We’re all familiar with training amiibo in Super Smash Bros. 4 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Having appeared in two consecutive titles (three if you count Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS), amiibo training might even be considered a series mainstay from this point on. But if amiibo training had been present in earlier titles? Today we’re going to take a look at AI in Super Smash Bros. Melee and try to figure out how amiibo may have behaved.
General AI Overview
By all accounts, Super Smash Bros. Melee’s AI was flat-out stupid. Top Melee players make use of many advanced techniques, and the AI cannot properly utilize a single one of them. Their play styles are incredibly basic compared to those seen in tournament play. According to research posted by SmashWiki, Melee CPU players try and approach opponents by using projectiles and then spamming grabs and jabs at point blank. They rarely dash at all, which is a huge detriment to their mobility (especially against human players). They also fail to charge smash attacks and certain characters overuse specific moves for no apparent reason. Furthermore, they rarely block or dodge incoming attacks and often walk right into danger without a second thought.
In Smash 4 and Ultimate, we know that amiibo AI is essentially a beefed up version of its Level 9 CPU AI; if amiibo were present in Melee, it would be safe to assume this would be the case. Given that CPUs utilize grabs and jabs at close range, it can be concluded that characters whose grab and neutral attacks are strong would be considered higher-tier. Keep in mind that Melee AI uses a random throw after grabbing an enemy; this means it won’t try to throw them off the stage.
Just like in Smash 4, AI in Melee rarely attempts to edgeguard opponents and will simply stand at the ledge and wait. This means that characters with interceptable recoveries (namely Ness) have an easier time returning to the stage; as a result, a theoretical Melee amiibo metagame would have less of an emphasis on recoveries.
With the help of more research by SmashWiki as well as Melee AI tier lists, a loose assumption of each character’s viability can be made. Since AI in Melee rarely use smash attacks, matches would take quite a bit to complete; this would likely result in a 2-stock format (rather than 3-stock). And because CPU characters seem to have trouble traversing stages, it is likely that Yoshi’s Story, Battlefield, Dream Land, and Final Destination would be the only ones allowed in tournaments. Fountain of Dreams is often banned in competitive play due to lag; however, CPUs are unaffected by lag and will act exactly the same with or without.
- Mario / Dr. Mario: Mario and Dr. Mario still have their three-hit neutral attacks. Mario’s deals 8%, while Dr. Mario’s deals 13%. Notably, Dr. Mario’s back throw is the second strongest in the game; assuming the AI would use it against a damaged opponent (recall that AI randomly select the type of throw they use) it would serve as an excellent kill move. Both Mario and Dr. Mario may self-destruct when trying to use their forward aerials against an off-stage opponent and will often use Super Jump Punch as an off-stage attack which would leave them vulnerable.
- Luigi: The AI never uses Super Jump Punch to recover and will only ever use Green Missile; to add to this, it also uses Green Missile as an attack, which is never a good idea. Despite these flaws, Luigi has damaging throws and a solid jab, which would likely make him a solid choice.
- Donkey Kong: Strong moves and a cargo throw seem like great advantages, but they are offset by Donkey Kong’s poor recovery. Maybe mid- to low-tier?
- Link / Young Link: CPUs don’t seem to know how to deal with projectiles. Link and Young Link have a lot of them, which would work out in their favor! The AI doesn’t angle its Boomerang, but this is only a minor problem considering that AI seems to stay mostly grounded in the first place. As Link’s attacks deal more damage, he would likely be a stronger pick than Young Link.
- Samus: One of the only projectile-heavy characters besides Link and Young Link. Samus might be a decent character due to her powerful Charge Shot, Missile, and Bomb attacks. Her tether grab, however, may be detrimental due to its slow speed.
- Yoshi: The character’s AI shares some traits with Smash 4’s early Yoshi AI — namely, it overuses Egg Throw against airborne enemies and spams Egg Lay against grounded ones. Still, Yoshi has some strong attacks, and Egg Lay may allow the character to get a few free hits in.
- Kirby: Kirby is the worst character in competitive Melee, and he may also have been the worst character in competitive Melee amiibo training. In addition to being floaty and easy to KO, Kirby’s AI heavily spams Inhale until it copies an opponent. It will then spam its copied neutral special. Most neutral specials in this game aren’t good to spam, so it wouldn’t get Kirby anywhere.
- Fox / Falco: The AI can’t utilize Fox and Falco nearly as effectively as top Melee players. Their individual attacks are quite weak, with their smash attacks being among their only reliable finishers. But the AI doesn’t use them, which leaves the rare up aerial as one of their only options.
- Pikachu / Pichu: These two may have been among the worst amiibo in the game. Their attacks are rather weak and are intended to be chained together, which the AI cannot do. Their smash attacks are strong, but the AI rarely uses those either. It doesn’t help that Pichu’s attacks inflict recoil damage (and it takes much more recoil than it does in Ultimate).
- Jigglypuff: Just like in Smash 4, Jigglypuff’s Melee AI never uses Rest. It’s probably for the best, too, as the AI in this game is inept to the point where it would never land it. Given that Jigglypuff is the lightest character in the game, it would have been a lower-tier character in amiibo play.
- Captain Falcon: Similarly to Ganondorf, the AI spams Falcon Punch and Raptor Boost. It will always use Raptor Boost after using a forward throw or down throw even if he travels off-stage and falls through the bottom blast zone. The AI also tries to edgeguard with its down aerial even if it cannot successfully return to the stage. Perhaps Falcon would have been mid-tier?
- Ganondorf: Very strong attacks and a frame 3 jab that possesses actual KO power. Ganondorf would be in contention for best character in the game due to his overwhelming raw strength. It’s worth noting that Ganondorf almost always wins AI tournaments and apparently defeats every other character. So, yes, definitely in contention for the top spot.
- Ness: Spams PK Flash, never uses PSI Magnet, and recovers low. This character would have been a mess as an amiibo. One key advantage is that his enemies wouldn’t have tried to intercept his recovery, but it doesn’t go very far in the first place. Low-tier.
- Peach: The CPU almost never floats and will apparently hover in place when it does decide to. It also overuses Peach Bomber. Peach might be a decent option, but the AI definitely underutilizes the character’s key advantages.
- Bowser: Has a very strong jab and even stronger throws. The AI uses Fire Breath at random and, similarly to Smash 4 and even Ultimate, uses Bowser Bomb when there is an opponent under it. The Bowser CPU never shields projectiles, either, so it would have a somewhat poor matchup against projectile-oriented fighters.
- Zelda: Seems to spam down tilt against close-ranged opponents. Doesn’t use its neutral special to reflect projectiles and often recovers low. Seems like Zelda wouldn’t be the best option.
- Sheik: Zelda can transform into Sheik in this game (unlike in Smash 4 and Ultimate). Sheik’s attacks are rather weak, but the character’s AI isn’t as flawed as Zelda’s. Sheik would likely be the better half.
- Mewtwo: Very light and floaty, which makes its durability rather poor. If it finds itself charging Shadow Ball in midair, it will continue to do so until it hits the ground or falls off the level and self-destructs. It also recovers low. May have been a low-tier character.
- Ice Climbers: If Ultimate is any indication, Melee’s Ice Climbers AI probably doesn’t know Nana exists at all! Since AI is calmer (and stupider) in this game compared to Ultimate, Nana might not be knocked away as easily. Could have been mid tier or low tier.
- Marth / Roy: In contrast to Smash 4, neither Marth nor Roy will ever use their Counter move. Marth has a tipper, which means he functions best at a distance, while Roy’s sweetspot is the hilt of his blade. Marth would have been the better of the two.
- Mr. Game & Watch: Mr. Game & Watch’s AI is silly because it uses Oil Panic even if there is no projectile to absorb. It’ll just hold out its bucket and wait for a second and then put it away. Also recovers low. Probably mid- to low-tier.
It’s neat to think about what kind of amiibo metagame Super Smash Bros. Melee could have had. Of course, this was never on the table to begin with, but it can never hurt to speculate! Thanks again to SmashWiki for providing information on Melee AI. I may have done a bit of research myself, too.