Zelda (ゼルダ, Zelda) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. Her return to the series was announced in a Director's Room Miiverse post on December 26th, 2013, which also commemorated The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds being released in Japan on the same day. Jun Mizusawa reprises her role as Zelda's voice actor, albeit via recycled voice clips from Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Zelda is currently ranked 55th out of 58 on the tier list, placing her in the F tier. This is a marginal improvement from her placement in Brawl, where she was ranked 37th out of 38, and results in her being assessed as a low-tier character instead of a bottom-tier character. Zelda still boasts impressive power for a lightweight: her forward smash, up smash, up aerial, sweetspotted down aerial, and sweetspotted Lightning Kicks are each capable of scoring KOs fairly easily. By extension, Farore's Wind has been strengthened to the point that it can reliably KO any character below 100%, which makes it especially potent from out of shield. Zelda has also received a number of buffs to her damage racking game and defensive playstyle, largely thanks to faster frame data and altered knockback.
However, Zelda's weaknesses have largely been retained. Her slow mobility and situational projectiles result in both her neutral game and approach still being poor. Additionally, her endurance is still poor because of the problematic combination of her tall hurtbox, light weight, and floatiness. Lastly, Zelda's KO potential is still inconsistent: her strongest attacks have short durations, and are further burdened with either abysmally weak sourspots, punishable lag, or both.
As a result of Zelda's glaring flaws, she has garnered poor representation in competitive play. Although her playerbase is small and her results are extremely sparse, she has nevertheless found a few instances of success, thanks to the likes of ven, Fairess, Purple Guy, Onpu, and Zolda.
As in previous installments, Zelda is a tall, floaty lightweight with relatively slow mobility: her walking speed, dashing speed, falling speed, and gravity are all below-average, while her traction is average, giving her low movement speed on the ground. However, her air speed is slightly above average, though this is somewhat toned down by her below-average air acceleration. As a result, her endurance and overall mobility are both sub-par.
Due to her stats granting her an ineffective neutral game and approach, Zelda's playstyle focuses on keeping on the defensive, courtesy of her strong out of shield and punishment games. By extension, her special moveset supplements her defensive potential, with Farore's Wind being her most effective special move. It is a long-ranged teleport that grants intangibility, giving her a very reliable and, if used wisely, virtually unpredictable recovery option. In addition, Farore's Wind has become one of Zelda's most viable KOing options, especially from out of shield: its disappearing hitbox now launches opponents directly upward, which allows it to combo into its now stronger reappearing hitbox that, when sweetspotted, will KO any character below 100% while near the upper blast line.
Due to losing Transform, Zelda has a received a new down special called Phantom Slash. Phantom Slash is a chargeable projectile that boasts both offensive and defensive capabilities: it possesses enough power to KO at reasonable percents when fully charged, especially when edge-guarding, while the Phantom itself can block Zelda from incoming attacks. While descending from the upper corners of a stage, Zelda can also use it as a fairly effective way to ward off edge-guard attempts from an opponent standing at the edge. Nayru's Love is a reflector that also has loop hitboxes, which grant it offensive and defensive potentials like Phantom Slash. Lastly, Din's Fire can be useful for long-ranged edge-guarding, which is further supplemented by its new sweetspot's high knockback growth.
The majority of Zelda's air game is a case of "high-risk, high-reward": her Lightning Kicks and down aerial require considerable precision in order to hit their sweetspots, but when sweetspotted, each of these attacks boast enough power to easily KO even super heavyweights. By extension, sweetspotted down aerial boasts decent combo potential on grounded opponents, thanks to it being a very powerful meteor smash. Zelda's up aerial is the most damaging up aerial in the game, and while it also requires precision because of its short duration and fairly minimal horizontal range, its lack of sweetspots and sourspots makes it much more consistent at KOing in comparison to her Lightning Kicks and down aerial. Unlike Zelda's aforementioned aerials, neutral aerial is not suited for KOing outright, but nevertheless has respectable utility: it has a decent damage output and looping hitboxes, it can function as a follow-up from down throw at low percents, it can start combos while Zelda is falling, and its last hit's very high knockback growth makes it useful for edge-guarding.
Zelda's ground game is very middling in comparison to her air game, but each of her grounded attacks have some degree of utility. Her grab game, in particular, is widely agreed as the best aspect of her ground game. Zelda's grabs have fairly long ranges despite not being tether grabs, and her pummel, while moderately slow, is among the most damaging in the game. Forward and back throws are useful for setting up edge-guards, yet each have a certain quirk: the former is among the damaging forward throws in the game, while the latter has decent KO potential while near the edge. In comparison, up and down throws are fairly decent combo starters, especially on heavyweights and fast-fallers. However, the latter functions best as a set-up into up aerial at high percents, as this combo is very reliable at KOing even heavyweights.
Neutral attack and especially up and down tilts are capable combo starters, thanks to their knockback values and low ending lag. Forward tilt and dash attack are strong enough for spacing and KOing thanks to their strong sweetspots, while the latter also has one of the lowest amounts of start-up lag of any dash attack in the game. Zelda's forward and up smashes have impressive power and respectable shield pressuring potential, while the latter has surprisingly low start-up lag for a smash attack. Down smash, like neutral aerial, is useful because of its utility more so than its KO potential. It comes out on frame 5, which gives it the distinction of being tied with Pit, Mario, Dr. Mario, and Ryu's down smashes as the second fastest smash attacks of any kind in the game. When coupled with its low ending lag and semi-spike angle, down smash can reliably punish rolls and set up edge-guards.
However, Zelda possesses a number of glaring weaknesses. Like in previous installments, she has the inconvenient combination of being tall, light and floaty, which make her susceptible to both combos and early KOs. Although Zelda's mobility has improved, it has only done so marginally at best, and thus remains overall sub-par. Despite her power, Zelda's KO potential is inconsistent: in addition to having very short durations, her strongest attacks are burdened with very weak sourspots (Lightning Kicks and down aerial), punishable amounts of lag (forward tilt, forward smash, up smash, and up aerial), or both (dash attack and Farore's Wind). To further compound this, only up aerial and Farore's Wind have set-ups that are largely consistent past medium percents: the former has up tilt, down tilt, and down throw, whereas the latter must combo into itself.
Although Zelda's special moves can help her defensive presence when used wisely, they are nevertheless lacking in regard to pressure. Short-ranged pressure can be problematic because Nayru's Love is rather laggy, while Phantom Slash is slightly situational because of its ending lag, limited durability, poor range at low charges, and its susceptibility to reflection-based attacks. As a result, Zelda is forced to rely on her down smash instead of either of these options much more often than not. Conversely, Din's Fire is very unsuitable for long-ranged pressure because it is still very easy to evade, and is now burdened with a very weak sourspot. Lastly, Farore's Wind can cause Zelda to recover or evade pressure in the wrong direction if she recovers from a stage's slopes. Its high ending lag also makes her unable to move during her free fall animation until more than a second has passed.
Zelda's custom moves are also among worst in the game. The overwhelming majority of them fail to alleviate her weaknesses, while only a handful of them are slightly better at best, or situational at worst in comparison to the default versions. Nayru's Rejection reverses opponents and grants more intangibility, but has slightly increased starting lag, is overall weaker, and does not render the opponent helpless. Farore's Windfall meteor smashes opponents, but only travels directly upward while still halting her momentum, gains no benefit from a jump, and has virtually no KO potential unless used near an edge or in the air. However, Zelda does have two custom moves that can offer slight benefits over their default versions. Din's Blaze travels slower, but has much stronger knockback and, if used wisely, can function as a deadly edge-guarding option. Phantom Breaker can break shields very easily, although it deals less damage and travels a set distance. Aside from these, Zelda's remaining custom moves are only situational at best.
Overall, Zelda relies on a very defensive playstyle in order to punish opponents with her effective out of shield game, while using tools such as her above-average grab and throws to start combos or set up an edge-guard, and precision with her powerful smash attacks and sweetspots to KO early. However, her poor approach, mobility, and neutral game hampers her ability to escape rushdowns and pressure, while her heavy reliance on sweetspots and a lack of utility on her sourspots make her essentially a glass cannon. Due to the precision and patience needed to use her effectively, Zelda has historically been poorly represented in tournaments, although some of her dedicated players have brought her a handful of results, especially after the multitude of buffs updates have brought her.
Changes from Brawl
Despite her status as the second worst character in Brawl, Zelda received a mix of buffs and nerfs in the transition to SSB4. Due to her major flaws not being properly addressed, however, she is considered to be nerfed. The most notable nerf was the removal of her ability to Transform into Sheik, which is further compounded by the latter having been significantly buffed in the transition from Brawl to SSB4. Outside of this, most of Zelda's direct nerfs were applied to her power, with her up tilt having its knockback significantly reduced, her up and down smashes having shortened ranges, and Din's Fire being less maneuverable and harder to hit with. Her Lightning Kicks also gained higher ending and landing lag, which worsened her already poor approach.
Nevertheless, Zelda did received some noticeable buffs. Farore's Wind is now a risky, but very viable KOing option, especially from out of shield, thanks to the significant increases to its damage output and base knockback. Her Lightning Kicks are much easier to land thanks to altered hitbox placements, which improved their accuracy. Due to losing Transform, Zelda received a new down special in Phantom Slash. In addition to being a fairly strong projectile and capable edge-guarding option, the Phantom itself can block opponents' attacks and enable Zelda to attack from behind it, and helps her cover almost all edge get-up options. Lastly, Zelda's damage racking game has noticeably improved: neutral attack's various mechanical adjustments make it a better combo starter, up tilt's increased speed and lowered knockback enables it to combo into itself much like her down tilt, neutral aerial's hitbox adjustments make it better at damage racking, and down throw's altered knockback and angle make it a useful KO set-up into up aerial at high percents.
Overall, Zelda is still burdened with a poor approach and neutral game, while the buffs to her mobility are very marginal at best. However, the buffs she has has received make her capable at damage racking, which in turn further supplements her already outstanding out of shield game.
Zelda has been buffed via game updates, beginning with update 1.0.6. Her forward tilt became faster, making it a better punishing option, her neutral attack, up tilt, and down tilt had their damage outputs increased, while up tilt gained true combo potential. The hits of her forward and up smashes also connect together much better, while the latter smash attack had its knockback and range increased, and her down smash had its ending lag decreased. Her neutral, up, and, down aerials had their ending lag decreased, and her neutral and up aerials' damage outputs were increased. Lastly, Phantom Slash also received improvements in the forms of decreased ending lag and the removal of a blind spot. Zelda also benefits from the changes to the shield mechanics brought about in updates 1.1.0 and 1.1.1, as her multiple hit attacks and Lightning Kicks have become safer on shield.
Update 1.1.5 brought about some of Zelda's more noteworthy buffs, such as increased damage outputs to her neutral attack, neutral aerial and up aerial, with the latter's hitbox size also increasing. In addition, Zelda's grabs had their ranges improved, while her forward tilt and down smash became less laggy. Although neutral attack and neutral aerial also saw a slight decrease in knockback growth via updates, this makes them more reliable at damage racking and functioning as set-ups into a KOing option. Regardless, updates have failed to majorly address her mobility, neutral game and endurance, and thus Zelda still remains at a disadvantage compared to most of the cast.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Unlike in Melee and Brawl, Zelda was immediately viewed as a non-viable character upon SSB4's release. This perception was due to the combination of her key flaws not being properly addressed, and Sheik becoming a standalone character who was buffed significantly in her own transition from Brawl. When coupled by her extremely minimal representation and results in competitive play, as well as the fact that players had not yet acknowledged Jigglypuff's status in competitive play, Zelda was ranked 56th on the first tier list, placing her at the bottom of the entire tier list in spite of the buffs she received from game updates.
Despite her almost non-existent representation and results, Zelda nevertheless received more buffs from game updates, which contributed to her results slowly improving as time has passed. To reflect this, Zelda was ranked 55th on the second tier list, a ranking she has retained on the third and current tier list. Overall, Zelda's inherent and subsequent buffs are generally considered to be outweighed by the prominence of her inherent flaws, which has resulted in her having very minimal representation. Although Zelda has only won a few local tournament wins thanks to the likes of ven, Fairess, Purple Guy, and Zolda, both Onpu and ven have each achieved a few decent results at regional and even national tournaments.
In Event Matches
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