Announced at E3 2001, Sheik (シーク, Sheik) is a starter character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. She transforms from Zelda by using her down special move (Transform), and can transform back. By holding the "A" button at the stage loading screen, Zelda will automatically transform into Sheik at the start of a match.
She used to be first on the Melee tier list until the eighth version of it, where Fox took top spot, and has continued to hold it. Sheik currently ranks 4th on the tier list, in the S tier primarily due to her chain throw on many of the lower tier characters, excellent combos, a great finisher in her forward air, a very good approach due to fast aerials and high jumps, and one of the best edgeguarding games in Melee. Sheik, however, suffers from a relatively short and predictable recovery, vulnerability to comboing, as well as a rather short but quick wavedash. She also is relatively weak to crouch canceling.
Sheik is a very agile fighter, possessing a fast dash, high falling speed, good jumping prowess, and very quick, combo-friendly attacks. While only a portion of her moveset can reliably KO to compensate for her speed, such options are very reliable combo finishers at most percentages, greatly offsetting her power loss. Sheik, however, has poor air speed(tied for 5th worst among the cast) and a rather high short hop. As a result of having high traction and a high falling speed, Sheik has a rather short, but fast, wavedash.
Sheik's main strength is her edgeguarding ability, which is among the best in the game. While she lacks a spike like Marth, or even a meteor smash, Sheik's good jumping prowess and fast, powerful aerials give her amazing options off the edge. Sheik's forward aerial is among the most feared in the game, due to its fast startup, high knockback scaling, semi-spike angle, and its ability to autocancel itself if used correctly, and is her main pressuring and edgeguarding tool, while also being an outstanding combo finisher. Her back aerial is slightly weaker(but still very powerful if sweetspotted) with a more diagonal angle, but has more reach and is safer to use, allowing for it to be used as a potent edgeguarding option as well. Sheik also has one of the best projectiles in the game, Needle Storm, which aids in her edgeguarding; the needles are quick to charge, can travel quickly when thrown, and can cut through or stop most other projectiles in the game, allowing Sheik to neutralize projectiles from characters who rely on them to cover their recovery, such as Samus. Needles also have high hitstun and low knockback, making them excellent for intercepting recoveries, especially more linear options such as Fire Fox. In addition, Needles travel in a diagonal downward path when thrown from the air, presenting the edgeguarder with more options. Sheik also has the means to force edgeguarding situations very easily, possessing a back throw that sets up edgeguards on fastfallers, and the speed to effectively corner opponents once they're close to the ledge.
Sheik is also notable for having among the best punishing abilities in the game. Her tilts, dash attack, and up smash all come out quickly and all send the opponents straight into the air, giving Sheik guaranteed aerial followup options, especially at lower percentages. Aside from the aforementioned forward and back aerials, Sheik's other aerials also possess amazing utility for punishing, despite her low air speed. Her neutral aerial is a quick sex kick that serves as a potent out of shield option that can dispel the opponent's shield pressure; her up aerial is a combo extender at lower percentages that can reliably KO at higher percentages, especially near the ceiling; her down aerial, while possessing the slowest startup out of all of her aerials, sends opponents upwards with a great deal of hitstun, allowing followups into her aforementioned up, back, or forward aerials, or even a sweetspotted up smash. Due to their low lag and high power, most are of relatively low-risk to use off the edge. Sheik's aforementioned Needle Storm also aids in her punishing game; when used in midair, the needles travel diagonally downwards, allowing them to hit grounded opponents. Due to the fact that Needle Storm has no landing lag after being used in midair, Sheik can use the hitstun or shield stun from her needles to immediately grab or attack the opponent upon landing. This is further compounded (in NTSC only) with Sheik's excellent down throw, which boasts a chain grab on many characters in the game at lower to mid-percentages, including Pikachu and Link, and sets up tech chasing situations on fastfallers such as Fox, Falco, and Falcon. Skilled Sheik players can convert a single down throw into potential stock losses for the foe by utilizing either chain grabbing or tech-chasing until the opponent is at combo-friendly percentages, where they will use Sheik's launching options to begin nearly inescapable combos that result in a KO or a fatal edgeguarding situation.
Sheik, however, has a mediocre neutral game, especially compared to other top tiers. Due to her high short hop, Sheik suffers from a poor SHFFL, which impairs some elements of her aerial approach. Sheik also possesses a short dash-dance, forcing her to rely on her short wavedash to adjust her spacing. While Needle Storm has no landing lag when used in midair, it does have significant ending lag when used on the ground; however, Sheik's needles will only travel straight if she throws them while grounded, impairing her ability to approach with her projectile from afar. Sheik also lacks universal disjoint, causing her to have a very small and concentrated "threat zone" where she can create openings by threatening the opponent with a forward aerial, her tilts, or an aerial Needle Storm into a grab. As such, high-level Sheik players will often look for openings to close distance and go into that "threat zone," a spacing where Sheik can threaten the opponent with her outstanding punish game. This is easier to do against characters with even worse neutral games, particularly low- and bottom-tier characters, as they lack the means to zone Sheik out of that ideal area. However, other top-tier characters have the tools to keep Sheik out, whether it be through projectiles or disjoint, and can similarly harshly punish Sheik if she unsafely attempts to close this distance.
One of Sheik's more universal weaknesses is her poor, predictable recovery. Despite her high midair jump and fast aerial attacks that can aggravate edgeguarders, Vanish does not give significant vertical or horizontal distance, and when she reappears, there is no offensive hitbox, allowing easy edgeguarding. Additionally, Sheik is horizontally locked after performing Vanish, disallowing her from drifting back to the stage from afar. In some situations where Sheik cannot recover at all, Sheik may be forced to transform and use Zelda's superior recovery, this is not without its risks however, as Zelda is much less viable in top level play, which is where Sheik performs. A common strategy is to DI upwards and use Zelda's superior air speed and lower falling speed to drift back to stage, or in worst case scenarios, use Farore's Wind to recover. Further compounding these recovery flaws are Sheik's fast falling speed and low air. Sheik can wall jump, but its use is situational, dependent on the stage, and is shorter than most others due to Sheik's fast falling speed. Sheik's low air speed compounded with her fast falling speed also makes her very easy to combo herself, especially against characters with reliable launching throws or attacks such as Marth, Falco, and Jigglypuff.
Overall, Sheik is a solid character with the tools to combat every other fighter in Melee. She is a very punish- and control-based character, relying on her excellent comboing abilities to rack up damage and force edgeguarding situations where she can intercept the foe for quick gimp KOs. Against characters ranked lower than her, Sheik usually has free reign over the match and can easily close distance and convert a single opening into a clear advantage. However, against most other top tiers, Sheik must play with the utmost caution and precision to create those same openings and succeed.
Like other characters, Sheik has received some changes in the PAL version of Melee, which nerfed her overall. This is due primarily to the changes to her down throw, which caused Sheik to lose her chaingrab, some tech-chasing options, and several KO setups. Along with the nerfs to her finishers, Sheik generally has a much harder time KOing characters that she had no trouble KOing in the NTSC version, such as Peach and Marth, resulting in much poorer matchups against them. This is reflected in the current PAL tier list, where Sheik is ranked 5th instead of her usual 3rd or 4th.
For a gallery of Sheik's hitboxes, see here.
Sheik has one of the best matchup spreads in the game. She is soft countered by three characters, has one even matchup, soft counters six characters, counters five, and hard counters ten. Overall, Sheik's advantages give her amazing matchups over the majority of the cast, with the most hard-counter matchups against other characters, and only loses against a small handful of characters in Melee.
She generally has an advantage against characters with:
Sheik tends to struggle most against characters who can abuse her fast falling speed, height, and weakness to crouch canceling to the fullest extent. Fox, Jigglypuff, and the Ice Climbers are her most notable bad matchups. With a combination of his fast falling speed and crouch canceling, Fox is essentially immune to Sheik's combos until mid-percent; Sheik must utilize very difficult tech chasing to consistently get him to those percentages, where the player must either perfectly read, or react within less than a second, to the Fox player's getup option. Jigglypuff boasts superior aerial mobility, allowing it to camp Sheik long-term while avoiding her Needles, and can Rest Sheik if she dares challenge its crouch cancel with any move or even a standing grab (which cannot grab a crouching Jigglypuff). On the other hand, Sheik's weight and falling speed make her susceptible to all of their usual combos, such as Fox's waveshine followups or up throw to up aerial, or Jigglypuff's wall of pain and various Rest conversions. The Ice Climbers essentially negate all of Sheik's strengths; her strong grab game is ineffective when the second Climber can break grab situations, and she lacks tools to separate them at low percentages, with the consequence of improperly spacing a single move being a wobble or a lengthy chaingrab.
Sheik has declined slightly in the modern metagame as players have learned how to better take advantage of her numerous weaknesses. This is reflected by her matchups against Marth and Peach, which are now closer to even. As players have improved their understanding of the neutral game over time, Marth's advantages in that area have grown more prevalent, making it much harder for Sheik players to force openings. Sheik still tends to out-punish Marth when she gets a neutral win, since Marth's punishes in the matchup are not guaranteed and more difficult to execute, keeping the matchup fairly even at the top level. The opposite development is true for her matchup against Peach, as Peach's punishes and edgeguarding in the matchup are now considered significantly stronger. Sheik still maintains advantages in her superior speed, neutral game tools, and easier KO setups, but the consensus now is that Sheik only slightly wins against Peach, if at all.
At the time that the matchup chart was made, Pikachu and Yoshi were considered low-tiered characters that Sheik easily won against due to her chaingrab, perceived back then to go up to 90% and lead into a guaranteed KO. These opinions have proven to be mostly false as those two characters rose up the tier list. With proper DI and port considerations, the chaingrab rarely deals more than 40-50%, with many opportunities to escape it. Both characters have strong punishes on Sheik as well; Yoshi's double jump cancel combos perfectly take advantage of her fast falling speed, and Pikachu can juggle her and force edgeguard situations with its up aerial semi-spike. Sheik is also nearly incapable of gimping Yoshi due to his double jump armor, while both characters can very easily edgeguard or gimp her poor recovery in return. She still wins those matchups by a fair margin due to her much simpler and more guaranteed combos, as well as more tangible rewards off her grounded moves that are easier to look for in neutral than either Pikachu's or Yoshi's combo starters. However, neither of these matchups are a hard counter in her favor, unlike what was initially perceived.
Tier placement and history
Sheik has always been a high/top tier character, similar to Fox and Falco. For the first five years of the Melee metagame, Sheik was considered the best character in the game, ranking at the top of every tier list up until the eighth (July 2006). Her chain throwing ability was considered especially powerful in the early metagame, and her ease of use allowed Sheik mains to succeed consistently, especially since counterplay to her options had not yet been popularized. In fact, at some points, players believed Sheik was so good that they contemplated banning her, although such a ban was never carried out. However, over time, competitive players slowly became privy to Sheik's weaknesses, leading to growing matchup problems that would continue to plague her players into the present day.
Sheik's dominance as a character was cut short with the discovery of the incredible potential of Fox and Falco. With these characters now perceived as having much higher skill caps while still being good against relevant top tiers, they took the top two spots while Sheik dropped to third place. With these developments in place and the growing skill of the playerbase, players soon found that Fox had an advantage over Sheik, as did the Ice Climbers, both of which were growing in prevalence in the metagame. Soon after, Mango and Hungrybox would take Jigglypuff to the next level, and reveal that it, too, was a very poor matchup for Sheik and possibly her worst. With three bad matchups at the top level to now deal with, which only grew more difficult as time passed, Sheik was no longer considered even a contender for the best in the game.
Other top-tiered character mains started improving their Sheik matchups as well (most notably Marth and Peach), causing less of an incentive for players to pick up Sheik just to deal with those characters. Due to this, and opinions on Marth improving further due to his better matchups against Fox and Falco, Sheik dropped to 4th in the twelfth and current tier list (as of December 2015). Although she has fallen from dominance, with some even arguing that she should be lower, Sheik remains one of the best and most consistent characters in the game. Players such as Plup and Swedish Delight continue to push her capabilities, incorporating shield dropping and more robust platform movement to keep up with the evolving metagame.
Like several other characters who would coincidentally become known to be top-tiered, Sheik was nerfed in the PAL version of Melee. Her up aerial was weakened, making it more of a juggling move than a KO move, and her down throw, which boasted a chaingrab on much of the cast in NTSC and gave Sheik follow-up options, now has a much more horizontal launch angle, removing those guaranteed chaingrabs and follow-ups. These changes make some of Sheik's winning matchups in NTSC much harder. For example, in NTSC, Sheik could KO Marth, Peach, and sometimes Jigglypuff reliably with down throw to forward or up aerial. In PAL, however, not only does down throw send those characters too far at KO percentages, up aerial is no longer a reliable KO move until much higher percents. Sheik must, however, still deal with Marth's range and more effective neutral game and Peach's edgeguarding and Vegetable projectiles.
Despite these nerfs, there were initially more Sheik professionals in PAL regions than in NTSC regions, namely Amsah, Aniolas, and others. Due to Sheik's nerfs, they adopted an even more defensive playstyle using primarily Needle Storm and forward aerial camping to find openings. These PAL Sheik players were very successful at that stage of the metagame, even moreso than NTSC Sheik players, arguably because they developed stronger fundamentals (with less of a reliance on grabs) to overcome their more difficult punish game. For nearly 5 years (March 2010 - March 2015), Sheik was ranked 2nd on the PAL tier list, higher than she was in NTSC during that time span. However, Sheik's shortcomings over other top-tiered characters became increasingly prevalent as the technical ceiling of Melee increased, and she is now ranked 5th on the PAL tier list instead. However, she still retains her powerful air game, punish game, and excellent combo ability despite her down throw nerf.
In single-player modes
In Classic Mode
Sheik herself can only be fought if the opponent is Zelda; animations left on the disc, however, suggest that she could have immediately began matches against the player, instead of having to wait for Zelda to transform.
Sheik's sole appearance in the Adventure Mode is in the second portion of Stage 3, the Underground Maze. The player has to fight against Zelda on the Temple stage; Sheik can be fought if Zelda transforms.
In All-Star Mode, Zelda/Sheik and her allies are fought on the Temple stage.
In Event Matches
Sheik is featured in the following event matches:
Sheik and Zelda share ending images for the one-player modes, as well as the same cinematic; clearing the mode with one also gives the player both of their trophies.
This is Zelda's alter ego. Using a variation of the name of the ancient Sheikah tribe, she appears before Link and teaches him melodies instrumental to his success. It's believed that she's not just a quick-change artist, but rather that she is able to instantaneously alter her clothing and her eye and skin color by using her magical skills.
Strategically switching between Zelda and Sheik is key. Compared to her Zelda form, Sheik is nimble and has gorgeous moves, but she lacks a strong knockout attack. The number of needles thrown in Needle Storm is based on how long you hold the B Button before releasing it. Use the Control Stick to wave the Chain after brandishing it.
The best strategy to use when playing as Sheik is to let her flow from one powerful attack into another, like a river of quicksilver. Zelda has some techniques with more punch, however, so in one-on-one battles, use Transform as needed. Sheik only travels a short way when using Vanish, but the move comes with a small explosion that damages foes around her.