Palutena (パルテナ, Palutena) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. She was revealed on June 10th, 2014 during Nintendo's E3 Digital Event. 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 45th out of 55 on the tier list, placing her at the bottom the E tier. This also renders her as the lowest ranking mid-tier character. Palutena has good overall mobility, which is especially noticeable 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 starting combos when SHFF'd and for spacing; back aerial grants partial invincibility and its clean hitbox KOs reliably; up aerial hits multiple times and its last hit KOs rather early; and down aerial is a fairly quick meteor smash.
Palutena's ground game also has some utility. Her grab game, in particular, is very effective: her overall grab range is long-ranged; her pummel deals impressive damage and has average speed; and her down throw is an excellent combo starter at low to high percentages. Outside of this, Palutena's neutral attack is very reliable for damage racking and jab canceling, while her smash attacks possess impressive ranges and considerable power.
However, Palutena's weaknesses are quite glaring. She has very sluggish frame data in relation to her power and weight, which is especially noticeable in regard to her grounded moves. As a result, her neutral game is predictable, and her grounded approach is almost nonexistent. Palutena's KO potential is also inconsistent, since her smash attacks' ranges and power are offset by their awkward hitbox placements and extremely high amounts of overall lag.
Palutena's special moves also have poor synergy with the rest of her moveset and, in some cases, minimal utility. In addition, Palutena's tall height, below-average weight and high gravity collectively make her susceptible to combos, juggles and early KOs. Although her custom moves significantly remedy the problems involving her approach and bolster her mobility, damage racking potential and combo game, the ban on custom movesets prevents Palutena from taking advantage of them in tournaments.
As a result of these factors, Palutena has a very small playerbase, which has been reflected in representation and results being very sparse. Despite this, her playerbase has managed to achieve success: TLTC has achieved several top 50 placings at regional and national tournaments; Iceninja and El Pitikla have each achieved a handful of top 10 placings at national tournaments; and Prince Ramen placed 33rd at CEO 2016 after scoring a major upset against ZeRo at said tournament.
Palutena possesses a unique blend of archetypes: she is tall like Mewtwo, Zelda, Peach and Rosalina, yet is tied with Duck Hunt as the second lightest middleweight. Palutena also boasts fast walking and dashing speeds, the seventh highest traction, a high jump and double jump, 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 attributes grant Palutena quick grounded movement, make her very capable at ground-to-air transitions, and allow her to quickly change direction in midair. However, they also make her susceptible to heavy pressure unless mastered, and she can sometimes have difficulty at resetting the neutral game against some characters. Palutena's reliance on shielding at close range can also result in her shield being whittled down more often than not. This is further compounded by her poor out of shield potential, in spite of her high traction. By extension, Palutena's attributes make her unreliable at air-to-ground transitions, and render 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. Neutral aerial has a large hitbox that uses the auto-link angle, which makes it a useful damage racking option. When coupled with its fairly long duration, it is also capable of pressuring the opponent while they are on a platform, or from out of their air dodge. Its last hit's extremely high knockback scaling also makes it decent for edge-guarding and even capable of setting up combos at low percentages. Forward aerial has the longest horizontal range of Palutena's aerial moves, the lowest amount of landing lag, and the ability to auto-cancel when SHFF'd. Altogether, these traits make it very useful for spacing and allow it to reliably start combos at low to medium percentages, with follow-ups including neutral attack, standing/dash grab, her tilts or her other aerials.
In comparison, back aerial grants partial invincibility around Palutena's body throughout its duration, while its shield hitbox is strong enough to reliably KO either on-stage or via edge-guarding. Up aerial has good vertical range, hits multiple times, and uses the auto-link angle, which make it ideal for juggling. Most notably, its final hit's extremely high knockback growth 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, durations and ranges, which means that they must be spaced accordingly. Lastly, down aerial will always meteor smash aerial opponents thanks to its consistent hitbox, although 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 obvious with her grab game: Palutena's standing grab is the fourth longest ranged in the game despite not being a tether grab, whereas her pivot grab also has impressive range. Her pummel's average speed and high damage output make it one of the best pummels in the game. Like Luigi, Palutena's down throw is the most essential aspect of her offense: its high base knockback, very low knockback scaling, and diagonal 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 aerial combo boasts KO potential on almost the entirety of the cast at high percentages, while its back aerial combo also has decent KO potential.
Outside of this, down throw can even combo into down aerial and up smash if the opponent's reaction is read properly. 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 aerial attacks at low percentages.
Neutral attack is a very reliable damage racking option and has excellent jab cancel potential, thanks to its very quick interruptibility. Like Little Mac, her tilt attacks boast anti-rebounding priority, while up and down tilts also possess distinct strengths. Up tilt has the lowest amount of start-up lag out of her tilts; a very long duration; lowers her hurtbox even more than her crouch does; is a useful anti-air attack thanks to its deceptive vertical range; and is a situational KOing option thanks to its very strong final hit. 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. Dash attack is fast thanks to it hitting on frame 6 and, like her back aerial, it grants partial invincibility. Lastly, forward and especially up smashes possess excellent ranges 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 and weight class, which is overall the laggiest in the entire game. When coupled with an overall below-average damage output, Palutena's offense has major issues that are distinct from her fellow middleweights. This is most apparent with her grounded moveset, which is unfitting for a character with great grounded mobility. Aside from down tilt, Palutena's other grounded moves have disproportionately high ending lag. Neutral infinite's finisher has 21 frames of ending lag; 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. These traits result in Palutena's missed attacks being very susceptible to punishment, even if the opponent is a fair distance away from her, and results in her having an almost nonexistent grounded approach by extension.
In addition to considerable ending lag, Palutena's grounded KOing options are risky in other ways: her smash attacks have considerable start-up lag, whereas up tilt 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 beyond her moveset. 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. Palutena's safe edge grab is offset by all of her other options being very unsafe: her edge attack is slow and short-ranged; her edge roll grants minimal intangibility frames; and her normal get-up and edge jump are the slowest in the game. As a result, Palutena's edge recovery is problematic weakness unique to her, since 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, although its lack of invulnerability can render her prone to being punished afterward. Despite her larger number of edge options compared to other characters, these flaws make Palutena quite easy to predict when she attempts to recover.
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, down throw's KO set-ups can potentially fail if she is affected by rage and/or the opponent uses proper directional influence.
Palutena's default special moves are also infamously unimpressive because of 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 improves her neutral game, allows for swift re-positioning, and can easily be edge-canceled. However, it lacks 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 least effective counterattack in the game because of its overall low knockback, overall high lag, very short counter window, and dubious distinction of being one of the very few counterattacks to have a sourspot.
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. The move can also be used for huge horizontal recovery if jump-cancelled. As a trade-off, Super Speed has a cooldown mechanic like Monado Arts, with its cooldown duration lasting approximately 3 seconds.
Lightweight amplifies her movement speed and jump height to the point that she dashes faster than Sonic 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 12.5 seconds, doubles the damage (but not knockback) she receives, and halves her default speed for approximately 5 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 possess.
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, although 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 very minimal use in singles play because of its inability to KO or even flinch. However, these traits also make it invaluable in Team Attack-based doubles play as a method to supplement Ness, Lucas, Mr. Game & Watch, and Mii Gunner's absorption-based moves, as well as capable of potentially stealing KOs similarly to Fox's Blaster. Angelic Missile is a good recovery move and a potent edge-guarding option thanks to its respectable damage output and high base knockback, but it is easy to intercept because of its noticeable 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 TLTC, Iceninja and Prince Ramen, the competitive community's reception toward Palutena has improved over time, even in spite of her continually sparse representation. Although Lightweight and Super Speed greatly amplify her strengths and are readily available instead of being unlockable, 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.
Palutena has received a mix of buffs and nerfs in game updates. 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 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 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 up tilt by increasing its damage output and improving its hitbox placements. Update 1.1.0 brought a mix of buffs and nerfs: it increased down tilt and neutral aerial's hitbox sizes, increased forward aerial's damage output, and decreased her grabs' ending lag, yet effectively significantly hindered forward tilt's damage racking potential by removing its re-hit rate.
However, update 1.1.1 brought an indirect, yet immense nerf: the changes to shield mechanics worsened Palutena's already poor out of shield potential even further, as they neutralized the crux of her defense and make it more difficult for her to shield against characters with moves that possess high hitlag, such as Ryu. While these changes also make spacing Palutena's aerial moves more of an option for her, it is also important to note that the disproportionate amount of ending lag compared to her damage output results in her remaining one of the the easiest characters to punish out of shield. 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. As a result, her position relative to the cast is debatable, 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 notable for her smash attacks' impressive ranges and her distinction as the only character in the game with both a reflector and a counterattack in her default moveset. However, opinions on her 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, and was seen as one of the worst characters in the game.
When custom special moves began to be discussed, Palutena's potential 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 returned back to normal. This negative perception was further compounded by her lack of significant buffs to her default moveset, the noticeably effective buffs other poorly regarded characters received, and the changes to shield mechanics brought about by updates 1.1.0 and 1.1.1 indirectly nerfing her. Due to these factors, Palutena was ranked 50th on the first tier list, which confirmed 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. After the buffs gained by updates 1.1.5, tied with the previous ones, players like TLTC and Prince Ramen started placing higher within their respective regions. Even after AeroLink dropped her in favor of Bayonetta, these results were sufficient enough to improve her perception within the community, and became 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, while all three tournaments saw Palutena players place 33rd. With these improved results, the vast majority of the community no longer saw Palutena as one of the worst characters in the game. This, in turn, was reflected by her being ranked 40th on the second tier list; in addition to reassessing Palutena as a low-tier character, her tier rise was tied with Cloud's for the fifth largest between the first and second tier lists.
Due to Palutena's still sparse tournament results, however, she then saw a slight drop to 42nd on the third tier list. Although her tournament results have improved, thanks to TLTC placing 17th at 2GGC: Greninja Saga and 33rd at EVO 2017, as well as Death Arcana placing 49th at GameTyrant Expo 2017, Palutena has been ranked 45th on the fourth and current tier list. Despite being a slight tier drop, tier restructuring has reassessed Palutena as a mid-tier character. However, many players argue that Palutena should have remained a low-tier character, owing to her strengths not being as potent as previously deemed, as well as her noticeable weaknesses.
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