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The key phrase when talking about anything related to Melee's characters or mechanics, is "this varies a lot based on character".
Movement speeds, weights, traction, even frame data of universal system mechanics... all can and will vary heavily based on character (similar to many other 2D fighters), but it actually comes up much more often and is much more important to know than most other character specifics in other 2D fighters you may know of.
Visit This Video by FalseSwipeGaming for a basic rundown of the suite of techniques used in competitive SSBM.
Dashing is the most important grounded movement option in the game. Quickly flicking the stick to the side causes your character to enter their initial dash animation that has duration and speed dependent on character. From this state you can instantly change direction by flicking your stick to the other side and dashing in that direction (dashdancing). You can also jump, giving you access to important techniques such as wavedashing and jump cancelling. Some characters such as Marth also have dash animations that can be abused to make them very difficult to hit. Dash is however a limited state, from which most attacks cannot be performed directly. Tilts and smash attacks are inaccessible without techniques such as jump cancelling and pivots. You also cannot crouch during dash.
After the initial dash animation ends if your stick is still pushed to the side your character will enter run. Run is a much less useful state than dash as you cannot dashdance but it still has its uses. For one, run can be interrupted by crouching, allowing you to perform any grounded attack (run cancel).
Crouching is a very important state. Crouching decreases the size of the player character's hitbox, often to great effect (sheik, puff) and reduces knockback received by a factor of x0.67, allowing you to withstand attacks without being knocked down for longer. This also reduces the hitlag caused by moves.
Jump moves the player character from the ground to the air. Jumps have a few frames of startup (jumpsquat) that vary per-character and all characters can jump a second time in air, with some characters having several airjumps. Grounded jumps have two variants, a shorthop and a fullhop. shorthopping is performed by releasing the jump button before the end of jumpsquat.
Directional airdodges can be performed at any point during a jump to instantly give the player character momentum in the desired direction. By jumping and immediately airdodging diagonally into the ground, the player character will slide a short distance.
This distance depends on:
- The character's traction and max walk speed
- The angle of the airdodge
- Distance from the ground when airdodging
For these reasons, wavedash distances vary a lot based on character. Characters with low traction, such as Luigi and the Ice Climbers (despite specifically wearing climbing shoes?) have very long wavedashes, meanwhile other characters like Jigglypuff get so little distance from their wavedashes that the technique is considered highly unviable for movement alone for them.
Max walk speed is also factored in due to the way ground speed is handled in the game; when characters are somehow moving along the ground faster than their max walk speed, their velocity drops very quickly, so characters that have a higher walk speed for a lesser velocity reduction in such an instance can have a better wavedash. Fox and Captain Falcon have roughly the same traction, but because Fox's max walk speed is better, his wavedash is more effective than Falcon's as he loses much less velocity.
Wavedashing renders the player character inactionable for the character's jumpsquat frames + 10 frames of landfallspecial lag, so this is also a factor in wavedash effectiveness. Bowser's wavedash in particular takes 18 frames to execute due to this, while most others only take ~13F due to less jumpsquat frames.
Wavedashing is an integral skill to master in Melee, allowing you speed up or mix up your movement, adjust spacing in combos and techchases, and it is a fundamental part of lots of techniques in general, especially for SpaciesA nickname for the Star Fox characters of SSB (Fox, Falco, Wolf)..
Attacks and Hitbox/Hurtbox Properties
Knockback is the measure of how far an attack sends its target. For most attacks, knockback increases as damage on a character increases. There are many properties pertaining to the attack, the victim, and the general game settings that determine how far the victim is knocked back.
Stale-Move Negation refers to how moves cause less damage and knockback as they are used multiple times in a row. The strength of a move increases back to its regular power as other moves are used. Starting in Melee, being KO'd resets the staleness of all of that player's moves. Moves not yet affected by stale-move negation are referred to as "fresh."
Attacks That Send Down
Attacks that send opponents at an angle between 260° and 280° are meteor smashes. These attacks have the property that their knockback can be "meteor cancelled" by jumping or upbing from 8 frames after hitlag ends. Jumping or upbing triggers a 40 frame window beginning the frame after the jump/upb input during which you cannot meteor cancel with jump or upb respectively. Meteor smashes hitstun cannot be reduced by asdi down, however crouch armor still applies.
Spikes are attacks that send downwards at an angle outside of the aforementioned meteor smash window. As a result, they cannot be meteor cancelled and are thus extremely effective kill moves. The majority of downwards attacks are meteor smashes which makes spikes highly valuable. Spikes hitstun cannot be reduced by asdi down, however crouch armor still applies.
Attacks with a knockback angle of 361° have a special property of dealing different knockback angles in different contexts.
- When the player being hit is grounded
- If the attack deals up to 32 knockback it will send at 0°
- If the attack deals over 32.1 knockback it will send at 44°
- Between 32 and 32.1 knockback the angle scales linearly between 0° and 44°
- When the player hit is airborne the attack will send at 45°
Hitboxes with transcendent priority cannot clank with other hitboxes meaning they cannot cancel out or be cancelled out by other hitboxes, including other transcendent hitboxes. The following sections refer to moves that do not have transcendent priority.
When two ground attack hitboxes overlap they will clank. Both hitboxes are deactivated for one frame.
On the following frame:
- If the attacks deal within 9% of each other both characters will enter their rebound animation
- If one attack deals over 9% more than the other the character doing the weaker attack will enter rebound and the stronger attack will continue
In the latter case the attack that continues is able to hit the opponent during their rebound.
A rebounding character will suffer a number of freezeframes equal to the hitlag of the higher damage attack. During these freezeframes all hitboxes are disabled.
The character will then enter their rebound animation. The duration of the rebound animation is proportional to the damage of the attack being used by the character. i.e. The character using a lower damage attack will have frame advantage.
Aerials cannot clank with grounded attacks or aerials. They can however clank with projectiles. The aerial will receive freeze frames based on the stronger move as described in the rebound section. If the move deals over 9% more damage than the projectile, the projectile will be destroyed.
Press L or R while grounded to activate your character's Shield and defend against incoming attacks. Shields comes out immediately (frame 1) when input, and generally cover most of the character's body, but there is a short animation of vulnerable recovery when the input is released. How hard you press the trigger button determines what type of Shielding you will use for defense; lightly depressing the trigger will give a slightly transparent and larger shield, typically referred to as a Light Shield, while pressing it all the way down until it clicks will give what may be referred to as a "Standard" or "Hard" Shield. Both types of shielding have their advantages and disadvantages.
Shields will block all hits and damage to the defender from attacks that hit it, at the cost of depleting its health from the hit (but at a lower scaling than the move's normal damage), and putting the defender in shieldstun for a short period of time per hit where they cannot act but can still buffer options for when it ends. Shields start with 60 health, and shield health is drained over time as it is held, but regenerates at a slow rate while not in use. If a shield runs out of health, the shield will break and the defender will be stunned temporarily, allowing for a punish.
Even with a shield up, it is still possible to be hit if the Shield is not physically covering some parts of the defender's body, and getting hit this way is typically referred to as a "shield poke". Shield size and coverage is highly variable per character based on their size and stature, ranging from characters like Sheik and Pikachu having shields that cover them very well, to extremes such as Mr. Game & Watch having lots of exposed hurtboxes and being very vulnerable to getting shield poked, even at full shield health. It should also be noted that as shield health is depleted, the shield will get smaller and cover less of the character's body.
To circumvent this in a way, there is also another mechanic while shielding; Shield Tilting. Lightly pushing the control stick in any direction will make the character angle their shield in the same direction, allowing the defender to better cover themselves in certain situations, even with smaller shields.
For the differences between Light shielding and Standard shielding; Light Shields cover more area around the character (and thus are more impervious to shield pokes), but the defender also takes more shield damage, shieldstun, and pushback when the shield is hit, and also does not have access to Power-Shielding.
For some precise information on Shield health interactions, take a look at the SSBM/Technical Data page.
Power-Shielding (sometimes referred to as just the abbreviation "PS") is a function of shielding only possible with a Standard / Hard Shield.
For the first 4 frames of shielding, there is a smaller reflect bubble within the shield. If a non-projectile attack hits this within those first 4 frames of shield where it is active, the attack will be Power Shielded, resulting in no shield damage being incurred. The amount of pushback from the attack will be increased, but most importantly the shield drop animation can be interrupted with an A move. This enables The ability to counter-attack after shielding an attack if you have proper timing.
This functions differently with projectiles, however. For only the first 2 frames of shield, if a projectile hits the reflect bubble, it is reflected with 0.5x damage, and no blocked attack stipulations such as shield damage, shieldstun, pushback, or hitlag is incurred.
Spotdodging by pressing down while in shield renders the player character fully intangible for some frames, with startup, intangible frames, and endlag varying on a per-character basis, with extremes like Mr. Game & Watch being in lag for more time than he is intangible.
Rolling by pressing left or right while in shield moves the player character in the direction pressed and gives some frames of intangibility. Framedata and distance moved is dependent on character and sometimes on direction of the roll.
Airdodging by pressing L or R and optionally a direction renders the player character fully intangible while in the air and if a direction is pressed moves them a short distance in that direction. The player character is left helpless after an airdodge. Airdodges are intangible from frame 4 (Except Bowser, whose airdodge is intangible frame 3) and have intangibility duration depending on character. The main use of airdodging is to use the momentum given by a directional airdodge to wavedash.
Directional Influence (usually abbreviated as DI) is a mechanic that lets the receiver of an attack affect its trajectory by holding a direction while being hit. DI can be used to make comboing difficult, or to live for longer by DIing to increase travel distance to the blast zone. Effective punish game requires using DI mixups to set up edgeguards or kill.
Smash Directional Influence
Smash directional influence (abbreviated SDI) allows the receiver of an attack to alter their position during hitlag. Upon flicking the stick, the stick's X and Y coordinates will be multiplied by 6 and the player character will be teleported that distance. This can be performed on every hitlag frame except the first, and can be performed several times on the same attack. SDI is useful for escaping multihit moves, infamously decreasing the effectiveness of fox's uThrow uAir combo.
Automatic Smash Directional Influence
Automatic smash directional influence (abbreviated ASDI) is similar to SDI with a few key differences. It multiplies stick values on the last frame of hitlag by 3 thusly moving the player character by half the distance of a comparable SDI and can be buffered. Unlike SDI, you can ASDI from air to ground, making it a very powerful defensive option. ASDI also has the strange property of reading the C-stick values and prioritising them over the analog stick. This allows you to DI in one direction and ASDI in another which unlocks options such as Amsah techs.