Looking for a complicated character to train? You’ve found them! The Ice Climbers are arguably the most technical Figure Player in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It isn’t a good kind of complexity, either, as the Ice Climbers are often held in poor regard. There are a lot of puzzling intricacies to learn about them, most of which are disappointing. Prepare yourself – physically, mentally, and emotionally – because this guide contains information that’s tough to swallow.
If I only had two words to describe the Ice Climbers amiibo, they’d be “a huge disappointment”. Yes, that’s three words, because two words can’t properly describe the community’s collective feelings towards this character. Without delaying any further, let’s talk about why the Ice Climbers are so troubled. First, Popo is the character being trained. The Figure Player’s training only applies to Popo; Nana is controlled by a separate AI that cannot be trained. Simple enough, right? Well, Popo doesn’t know Nana is on his team. That’s right: the Ice Climbers amiibo is completely unaware that Nana exists at all. If Nana’s shield is broken, her own partner will walk up and begin charging a smash attack even though it won’t connect. Yes, it’s that bad.
Popo’s lack of awareness ultimately brings the team down to the bottom tiers of the Exion amiibo metagame. When recovering, Popo and Nana must be together or else their up special will “break” and grant almost no distance at all. The problem is, since Popo doesn’t know Nana exists, he will use his up special regardless of Nana’s position. This means he won’t wait for her to drop down, he’ll just use it, fail, and then fall to his death. Most of the Ice Climbers’ tournament games end in self-destructs such as these. Worse still is that this issue is hard-coded in Popo’s AI, preventing trainers from fixing it.
As long as the Ice Climbers avoid going off-stage, though, they’re decent contenders. Their moves deal a lot of damage, they’ve got decent range, decent kill moves… in other words, they’re decent. Those are the basics, but if you’d like to read even more about the Ice Climbers, you can check out their wiki page as well as a long-form essay I wrote about their problems.
If Spirits are your thing, try to equip your Ice Climbers with a setup before you start training them. If not, that’s fine, but you’ll need to brush up their skills with a few mirror matches afterwards. The Ice Climbers require a very specific playstyle to hold their own, and feeding them Spirits changes their move priorities.
Armor Knight and Trade-Off Ability ↑ brings a wide variety of benefits to the table. First, the bonuses only apply to Popo (and not Nana), which is actually a good thing! This setup makes Popo slightly slower than Nana, allowing her to more easily catch up to him when separated. Popo’s Attack and Defense are also greatly increased, allowing him to inflict more damage and keep his feet on the ground. That’s very important.
Unfortunately, Armor Knight is banned from most competitive tournaments, leaving the Ice Climbers with a rather subpar selection. Said selection would include Additional Midair Jump and Weapon Attack ↑. In terms of stats, a balanced setup (2100 / 2100) works just fine. You could give a bit more focus to Defense, but that’s entirely optional.
It’s especially important that you mirror match your Ice Climbers amiibo until it reaches Level 50. This might seem intimidating, especially if you’ve seen crazy Ice Climbers combos on Twitter. Let’s get this out of the way in case it isn’t clear: the Ice Climbers FP cannot desync, combo, or perform any character-specific advanced techniques. Unfortunately, you’ll be wasting your time if you try. The scope of Popo’s AI is limited, so we have to work with what we’ve got.
The Ice Climbers have a decent amount of neutral options. Their neutral attack is somewhat slow, but the two hits can keep enemies away while racking up solid damage. Forward tilt has decent range and power, but comes out a bit too slowly and can be easily shielded. Up tilt should be used to catch landings and can even be spammed against enemies at low percentages. Down tilt is where it’s at, though. Down tilt is the Ice Climbers’ best grounded move and is one of their few distinct advantages. It’s got respectable range and speed, but its knockback angle is what makes it so good. It launches opponents horizontally, which eventually forces them off-stage.
Though Popo’s grab range is short, the Ice Climbers do benefit from successful throw. Down throw links into an up aerial, which the duo should then spam against airborne enemies. Up throw serves the same function, as it can lead into a powerful up aerial chain. In general, up air is a solid move with a wide hitbox and KO power at high percentages. Popo’s forward and back throws don’t launch their victims very far, and thus should be avoided. Basically, when grabbing at low percentages, Popo should use down throw; at high percentages, he should use up throw. Juggling with up aerials, up tilts, and up smashes are a notable portion of the Ice Climbers’ game plan.
Unfortunately, the Ice Climbers have a limited number of KO options. Their smash attacks are about average in terms of their speed, power, and range, but can KO enemies at mid-to-high percentages nonetheless. And that’s about it! Again, they can’t pull off ridiculous combos, so they’ll need to rack up damage via down tilts and juggling before ending their enemy’s stock with a well-timed smash attack.
I’ve hinted at this a few times, but I’ll come out and say it now: the Ice Climbers should remain on stage at all times. No gimping, no chasing, nothing. It’s too risky, as one attack is all it takes to separate the climbers. There are a lot of moves that need to be avoided when training the Ice Climbers, too: forward air, down air, Ice Shot, and Blizzard. Squall Hammer and Belay should only be used for recovery. In the case of the former, the AI will use Squall Hammer near the edge and then fall off and die. The rest of the Ice Climbers’ moves work well enough, though some are better than others (down tilt and juggling).
Of all the Figure Players available, the Ice Climbers may be difficult to train. I’m not going to sugar-coat it: you’re going to have trouble with these guys. That’s just how it is. Every attack they can land, every self-destruct they can avoid, and every enemy they can beat are all checks in the win column. Do note that the Ice Climbers fare much better in Stamina matches where they cannot be launched off-stage (and are considered high-tier as a result). Of course, most tournaments run plain old stock matches, which causes the climbers to struggle. Once again, I’ve written a wiki page and a really long essay on Popo and Nana, so be sure to bookmark those for later if you’re interested. If you’ve got any more questions, drop by our Discord server and ask away! Thanks so much for reading! Best of luck, and until next time!
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