It’s no secret that Ness’s Figure Player is one of the strongest in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. He has one of the best movesets in the game, a variety of kill options, and solid tournament results. It’s well established that Ness is a top-tier threat, but he still has his weaknesses — and that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.
I’m not going to pretend that Ness’s base moveset isn’t good, because it is. It’s really good, in fact. Most – actually, all – of Ness’s flaws stem from his AI. But if I’m going to nitpick, there are a few moves that can put Ness in tough positions. One of these is his up tilt. For whatever reason, Ness’s base AI likes to use several up tilts in a row — even if you don’t teach it to. Up tilt has a really small hitbox, and its horizontal coverage is almost nonexistent. If Ness’s AI decides to try an up tilt at the wrong time, it could be lights out. However, up tilt is nothing compared to what I believe is Ness’s worst move: his down tilt. Down tilt is fast, but deals low damage and knockback. In a similar case as up tilt, the AI uses this move several times in a row. It never uses just one down tilt. This leaves Ness open to attack and, once again, this tendency cannot be completely cancelled out via training. It’s hard-coded. You’re going to be hearing a lot of that word, because a lot of Ness’s problems are hard-coded.
Another problem Ness faces is with his neutral special, PK Flash. It has been slightly nerfed from Super Smash Bros. 4 in that its kill power has been significantly reduced. In the previous title, Ness FPs would edgeguard with PK Flash (as they were not capable of chasing opponents with PK Thunder until Ultimate), but that proves to be a liability in this new metagame. Ness is left vulnerable while charging, and – most importantly – Ness can’t charge it. If the AI goes for PK Flash, it will often use it uncharged, leaving itself horribly vulnerable. This quirk has fallen off in recent game patches, but it still reveals itself every so often — and, once again, it can’t be ironed out with extensive training. It’s hard-coded.
Most of Ness’s other moves are quite good. Up smash, PK Fire, PK Thunder, and back throw are some obvious ones, but there are a few other moves I like to teach to my Ness amiibo. Up throw is kind of slept on, as it gets the enemy into the air where Ness can then chase with PK Thunder. Up aerial deals a lot of damage if all of its hits connect, and it serves as a fantastic kill move.
AI Flaws & Quirks
As mentioned earlier, Ness’s AI likes to use its up tilt, down tilt, and PK Flash even if it is not specifically trained to do so. This behavior can be minimized, but not removed, with extra training. Although Ness is a strong character, his AI has a massive number of problems. Let’s start with the obvious one: its recovery.
Now, Ness’s recovery is rather exploitable no matter who (or in this case, what) is controlling him. But Ness’s AI brings “exploitable” to a whole new level. Let’s say a Ness amiibo is knocked off-stage. It could use its double jump to snap to the edge and make a comeback, right? It almost never does that. Instead, it will burn its double jump to fire itself at the edge with PK Thunder. This means that the AI will always use PK Thunder to recover, leaving itself wide open to incoming attacks and projectiles. And believe me when I say that a lot of characters can take advantage of this vulnerability.
One of these fighters is Ridley, who I believe can fully counter Ness. Ness’s AI always recovers at the same horizontal angle… and it just so happens that Ridley’s Plasma Breath intercepts that angle and destroys Ness’s PK Thunder. In short, if you train a Ridley amiibo to use its neutral special at the edge, you’ll find that it often KOs opposing Ness amiibo at extremely early percentages (we’re talking ten to twenty percent here). If your Ridley amiibo is trained to attack off-stage, that works too, but Plasma Breath is a surefire stock-closer.
Humorously, Pichu (a known low-tier fighter) can destroy Ness’s PK Thunder with one Thunder Jolt. On that note, any off-stage fighter can intercept Ness’s recovery and gimp him at a low percentage. Zelda, Lucas, Pit, Pikachu, and Isabelle are some great examples of this. To sum it up, the second Ness leaves or is knocked off the stage, there is the possibility that he will be gimped.
Despite being a high-tier character, I believe Ness suffers from several losing matchups. Of course, as I mentioned before, Ridley is one of these matchups, as he is able to gimp Ness at very low percentages. There are a few others that give Ness trouble, too, and we’ll start with Dr. Mario.
Now, compared to Mario, Dr. Mario has an enhanced gimping ability. The doctor doesn’t have Mario’s meteor-smashing forward aerial, but he does have a meteor-smashing down aerial that comes out much faster. Dr. Mario often closes out his stocks with down aerials, and they are especially effective against Ness before he completes his PK Thunder rotation. If Ness is knocked too far away from the stage, even a successful PK Thunder won’t cut it. But Dr. Mario’s greatest tool against Ness is his side special, Super Sheet. Ness doesn’t like reflectors, and Dr. Mario’s is rather fast. Ness’s best moves – PK Fire and PK Thunder – are completely invalidated by Super Sheet. A Dr. Mario amiibo trained to use Super Sheet in the air can completely avoid being juggled by PK Thunder and can reflect PK Fire back in Ness’s face.
In a similar vein as Dr. Mario, Zelda can reflect PK Fire and PK Thunder with her neutral special, Nayru’s Love. To add to this, Zelda has an even stronger off-stage game as Dr. Mario. Her forward and back aerials inflict massive knockback when sweetspotted, and her down aerial has a slightly wider range. Most importantly, however, is that Zelda has a stronger recovery, making it safer for her to go off-stage compared to Dr. Mario, whose recovery is noticeably weaker.
Villager, Isabelle, Yoshi, Mewtwo, Mii Swordfighter, Lucas, Pikachu, Pichu, Pit, Dark Pit, and a few others can give Ness trouble, too. Ultimately, however, Ness’s AI botches its recovery to the point where it can even lose advantageous matchups. As an amiibo, Ness runs hot and cold. When he’s on stage, he is difficult to stop, but as soon as he is thrown off-stage, he is in danger.
Ness certainly has his flaws. A “fully optimized” Ness might be lame to watch, but that’s amiibo training for you. Personally, I feel that Ness is the best kind of top tier – strong, but with a glaring and exploitable weakness. This is why we banned Bowser and Incineroar: they were even stronger than Ness and did not have as significant a weakness. I’m certainly biased towards Ness, as I was mostly responsible for his top-tier position in both Smash 4 and Ultimate, but I feel that although Ness is powerful, he is not “broken” and is certainly nowhere near the level of Bowser and Incineroar. To those of you struggling to beat Ness in tournaments, try going off-stage a bit more. If your favorite character has a projectile that is affected by gravity, try teaching them to throw it off-stage every once in a while. And if you need more help, feel free to join our Discord server and ask a question! Thanks for reading — until next time!