Zelda (ゼルダ, Zelda) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. She was announced on December 26th, 2013, the date on which The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was released in Japan. Jun Mizusawa reprises her role, albeit via recycled voice clips from Brawl.
Zelda is currently ranked 55th out of 58 on the tier list, placing her in the H tier. This is a marginal improvement from her placement in Brawl, where she was ranked 37th out of 38. Zelda possesses some strengths, with Farore's Wind arguably being her most notable one: it has utility as both a long-ranged recovery move and her strongest finisher (especially from out of shield), with its power enabling her to KO middleweights and heavyweights as low as 50% and 70%, respectively. Her defensive playstyle has also improved somewhat thanks to Nayru's Love having increased intangibility and her new down special, Phantom Slash, which is a useful spacing and edge-guarding option. Zelda has also gained a capable damage racking game, thanks to changes inherent during SSB4's launch and from subsequent game updates. Outside of these newfound improvements, Zelda retains a number of fairly powerful attacks, particularly her forward smash, up smash, up aerial and Lightning Kicks.
However, Zelda's numerous weaknesses are severe enough to largely outweigh these strengths. The most notable of these is the removal of Transform, as Sheik has become an entirely separate character. This is compounded even further by the massive amount of buffs Sheik received. Incidentally, Zelda's special moves, aside from Farore's Wind, are burdened with inherent and/or new weaknesses. Nayru's Love deals less damage, while the removal of momentum canceling makes its Naryu's Love Jump technique now much less effective for recovery. Din's Fire now deals less damage, which is further compounded by it now consisting of a sweetspot and a sourspot. Additionally, it is still easily avoidable in singles play and renders Zelda helpless when used in midair. Lastly, Phantom Slash requires charging to cover any actual distance, and can even be rendered temporarily inactive if the Phantom is destroyed.
Like in previous installments, Zelda's approach, mobility, survivability, and neutral game are also among the most ineffective in their respective categories. And despite having a number of attacks that boast impressive power, her KO potential is nonetheless inconsistent, due to several of these moves only being effective when using their sweetspots, most notably her Lightning Kicks.
Overall, Zelda's glaring flaws have resulted in her garnering poor representation in competitive play. While she has only managed to win a few local tournaments in singles and doubles play thanks to ven, Fairess, Purple Guy and Zolda, ven has also managed to managed to achieve a handful of decent placings at regional tournaments.
Zelda's character archetype continues to be the same as in Melee and Brawl: she is a tall, floaty lightweight with slow walking, dashing and falling speeds, as well as low gravity. Although her air speed and air acceleration are both above average, her mobility is still rather sub-par overall. When coupled with a poor neutral game, these attributes result in Zelda having a poor approach.
Zelda defies most other character playstyles. While her approach is lacking, her out of shield and punishment games are quite strong. She is generally played defensively, but a moderately aggressive playstyle can offer a noticeable benefit. Her special moveset, while not having very useful options, is still decent regardless. In terms of projectiles, she has a notable one in Phantom Slash. As a chargeable attack, Phantom Slash sports both offensive and defensive capabilities and can even be used for edge-guarding against recovering opponents, as it can KO them surprisingly early if fully charged. It also blocks Zelda from many attacks and projectiles, until the Phantom breaks, resulting in the move being rendered inactive for 9 seconds. Phantom Slash can also be used rather effectively when coming down from the upper corners of the stage to apply pressure to an opponent standing at the edge. However, its ending lag, poor range at its lowest charges, and its susceptibility to reflectors may hinder its use if it is not used wisely.
Despite being a predictable projectile in Brawl, Din's Fire has been nerfed to the point of having little utility outside of having a chance of getting extra damage on the opponent when edge-guarding. Even then, it is very easy to jump or air dodge even when the player predicts the opponent's movements. Farore's Wind is a long-ranged teleport move with a hitbox and invincibility, giving her a reliable move for recovering. In addition to its long range and being unpredictable for the opponent to counter if used wisely, Farore's Wind is now one of Zelda's most viable KOing options: its powerful disappearing hitbox sends opponents directly upward, and if Zelda follows them straight up with its reappearing hitbox, it can KO characters from 50%-70%. Lastly, Nayru's Love is known for its reflecting purposes as well as its hitboxes that damage and push opponents far when used, making it an all-around useful move for offense and defense.
Zelda's grab game is also above average. Her grab range is fairly large for a non-tether grab and is disjointed, making it a relatively safe move to use, whereas her pummel has a good damage output despite being moderately slow. Her down throw is a fairly reliable combo starter especially on fast-fallers; while it can combo into several of her aerials sans down aerial, at KO percentages, it can be followed by an up aerial if it is not DI'd properly. Her back throw deals respectable damage and is very strong, able to KO at high percentages, while also being good for putting the opponent off-stage at low percents. Likewise, her forward throw is one of the most damaging throws in the game, and can set the opponent up for an edge-guard. Finally, her up throw deals respectable damage and can work as a combo throw, albeit only on fast-fallers.
Zelda's ground game is below average, though every move has its use. Her up and down tilts are reliable combo starters thanks to their low ending lag and knockback, while her forward tilt has KO power, but suffers from relatively high ending lag. Her forward and up smashes have great power, especially the latter, while the former has low ending lag and is useful for pressuring shields. However, forward smash lacks any confirmed set-ups at KOing percents, while up smash's only confirmed set-up is from a falling neutral aerial, which is only successful sometimes rather than consistently. Her down smash has the lowest KO power among her smash attacks, but it comes out very quickly, has low ending lag, and is a semi-spike, allowing her to launch opponents with poor recoveries too far from the stage to recover. Zelda's neutral attack is a decent combo starter with very low ending lag, though it suffers from the longest start-up lag of any neutral attack. Lastly, her dash attack has good KO power, though it is often difficult to sweetspot due to Zelda's poor mobility.
In comparison, Zelda's air game is decent thanks to her aerial attacks. While they require precision to be truly effective, her Lightning Kicks, up aerial and down aerial boast enough power to KO easily when sweetspotted. One of them functions differently from them, though: her neutral aerial is one of the most damaging neutral aerials in the game, while also boasting combo potential. Zelda's combo game is also much better than in previous installments: her combo starters range from a falling neutral aerial (which can chain into a grab or up tilt), up tilt (which can chain into itself or her aerials), down tilt (which can chain into a grab, any of her tilts or any of her aerials) and down throw (which can chain into either her neutral, up or back aerials). Both her down aerial on grounded opponents and her neutral attack can start combos or tech chases, while Nayru's Love can also start tech chases. She has many ways to punish mistakes out of shield, courtesy of her Lightning Kicks, neutral aerial, Nayru's Love and, most notably, Farore's Wind.
However, Zelda also possesses a number of glaring weaknesses. Like in previous games, she has the inconvenient combination of being tall, light and floaty, making her fairly easy to KO, especially vertically. Her mobility is also slow overall, having a poor dashing speed and falling speed, while her air speed is above average, her falling speed otherwise hinders the powerful aerial prowess on her moves. Her main ways of dealing with pressure projectiles are lacking: short-ranged pressure is problematic for her since Nayru's Love is rather laggy in terms of ending lag, while Phantom Slash is slightly situational and, like Din's Fire, does not help her camp very well.
She has many laggy attacks with a few poorly placed hitboxes, making it difficult for her to KO despite her power. Because of this, Zelda's only consistently reliable KOing options are her forward and up smashes, up aerial, Lightning Kicks and Farore's Wind, with all of them aside from forward smash being easily punishable. Despite having a reliable recovery, Farore's Wind can also cause her to recover in the wrong direction if she recovers from a stage's slopes, and she cannot move during her free-fall animation until a noticeable amount of time afterward due to Farore's Wind's high ending lag.
Zelda's custom moves are also among worst in the game, as they either fail to fix her significant problems or are only slightly better than the default versions. Nayru's Rejection reverses opponents, but has slightly increased starting lag and is overall weaker than Nayru's Love, with its only benefit being its increased intangibility. It also does not have the same benefits as Cape, as it does not leave the opponent in free fall. Farore's Windfall meteor smashes opponents, but only travels straight up while still halting her momentum and gaining no benefit from a double jump. Unless used near the edge or in the air, it has very little KO potential, only KOing opponents regularly until the 400% range and higher, removing her most notable KOing option in the process. However, Zelda does have a few worthwhile custom moves. Phantom Breaker can break shields very easily, although it deals less damage and travels a set distance. Din's Blaze moves slower, but has much stronger knockback and, if used carefully, it can be a deadly edge-guarding option. Aside from these, her remaining custom moves are only situational at best.
Overall, Zelda relies on a very patient and defensive playstyle that consists of using her superb out of shield game to score KOs. Like in Melee and Brawl, Zelda has very poor tournament representation and little noteworthy results, with only a handful of her notable players being dedicated mains.
Changes from Brawl
Despite her status as the second worst character in Brawl, Zelda has received a mix of buffs and nerfs in the transition to SSB4. Due to her major flaws not being properly alleviated, however, she is considered to be nerfed overall. Most of them were mostly to her power, with her up tilt having its knockback significantly reduced, her up and down smashes having less range, and Din's Fire being less maneuverable and harder to hit with. Her Lightning Kicks have higher ending and landing lag, worsening her approach. Most notably, she has also lost her ability to Transform into Sheik, which is further compounded by the latter having been significantly buffed in the transition from Brawl to SSB4.
However, Zelda also received some buffs. Farore's Wind is now a risky but very viable KOing option, especially from out of shield, due to the significant increases to its damage output and knockback. Her Lightning Kicks are much easier to land due to altered hitbox placements, improving their utility as a KOing option. 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 also helps her cover almost all edge get-up options. Lastly, Zelda's combo game has been noticeably improved: her up tilt's increased speed and lowered knockback enables it to chain into itself much like her down tilt can, her neutral aerial is now even better for combos as well, and her down throw's altered angle results in it being better at setting up aerial follow-ups.
However, these buffs only compensate for Zelda's damage racking game, as she still possesses a poor neutral game while both her attacking speed and mobility are still slow despite the buffs they received.
Zelda has been heavily 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 benefited from the changes to the shield mechanics brought about in updates 1.1.0 and 1.1.1, due to her multiple hit attacks and Lightning Kicks becoming safer on shield, making her harder to punish.
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 and thus becoming a more reliable KOing option. In addition, Zelda's grab had its range improved, while her forward tilt and down smash became less laggy. Although some of her attacks 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, Zelda still remains at a disadvantage compared to most of the cast.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Due to Zelda's key flaws not being properly addressed, as well as the fact that Sheik was made into a completely separate character and buffed significantly in the transition from Brawl, Zelda was ranked 56th, placing her at the bottom of the entire tier list. Since then, game updates granted Zelda some helpful buffs, such as decreased lag on some moves, higher damage outputs and increased grab ranges. As a result, she is currently ranked 55th, which is a marginal improvement over her initial placement in SSB4 and her placement in Brawl. However, Zelda's initial and subsequent buffs are generally considered to be outweighed by the prominence of her inherent weaknesses, which has resulted in her having very minimal representation and only a few local tournament wins in both singles and doubles play.
In Event Matches