A perfect shield (ジャストシールド, Just shield) (officially called the Power Shield in Melee) is a technique where one activates a full shield such that it connects with an incoming attack on the first few frames. In order for the technique to be executed, one must rely on timing and skill. When the opponent is ready to strike, the player must quickly use the shield. If done correctly, the character takes no shield damage (or shieldstun if a projectile was powershielded) and may immediately perform a counterattack while the attacker is stuck in hitlag. The powershield technique in Melee, Brawl, Smash 4 and Ultimate is comparable to a parry in traditional fighting games, as it results in little to no knockback and freezes the opponent for a couple frames.
Perfect shielding up until Smash 4 is done by quickly and fully depressing a shield button four frames before an attack connects. If done correctly, there will be a significant flash on the shield and a distinctive "chlink" sound (with the exception of Smash 4, where a softer sound plays instead). Because it is technically a shield, it is ineffective against grabs and unblockable attacks. In Melee, powershielding can reflect projectiles during the first two frames, although they deal half their usual damage (unlike other reflectors, which increase their damage), and Poké Balls reflected this way retain the ownership of the character that threw them. In Brawl and Smash 4, perfect shielding merely redirects projectiles at an angle without changing their ownership.
In Ultimate the method has been reversed: after a shield has already been raised, perfect shielding is done by releasing the shield button immediately before an attack connects. If performed correctly, the defending character flashes, and both characters (if the attacking character uses a melee attack) enter hitlag, but the defending character is still able to recover much quicker for a counterattack.
CPU players, especially at level 9, use this technique a lot to reflect projectiles in Melee, and against any oncoming attack since Brawl. It is not used often by human players due to the reaction times and precision usually required, and as such, it often comes as a surprise and can momentarily disrupt a match. However, it has been made easier to take advantage of in Brawl onwards than in Melee due to the ability to drop one's shield faster. At high level play, powershielding in Melee can be used to reflect a wave of incoming projectiles such as Falco's laser, to punish camping.
In Melee, the technique is known as power shielding (named for the Power Shielder bonus attained by using the technique multiple times). Power shielding is accomplished by fully pressing L or R such that the shield appears just before the incoming attack hits the player. More specifically, the full shield bubble's inner reflection hitbox must connect with the hitbox of the incoming attack within 4 frames of activating the shield. The noise heard by doing this is rather quiet compared to Brawl's, and should a projectile hit on frames 1 or 2 of the powershield, the technique will reflect projectiles at half the original damage. Though the technique is difficult to perform consistently, powershielding is extremely valuable in competitive play, as it allows players to punish moves with low ending lag such as Fox's neutral aerial. Its ability to reflect projectiles is even more valuable as it allows players to punish otherwise safe, predictable projectile spam, particularly in the Falco matchup, whose lasers can shut off many options and leave a player completely helpless if not dealt with properly.
Though extremely difficult, powershielding projectiles is still humanly possible to perform consistently. Players who use characters with projectiles often have an easily trackable firing pattern, such as firing projectiles only when there is a certain distance between the players. It is also important to note that players (again, Falco mains in particular) will short hop to move while firing. As such, a projectile user running or jumping away from pressure is often a surefire sign they intend to fire. If the projectile is thin like Falco's laser, another thing a player can do to ease the risk and timing needed to powershield is to crouch and wait for the projectile to pass over the character. Shielding while the projectile is directly over the character will ensure a powershielded projectile.
Powershield follow-up is also distance dependent. A laser is considered safe if fired when Falco and his opponent are standing a distance X between each other, where X is the max horizontal distance Falco can jump in 1 short hop. At this distance, powershielding the lasers yield no follow ups and attempting to move around them by jumping, rolling, or going under them with attacks that lower hurtboxes (like Marth's dash attack) put the opponent in positions Falco has an easier time winning neutral in. However, if the laser is fired too far away, for example at distance 1.5X, the laser is not safe, as powershielding does yield follow-ups such as a grab.
Chronological frame data
By pressing L or R during an actionable grounded frame, the Guard animation will be triggered immediately. The ability to powershield with it depends on whether the button press was digital or analog:
GuardReflect is triggered. Reflecting projectiles is possible during the first two frames. During the first four frames, physical attacks will enable the subsequent cancellation of the GuardOff animation. Both are only possible if the incoming hitbox also overlaps the inner powershield sphere on the first frame of its collision with the shield.
GuardOn is triggered. This animation has no powershield sphere, but the shield sphere is active from the first frame on as well. It can be transitioned to GuardReflect by a digital shoulder button press only on frame one and only if no hitbox collided with the shield on this first frame.
Example of multi-hit attacks that still preserve the physical powershield benefit
Fox stands in front of Marth and does a SHFFL down aerial:
The ability to powershield returns in Brawl, now officially known as a perfect shield. It works similar to Melee, but with a few notable differences. One major change is that perfect shielding no longer reflects projectiles; should a projectile connect during perfect shield frames, it will either disappear or rebound off the shield at an angle instead of back towards the owner of the projectile. A projectile that bounces off a character's shield can no longer affect that character unless it is a multi-hit attack. Additionally, perfect shielding a melee attack now incurs decreased shieldstun, and significantly less shield pushback, decreasing it by 0.15×. Lastly, a clear "clang" sound occurs when a perfect shield is executed.
In Smash 4, perfect shielding initially worked the exact same way as in Brawl. As of update 1.1.1, however, its action time was reduced from 4 frames to 3 frames, making it more difficult to perform. In return, it decreases damage in the shieldstun formula by 0.66×, compensating for the increased shieldstun in said update and making it more rewarding when executed effectively. Perfect shielding in Smash 4 also produces a quieter sound effect than in Brawl; Ryu is an exception to this, as he instead uses a unique perfect shield sound effect based on the parry in Street Fighter III.
Certain equipment has special effects for perfect shields. The Easy Perfect Shield effect widens the window for performing a perfect shield, while the Explosive Perfect Shield effect causes them to create a small, damaging explosion.
Perfect shielding in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate functions completely differently than in previous games. It now requires the player to release the shield button when an attack connects against their shield, instead of the other way around. It is also significantly more dramatic upon activation: it creates a much brighter flash from the perfect shielder, causes their eyes to glow yellow, and they perform a unique animation similar to Ryu's shielding animation from Smash 4, while the sound effect produced is louder like in Brawl. Ryu keeps his unique sound effect and now shares it with Ken. Due to these properties, the perfect shield in Ultimate is usually referred to as a parry by the Smash community, as it better resembles the namesake technique from traditional fighting games.
Perfect shielding is activated during the first 5 frames of a character's shield drop animation, which lasts 11 frames (up from Smash 4's 7 frames). The shield has to be put up for at least 3 frames before it can be dropped, essentially causing the technique's earliest possible activation to be 4 frames upon shielding. As a result, while it has a larger window, it can no longer be done immediately, and is less likely to be activated unintentionally, thus carrying more risk. However, unlike in previous games, the radius of a perfect shield does not shrink in proportion to the character's shield, and instead always matches the size of a full shield, increasing its consistency.
Perfect shielding gives different amounts of extra hitlag to the attacker and defender, with intangibility for the defender. Depending on whether a perfect shielded attack is a projectile, and direct or indirect (determined by the attack's hitbox scripts), it has several outcomes:
Prior to update 9.0.0, perfect shielding's advantage against both direct and indirect projectiles was 3 frames lower, so that the user could act 11 and 2 frames later (respectively) than shielding them normally, making it less effective against camping. Although update 3.0.0 allegedly increased these advantages to match the current versions, which was (vaguely) documented on Nintendo's official patch notes, it was discovered nearly a year after the update that these changes only applied to Training mode, and were thus irrelevant in competitive play; it was not until 9.0.0 that they applied to every game mode.
With perfect shielding now being tied to the shield drop animation, certain limits have been implemented to it. If an attack is shielded normally, perfect shielding is disabled on a subsequent shield drop unless it is done at least 3 frames after shieldstun ends, preventing characters from easily perfect shielding multi-hit moves that do not possess enough shieldstun to keep opponents trapped inbetween their hits. Similarly, from version 3.0.0 onward, multiple perfect shields cannot occur within the same shield drop. An exception is if the first hit of a move with multiple hits separated by only one frame is perfect shielded on the first shield drop frame, which causes the next hit to automatically be perfect shielded as well; an example of a move that can trigger this is Wolf's forward tilt.
Much like equipment in Smash 4, certain spirits can affect perfect shields: the returning Easy Perfect Shield effect widens the window for performing a perfect shield, while the Perfect Shield Reflect effect allows them to reflect projectiles, similar to how they worked in Melee.