending lag via landing on solid ground. Lastly, Lucario's smash attacks have slightly longer ranges, but are noticeably laggier.
Lucario also received a number of useful buffs. Its KO potential has improved, both directly and indirectly: up and back aerials are more reliable KOing options, due to their higher damage and base knockback, while the changes to Aura combined with the rage mechanic supplements them and its other KOing options. Outside of this, Lucario's entire moveset is now affected by Aura; its mobility has been largely improved; and Double Team is stronger.
However, Lucario has received some significant nerfs. One of the most prevalent nerfs Lucario received across its moveset is that many of its attacks have shorter hitbox durations hindering Lucario's spacing ability. A noticeable example of this is forward aerial where its duration was decreased from 14 frames to a mere 2 frames. Forward aerial also has an altered angle and significantly increased base knockback hindering its combo and edgeguarding potential (although the removal of hitstun canceling has allowed it to maintain its combo potential). Lucario's down aerial is also weaker and has a weaker stalling effect hindering its spacing potential. Lucario's falling speed has significantly increased which hinders its aerial game and makes it much more susceptible to combos combined with the removal of hitstun canceling. Lucario's endurance is also noticeably worse especially horizontally. Lucario's weight is slightly lower and its gravity is higher making it easier to KO horizontally. The removal of momentum canceling and the introduction of rage further reduce Lucario's endurance making it harder for Lucario to build up Aura despite its changes. Lucario's damage output without maximum Aura is also lower hindering Lucario's damage racking abilities unless it has full aura. Lastly, Lucario's jab is significantly laggier removing the strong jab canceling potential it used to have.
Overall, Lucario is a less well rounded character being more of a high risk, high reward character. Lucario has greater KO potential especially with high aura in exchange for having an overall worse moveset and reduced survivability which makes it harder for Lucario to survive long and build up Aura. The changes to Smash 4's mechanics benefit Lucario overall albeit not to the extent of some other returning veterans as Lucario did receive a couple of hindrances to the new mechanics. Lucario's strength overall relative to the cast remains similar and it has achieved respectable results in spite of its relatively small playerbase.
Lucario has received a mix of buffs and nerfs from game updates. While it has experienced few direct changes, its most notable nerf in 1.0.4 gave a significant increase to Extreme Speed's landing lag if Lucario lands while helpless, making it notoriously exploitable. However, update 1.1.3 improved Lucario's mobility by increasing its walking, air and falling speeds, the latter of which makes it slightly less susceptible to vertical KOs.
The changes to shield mechanics have affected Lucario indirectly: due to the shieldstun increase brought about by update 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 technique was very situational and was not used at high-level play.
Furthermore, Aura Sphere became even more situational as of update 1.1.3, thanks to its decreased hitlag resulting in it being impossible to perform with a charging Aura Sphere charge at low Aura. Despite this, it is still possible to perform with a charging Aura Sphere at high Aura, as the higher damage output generates more shieldstun and hitlag. Even so, Lucario's most damaging moves, such as its smash attacks and Force Palm, benefited from these changes thanks to their ranges and, in the case of its forward and down smashes, their hitlag.
Tier placement and history
Lucario was considered to be a viable character since the game's release. The aura buffs, which vastly increased Lucario's KO 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, lead many professionals to view Lucario as a high-tier character. Despite its low tournament representation, it achieved lukewarm results in the game's early lifespan thanks to notable players such as Day, Motsunabe and Serge, and would eventually be ranked 23rd on the first 4BR tier list. More recently, Lucario has achieved better tournament representation in competitive play. At Smash Factor 5, Serge, along with fellow smashers Daimy and Richi, placed among the top 12 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. This caused it to slightly rise to 22nd place on the second tier list.
However, Lucario's tier position was considered one of the most contentious of all characters, as some within the community (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. they 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 players maining it, thus causing more and more to look down on it.
However, Lucario's results then noticeably improved as time went on due to some new developments in its metagame, and has seen generally improved results, especially in Japan, leading it to be perceived more positively again in spite of very skilled competition. This allowed Lucario to rise to 19th on the third and tier list. While some felt that Lucario's placement was too high due to its inconsistent results and "high-risk, high-reward" playstyle, Tsu- surprisingly placed 2nd at Frostbite 2017, while sending ZeRo to the losers bracket and having very close games with him on the tournament's grand finals, making these thoughts less common. This very high result, tied with more consistent ones, have led Lucario to rise to 17th on the fourth and current tier list. As such, the majority of players feel that Lucario's current placing is well deserved for the time being, so it is still seen as a viable pick in tournaments.