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's combo game has noticeably improved, largely thanks to faster frame data and altered knockback. When coupled with her overall high damage output, Zelda is now capable of racking up an impressive amount of damage at a respectably fast rate, much like her ancestor in Super Smash Bros. Melee.
Zelda also boasts an array of KOing options, most notably her forward smash, up smash, sweetspotted Lightning Kicks, up aerial and sweetspotted down aerial. By extension, Farore's Wind has been strengthened to the point that it can now reliably KO any character below 100% while near the upper blast line, which makes it especially potent from out of shield.
However, Zelda's weaknesses have been largely 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 amounts of lag, or both.
As a result of Zelda's glaring flaws, she has garnered extremely minimal representation in competitive play and, in turn, extremely sparse results. However, Zelda has nevertheless managed to find a few instances of success, thanks to the likes of ven, Fairess, Purple Guy, Onpu, and Zolda.
Zelda is a tall, floaty lightweight with largely slow mobility. Her walking speed, dashing speed, falling speed, and gravity are each below-average, whereas her traction is average. Unlike in previous installments, Zelda's air speed is slightly above-average, although her air acceleration, jump and double jump are still below-average. As a result of her attributes, Zelda's endurance, neutral game and approach are sub-par.
Zelda's playstyle is largely defensive, and benefits from her strong out of shield options and punishment potential. 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, when 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 percentages 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 potential 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, yet each of these attacks boast enough power to easily KO even super heavyweights when they are sweetspotted. 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 loop hitboxes, can function as a follow-up from down throw at low percentages, can start combos when SHFF'd, 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 is among the most damaging in the game in spite of its moderately slow speed. 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, whereas the latter has KO potential while near the edge. Up and down throws possess combo potential, but vary noticeably in effectiveness. Up throw is decent for combos at low percentages, although it is especially useful against heavyweights and fast-fallers. However, it can also be followed up by the second hit of Farore's Wind at high percentages against characters of any weight class. While this combo KOs reliably, it can be avoided rather easily with directional influence. Down throw has greater combo versatility in comparison, most notably in the form of its up aerial combo, which KOs lightweights as early as 92% and super heavyweights as early as 115%. Although DI can easily hinder down throw's combo potential similarly to up throw's set-up into the second hit of Farore's Wind, the effectiveness of its up aerial combo will remain largely intact so long as Zelda utilizes it with proper timing.
Neutral attack, up tilt and especially down tilt are capable combo starters, thanks to their knockback values, launching angles and low ending lag. Forward tilt and dash attack are decent 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 thanks to their multiple hits, while the latter also has surprisingly low start-up lag for a smash attack. Down smash is Zelda's weakest smash attack, though it is nevertheless quite strong and, like neutral aerial, has decent utility. It hits on frame 5, which ties it with Pit, Dark 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. She has the inconvenient combination of being tall, light and floaty, which collectively 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 (dash attack, down smash, Lightning Kicks and down aerial), punishable amounts of lag (forward tilt, forward smash, up smash, up aerial and Phantom Slash), or both (Din's Fire and Farore's Wind). To further compound this, only up aerial and Farore's Wind have set-ups that are largely consistent past medium percentages: up aerial has up tilt, down tilt and down throw, the latter of which will be considerably hindered if Zelda has a high level of rage, whereas Farore's Wind 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.
The overwhelming majority of Zelda's custom moves are among the least effective in the game, owing to their inability to alleviate her weaknesses. However, Zelda does have two custom moves that are more beneficial than the default versions. Din's Flare deals consistent damage regardless of its charge, travels much faster, and has both longer range and a faster detonation. However, it is much less maneuverable than Din's Fire. Phantom Breaker can break shields very easily and possesses KO potential like Phantom Slash, although it travels a set distance regardless of its charge and its slightly lower damage output results in it KOing later than Phantom Slash. Aside from these, Zelda's remaining custom moves are situational at best.
Overall, Zelda relies on a very defensive playstyle in order to punish opponents with her effective out of shield game to start combos, utilize her down throw's up aerial combo for KOing, or set up an edge-guard before attempting to score a KO. However, her poor approach, mobility and neutral game hinder her ability to escape rushdowns and pressure, while her heavy reliance on sweetspots makes her akin to a glass cannon. Due to the precision and patience needed to use her effectively, Zelda's tournament representation has consistently been very sparse. Despite this, her playerbase have brought her some instances of success; most notably, ven has achieved a handful of decent placings at the national level, including three top 50 placings in both singles and doubles play.
Changes from Brawl
Despite her status as the second lowest ranked character in Brawl, Zelda received a mix of buffs and nerfs in the transition to SSB4. Farore's Wind is the most notable buff that she received: it is now a risky, yet very viable KOing option, especially from out of shield, thanks to various hitbox and knockback adjustments. The Lightning Kicks are now much easier to land, thanks to altered hitbox placements making them function similarly to down aerial. Zelda's new down special, Phantom Slash, is a fairly strong projectile with a decent amount of utility: it is a capable edge-guarding option, helps her cover almost all edge get-up options, can protect and/or enable her to attack from behind the Phantom itself, and boasts KO potential when fully charged.
Zelda's combo game has also noticeably improved: neutral attack's various hitbox and knockback adjustments make it a better set-up option at low percentages, up tilt's lower damage output and increased speed make it a reliable combo option, neutral aerial's hitbox adjustments make it better at damage racking, sweetspotted down aerial can now be used as a set-up option on grounded opponents, and down throw's increased knockback and altered angle make it a useful KO set-up into up aerial at high percentages.
However, Zelda also received very noticeable nerfs. The most impactful of these 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 have been applied to her KO potential: up and down smashes have slightly shorter ranges, sweetspotted Lightning Kicks have lower base knockback and more lag, up tilt has a much lower damage output, and Din's Fire is less maneuverable and inconsistent.
Overall, Zelda's much better combo game supplements her already outstanding out of shield game. However, she is still burdened with a poor approach and neutral game, owing to the buffs to her mobility being marginal at best.
Zelda has been buffed via game updates. After updates 1.0.4 and 1.0.6 granted her a mix of buffs and nerfs, she received a consistent number of direct and indirect buffs thereafter, beginning with update 1.0.8. 1.0.8 made up smash and neutral aerial much more difficult to escape, improved up smash's KO potential, and decreased the landing lag of neutral, up and down aerials. Update 1.1.0 improved the set-up and spacing potential of neutral attack, as well as the combo potentials of up tilt and down tilt. It also made Phantom Slash safer and more reliable by decreasing its ending lag and removing its blind spot. The changes to shield mechanics brought about by 1.1.0 and 1.1.1 also indirectly buffed Zelda, as they make her multiple hit attacks and Lightning Kicks safer on shield.
Lastly, update 1.1.5 brought about arguably Zelda's most noteworthy buffs. Neutral attack's damage output was increased yet again, though its utility remained intact thanks to its knockback being altered. Forward tilt and down smash became safer thanks to decreases to their lag, while the former also had its range improved. Neutral and up aerials has their damage outputs increased, while each of her grabs had their ranges increased. Lastly, Nayru's Love became safer thanks to its intangibility being increased.
Overall, Zelda's buffs have improved her KO and combo potential. Due to her mobility, neutral game and endurance remaining unaffected by game updates, however, she still remains at a disadvantage compared to most of the cast.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Unlike her ancestor in Melee and her own appearance Brawl, Zelda was immediately viewed as a non-viable character upon SSB4's release. This perception was because of 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.
Despite her almost non-existent representation and results, Zelda nevertheless received a multitude of 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 thanks to the likes of ven, Fairess, Purple Guy and Zolda, both Onpu and ven have each achieved a few respectable results at regional and even national tournaments.
In Event Matches
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