Ness (ネス, Ness) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. He was confirmed on February 1st, 2008 on the Smash Dojo website. He is once again voiced by Makiko Ōmoto, with mostly recycled voice clips from Melee, while providing some new ones.
Ness is currently ranked 26th out of 38 on the tier list, a decent improvement from his placement in Melee, where he was ranked 23rd out of 26 characters. Ness possesses a strong aerial game with very useful aerial attacks, as well as effective tilts, effective throws, a projectile with great trapping and damage potential in PK Fire, a versatile projectile capable of very early KOs and mindgames in PK Thunder, and multiple powerful, reliable finishers (such as his back throw and back aerial). Ness is greatly hindered, however, by his predictable and unreliable recovery, the rather poor reach in most of his attacks, his poor set of smash attacks, and by the 10 additional frames of lag he suffers when grab released, leaving him extremely vulnerable to grab release followups from almost every character, as well as infinite and zero to death grab release chain grabs (most infamously from Marth and Donkey Kong, but also Charizard and Squirtle). Ness overall has below-average matchups with several counters, and he has had average tournament results.
How to unlock
Complete one of the following:
With the exception of the third method, Ness must then be defeated on Onett.
Generalizing Ness is difficult. He generally runs a unique, versatile role, employing three different projectiles with differing purposes. Generally, the moves have modest lag and decent knockback, his PK Fire leads well into other attacks, and his PK Thunder can trap opponents and lead into PK Thunder 2, one of the strongest attacks in the game. Also, PK Thunder and PK Flash both leave Ness very vulnerable because he can't move or attack when controlling these projectiles. Ness can use his PSI Magnet to absorb any energy projectile. The best for Ness, however, are his powerful throws, most notably his back throw, the only throw in Brawl that can reliably KO under 150% without relying on being on the edge and bad DI. Combining these with proper projectile use and appropriate Smash timing, and Ness can be a powerful foe. Shield grabs tend to be a problem for Ness since he has the shortest standing grab range in the game. He's fairly balanced in the areas of weight, falling speed, and air speed with none of them being particularly good nor particularly bad.
Ness' true game can be found by utilizing his aerials. Ness is one of the very few characters in the game who can perform two aerials in one shorthop (Double Aerial Shuffle). This requires practice though because one needs to do the aerial immediately when one jumps off the ground. Looking at his aerials individually, his neutral aerial is fast and a great combo move. His forward aerial can set up into itself, making it good at damage-racking. His back aerial deals powerful knockback when sweetspotted, making it his best aerial finisher, while it can be used for a wall of pain when sourspotted. His up aerial is a very strong vertical KO move with a decent amount of range. Lastly, his clean down aerial is among the best meteor smashes in the game, and when hit late, it has strong horizontal knockback, making it good for edgeguarding.
His ground game is overall decent. With slow dash speed and short range tilts, he suffers in matchups against characters with disjointed hitboxes such as Ike or Marth. The only upside of his tilts are that they come out very quickly, which can be used to rack up damage. His forward smash is slow and needs to be sweetspotted for it to be powerful. His up smash, though weak in terms of knockback, can be versatile when used properly, being one of the only two smash attacks able to damage people while charging, the other being Ness's down smash. All of Ness's smashes also give Ness some much needed range in his ground game.
Ness's major problems are his awful ground grab release and recovery. He and Lucas both suffer from having extremely long grab release animations. Most characters have some sort of ground grab release on Ness, and/or Lucas, leading to chaingrabs, infinities in walls, and other moderate to major problems. Two examples of this would be Marth and Donkey Kong's 0-death on Ness and Lucas. Another example is Wario using his forward smash out of the grab release, which Ness can't avoid. As mentioned above, Ness's other major problem is his incredibly poor and exploitable recovery. Although Ness has a very large 2nd jump (second only to Yoshi's in terms of height), his PK Thunder, though faster than Lucas' PK Thunder, has a much wider turning angle, thus requiring more room for Ness to recover than Lucas. Its PK Thunder 2 also travels less distance than Lucas' version. In addition, his PK Thunder will stop in its tracks when it hits most projectiles, walls, or a character. As such, some opponents may take a risk and jump in front of PK Thunder's path to intercept Ness's recovery, giving Ness little to no hope of making it back onstage, which is easier with disjointed moves. However, this is a risky way of intercepting Ness's recovery, due to his recovery move having an extreme amount of knockback, KOing below 50% in most situations, although a projectile could still be used to halt his recovery, especially if it's controllable. Ness's double jump has a unique quality that sets it apart from others in the game. It consists of four PSI flashes that propel him upward. If Ness uses an aerial or air dodge at the beginning of the jump, he will obtain a directional boost depending on the aerial used and if it is used on the first or second flash (his up aerial gives the longest boost, and the boost is longer if activated on the first flash). He can also use his double jump from the ground if the jump button is pressed during lag, which is helpful for starting up aerial combos. Using an aerial will make Ness move up faster, which complies for his slow double-jump and floatiness. After this, he will take a small pause in the air as a "filler" for the frames lost by the faster double-jump.
Changes from Melee to Brawl
Ness has received a mix of buffs and nerfs, but was noticeably buffed overall in the transition from Melee to Brawl, given that he was one of the worst characters. While he has seen relatively few direct changes compared to other characters, he has nevertheless seen improvements. His aerial game has seen noticeable improvements as his aerial mobility has improved, most of his aerials have less landing lag, his forward aerial while weaker connects more reliably making it a more effective spacing tool and his up and down aerials have more range and are overall more effective KO moves due to the changes to Brawl's mechanics. His recovery while still poor has also improved due to his higher air speed and lower falling speed and the removal of double jump canceling makes his recovery overall more versatile and reliable. He also overall has superior KO power especially when relative to the cast due to his aforementioned up and down aerials benefiting from Brawls universal changes, his stronger smash attacks and PK Thunder 2 is significantly stronger making it a much more powerful tool.
However, he also received several drastic nerfs that gave him several new, severely exploitable flaws, the most significant of which being the 10 extra frames added to his grounded grab release animation. This is detrimental for Ness as it makes him vulnerable to inescapable kill confirms and even infinite chain grabs from some characters. His combo potential is also significantly lower due to the introduction of hitstun canceling, the universally decreased falling speeds and the removal of double jump cancelling. Furthermore, many of his notable buffs have failed to completely alleviate many of his most glaring flaws; his poor recovery remains glaringly easy to gimp or edgeguard, while his overall range is still short relative to the cast, which is exacerbated by the loss of his powerful yo-yo glitch. This, alongside his overall below-average mobility, still makes him heavily struggle in approaching most of his opponents. Finally, his KOing ability, while much better than in Melee, is still overall below-average, as he still has a poor set of smash attacks, being rather laggy and weak for attacks of their type, while his other most powerful KO moves still suffer from his aforementionned poor range.
Overall, he is considered to be improved from his Melee incarnation, but his longer grounded grab release, his watered down combo game and most of his glaring flaws remaining intact in particular keep him from moving into the higher tiers.
In competitive play
Ness has a poor matchup spread overall. He only counters Ganondorf, soft counters 5 characters, and goes even with 8 characters. On the other hand, he gets soft countered by 11 characters, countered by 8 characters, and hard countered by 3 characters. Ness is generally vulnerable against characters who can grab release him to death, most notably Marth and Donkey Kong, exploit his poor recovery and overwhelm him with long-ranged disjointed attacks and superior mobility.
Tier placement and history
Ness' standing in the metagame initially had not changed much. He was originally seen as a low tier character, lying at the low tier at 31st. Players at the time immediately noticed the presence of the 10 extra frames to his grab release animation, making him very vulnerable his grab release combos by many characters in the cast, the fact that his buffs were not enough to alleviate his most significant problems (most notably his atrocious recovery, having one of the worst approaches, and his barely improved mobility, range, and KO power), as well as the loss of double jump canceling, the overall slower falling speeds and the ability to act out of hitstun having severely decreased his combo ability to the point that he could not combo at all beyond low to mid percents. However, he did increase to 27th by the third tier list as new Ness professionals were discovered, and he stayed there for every single tier list in Brawl, until the last one, where he was slightly bolstered by one tier.
Role in The Subspace Emissary
Ness shows up saving Lucas from the giant Pig King Statue, which is soon revealed to be their mutual nemesis, Porky Minch. Lucas and Ness team up to defeat Porky and his machine. Afterward, Wario attacks him with his Dark Cannon, but Ness successfully dodges each shot. Wario, however, then aims at Lucas, forcing Ness to push Lucas out of harm's way and take the arrow from the Dark Cannon, which turns him into a trophy. As Lucas is too scared to face Wario, he leaves Ness behind as Wario cackles in the rain. Most of Lucas's story in SSE involves getting revenge on Wario and trying to find Ness.
As Wario is driving his Cargo with Ness' and Peach/Zelda's trophies on board, he finds Luigi's trophy and prepares to take it until he is ambushed by an army of Waddle Dees, who throw Luigi's trophy into the cargo, which is stolen by King Dedede. At his hideout, Dedede puts a badge on Luigi's, Ness', and Peach/Zelda's trophies before the roof collapses on them, turning Dedede into a trophy in the process, and Bowser takes Peach/Zelda's trophy. Soon afterward the Ancient Minister detonates a Subspace Bomb that consumes Dedede's castle along with Ness', Luigi's and Dedede's trophies by Subspace.
Ness is not seen again until much later in the story, where he and Luigi are revived thanks to the Dedede Badges. Upon inspecting Luigi's badge, he notices that it looks like Dedede, and, assuming that Dedede made them, proceeds to revive him. Upon being revived, King Dedede gives both of them a hug before they team up and rescue Lucas, along with most of the other characters. Kirby, who was revived by the Dedede brooch he swallowed earlier, revives whatever characters that Ness' group did not come across, including Wario. Wario then bashes Dedede in the head as revenge for Dedede stealing his cargo and trophies. He is then surprised to see Ness and Luigi on Dedede's side. They offer to let Wario join them, and he agrees and rides his bike up to the entrance of The Great Maze. Ness, along with Sonic and the other characters team up to defeat Tabuu.
Ness was captured by Wario during The Ruined Zoo, and he is brought into King Dedede's castle after he previously stole Wario's trophy cart. But after The Cave, a Subspace Bomb was detonated near his castle, bringing Ness into Subspace.
In Event Matches