- "Tech skill" redirects here. For the maneuver, see Tech.
Technical skill, also referred to as just tech skill, is one's ability to manipulate a controller and produce their desired inputs. Players with greater technical skill are able to more reliably produce their intended inputs, and more efficiently perform maneuvers that require more complicated inputs (such as advanced techniques). Players with lesser technical skill are more prone to input mistakes, and are less able to utilise complicated maneuvers; such players tend to rely on superior cerebral play (such as utilising mindgames) to overcome their technical shortcomings. Technical skill is just one of the many skills required to excel at Smash; technical skill alone will not bring a player much success. However, it is common for inexperienced players to overrate the value of technical skill, and in some extreme cases, see it as the only "true" skill, completely neglecting the importance of other skills despite players often losing to others with less technical skill.
Technical skill in relation to characters
The amount of technical skill necessary to be successful in competitive play is largely dependent on the characters a player uses. Some characters require greater precision, faster fingers, and have a greater reliance on advanced techs, and as such, will demand a greater amount of technical skill to play successfully at a high level of play. In Melee, the prime examples of such characters are Fox and Falco, both of which demand an incredible amount of technical skill to play at even lower levels of competitive play, each relying on incredibly quick movement and heavy utilization of their Shine combos. In Brawl, the prime examples would be the Ice Climbers, who rely on desynching and chain throws that demand precise timing, and Diddy Kong, who relies on heavy utilization of his banana combos and locks. In SSB4, Rosalina & Luma uses desynching much like the Ice Climbers in previous games, and Ryu relies on chaining unusual button inputs into intricate combos. Ultimate's Peach (alongside her Echo Fighter, Daisy) relies extensively on technically demanding but dangerous and rewarding combos involving her floating ability (and sometimes also her Vegetable item projectiles as well), and the Ice Climbers rely heavily on desyncing like in past titles.
On the other end, some characters also have a lower technical demand, as they rely on more cerebral play with less utilization of advanced techs and less frequent inputs. In Melee, such examples would be Jigglypuff, who instead has a reliance on aerial pressure and spacing as well as its wall of pain, and Marth, who relies on spacing with his superior reach and utilizing his less complicated but deadly combos, such as the infamous Ken combo. In Brawl, Marth is again a prominent example of a character with less technical demands for similar reason as in Melee, and Meta Knight is a particularly noteworthy example as well, as he tends to rely on overwhelming opponents with his incredibly quick and superior moveset, without much utilization of complicated advanced techs; Meta Knight's particular ease-of-use for a character on the top of the tier list was a frequently cited point for the subsequent banning of the character. In SSB4, Captain Falcon is an example of a character with low technical demands, as he relies largely on uncomplicated combos (typically initiated from a dash grab) and occasional punishes. Diddy Kong was an example prior to his nerfs in version 1.0.6, as his metagame almost entirely revolved around his various throw combos, which were easy to learn and initiate. Ultimate has Lucina, who relies on spacing not unlike the aforementioned Melee iteration of Marth, while also being able to utilize her speed to somewhat overwhelm her opponent as well. Palutena is also a good example, as she relies on spacing and being able to easily overwhelm her foes with her overall speed and straightforward moveset, and has easy-to-perform yet devastating combos involving her neutral aerial.
Technical skill requirements by game
Melee & Brawl
From the transition of Melee to Brawl, the game's physics engine was made much slower. Characters have universally lower falling speeds; L-cancelling and wavedashing, techniques that sped up characters and gave them more movement options, were removed; and Brawl added the ability to air dodge or use an aerial out of hitstun, lowering the number of true combos that can be performed.
This drastic change in gameplay has since been a heated point of debate in the community. Supporters of Melee generally criticize Brawl for its much more combo-unfriendly physics, claiming that Brawl is too heavily focused around the neutral game, as the defending player frequently has more opportunities to escape being punished for their mistakes than they should have in a fighting game. They also argue that due to the lack of mobility options outside of situational additions such as the DACUS, the game lacks depth in player interactions and is less competitive as a result. Supporters of Brawl criticize Melee for having too high of an entry floor, citing the need for excessive and arguably unnecessary inputs to even stand a chance in competitive play, which reduces its cerebral depth. They also claim that Brawl emphasizes the ability to outread the opponent, which they view as the most important aspect of Smash, and allows slower and less precise players to compete where they otherwise could not in Melee.
However, newer developments in both games have shown that some of the above arguments are not always true. While Brawl has fewer advanced techniques than Melee, the ones it does have tend to require more precise inputs than in Melee due to the input buffer (such as glide tossing). Melee also does require a great amount of cerebral skill to succeed, but focuses more on smaller-scale reads on the opponent's spacing and movement, rather than hard reads on what option they will commit to. Additionally, there exist players in both games who adopt outlier playstyles; for example, Mr. R is a very "flashy" Brawl Marth player, having fantastic movement and pulling off unexpectedly long combos that are seen as uncharacteristic of Brawl. Drephen and Borp, on the other hand, are "slower" Melee Sheik mains, preferring to go for hard reads and tech chases instead of combos, and applying the wavedash and other advanced movement techniques much less often than the average Melee player.
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U
In Smash 4, the ability to airdodge out of hitstun has been significantly weakened, reinstating the importance of combos. Additionally, as of update 1.1.1, shield-stun has been drastically increased, reducing the relative strength of shields and encouraging more offensive gameplay. The increased hitstun, weaker shields, and several other factors Brawl are often cited as the reasons for Smash 4 being faster and more competitively viable than its predecessor. However, it is debatable whether Smash 4 requires more or less technical skill to play than Brawl. While the game reintroduced the ability to pivot, which allows for some more spacing and comboing options, it removed other mobility options such as the DACUS, and previously highly technical characters such as Diddy Kong and Snake were either made much simpler to play or removed from the game.
In Ultimate, defensive options have been overall toned down, as dodging and shielding (along with shield grabs) have much more lag, with shields in particular depleting much faster and having less health, making them easier to break. Additionally, every character now has a 3-frame jumpsquat, as well as nearly every aerial in the game having reduced landing lag, allowing characters to access their aerial moves much faster while also being able to connect into them much faster as well. Combos in general are somewhat less prominent as a result of several changes, with many character's staple moves and combos being nerfed to be much less over-centralizing than before and the alteration of knockback making previously established follow ups more difficult to perform (although the increased mobility allows characters to catch up much more easily). Many techniques from SSB4 are absent, such as short-hopping an aerial or using an up-smash out of shield, have become much easier to perform. One notable technique that was removed was pivoting, which was instead replaced by the ability to perform any move out of a dash. Perhaps most notably, the game introduces a new input buffering system alongside the one introduced in Brawl, by which an action can be buffered by holding down a button or a button combination throughout the duration of another action, allowing inputs to be buffered for up to several seconds. However, there are many technical parts and techniques that have been added, such as the readdition of Ice Climbers and Snake, as well as certain characters having higher learning curves than in Smash 4 (such as Captain Falcon or Zero Suit Samus) still allow for a difficult to master experience, as well as many characters having their most powerful moves they could rely on being nerfed and their weaker moves being buffed, which, as said before, gives them more depth. In addition to other small changes such as the reduced efficacy of the rage mechanic, 1v1 matches in Ultimate now have a damage multiplier, which further encourages aggressive play between most characters.
The game is generally considered to strike a better balance between the technical demand of Melee and the accessibility of Brawl than SSB4 did, while being arguably the most favorable in terms of character balance in spite of its large roster, and this has allowed the competitive scene to thrive much more than those of the other titles. However, perhaps as a result of the increased attention given to competitive Ultimate, it has been the subject of heavy scrutiny and criticism. In particular, the new buffer system is generally agreed to allow more players access as well as make online play more consistent, though it has attracted criticism for introducing "input lag", as well as making it much easier to input wrong commands into the game. The game's movement options, or sometimes lack thereof, also receive hefty criticism as many players feel they are too limiting and there were too many unnecessary takeaways from past entries, similar to criticisms against SSB4 for removing advanced techniques that were in Brawl.