Announced at E3 2001, Pikachu (ピカチュウ, Pikachu) is a Pokémon and starter character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Like Kirby and Ness, Pikachu was nerfed from the original to Melee, albeit not as strongly.
Pikachu ranks 9th on the current tier list, in the C tier. This is a noticeable drop from its previous ranking in Smash 64 where it was ranked 1st. 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 strongly held back by bad range, with its best finishers having hitboxes very close to its body; coupled with sub-par options in the air and a short wavedash, Pikachu overall has a lackluster neutral game and 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 or as a KO move off-stage.
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).
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 it. 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, 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
Given that Pikachu was considered to be the best character in SSB, it was considerably nerfed in the transition to Melee, much like Ness and Kirby were. Unlike the two, however, Pikachu still remains a viable competitive fighting force. Pikachu's overwhelming advantages from the previous game, such as its consistent combos, powerful finishers, and useful specials, were toned down. However, its grabs have gained more utility and some of its attacks have gained power or unorthodox properties that aid them in edgeguarding, helping Pikachu keep its ground at the top of the mid tier.
Grabs and Throws
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 poor approach and a perceived 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. Additionally, 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. Appropriate usages of Pikachu's powerful KOing and gimping options can capitalize on several of the top tier characters who were considered its counters. Additionally, with proper DI, Sheik cannot chaingrab Pikachu as easily as once thought. In return, despite its poor grab range, professional smashers discovered Pikachu's up throw chaingrab on fastfallers on Final Destination, which has greatly improved Pikachu players' counterpicking games. Pikachu's matchup spread is expected by many Melee players to greatly improve in the next iteration.
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: