Nerf

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An example of a nerf, involving lowered hitbox sizes in Kirby's up tilt.

A nerf is a term used to describe the weakening of a character or an aspect of a character, either through updating a game or by releasing a sequel. Nerfs are often done as an attempt to balance the roster, by weakening characters that are too strong; however, nerfs can also be inadvertently added if a character is indirectly weakened by an external gameplay change. Nerfs contrast with "buffs", which involve the strengthening of a character or aspects of a character between sequel games and game updates.

The term "nerf" is derived from the brand of toy known for its soft foam-like substance. This substance allows for safer play, as little chance of injury comes from impact with such items. In effect, a projectile is less damaging because it was "nerfed".

Notable examples of nerfs in the Super Smash Bros. series[edit]

Smash 64 to Melee[edit]

  • Kirby's walk and dash speeds were significantly reduced, leading to a poor ability to pursue opponents, and his increased falling speed, along with nerfs to Final Cutter, reduced the effectiveness of his recovery. Many of Kirby's most powerful attacks in Smash 64 were also nerfed; for example, his up tilt had its range, power, and combo ability significantly reduced, while his forward smash went from one of the strongest in Smash 64 to among the weakest in Melee. Ranked as one of the best characters in Smash 64, Kirby is arguably the worst character in Melee, currently ranking dead last on the tier list and by the far the most nerfed character in the transition between games.

Melee to Brawl[edit]

  • Arguably, all veterans were indirectly nerfed by a variety of universal gameplay changes made in Brawl. The loss of wavedashing negatively impacted many characters' mobility, such as in the case of Luigi and Marth, while removal of L-cancelling nerfed many characters with slow aerial attacks, such as Ganondorf and Link. Some characters with powerful combo potential in Melee, such as Captain Falcon and Jigglypuff, were also notably affected by the addition of hitstun canceling, which severely reduced the impact of combos.
  • Fox does not benefit any changes in Brawl due to alteration to knockback weakening his survivability. Additionally, his most notable tools have been severely toned down; his up smash and up aerial have reduced KO potential, his down throw can no longer tech chase, his Blaster travels half the distance, and his infamous shine combo can no longer be jump-canceled with increased start-up lag and higher angle which weakens its gimping potential. Once a top-tier character, he is generally considered to be high-mid tier in Brawl.
  • Captain Falcon's combo ability was drastically lowered due to the addition of hitstun canceling, leading to significant difficulty in KOing opponents. His Knee Smash, which can also no longer be reliably comboed into, also had its hitbox shrunken, and the sweetspot's shorter duration made the move more difficult to land compared to Melee. A high-tiered character in Melee, Captain Falcon frequently ranked among the worst characters in Brawl, with one tier list even considering him the least viable character in the game.
  • Jigglypuff suffered severely with the hitstun changes, weakening its previously devastating Wall of Pain combos. Rest's knockback was also reduced, making it a considerably less reliable and less safe attack than in Melee; Jigglypuff's up throw was also given higher base knockback, preventing it from being able to use the Space Animal Slayer. Initially top-tiered in Melee, Jigglypuff is considered among Brawl's worst fighters.
  • The removal of L-cancelling hindered Ganondorf's ability to use his aerials for approaching, comboing, and KOing, while his grounded moves had nerfs to their frame data, leading to Ganondorf having a considerably worse approach in Brawl compared to Melee. In addition to his nerfed approach, Ganondorf's grab range is much slower and now is the shortest grab in the game, with the loss of his ability to chain grab, as well as increased difficulty in comboing from a throw and his recovery is much worse going from one of the best to among the worst. A mid-tier character in Melee, Ganondorf is frequently considered one of the worst characters in Brawl, with the most recent tier list ranking him as the game's worst fighter.

Brawl to Smash 4[edit]

  • Falco's Blaster fires slower and no longer auto-cancels on landing, crippling his neutral game that had relied on the short hop laser. His down throw can no longer chain grab for significant damage at early percentages, and his down aerial is much slower and weaker, removing his fastest and most reliable KO option offstage. Due to this, despite the buffs to most of his other moves, Falco experienced the largest tier drop in the transition to Smash 4, going from 7th out of 38 (in the top tiers) to 47th out of 55 (in the low tiers).
  • King Dedede's new back aerial, though stronger, is much slower, and the hitbox has shorter duration, hurting his approach game. His down throw can no longer infinitely chain grab and the changes to hitstun canceling significantly harm Dedede.
  • Marth's high range (which was actually increased slightly during the transition) is less effective than in previous games, due to other characters getting more significant range increases; coupled with moves that have increased ending lag and decreased hitbox durations, such as in his down tilt and forward aerial, Marth's approach was badly nerfed in Smash 4. His throws also have much higher base knockback, removing many of his previous set-ups and ability to tech-chase. Considered among the best Brawl characters, Marth was initially considered to be a low-tier in Smash 4, though recent buffs in updates, however, have since improved his viability in the competitive scene, which have allowed him to become a top tier character once again.
  • Meta Knight's moves were made laggier, especially his up aerial, and deal less damage, with many of his attacks also losing their transcendent priority. His range has also been reduced, and he can no longer glide, nerfing his recovery that was previously extremely powerful in Brawl. His falling speed and gravity have been significantly increased, and with the changes to hitstun, he is far more vulnerable to combos. Despite his heavy nerfs, Meta Knight is still generally seen as a viable character in tournaments, though he is not considered the top-tier character he was in Brawl.

Smash 4 game updates[edit]

  • Diddy Kong was highly dominant in early competitive play, being very common in tournaments and typically placing highly. However, in patches 1.0.6 and 1.0.8, Diddy Kong was heavily nerfed overall. Before the patches, Diddy Kong possessed powerful aerials that could easily be comboed into, most notably down throw to one or more up aerials, which was both a powerful KOing and damage racking tool and was simple to execute. The patches greatly weakened the damage, knockback and combo potential of several of Diddy's most frequently used moves, lowering his use in competitive play significantly and putting his usage more in line with other high tier characters. While Diddy Kong is less effective after the nerfs, his neutral game has remained untouched in these updates, and he gained some buffs in other areas, allowing him to remain a highly ranked character in Smash 4; by version 1.1.6, Diddy ranked 1st on the second tier list, due to nerfs to multiple other characters in the top tier after he himself had been nerfed.
  • Luigi was considered to be one best characters in the game after J.Miller won B.E.A.S.T 5 with him. He possessed a very strong combo game stemming from his down throw, alongside a long, safe recovery and improved mobility compared to his Brawl incarnation. Update 1.1.1 however, significantly nerfed Luigi's down throw, the previous key to his success, and changes to the game's shield mechanics further weakened him. Despite a modest player base, including smashers such as Poke, Boss, and Mr. ConCon, Luigi is now generally considered a mid-tier character; initially ranked 16th on the first tier list, the second tier list had him drop to 29th, the center of the tier list.
  • Sheik was a particularly potent character from the beginning of the metagame, and after the nerfs to Diddy Kong, she was almost universally viewed as the best character in the game due to her excellent neutral game, unrivaled attack speed, and effective combos. While Sheik received repeated nerfs, particularly in regards to her raw attack power, her combos and KO confirms remained intact and she still remained among the best characters in the game. Sheik was ultimately nerfed by update 1.1.5, which altered the knockback of her throws to remove her most commonly used setups and make it very difficult for her to KO. Like Diddy Kong, however, her powerful neutral game remains intact, and she is still well-represented in tournaments, with a third-place finish on the second tier list.
  • Bayonetta was widely viewed as one of the best characters in the game after her release as downloadable content, due to her powerful combos and ability to punish even weak moves with Witch Time. These concerns were exacerbated by update 1.1.5; while this patch did nerf Bayonetta, Sheik was also nerfed, arguably more significantly than Bayonetta. This left many players convinced that Bayonetta was now clearly the best character in the game, with some tournament scenes even considering banning her. Update 1.1.6, however, nerfed Bayonetta's combo moves, making her combos easier to escape and less capable of KOing at low percentages; the second tier list based on this patch ultimately ranked her as 11th.

Smash 4 to Ultimate[edit]

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Universal Mechanics[edit]

  • The defensive mechanics has been weakened severely as each consecutive usage of rolls, air dodges, and spot dodging will lose intangibility frames as well as increased ending lag. Additionally, the changes to perfect shields makes it much harder to perform as it requires the user to shield drop right when the hit connects. Altogether, these changes have nerfed the entire roster in the game making them much more vulnerable to combos and KO confirms.
  • All character's grabs (except for tether grabs) have increased ending lag which makes them more punishable if missed. These changes were likely made to discourage players from spamming grabs.
  • The rage mechanic has been nerfed, which previously allowed many characters (especially heavyweights) to KO very early, and in more notorious cases could turn certain moves with looping hits and set knockback (such as Super Jump Punch and Screw Attack) into potent KO moves at extremely low percents. In Ultimate, the multiplier has been reduced and grows at a slower rate, hindering its comeback potential; additionally, attacks with set knockback are no longer affected by rage.
  • Several multiplier-based counterattacks have been indirectly nerfed; previously, many counterattacks could easily deliver extremely powerful blows if they countered a powerful move, which had the potential to KO low-percentage opponents and makes it almost impossible to DI. In the transition to Ultimate, the effectiveness of DI combined with fast knockback physics resulted counterattacks KOing noticeably later.

Character-specific[edit]

  • Captain Falcon was slightly nerfed into his transition to Ultimate. Down throw's knockback was altered to reduce its combo potential at high percentages. Raptor Boost was reverted back to a combo starter, but has one more frame of startup. Captain Falcon was negatively affected by universal changes: his dash dance is considered one of the worst in the game due to his below-average initial dash and turnaround speed, his dash grab no longer grants long horizontal momentum, and footstools being techable make his footstool combos less guaranteed. While he was buffed in Update 3.1.0, the above problems are still prevalent.
  • The Ice Climbers can no longer pull off chain grabs due to the universal changes to grab mechanics. Nana was also nerfed. She sustains significantly more knockback than Popo, making her easier to KO, and she cannot act during grabs, preventing her from attacking.
  • Marth has been moderately nerfed overall. While the faster engine provides Marth some benefits, it makes spacing tippers more difficult. This significantly impacts his kill potential. Jab connects significantly less reliably, nerfing one of his strongest tools from Smash 4. Many professionals agree that his clones Lucina, Roy, and Chrom are all better. While Marth is not considered a low-tier, he is usually overlooked in favor of his clones.
  • Sheik was one of the most potent characters in Smash 4 due to her neutral game. In Ultimate, her damage output was nerfed substantially. As a result, her long combos deal less damage than the rest of the cast's. Up throw is no longer a 50/50 setup. Overall, Sheik's is considered much less reliable in Ultimate than in Smash 4.
  • Mewtwo had its tail hitbox increased, leaving it more prone to combos and KOs despite its increased weight. Down tilt and forward aerial are slower, having less combo potential and guaranteed KOs, respectively. Lastly, its most noticeable nerf was in its air dodge, as its a less effective defensive option due to its increased ending lag and the removal of unlimited air dodging.
  • In previous games, Diddy Kong was a top tier character due to his combo game. However, Diddy Kong’s nerfs are apparent in Ultimate. He has lost many useful utilities: his down tilt deals greater knockback, preventing follow-up into an up smash; his up aerial has less range; and his grab was made shorter. Diddy Kong's recovery was nerfed, with Monkey Flip and Rocketbarrel Boost traveling shorter distances, though the latter was patched in 3.1.0.
  • Sonic's changes in Ultimate generally nerfed his defensive options. His weight has been decreased and Spin Dash can no longer be canceled by shielding. This and the changes made to the jostle mechanic make him easier to punish. Offensively, his up aerial was nerfed so that it became more situational. Overall, Sonic has a harder time racking up damage and killing than his previous iterations.
  • Little Mac's ground game was nerfed both by universal changes and outright nerfs to his ground moves. No longer being capable of dashing through opponents, significantly affected his mixup ability. Additionally, his combo potential was weakened: his down tilt and down throw have been made worse for combos, while up tilt was made unsafe at low percents. Little Mac is often considered a bottom-tier in Ultimate as opposed to his middle-lower tier in Smash 4, although patches have improved him somewhat over time.
  • Cloud’s down special can no longer instant charge cancel, and his Limit status will disappear after 15 seconds if it is left unused while fully charged. His neutral aerial now has less range due to an altered animation. This makes it difficult to combo as it requires him to be closer to his opponent. His down air is now less of a combo option, as it now has more ending lag. Finally, his up aerial, previously known as one of the best moves in Smash 4, has a much smaller hitbox and deals less damage. While he performs worse in Ultimate than in Smash 4, he is still considered viable in competitive play.
  • All of Corrin’s special moves were markedly nerfed from Smash 4. Dragon Fang Shot connects and combos less reliably, lessening its follow up potential. Dragon Lunge, previously considered Corrin’s most versatile move, was significantly nerfed. The move has increased ending lag on all kicks and Corrin is now much easier to punish. Additionally, Draconic Ascent no longer grants Corrin extended distance, making recovery less safe. The Counter Surge, previously the strongest counterattack in the game, has been dramatically nerfed, along with ending lag being increased. Corrin is considered far less potent than in Smash 4.
  • Bayonetta was widely considered the best character in Smash 4, with many competitors considering her broken because of her ladder combos. As such, she has been significantly nerfed in Ultimate. While she can still rack up percent, her moves lack KO power and her combo moves are much less reliable. In Ultimate, she is considered to be mediocre because of her inconsistency and her inability to kill.

Ultimate game updates[edit]

2.0.0[edit]

  • Several of King K. Rool's attacks were nerfed: his Blunderbuss has a shorter windbox, Propellerpack's hitbox has been reduced in size, and his Down Throw buries for less time at low percents. Additionally, his Down Throw can no longer bury on the third throw, removing an infinite.
  • Chrom was dominant in earlier competitive tournaments due to his ability to combo into Soaring Slash, KOing opponents first even when at last stock. As of patch 2.0.0, Soaring Slash’s knockback has been reduced and the move has faster falling speed, KOing Chrom first. It is now unsuitable in last stock situations unless Chrom has more stocks than the opponent.

3.1.0[edit]

  • Pichu was previously considered one of the best characters in the game. Update 3.1.0 brought several changes: all recoil electrical attacks now do more damage, its forward tilt has its knockback reduced, and its hurtbox has been increased, lowering its survivability. Pichu is now a riskier and weaker glass cannon character, dying earlier and KOing later.
  • Olimar's forward smash clean hit became much harder to land in update 3.1.0 due to altered duration of the hitbox. Both it and his up smash have increased ending lag. His hurtbox has been increased and his Winged Pikmin travels shorter with every consecutive usage, weakening his survivability. Olimar was initially considered a top-tier character comparable to his counterpart in Brawl, but as of update 3.1.0, he is considered high tier. Olimar continues to remain viable, but is much weaker post-patch.