Ness (ネス, Ness) is one of the main characters from the EarthBound franchise and appears in Super Smash Bros. as one of the four unlockable characters. He is voiced by Makiko Ōmoto, who would go on to voice him in later iterations.
Ness ranks 10th on the tier list, the third lowest ranked character. He is well-known for his unique recovery and second jump: he, along with Yoshi, can double jump cancel, allowing him to use quick aerial and special attacks. Not only does this give him one of the best combo abilities in the entire game, but also one of the easiest to use consistently. He also doesn't face too much trouble against projectiles due to his forward smash being able to reflect them and PSI Magnet absorbing them and healing him. He also has disproportionate KO power for a lightweight character, courtesy of his forward smash, back and down aerials and both of his throws. His PK Thunder also gives him one of the longest distanced recoveries in the game.
Although his weaknesses are few in number they can be easily exploitable. His long distanced recovery is hindered by being predictable and at times unreliable, leaving him among one of the easiest characters in the game to gimp. His approach is also easy to predict and read due to the lag on both of his projectiles (PK Fire and PK Thunder), the short range on his attacks, and his slow movement speed (his dashing speed in particular being the slowest alongside Luigi). This leaves him at a disadvantage against small, quick characters like Pikachu. His short range also gives him trouble at KOing despite his great KOing ability. As a result, despite his great strengths, he has poor matchups and low tournament representation and results. Conversely, Ness is ranked 5th on the Japanese tier list because he is much stronger in the Japanese version, rather than the international release, in which he was nerfed.
How to unlock
Ness is a fairly small character with below average weight. He is very slow on the ground with the slowest walk and dash speeds (although he does have a fast initial dash) and his air mobility is below average outside of double jump canceling. This naturally gives Ness trouble with approaching, as most of the cast can easily outrun him. Ness also has average falling speed and gravity.
Ness' tools on the ground are a mixed bag overall. His jab is one of the fastest in the game, which allows it to lead his grab (via a jab grab) which is quite effective due to the strength of his throws, although both his jab and grab have short range. Up tilt is a solid combo starter which can easily lead to combos at lower percents at KO confirms at higher percents although it has limited horizontal range and it is rather unsafe. Forward tilt and dash attack are situational overall as they are both rather risky and not highly rewarding while down tilt is borderline useless, due to being unsafe on hit at realistic percents. Ness' smash attacks are not the most effective but they are solid overall. Forward smash and up smash are not incredibly strong but they are safe and the latter can lead into combos at some percents, while down smash is fairly powerful, disjointed and lingers for a very long time. Ness does have a strong grab game however. While his grab has a short amount of range, both his forward and back throw are among the strongest in the game, Easily leading to KOes and edgeguards at fairly low percents.
Ness' aerial game is his strongest aspect. Ness has access to double jump canceling, which easily allows him to pressure opponents with his aerials, especially since if the opponent shields an aerial, Ness has the ability to perform a shield break combo by stringing together double jump canceled aerials on a shielding opponents. In addition to this, all of his aerials are solid on their own. Neutral aerial has decent power and lingers for almost the entire animation, back aerial has a good amount of power and forward aerial is decent at setting up combos and edgeguards, although it is his weakest aerial overall. Ness' best aerials however are his up and down aerials. Up aerial is a disjointed aerial which hits all around Ness and it has strong vertical knockback, which makes it an excellent combo tool at lower percents (especially when combined with double jump canceling) and a solid KO move at higher percents. Down aerial is an incredibly fast and powerful meteor smash, which makes it an incredible edgeguarding tool off stage as well as an excellent combo tool on stage. It can easily set up combos against grounded opponents and it can put aerial opponents into a tech chase situation where the opponent can potentially get hit by another down aerial to reset the situation.
Ness unfortunately possesses a poor set of special moves. PK Fire is a projectile which creates a pillar of fire if it hits an opponent. While this can lead into followups, PK Fire is a slow and laggy projectile, which does not cover a lot of distance. It is easily avoidable and punishable and even if it hits the opponent, they can easily SDI out of the pillar and even potentially punish Ness. PK Thunder is a projectile which can be controlled and if it hits Ness, he will shoot forwards, travelling a long distance with a powerful hitbox (known as PK Thunder 2). While PK Thunder lasts for a long time and it can be controlled, it is rather laggy and the opponent can hit the PK Thunder to beat it out. If Ness is in the air after PK Thunder is destroyed, he will go into free fall, which can lead to him falling to the end of his stock off stage. PK Thunder 2 is Ness' main recovery move and while it does travel a long distance and can be angled in any direction, it takes a long time to set up, it can be interrupted during the second half of the dash and if Ness lands after entering free fall, he will have a ton of landing lag, all of which make PK Thunder and PK Thunder 2 an incredibly exploitable recovery move. PSI Magnet can be used to absorb projectiles however, it takes a long time to start absorbing projectiles and if Ness does absorb a projectile, he is put in a considerable amount of lag, which can potentially be punished.
Ness' main strength is his combo and shield pressuring potential. Ness overall has a relatively easy time starting combos at lower percents, especially compared to other low tiers. Ness' up aerial, down aerial and up tilt are all excellent combo tools at lower percents, with the latter two still being strong combo tools at higher percents as well. Moves such as Ness' other aerials and up smash can also be used for combos at some percents. Ness overall does not have too much trouble with KOing his opponent after hitting them at 0%. Ness' double jump cancel in general gives him quick and easy access to his aerials, allowing them to be used as fast and powerful combo starters. This also extends to his shield pressure, as all of his aerials are incredibly safe on shield and his double jump cancel can easily allow his aerials to quickly hit a shielding opponent and put Ness in a spot to throw out another aerial and reset the situation until the shield breaks. Ness also has a jab grab as a strong shield pressuring tool, as well as a strong tool to use as a quick and powerful option when he is in a pressure situation.
Ness has some strong KO options. Ness' down aerial is the overall strongest meteor smash in the game which makes it a devastating move against off stage opponents. Ness can combo into down aerial off stage with an up aerial, up tilt, up smash or a neutral aerial which can all lead to very early KOes. Ness' throws also lead to very early KOes, especially at the ledge and moves such as back aerial, down smash and up aerial are also strong KO moves.
Ness also has strong edgeguarding. Down aerial in particular is simultaneously the fastest and strongest meteor smash in the game which along with it having a chunk of active frames and very low ending lag, makes it an absolutely devastating move against off stage opponents as mentioned earlier and with Ness having a long ranged recovery, he can make it back from far distances. Ness also has moves such as neutral/forward/back aerials which are also strong options to get the opponent off stage or to edgeguard.
Ness does have rather notable weaknesses however. Ness has very poor mobility and his range is very short which gives him a very hard time approaching. Opponents can easily keep Ness out due to his poor range and mobility and Ness cannot easily keep opponents out himself due to his range and mobility. Opponents can play around Ness' short range and punish him from there. Ness also cannot really camp due to his very slow and overall poor projectiles and while he does have a reflector and an absorption move, they are both very slow and punishable, which makes them very difficult to take advantage of.
Ness is also light and has average falling speed/gravity, which both make him a fairly easy character to combo and KO. Ness gets comboed easily at lower percents and dies rather early at higher percents due to his low weight, especially horizontally. He also does not have strong options to get out of combos or juggles. Ness has a slow double jump, he lacks any fully intangible options in the air and his only real options to escape combos are his neutral and down aerials which both have unimpressive range and they easily lose to disjoints.
Ness' other major weakness is his recovery. Distance-wise, it can go quite far not only due to PK Thunder 2's long range and ability to be angled but also because of Ness having a long ranged double jump. However, there are multiple downsides to Ness' recovery which make it one of the worst in the game. While Ness' double jump travels a long distance, it is rather slow and Ness has poor air speed, which makes it rather easy for the opponent to hit Ness out of it. Ness also cannot use his aerials to challenge opponents when trying to recover due to his double jump cancel, so his only real option is to try and play around the opponent with his double jump. When Ness has to use PK Thunder, it takes a long time for Ness to be able to set up PK Thunder 2 which gives the opponent time to either hit Ness out of the move or to hit/get hit by the PK Thunder itself, which can easily lead to him losing a stock. Even if Ness does get to use PK Thunder 2, it can be punished if the opponent is not too close to Ness when he activates it. Ness' best bet to recover is to use PK Thunder as low as he can and uses it diagonally to barely get back on stage. This means that various characters cannot challenge the PK Thunder projectile without risking their own stock and if Ness recovers just right, he can auto-cancel the PK Thunder 2, giving it a lot less lag than normal although this can still be punished. Characters who can go deep for edgeguards like Pikachu and Kirby however can challenge PK Thunder even from max distance which leaves Ness in a really poor spot against these characters.
Overall, Ness is a character who performs well when he gets his game plan going but he struggles when he does not have the advantage. Ness has a strong offensive game with strong aerials and an excellent double jump cancel but he has poor mobility and range, which makes it very difficult for him to land one of his attacks and start his strong punish game and when he ends up offstage, he heavily struggles to get back on stage against a strong opponent. Ness' punish game unfortunately is not strong enough to make up for his poor defence, approach and recovery. This naturally results in Ness having an unspectacular matchups in the North American version. Ness struggles against stronger characters who all outspeed and outrange Ness, with Kirby being considered to be his worst matchup. Kirby can easily outrange Ness with his large/safe disjoints and his incredible edgeguarding is naturally highly detrimental for Ness. Kirby's floaty nature also makes him awkward for Ness to combo while Kirby can combo Ness with ease. It is overall an extremely difficult matchup for Ness at the top level. Ness' matchups against the low tiers are closer, with Ness potentially winning against some of them although not by much.
As a result of all of these factors, while Ness was once considered a strong character in the game's early meta due to his strong punish game, he dropped off considerably over time due to the severity of his weaknesses, which ultimately resulted in him being considered to be one of the weakest characters in the game, and subsequently getting below average results and representation in tournaments in the international versions of the game.
In the Japanese version however, Ness is considered to be a much stronger character. This is because in the Japanese version, Ness had a stronger combo game (with an up tilt which could combo for much longer) and he had many stronger KO moves (such as all of his smash attacks, up aerial and PK Thunder 2). Ness' combos in general were more consistent and harder to escape due to the lower hitlag/strength of SDI, which particularly made his combos into down aerial off stage considerably more consistent. Ness also had a better recovery as PK Thunder 2 was not only much stronger but it also had more invincibility, a larger hitbox and more active frames which made it considerably harder and riskier to challenge (although his recovery overall was still very poor). All these factors combined made Ness an even scarier character with an even stronger punish game and a slightly better recovery, with Ness being considered a mid tier in the Japanese version. Ness received a plethora of impactful nerfs in the North American version which pushed him down into the low tier, which was then also carried into the PAL versions.
Differences between game versions
Ness was noticeably nerfed in his transition to NTSC-U. His disproportionate KO power was weakened, his moves deal less damage and the higher presence of SDI makes his DJC combos easier to escape. As a result, he is noticeably worse than in the Japanese version.
In competitive play
Most historically significant players
Numbers in brackets indicate position in 2019-2020 Smash 64 Power Rankings.
Tier placement and history
Ness used to rank very high at 3rd place on the first SSB64 tier list, just only below Pikachu and Kirby. With double jump cancelling, Ness was a dominant force in the SSB64 metagame, as his DJC'ed aerials can rack up a huge amount of damage, and can be used to perform deadly zero-to-death combos. However, Ness became less effective as the metagame progressed. His short range in his attacks made his DJC combos lose recognition and effectiveness, and Ness' recovery, despite covering a great distance, can be exploitable due to it being predictable. This caused Ness to drop from a top tier 3rd place to a low-mid tier 8th place by the second tier list and dropping again to 9th in the third tier list and by the fourth tier list, to 10th. This is also currently the proportionally largest tier list drop of any character in any Smash Bros. game. Ness is currently 5th of the Japanese matchups, he is in a higher position due to the fact he is stronger than the international versions.
Double jump cancel
Main article: Double jump cancel
DJCing is a glitch-technique that can be used by Yoshi and Ness. It involves using an aerial or a special move just after starting a double jump. This cancels the momentum of the double jump and allows quicker movement within the attacks, while also being able to speed up short hops, making short hopped DJC'd aerials especially effective when Z-cancelled. It can also help with aerial comboing. DJCing a special move cannot be Z-canceled.
Double jump landing
Double jump landing (also dubbed the Nesslevator) allows Ness to cancel his air momentum with an aerial attack while horizontally moving in midair. This results in a quick and smooth landing back onto a platform akin to wavelanding in Melee.
Double jump rushing
Albeit extremely difficult to do outside TAS, Ness can move incredibly quickly on the ground by cancelling multiple double jumps while moving horizontally. This is due to his second jump having very high horizontal movement during its initial frames. Demonstrative video here.
Dash turnaround ledgegrab
Ness is the only character in the game along with Fox who can use the turnaround animation of his full sprint to grab a ledge. This is due to his turnaround animation changing the faced direction before the character "brakes".
Main article: Edge sweetspot
Along with Pikachu, Ness can sweetspot the ledge using PK Thunder 2 if he grabs the ledge at the right angle and from the right distance, allowing him to act very quickly after grabbing the edge.
Special ledge cancel
Ness can grab the ledge while using his PK Thunder move or his PSI Magnet. This makes edgeguarding harder to perform for opponents. Also, these moves cancel his double jump, making them useful for ledge stalling or to refresh the invincibility frames granted by the ledge.
Ness was a seemingly-average kid from Onett, but in truth, he was destined for much more. When a strange meteorite landed near his hometown, the little boy with psychic powers set out to save the world. Little has been said of Ness' character, and much remains hidden.