Pac-Man (パックマン, Pakkuman), stylized in-game as PAC-MAN, is a newcomer in Super Smash Bros. 4. He was revealed on June 10th, 2014 during the E3 2014 Super Smash Bros. roundtable, alongside the Mii Fighters. Pac-Man is one of six third-party characters in SSB4, alongside Capcom's Mega Man and Ryu, Sega's Sonic and Bayonetta, and Square Enix's Cloud.
Pac-Man's moveset involves signature aspects of his home series, such as utilizing fruits and eating Power Pellets, while also referencing numerous other Namco games in a few ways, most notably via his up taunt. While Pac-Man retains his classic "wedge" form, he only uses it occasionally, such as for his down tilt and his side taunt. Instead, he mostly uses his "ball" form that appeared on game cabinet artwork and advertising before it debuted in-game in the Japanese version of Pac-Land.
Pac-Man is ranked 46th out of 55 on the tier list, placing him at the top of the F tier. This renders him as both the highest ranking low-tier character and the lowest ranking third-party character. Pac-Man's strengths lie in his unique item-oriented playstyle, which involves a capable camping and projectile game via the use of Bonus Fruit for a range of items, along with Pac-Jump and Fire Hydrant for stage control. These traits synchronize well with Pac-Man's regular moves, the overwhelming majority of which allow him to rack up damage effectively because of their low start-up lag and low base knockback. Pac-Man also boasts a great recovery thanks to Power Pellet and Pac-Jump covering great distances, both of which are further supplemented by his ability to wall jump.
However, Pac-Man suffers from numerous flaws, which include mediocre mobility and average range. The aforementioned low base knockback of his moveset also significantly hinders his ability to KO effectively, which is further compounded by his strongest attacks having high overall lag. Finally, his most notable flaws include what is considered the most ineffective grab game among the cast, along with all his special moves being exploitable either via reflection, direct usage by his opponents, or even gimping his recovery. This, in turn, gives Pac-Man particularly disadvantageous matchups against characters with projectile-nullifying abilities like Fox, Falco, Ness, and Mario, but most notoriously, Villager and Rosalina & Luma.
Overall, Pac-Man excels at mindgames and damage racking, although he has a high learning curve because of his items requiring constant micromanagement. Pac-Man's weaknesses and learning curve have resulted in him being considered non-viable in the current metagame, as well as overall attaining a small playerbase throughout SSB4's lifespan, but he has nevertheless achieved a decent amount of success. Prior to switching to Mewtwo, Abadango achieved several impressive placings at both the regional and national levels, while Koolaid (prior to switching to Sheik), Ginko, Sinji, Tea, and Zage have each managed to achieve decent results at the regional and national levels, as well as utilize his edge trapping abilities and shield break capabilities to devastating effect. Despite this, a number of professionals, including ESAM and Mr. R, view Pac-Man as one of the worst characters in the game.
Pac-Man is a middleweight whose attributes slightly deviate from the typicality of his weight class. Although his air speed is average and his air acceleration is above average, his walking and dashing speeds are slightly below average, while his falling speed, gravity, and traction are below average. As a result, these traits make him a rather floaty character, albeit not to the degree of Luigi. Pac-Man is also able to crawl and wall jump, although the former is largely impractical because of his crouch's tall height.
Pac-Man, like Diddy Kong, is reliant on his item-producing special moves to control the flow of battle and win in the neutral game. Two special moves, Bonus Fruit and Fire Hydrant, grant him numerous mix-ups for almost any situation: each object provided by Bonus Fruit has different attributes, which makes them good spacing, combo, and edge-guarding options, and some notably possess early KO potential as a way to overcome his smash attacks' slow speeds and low ranges, such as the Apple or the Key. This allows him to confuse and force movements from his opponents to put them in disadvantageous positions, especially off-stage. With extreme technical skill, Bonus Fruit can even be used for footstool jump-initiated zero-to-death combos, making Pac-Man one of the few characters with this ability in no-item scenarios.
Fire Hydrant, when used in the air, functions similarly to Stone, which makes it useful for covering landings or breaking combos. It is also Pac-Man's most powerful projectile when launched, which makes it a viable KO option from a distance. In addition to its offensive potential, Fire Hydrant has defensive potential, thanks to its shots of water possessing a push effect. As a result, the water can be used to space, gimp poor recoveries, and even force opponents into Pac-Man's attacks. Apart from his projectiles, Pac-Man also possesses a slow, but potent, KO option in Power Pellet, which functions both as a great recovery and mindgame option, as it can be aimed prematurely and made to curve in creative angles using his Fire Hydrant's push effect, and can also be confirmed off of Bonus Fruit's Bell. Pac-Jump is an effective vertical recovery should all three trampoline jumps be used, and makes it safe to edge-guard off-stage, as Pac-Man will likely make it back onto the stage. It is also difficult to gimp, especially from an overhead perspective, thanks to Pac-Man's jumps having unblockable hitboxes, and can function as a great out of shield option when used properly.
Outside of his specials, Pac-Man has a good combo game. Though his ground attacks are weak with slight ending lag, his neutral attack and tilts are fast and extend his hitboxes (forward tilt) or slide him forward (down tilt), letting him attack out of shield easily or poke opponents at a safe distance. His up tilt can chain into itself at low percentages and up aerials, while his down tilt can reliably combo into his dash attack. The latter hits multiple times with nearly no ending lag and allows Pac-Man to follow up with almost any ground move, such as his safe and fast neutral attack. Pac-Man is also capable in the air; his aerials are fast and can chain into themselves, especially his forward and up aerials, his neutral aerial is a useful out of shield option and both it and his back aerial are effective off-stage finishers, making him overall good at damage racking and edge-guarding.
However, Pac-Man has many exploitable flaws. One of his biggest issues is his inability to KO early because of the overwhelming majority of his moveset having low base knockback. Although his tilts and aerials are fast, only his clean neutral aerial and clean back aerial possess actual KO potential. This, in turn, is further compounded by their reliability being most apparent at high percentages and/or while near the left or right blast lines. His main KO options, his smash attacks, can KO near the edge easily thanks to their respectable damage outputs and knockback growth, but are very punishable and predictable because of their considerable amounts of start-up and ending lag. Pac-Man also has viable KOing options in Bonus Fruit's key and flying Fire Hydrant, but former needs to be charged for 2.37 seconds (specifically 142 frames) in order to be accessible, whereas the latter can be easily used against Pac-Man just as he is about to launch it. Additionally, Pac-Man's average range and awkward hitboxes can make landing hits or spacing difficult against opponents with high reach, while his below-average movement speed can make it difficult to both chase down opponents or create space and charge his Bonus Fruits, especially against rushdown-oriented characters.
Another prominent issue is his grab game: his grabs carry extremely high risk due to their extreme lag and notoriously awkward hitboxes, with only the starting animation having three separate grab hitboxes that last for very short times. This makes it far riskier to use his grab for punishes compared to other characters. This is further burdened by his unimpressive throws, with only his down throw having combo potential, most notably into Bonus Fruit's key, Power Pellet, a dash attack, or a short hopped forward aerial into neutral aerial. Although the latter combo does not work on characters whose hurtboxes are low after missing a tech, it can still be beneficial, as Pac-Man can instead lock the opponent with a short hopped forward aerial at low to medium percentages.
Despite their perks, all of Pac-Man's special moves can be used against him. Bonus Fruit's objects are items that can only exist once at a time, hence opponents can grab them out of the air, nullifying one of Pac-Man's only projectiles so long as they hold onto it. So long as Bonus Fruit is nullified, Pac-Man is disadvantaged at spacing, KOing and mindgames, while a competent opponent can use his own Bonus Fruit against him. This significantly hinders Pac-Man's matchups against characters who are able to reflect projectiles, with two particularly notable examples: Villager can Pocket Bonus Fruit for long periods and thus strongly hinder his offense, whereas Rosalina & Luma can use Gravitational Pull to completely nullify both of his projectiles and render him absolutely helpless at zoning.
His Fire Hydrant can be turned against him as well; it can be knocked back or reflected by opponents, even in the first few frames when it is released, making it possible for Pac-Man to immediately be dealt noticeable damage. Its push effect also affects him, and can cost Pac-Man a stock if he is careless. Despite being strong, Power Pellet is highly predictable and can be interrupted by any attack, which drops a healing Power Pellet that can be used by the opponent, and his Pac-Jump, though giving great vertical height, can also be used by opponents for gimping Pac-Man's own recovery. Due to these possibilities, a good Pac-Man player must keep watch of where his items are in order to inflict the highest knockback possible at a safer range, and avoid his items' abilities being turned against him.
Pac-Man benefits from his custom moves. Freaky Fruit deals less damage, but each fruit and object has its own erratic pattern and thus can provide even greater mix-ups. Lazy Fruit is slower and deals less damage, but the fruits and objects take longer to disappear, which enables them to be usable more than once and provide different mix-ups. Power Pac-Jump functions like a traditional recovery move in that it only provides one jump, but it immediately launches Pac-Man very high and enables him to hit multiple times while ascending, making it suitable for offensive playstyles. Meteor Trampoline decreases in height after each jump, but the fourth jump can bury grounded opponents and, true to its name, meteor smash airborne ones, as its name implies. On-Fire Hydrant does not shoot out as far, but it shoots fireballs instead of water, shoots three times instead of twice, takes less damage to launch, and the hydrant itself deals more damage.
Overall, Pac-Man excels at mindgames and damage racking, yet his moveset's overall low base knockback and poor range make him unable to KO opponents early. As a result, he is dependent on utilizing traps and zoning in order to continually deal damage and set up a KO, such as collectively using his air game, Bonus Fruit, and varied recovery to edge-guard. While Pac-Man's special moves grant him a uniquely versatile moveset, they can also hinder him in battle, as one careless move can ultimately decide the momentum of not only himself, but even the whole match itself.
Pac-Man has received a mix of buffs and nerfs in game updates. Update 1.0.4 increased the ending lag to his up smash and lowered the damage output of Bonus Fruit's Galaxian. Fire Hydrant and Power Pellet had their durability and healing output slightly increased respectively, necessitating players using them even more wisely than before, lest the opponent capitalizes on using their effects to their own advantage. The changes to shield mechanics brought about by 1.1.0 and 1.1.1 enable Pac-Man to utilize some new options for pressuring shields through combinations of back aerial, Bonus Fruit's key, and Fire Hydrant. Lastly, update 1.1.5 marginally increased the knockback of his smash attacks and back aerial, which slightly improved his KO potential.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
When SSB4 was initially released, Pac-Man was perceived positively due to Fire Hydrant allowing for stage control, Bonus Fruit being useful for spacing and mix-ups, and both Power Pellet and Pac-Jump granting him a long-distanced recovery. When these traits were coupled with the revelation of Pac-Man's advanced footstool set-ups, many thought that he could be a very viable character when mastered, thanks to players such as Abadango, Tea, and Koolaid showcasing these strengths in competitive play during the early metagame.
However, Pac-Man's flaws would quickly become more apparent and, in a turn for the worse, more significant than most would think. Many found out that Pac-Man had a significantly high learning curve, below average damage output compared to most of the cast, and that his special moves were double-edged swords due to being susceptible to being used against him. He also had lackluster fundamental advantages as well, such as his laggy smash attacks, unimpressive KO potential due to his moveset's overall low base knockback, and abysmal grab game. Lastly, his reliance on projectiles gives him infamously difficult matchups against characters that are capable of negating them, such as Rosalina & Luma and Villager, both of whom are common at high-level play. Altogether, these aspects would lead many to believe that Pac-Man was not as viable as originally thought, and would culminate with him being ranked 29th on the first 4BR tier list.
However, with Abadango switching to Mewtwo, Koolaid switching to Sheik upon his return from an indefinite hiatus, and the rest of his playerbase simply not being as consistent as they previously were, Pac-Man's tier status underwent a noticeable decline. He would drop to 38th on the second tier list, which saw him become the second highest ranked low-tier character. Pac-Man would then drop to 46th on the third tier list; in addition to being tied with Ness' for the largest drop between the second and third tier lists, Pac-Man's tier drop was the largest overall tier drop between lists. Currently, Pac-Man remains on the 46th place on the fourth and current tier list, though despite this, there has been some debate within the community over whether Pac-Man should be ranked higher or even lower than he already is, as some within the community (most notably ESAM and Mr. R) view him as one of the worst characters in the game, while players have pointed out Sinji's consistency and good results, such as 25th and 17th placings at Super Smash Con 2017 and GENESIS 5, respectively.
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