Announced at E3 2001, Pikachu (ピカチュウ, Pikachu) is a Pokémon and starter character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Like Kirby, Ness, and Yoshi, Pikachu was nerfed from the original to Melee, albeit not as strongly. Ikue Ōtani once again reprises her role as Pikachu in Melee with new voice clips.
Pikachu ranks 9th on the current tier list, in the C tier. This is a significant drop from its previous ranking in Smash 64 where it was ranked 1st and is its lowest placement in the series. Pikachu, while nerfed from the original SSB, is still a potent fighter; it has very good speed and plenty of KO options, as it owns the strongest up smash in the game and a quick semi-spike in its up-air. It also has a very long, safe, and versatile recovery. However, Pikachu is held back by very short range, with its best finishers having hitboxes very close to its body; coupled with sub-par options out of its dash dance, a difficulty in dealing with shielding, and a short wavedash, Pikachu must rely on mixups and crossups to approach.
In general character archetypes, Pikachu generally stands as a small fighter with good speed; Pikachu has medium falling speed, very good dashing speed (fourth highest in the game), high traction and below average air speed. Its average falling speed and high traction gives it a short wavedash; average falling speed, however, also gives Pikachu decent SHFFL potential. Due to its small size, Pikachu is also rather resistant to shield stabbing.
Pikachu's main strength is its fantastic edge game. Its up and down aerials are quick and can easily gimp recovering opponents, as the former acts as a semi-spike when sweetspotted and the latter has decent horizontal knockback, and its forward and down tilts can intercept recovery attempts close to the ledge. Additionally, Pikachu's back throw can easily send opponents off the edge, allowing it to easily set up edgeguards, even at lower percentages. Pikachu, on the other hand, is very resilient to edgeguarding; Skull Bash can give it significant horizontal distance, and Quick Attack moves very quickly, grants good distance, and has very unpredictable paths. Most characters do not have options to cover all of these recovery methods at once, and must thus rely on hard reads, rather than reactions, to properly edgeguard Pikachu.
Pikachu's other strength is its solid punish game; although Pikachu is fast and light, it still possesses several ways to combo and KO opponents. Pikachu's jab is quick and weak, giving it some of the most consistent jab reset followups in the game. Its forward, neutral, and up aerials are quick and can be used for aerial strings or juggling. Pikachu's forward and up smashes are among the most powerful in the game; its up smash, in fact, is the most powerful of its kind at realistic KO percentages, and can be used as a powerful tech chasing tool at all percentages, threatening further up smashes on fastfallers at lower percentages and KOs at medium to high percentages. Pikachu's grab game helps facilitate its punishes; its up and down throws can be used to set up combos, and the former can chaingrab fastfallers and even set up for its powerful up smash at KO percentages.
Pikachu also has a very good variety of special attacks, all of which can be seamlessly integrated into gameplay. Its Thunder Jolt is among the most flexible projectiles in the game, due to its ground-hugging properties; with low knockback and decent hitstun as well, it can set up combos on the ground, and can also interrupt some recoveries. Skull Bash, as aforementioned, acts as a horizontal recovery extender, and can double as a situational offensive attack with high power when charged. While Quick Attack has little offensive application, the ability to change its directions and its speed gives Pikachu a long and unpredictable recovery. Thunder, despite its high ending lag, can act as a combo finisher in case Pikachu's vertical finishers fall just short of KOing.
Pikachu's primary flaw, however, is its poor range. Almost all of its best finishers are very close to its body, making it difficult for Pikachu to secure KOs at times, and forcing Pikachu to constantly approach to keep pressure on the opponent. Additionally, Pikachu's relatively flexible grab and throw game is severely hampered by a very short grab range (the shortest in the game). Because of this, Pikachu struggles to combat shielding opponents, and must trick opponents by crossing up their shield in order to get an opening out of them.
However, Pikachu's approaches are mediocre as well, compounding this difficulty in pressuring the opponent. Pikachu is very mobile, and its dash dance is good, but it has a short wavedash and lacks safe grounded moves to use out of both its wavedash and dash dance. Its only good approaching options on the ground are down tilt, and the disruptive but highly punishable down smash. This forces it to frequently take to the air and perform either telegraphed Thunder Jolts or neutral aerial crossups on the opponent to gain an advantage, but such tactics are very committal, due to those moves' moderately high ending lags, and Pikachu's average falling speed and rather high short hop. All of these attributes make Pikachu's approaches very linear and predictable, and thus saddles it with a lackluster neutral game compared to the top-tiered characters, allowing characters with stronger neutral game tools to easily gain openings on Pikachu while it struggles to get openings itself.
Additionally, due to its light weight and below average air speed, Pikachu is very easy to juggle, chaingrab, and combo. Pikachu's hardest top tier matchup, Sheik, can chaingrab it from 0% to 50% in the NTSC version, perhaps higher if the Pikachu player has poor DI. Pikachu is also susceptible to several potentially lethal grab setups, such as Fox's notorious up throw to up aerial, Marth's forward/down throw to forward smash, and Captain Falcon's down throw followups.
Overall, Pikachu is a rather challenging character to succeed with, especially against top-tiered characters. While Pikachu has stellar edgeguarding and recovering abilities, and can harshly punish the opponent once it gets its hands on them, it suffers from poor range and a predictable neutral game. Pikachu players should look to make the most out of the few neutral options they have, and constantly seek mix-ups through conditioning opponents; additionally, they should seek counterplay, and try to bait opponents into going off the ledge, where Pikachu is most comfortable.
Changes from Smash 64 to Melee
Pikachu was widely considered to be the best character in Smash 64 due to its great mobility, combo potential, air game and unparalleled recovery in Quick Attack, which served not only as the most versatile recovery move in the game but it was also an amazing tool to escape combos and pressure due to its intangibility on startup. As a result, Pikachu was considerably nerfed in the transition to Melee, with its overwhelming advantages from the previous game, such as its consistent combos, powerful finishers, and useful specials, being significantly toned down.
As with all returning veterans, Pikachu's combo game has been hindered due to the universally decreased hitstun, making its lower knockback moves less effective, and the introduction of DI has decreased the consistency of its combos. However, some of Pikachu's moves have also seen direct changes that nerfed their combo potential. One example of this is Pikachu's up tilt, which deals more knockback at lower percents but noticeably less damage. As a result, it is a much worse combo move outside of very low percents, no longer being to chain into itself multiple times for a high amount of damage.
In general, Pikachu's damage output has been made much lower, with not only its aforementioned up tilt but also all of its aerials and throws receiving a damage nerf. Pikachu has also lost multiple KO options; its throws, back aerial, and down smash, which were all formerly solid KO options, all cannot KO reliably anymore. As a result, Pikachu has to work a lot harder in order to build up damage, and it has to rely more heavily on edgeguarding and landing smash attacks to secure KOs, with the latter's reliability being character-dependent due to Pikachu's lack of universal KO setups. Pikachu's range is also worse; aside from the aforementioned back aerial, the hitboxes on several of Pikachu's other moves have been toned down in size, including its grab, which now has the worst range in the game. This makes it easier for opponents to wall out Pikachu, particularly with shielding, and it means that Pikachu requires more precision in order to approach its opponents and win the neutral.
Pikachu's aerial game has also taken a hit. Pikachu's aerial mobility (both its air speed and air acceleration) is significantly worse, going from among the best to being rather mediocre, and its double jump has been made much lower. This worsens Pikachu's recovery, and hinders its ability to both juggle and escape aerial pressure. Aside from the aforementioned range nerfs, all of Pikachu's aerials are weaker and have lost their extremely lenient auto-cancel windows (with the weakening of L-canceling further exacerbating this) which hinders Pikachu's ability to both space and combo with its aerials. Back aerial, in particular, has changed into a weak (albeit slightly quicker) sideways spin with little KO potential and significantly higher ending lag, going from Pikachu's second best aerial to a practically useless move.
Pikachu's specials are also less potent overall, with only Thunder Jolt being slightly buffed due to its lower lag. While Quick Attack is faster and now has a hitbox, it no longer gives intangibility, covers considerably less distance, can no longer be extended, and can no longer auto-snap the ledge during its teleport, making it now a noticeably worse tool for both recovery and escaping pressure. Combined with Pikachu's worse aerial mobility, Pikachu's recovery and edgeguarding potential are not as effective as they were in Smash 64. Thunder has also been significantly nerfed, as it no longer has infinite vertical range; this, along with the universally increased falling speeds, has considerably hindered Thunderspiking. Thunder is also hindered by DI, which not only makes setups into Thunder less consistent, but also makes it easier to avoid being KOed off the upper blast zone if the Thunder connects.
However, Pikachu has seen some buffs. Pikachu's new up throw is a very useful throw which can easily lead to combos, chain grabs, and KO setups into up smash on fast fallers. Pikachu's new back throw is also superior at setting up edgeguards despite it being immensely weaker. Pikachu's new side special, Skull Bash, gives Pikachu a new recovery option and can lead to early KOs if Pikachu charges it. Pikachu's forward and up smash are both faster and stronger with the latter in particular now being the strongest up smash in the game although both moves have seen nerfs in other areas. Pikachu's up aerial has also seen some notable changes giving it even more utility than it already had. While it is weaker, has less range, and has much higher landing lag, it now has a different set of hitboxes with different properties with its clean hit being an excellent juggling tool while its later hits are very effective at edgeguarding. Lastly, Pikachu is heavier and falls faster which noticeably improves its endurance (although these traits also make Pikachu more vulnerable to combos and chain grabs).
Overall, Pikachu is considerably less effective with many of its strengths being toned down and its weakenesses being far more plentiful and noticeable. However, Pikachu still retains many of the strengths it had including its solid mobility and its great recovery/edgeguarding potential. Pikachu is now a more well rounded character with clear strengths and weaknesses rather than being a "master of all," as Pikachu still has the tools it needs in order to overcome its opponents, but has to work a lot harder in order to win. As a result, while Pikachu was one of the most severely nerfed characters from Smash 64 to Melee along with Ness and Kirby, Pikachu is still a potent high tier character who can hold its own against much of the cast, unlike Ness and Kirby who are considered non-viable and among the worst characters in the game. While Pikachu's tournament representation is rather small (compared to both its Smash 64 counterpart and many of the characters above it in the tier list), Pikachu has still seen consistent success in tournaments and is still very much a viable character in competitive play.
For a gallery of Pikachu's hitboxes, see here.
Note: According to the debug menu in Melee, Pikachu technically doesn't contain any idle poses. Instead, it will perform both its idle poses in one loop (mostly noticeable when Pikachu is currently holding an item). Both these animations become Pikachu's idle poses in Brawl and in Smash 4.
In Competitive play
In the most recent revision of the character matchup chart, Pikachu has average matchups all around. It counters six characters, soft counters four, and has even matchups with five, but is in return soft countered by five characters, countered by four, and hard countered by one, Sheik. Pikachu was thought to only do well against characters who lacked the tools to overcome its speed and pressure, such as Bowser and Zelda. However, since it is a light character with a perceived poor approach and poor range, many considered characters with superior mobility, range, or pressure options, such as Fox, Marth, Falco, and the Ice Climbers, advantageous in their matchup against Pikachu. Also, Mario can chain grab him with down throws, as can Sheik. In fact, it was a widespread thought at the time that Sheik could chaingrab Pikachu until 90%- a disadvantage that was significant enough to consider her Pikachu's decisive hard counter.
However, as Axe rose to dominance and Pikachu up the tier list, opinions on Pikachu's matchups began to change. Fox and Falco are now considered soft counters to Pikachu, rather than counters. Pikachu loses the neutral game against them, but still has enough tricks to sneak in openings rather consistently, and can edgeguard them easily with its up aerial sweetspot (the "tail spike"). Additionally, despite its poor grab range, Pikachu was found to have a near-inescapable chaingrab against Fox and Falco on Final Destination, allowing Pikachu players to pick up a rather reliable win in a set if they know how to execute it. Pikachu's matchup with Marth is by far the most optimistic advancement, as he is now considered to win the matchup in practice. Marth's strongest tools, his grab game and edgeguarding, are less effective against Pikachu. He also struggles to hit Pikachu due to its small frame and high speed and lacks reliable KO setups against it, while Pikachu can nearly effortlessly gimp him. Pikachu is also no longer considered to lose to Mario, Dr. Mario, and Luigi, although Mario still has a slight advantage due to his chaingrab.
Sheik and the Ice Climbers are still considered difficult matchups for Pikachu, but with proper DI, they cannot chaingrab Pikachu as easily as once thought. Its matchups against Peach and Jigglypuff, on the other hand, have actually worsened. Pikachu cannot KO floaty characters consistently, as he cannot edgeguard them and lacks reliable setups into his powerful up smash. This is exacerbated against Peach and Jigglypuff, as players now use their aerial mobility to stay out of Pikachu's threat range, meaning Pikachu struggles to find openings against them. Additionally, Jigglypuff is among the only characters that can edgeguard Pikachu effectively. While it may not KO Pikachu immediately through edgeguarding, it can cover all of Pikachu's returning options and send Pikachu back off-stage to repeat the process, accumulating a significant amount of damage.
Overall, Pikachu's matchups have become significantly better since its 2010 perception as a low-tier character. It has very good chances against several of the top- and high-tier characters who were once considered its counters, and only struggles against the floaty characters, who are not quite as ubiquitous as the characters it has improved against.
Any number following the Smasher name indicates placement on the Summer 2019 MPGR, which recognizes the official top 50 players in the world in Super Smash Bros. Melee from February 1st, 2019 to July 7th, 2019.
Tier placement and history
Pikachu was originally a low-mid to low tier character; many professionals thought Pikachu's heavy power, speed, and combo ability nerf from Super Smash Bros. was unmanageable, and that it had lost all of its viability in the transition to Melee. Axe proved this thought wrong, however, as he showed how powerful Pikachu was at pressuring the enemy, especially at edgeguarding (due to Pikachu's notorious up aerial semi-spike). He also showed how powerful Pikachu was up close, despite its problems in approaching the enemy efficiently. Axe, and a handful of other dedicated Pikachu players such as PikaChad, eventually brought Pikachu up to the high-mid tiers, where it ranks now in 9th place.
In Classic Mode, Pikachu can appear as an ordinary opponent, as an ally or opponent in team battles, alongside Pichu, Jigglypuff, or Kirby, or as a metal opponent. In Pikachu's appearances, it appears on Pokémon Stadium as a regular opponent, and on Battlefield as a metal opponent. And on team battles, it appears on Green Greens with Kirby.
Pikachu appears in Stage 7 of the Adventure Mode. In its stage, the player must fight eight separate Pikachu's on Pokémon Stadium similar to the Classic Mode's team battle; if Jigglypuff and Pichu are unlocked, they can also appear in the team. In this stage, the only items to spawn are Poké Balls.
Pikachu and its allies are fought on Pokémon Stadium.
Pikachu appears in multiple event matches:
In addition to the normal trophy about Pikachu as a character, there are two trophies about it as a fighter, unlocked by completing both Adventure and All-Star modes respectively with Pikachu on any difficulty: