Palutena (パルテナ, Palutena) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. She was revealed on June 10th, 2014 during the E3 2014 Super Smash Bros. roundtable, alongside the Mii Fighters and Pac-Man. She is voiced by Aya Hisakawa in the Japanese version, who reprises her role from Kid Icarus: Uprising. Due to Ali Hillis being unavailable to reprise her role from Uprising, however, Palutena is instead voiced by Brandy Kopp in the English version.
Palutena is currently ranked 42nd out of 58 on the tier list, placing her in the E tier, and making her the second highest ranking low-tier character. Palutena has good overall mobility, which is especially evident on the ground, thanks to her fast walking and dashing speeds and high traction. She also boasts a potent air game, thanks to her aerial attacks' utility: neutral aerial is useful for pressuring and damage racking, forward aerial is very useful for spacing and starting combos, back aerial is strong and grants partial invincibility, up aerial is strong enough to score KOs rather early, and down aerial is a fairly quick meteor smash. Palutena's jab cancel and down throw are also very useful set-up options, the latter of which is further supplemented by her impressive grab range and excellent pummel, while her smash attacks possess impressive ranges and power.
However, Palutena's weaknesses are quite glaring. She has very sluggish frame data in relation to her power, especially in regard to her grounded moves. As a result, her neutral game is predictable, and her grounded approach almost nonexistent. Her KO potential is also unimpressive, as her smash attacks' ranges and power are offset by awkward hitbox placements and extremely high amounts of overall lag. Her special moves also have poor synergy with the rest of her moveset and, in some cases, overall low utility. In addition, Palutena's tall height, below average weight, and high gravity collectively make her susceptible to combos, juggles, and early KOs. While her custom moves significantly remedy the problems involving her approach and also bolster her mobility, damage racking ability, and combo game, the ban on custom movesets prevents her from taking advantage of them.
As a result of these factors, Palutena's representation and results in regional and national tournaments are very sparse. Despite this, she still has some dedicated players to her credit, such as TLTC, Iceninja, and Prince Ramen, with the latter of the three scoring a major upset at CEO 2016 by defeating ZeRo 2-0 in pools.
Palutena possesses a unique blend of archetypes: she is tall like Mewtwo, Zelda, Peach and Rosalina, yet tied with Duck Hunt as the second lightest middleweight. Palutena also boasts fast walking and dashing speeds, the seventh highest traction, high jumps, and is tied with Rosalina, Peach and Mega Man's for the fastest air acceleration in the game. On the other hand, she has below average falling speed, slow air speed and high gravity. These characteristics give Palutena quick grounded movement, make her good at ground-to-air transitions, and allow her to quickly change direction in midair. However, they also make her unreliable at air-to-ground transitions and do not necessarily make her a floaty character, which leaves her susceptible to juggling, combos, and being KO'd early from strong vertical attacks.
Palutena's air game is impressive, thanks to her aerial moves' utility, minimal start-up lag and, aside from her neutral and up aerials, low landing lag. Her neutral aerial is a useful damage racking option, which can also be used to pressure the opponent on a platform or from out of an air dodge since it has a fairly long duration. It is also great for edge-guarding, as its duration and large hitbox allow for easy stage spikes when used off-stage. Her forward aerial has the longest horizontal range of her aerial moves, the lowest amount of landing lag, and the ability to completely auto-cancel when SHFF'd. This makes it a very useful spacing and set-up option at low to medium percentages, as it can reliably lead into her neutral attack, standing/dash grab, tilt attacks or other aerials. In comparison, her back aerial grants partial invincibility around her body throughout its duration, and is strong enough to KO at high percentages, which make it especially useful for edge-guarding. Her up aerial has vertical good range and hits multiple times, which makes it ideal for juggling. However, its final hit's extremely high knockback also makes it arguably her most viable KOing option. However, some of her aerial moves have rather high ending lag in proportion to their power, duration and range, meaning they must be spaced accordingly. Lastly, her down aerial will always meteor smash aerial opponents due to lacking a sourspot, though it can also be used as to punish opponents from out of shield when it is SHFF'd.
Palutena's grounded moveset also has some interesting options. This is most apparent with her very useful grab game: she has the fourth longest non-tether grab range in the game, while her pivot grab has impressive range as well. Her pummel's average speed and high damage output make it one of the best pummels in the game. Palutena's down throw is the most integral part of her offense, as its high base knockback, very low knockback scaling, and launching angle collectively grant it impressive combo potential into her neutral, up, forward, and back aerials, although latter requires the usage of a reverse aerial rush. By extension, its up and back aerials' combos function as guaranteed KO combos on the majority of the cast. Outside of this, down throw can even combo into down aerial and up smash if the opponent's reaction is read properly. Her forward and back throws are useful for launching the opponent off-stage to set up an edge-guard, although back throw also has KO potential at very high percentages. Up throw has the least amount of utility, although it can be used to pressure the opponent with her aerial attacks at low percentages.
Palutena's neutral attack is a very reliable damage racking option and has excellent jab cancel potential, due to its very quick interruptibility. Like Little Mac, her tilt attacks boast anti-rebounding priority, while her up and down tilts also possess distinct strengths. Up tilt has the lowest amount of start-up lag out of her tilts, has a very long duration, lowers her hurtbox even more than her crouch does, is a useful anti-air attack due to its deceptive vertical range, and its final hit is strong enough to make it function as a situational KOing option. In comparison, down tilt's very low ending lag makes it a good spacing option at long range, while its fairly long duration allows it to punish sidesteps rather easily. Her dash attack is fast due to coming out on frame 6, while its clean hitbox is similar to her back aerial in that it grants partial invincibility and has KO potential. Lastly, Palutena's forward and up smashes possess excellent range and high power, the latter of which is among the strongest when sweetspotted.
Despite these advantages, Palutena's weaknesses are very noticeable, to the point that they counterbalance them. Her most glaring flaw is her extremely poor frame data in relation to her power, which is overall the worst in the entire game. Despite not being a super heavyweight like King Dedede or Ganondorf, Palutena's offensive moveset is overall slow and carries an overall below average damage output, which are major issues that set her apart from other middleweights. This is most apparent with her grounded moveset, which is unfitting for a character with great ground mobility. Aside from her down tilt, her other grounded moves have disproportionately high ending lag: her neutral infinite's finisher has 21 frames of ending lag, her dash attack, forward tilt and up tilt have more than 25 frames of ending lag, her smash attacks have more than 40 frames of ending lag, and her special moveset is fairly sluggish in regard to overall lag. This makes Palutena's missed attacks very susceptible to punishment, even if the opponent is a fair distance away from her, which in turn gives her an almost nonexistent grounded approach. In addition to ending lag issues, Palutena's grounded KOing options are risky in other ways: her smash attacks have considerable start-up lag, up tilt has minimal horizontal range, and both back throw and clean dash attack are situational at best. As such, accuracy is crucial when using Palutena's grounded moves, and can often make a player instead rely solely on her safest grounded moves to set-up KO opportunities via edge-guarding or her down throw-initiated KO combos.
Palutena's abysmal frame data also extends outside of her attacks: despite her item throws being fast, most of them have very high ending lag, which limits most follow-ups she might have if she is able to steal an item from an opponent. While she possesses a safe edge grab, all of her other options are very unsafe, with her edge attack being slow and short-ranged, her edge roll granting minimal intangibility frames, and her normal get-up and edge jump being the slowest in the game. As a result, she faces edge recovery problems, a weakness unique to her, as her aerial attacks are unsafe on hit should she drop from an edge and then jump while attacking. The only remotely safe option she has is using Warp and aiming for the middle of the stage, though its lack of invulnerability can render her prone to being punished afterward. Because of this makes her easy to predict when trying to recover back onto the stage and punish her to make sure she does not reset the neutral game, despite her bigger number of edge options compared to other characters.
Although Palutena's air game is potent, it nevertheless has a few flaws. Down aerial, in particular, is her worst aerial: it lasts for only 1 frame, is short-ranged, and has very high ending/landing lag. Forward aerial also has a very short duration and high ending lag, whereas up aerial has minimal horizontal range, fairly high landing lag, and can only be interrupted before it can auto-cancel. By extension, her down throw-initiated aerial KO set-ups sometimes only work on some characters during their tumbling or reeling animations.
Palutena's default special moves are also infamously unimpressive, due to their limited utility, poor synergy with her regular moves, and their aforementioned sluggishness. Warp is considered to be Palutena's best default special move: it is a quick and rather safe recovery move that allows for swift re-positioning, can easily be edge-canceled (which can make her movement unpredictable on stages with platforms, especially when shortened), and improves her neutral game. However, it has no hitboxes and does not grant invincibility or intangibility, which can leave her open to attacks before and just after she uses it. Autoreticle can outright stop or force an approach, be used for mindgames when B-reversed, and is reliable for locking. However, its projectiles move only toward the fixed reticle and have a slow start-up, with the first projectile coming out on frame 29. Reflect Barrier has an unblockable hitbox, a weak push effect, a long duration, and can be reused immediately after breaking. However, it is still the weakest reflector of its kind, neither covers her entirely or accompanies her in midair, and has noticeable start-up lag for a reflector. Lastly, Counter has a high damage multiplier, but is the worst counterattack in the game due to its overall low knockback, overall high lag, having a very short counter window, and being one of the very few counterattacks to have a sourspot.
Due to her attributes, Palutena can be susceptible to heavy pressure unless mastered, and she can sometimes have difficulty at resetting the neutral game against some characters. Her reliance on shielding at close range can also result in her shield being whittled down more often than not, which is further compounded by her poor out of shield game in spite of her high traction. The combination of Palutena's tall frame, attributes, and lack of landing options also make her susceptible to being KO'd from strong vertical attacks and most meteor smashes, as well as combos and juggles.
As the Goddess of Light, Palutena fights using Powers she grants Pit and fighters in Kid Icarus: Uprising. As such, her custom moves are rivaled only by the Mii Fighters' in regard to variety and versatility, and they in turn benefit her tremendously in comparison to the majority of her default special moves. Super Speed has immense utility: it allows Palutena to move faster than even an uncharged Spin Charge, it can either be jump-canceled into any aerial move and an up smash, or perform a ramming attack, the latter of which can also lead into the aforementioned attacks, but only as long as it is not telegraphed or interrupted with a disjointed hitbox. As a trade-off, Super Speed has a cooldown mechanic like Monado Arts, with its cooldown duration lasting approximately three seconds. Lightweight amplifies her movement speed and jump height to the point that she dashes faster than Captain Falcon and jumps higher than Falco. This drastically improves Palutena's mobility and by extension her recovery, yet also makes her off-stage presence and already good combo game become among the best in the game; the latter of which is particularly notable, as it includes a guaranteed combo into her up or down aerials that both KO reliably after 80%. As a trade-off, it lasts for approximately twelve and a half seconds, doubles the damage (but not knockback) she receives, and halves her default speed for approximately fives seconds upon expiring while her damage vulnerability and jump height return to their original values. Regardless of their weaknesses, Super Speed and Lightweight are unarguably Palutena's most effective custom moves, as they improve her KO potential and grant her various mix-ups, set-ups, mindgames, combos and edge-guards that her default moveset otherwise does not have.
Palutena's other custom moves also have noticeable advantages, but some of them are held back by their easily exploitable weaknesses. Explosive Flame is a pinpoint explosion that is just as slow as Autoreticle, though its limited range makes it even more difficult to land than Autoreticle, as well as being easily punishable if the opponent is in the middle of her and the explosion. Heavenly Light has no use in singles play due to having almost no offensive potential, although it can be invaluable in Team Attack-based doubles play as a method to supplement Ness, Lucas, Mr. Game & Watch, and Mii Gunner's absorption-based moves. Angelic Missile is a good recovery move and a potent edge-guarding option thanks to its high base knockback, but it is easy to intercept due to its slow start-up lag, low knockback scaling, and linear path. Jump Glide covers an extreme amount of horizontal distance, allows for safe approaches with her aerial moveset, and can help her extend combos out of Super Speed or Lightweight. However, it has the same fatal flaw as Wings of Icarus: if for any reason she flinches during the move, she cannot use it again if she does not land on solid ground, which may lead to an inevitable KO. Rocket Jump has a meteor smash hitbox below her in midair and a strong hitbox that notably improves her out of shield game, yet is inferior to both Warp and Jump Glide in every other way. Lastly, Celestial Firework grants intangibility during start-up, has impressive knockback, and can easily hit aerial opponents. Although it can potentially hit grounded opponents, this is difficult to do unless they are at point-blank range, or enduring heavy lag.
Overall, Palutena is a frail, yet defensive character who has a surprisingly high learning curve in spite of her default moveset being rudimentary. Her optimal playstyle is similar to Ike's: her grab game and punishment options are potent, yet she must rely on spacing and shielding to circumvent her moveset's sluggishness and lack of reliable approach options. Although Palutena's default moveset ultimately renders her as a "high-risk, medium-reward" character, she can be fairly threatening when mastered. As such, Palutena is most rewarding for players with good fundamentals, as a single opening can allow her to quickly rack up damage with her most reliable moves, use her mobility and spacing options to evade and maintain a strong defense, or even KO early with her down throw-initiated KO combos.
Due to her flaws and learning curve, Palutena initially received a poor reception within the Western scene. However, thanks to buffs from game updates, the expansion of her metagame, and notable tournament results from the likes of Iceninja, Prince Ramen and TLTC, the competitive community's reception towards Palutena has improved over time, even in spite of her continually sparse representation. Although Lightweight and Super Speed greatly amplify her strengths, it is currently unknown if she will ever have the option to use them or her other custom moves in the tournament scene following the current universal ban of character customization established at EVO 2015, even though hers are immediately available instead of unlockable.
Palutena has received a mix of buffs and nerfs in game updates, although it is unclear whether she has been overall buffed or nerfed. The changes to game mechanics have worsened her defensive game, though she was also overall buffed directly, as most of her moves were changed, each in a different way, with the majority of them noticeably improving her previously mediocre offensive game.
Update 1.0.4 made her up and down tilts faster, to the point that the latter is now one of her safest grounded attacks. However, it also fixed a useful glitch on her Counter that effectively its mindgame potential, and shortened her pivot grab's range. Update 1.0.6 removed another beneficial glitch on Super Speed, where the momentum would be maintained after jump-canceled attacks. Update 1.0.8 further improved her up tilt by increasing its damage output and improving its hitboxes' placements. Update 1.1.0 brought a mix of buffs and nerfs, though the buffs were more plentiful: it increased the hitbox sizes of her down tilt and neutral aerial, increased the damage output of her forward aerial, decreased her grabs' ending lag, yet effectively removed her forward tilt's risky, albeit useful shield pressure potential by removing its re-hit rate.
However, update 1.1.1 brought an indirect, yet immense nerf: the increase in shieldstun and the fact hitlag now applies to shields have worsened Palutena's already poor out of shield game even further, subsequently neutralizing the crux of her defense, and giving her a harder time against characters with moves that possess high hitlag, such as Ryu. While these changes also make spacing her aerial moves more of an option for her, it is also important to note that due to the disproportionate amount of ending lag compared to her damage output, she remains one of the the easiest characters to punish out of shield, as her ending lag still leaves her vulnerable, thus also neutralizing any benefit she could get from these changes. The same update also buffed Explosive Flame's damage output and hitbox sizes, but largely counterbalanced these buffs by making its last hit blockable. Another glitch was also removed, in which she could instantly renew Lightweight on platforms.
Lastly, update 1.1.5 brought some other useful buffs by increasing the damage outputs of her neutral attack, neutral aerial, and forward aerial, which improved her damage racking potential and combo game. Ultimately, Palutena's abundant buffs are arguably counterbalanced by the few nerfs she received. This, in turn, results in her position relative to the cast questionable, mostly because of other characters also receiving very useful buffs from game updates, such as Samus, Charizard, Lucina, and especially Mewtwo.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
In the early metagame, Palutena was a highly regarded character, thanks to her smash attacks' impressive ranges, her potent grab game, and her distinction as the only character in the game with both a reflector and a counterattack in her default moveset. However, opinions on Palutena would later drop dramatically after her weaknesses began to emerge when custom moves were not accounted for, largely because of her sluggish frame data, flawed special moves and, surprisingly enough, her lack of offensive options outside of her grab game. When custom special moves began to be discussed, Palutena's tier placement once again began to rise in the eyes of many players, with many considering her to be a high-tier character, and in some cases, even a top-tier character. After the universal ban of custom movesets post-EVO 2015, however, expectations of her plummeted once again, and she was widely viewed as one of the worst characters in the game. This negative perception was further compounded by her apparent lack of significant buffs to her default moveset, the noticeably effective buffs other poorly regarded characters received, and update 1.1.1's increase to shieldstun indirectly nerfing her. Due to these factors, Palutena was ranked 50th on the first tier list, confirming her status as a bottom-tier character.
It was not until the the first half of 2016 that Palutena's tournament presence started to improve, as professionals like TLTC and Prince Ramen started placing higher within their respective regions. Even after AeroLink dropped her in favor of Bayonetta, the aforementioned results were nevertheless sufficient enough to improve her perception within the community. These results became even more prominent after game updates 1.1.5 and 1.1.6 brought nerfs to top-tier characters like Sheik, Zero Suit Samus, and Bayonetta. In addition to rendering her tier placement debatable, players also started to notice that most of Palutena's matchups against the top-tier and high-tier characters were not as unfavorable as considered before, largely thanks to the advancements brought to her non-custom metagame. Palutena's tournament presence gradually improved by mid-2016, with her most promising showings occurring at CEO 2016, EVO 2016, and Super Smash Con 2016; CEO was particularly notable after Prince Ramen scored a major upset by defeating ZeRo, arguably the best SSB4 player in the world, 2-0, while all three tournaments saw Palutena players place 33rd.
Thanks to her improved results, the vast majority of the community no longer views Palutena as one of the worst characters in the game. This was reflected by her being ranked 40th on the second tier list, with her rise being tied with Cloud's for the fifth largest between the first and second tier lists. Due to her still sparse tournament results, however, she then saw a slight drop to 42nd on the third and current tier list. Although Palutena's current tier placement is considered accurate, it is nevertheless a small topic of debate, as her flashes of success are still rare at the highest levels of competitive play.
In Event Matches
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