Shulk has access to five Arts: Jump, Speed, Shield, Buster, and Smash, with each Art acting as a buff-type move that temporarily enhances certain abilities in exchange for weakening others.
Each of the five Arts is indicated by a colored kanji character. When the special button is pressed, a character will appear behind him, beginning with Jump and following the order of Speed, Shield, Buster, and Smash for each consecutive button press. In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it can also be "quick-selected" by holding down the special button then the directional stick to the Art, then releasing the special button. While an Art is active, several of Shulk's attributes are modified for the duration of its effect, which vary based on the Art chosen.
When an Art is activated, colored auras appear in areas of Shulk's body that pertain to the effect of the Art itself. For example, Jump and Speed have an aura around Shulk's shoes, while Buster's aura will appear around the Monado. Shield's aura will appear around Shulk's body and Smash's aura appears around Shulk's hands. Also, in the Wii U version, the Art's kanji appears at the top left corner of Shulk's portrait (which blinks faster and faster when the Art is almost ready to deactivate), and Shulk additionally gains a colored trailing aura effect while he moves.
Also, for all Arts in the Japanese version, Shulk yells out for each respective one: 跳ぶ! (Leap!), 走る! (Run!), 守る! (Protect/Defend!), 叩く! (Thrash!), 打っ飛ばす! (Fly away!)
Activation, Duration and Effects
To activate an Art, the special button must not be pressed for a few frames until the colored aura appears on Shulk. While scrolling through the Arts, he will be unable to perform any other special moves until one is activated, although Shulk can still move, dodge and attack normally. In Ultimate, it can also be "quick-selected" by holding down the special button, holding the directional stick mapped to the Art, then releasing the special key. The "quick select" wheel is mapped to the following: up for Smash, upper left for Jump, lower left for Speed, upper right for Buster, and lower right for Shield. If Shulk activates an Art while staying still, he poses and announces the activated Art's name upon activation.
In SSB4, each Art lasts for 15 seconds before stats return to normal. In Ultimate, all Arts last for less time, with Buster lasting for 10 seconds, Speed and Smash lasting for 8 seconds, and Jump and Shield lasting for only 6 seconds. The Arts can be cancelled by pressing the special button three times in succession, or, in SSB4, by holding down the special button for about one full second. In SSB4, once an Art activates or is canceled early, it cannot be activated again until 10 seconds has passed. In Ultimate, each Art has its own cooldown time, with Jump and Shield taking 18 seconds, Speed and Smash taking 16 seconds, and Buster taking 14 seconds. Before then, its corresponding kanji will be grayed out when selecting another Art. The cooldown on all Monado Arts resets when Shulk is knocked out. No two Monado Arts can run at the same time; if one is active, and a different Art is chosen, the previous Art is overwritten and enters cooldown.
Each Monado Art also affects Shulk's attacking power with battering items like the Beam Sword (eg. Smash reduces hitlag and damage while increasing knockback). However, they do not affect firing weapons like the Ray Gun or thrown items such as the Capsule.
Shulk's Final Smash, Chain Attack, is also affected by the Monado Arts. With Buster, this attack becomes highly damaging, often likely sending the opponent into KO percents if the Art lasts the duration of the full attack, but cannot KO as effectively. With Smash, Shulk can KO at significantly earlier percents but should the attack not clear the stock, Shulk will have hardly done as much damage to the opponent as desired, making it arguably riskier than with Buster. Speed and Shield will only reduce its effectiveness while Jump has no effect whatsoever. Interestingly, the Arts can run out in the middle of the Final Smash, so awareness of their durations and the situation is advised.
The animation of Shulk announcing the Art's name grants 14 frames of intangibility (unless canceled into another action), and Shulk will perfect shield any attack that connects with his body during that period should he raise his shield. It will also replace landing lag animations (reducing it to 5 frames). These factors make it possible to perform multiple advanced techniques, most notably the Monado Art Landing Lag Cancel.
Kirby's Copy Ability
Kirby is able to copy the Monado Arts with his Inhale and can receive effects from these Arts when he uses this Copy Ability. This can give Kirby incredible benefits and new previously-unseen options, as Jump gives him high jumps that can easily pass the upper blast line after three jumps and, as a result, can extend his throw combos to pursue his opponent. Buster can trap opponents in a string of attacks far past realistic KO percentages; particularly his up tilt which can juggle most characters for longer than usual to rack up large amounts of damage. Speed also gives Kirby the longest perfect pivot in the game. Conversely, both Speed and Shield make Kirby's jumps the most ineffective in the game, and Smash makes him the lightest fighter in the game. And unlike Shulk, Kirby's up special moves gain no benefit from the Jump Art.
Like Shulk, Kirby's Ultra Sword Final Smash can be affected by the Monado Arts in all of their respective ways to alter its damage and knockback properties. Despite having his own version of the Monado, Kirby does not use it to directly attack his opponent whatsoever, nor does he gain a unique hat from it.
Even though Kirby's Monado Arts only gives him massive versatility against a Shulk in 1v1 matches, a Kirby/Shulk team in Doubles with Team Attack turned on can easily allow both characters to use such versatile techniques in tandem.
Special Move customization was added in Super Smash Bros. 4. These are the variations:
In Xenoblade Chronicles, all special attacks and abilities are categorized as Arts, and the term is used as such to describe both playable and enemy character abilities. The wielder of the Monado has access to two additional Arts that are accessed by using their signature ability (or "Talent Art"), "Activate Monado", with more being unlocked as the story progresses for an ending total of eight, three of which return for Super Smash Bros. Unlike what SSB4 depicts, not all Monado Arts are buff-type moves, as several are status-inducing skills or powerful attacks. In addition, two Monado Arts, Jump and Smash, were tailor-made for the Smash Bros. series and as such do not exist in the original game.
Battle Arts in Xenoblade Chronicles have cooldown times, with different Arts having differing cooldown times. However, this only applies to Battle Arts; Monado Arts are part of Shulk's Talent Art, "Activate Monado", and instead require Shulk to use part of his Talent Gauge to activate them, which can only be refilled by auto-attacking enemies.