Looking for a complicated character to train? You’ve found one! You could say the Ice Climbers are among the most technical Figure Players in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It isn’t a good kind of technical, either, as the Ice Climbers are sometimes held in poor regard. Prior to the 9.0.0 update, the Ice Climbers’ AI was notorious for self-destructing over and over again. The Ice Climbers are solid mid-tier fighters now, but there’s still a lot to learn about them.
If I only had two words to describe the Ice Climbers amiibo, they’d be “kind of disappointing”. Yes, that’s three words, because two can’t properly describe how strange the Ice Climbers’ AI really is. Let’s start with this: the Figure Player’s training only applies to Popo, and Nana is controlled by a completely separate AI that can’t be trained. Problem is, Popo is mostly unaware that Nana exists at all. So you can’t teach them to use desync combos or any of those complicated setups you see on Twitter. In fact, the most complicated combo they can learn is down throw to up air. Yeah.
Previously, the Ice Climbers would self-destruct at least once per match. Popo would be launched off-stage and use his up special before Nana could catch up, get no vertical height, and then fall to his death. For the most part, this has been patched out, but it’s still possible for this to occur by mistake. Trainers still need to teach their Ice Climbers amiibo to stay on-stage to minimize the chance of this happening. AI flaws aside, the Ice Climbers also have slight issues with range, and tend to lose to fighters with higher reach on their attacks (specifically Link).
Assuming the Ice Climbers remain on-stage, they’re pretty solid contenders. Their moves deal a lot of damage, they’ve got a few decent kill moves… they’re not too bad! Those are just 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 personal issues.
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 all the 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 rather 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 explain it better 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).
Even though the Ice Climbers still have issues, they’ve significantly improved over time. And it’s all thanks to our community – spending time training them, writing about their flaws, representing them in tournaments – it all added up to a fantastic AI patch that finally made these characters viable! 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!
If you would like to read more amiibo training guides, please follow this link.