It’s been quite a while since we’ve had one of these posts! Lame titles aside, these are my long-form essays on specific Figure Player characters. Back in March, I attempted to explain to readers that Ness is a beatable FP, and in May of last year, I wrote a thousand-word rant on the Ice Climbers amiibo. This time, we’re talking about Pichu! Now, I get the feeling that quite a few of you out there have Pichu’s amiibo, especially compared to the Ness and Ice Climbers amiibo, which weren’t released quite as recently. So hopefully this is relevant to more of you!
The three FPs I’ve worked with most in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are Ness, the Ice Climbers, and Pichu. In that order. Luckily, Ness has worked out pretty well for me! But I can’t say the same about the other two, because they’ve both at one point been considered among the worst in the game. So, what’s Pichu’s problem, then? Isn’t it top-tier in competitive Smash Bros.? All of the answers and more (maybe) in today’s post!
Most Figure Players have decent movesets, but suffer from poor AI. Pichu does have a few AI quirks, but they aren’t its downfall. Even its moves aren’t its downfall, actually. As you might expect, Pichu’s lack of weight is its most significant issue, and try as you might, it’s impossible fix. If you don’t already know this, there’s something called the amiibo Buff, and basically, FPs in Ultimate deal around 1.3x more damage than a human player. That boost is baked in, too, so you can’t remove it via Spirits. This means that Pichu faces a big risk of being KOed at a low percentage. We’re going to talk about what Pichu’s weight means for its matchups in a few sections, but for now let’s continue talking about its moveset.
One glaring issue Pichu struggles with is range. Its jab, tilts, and aerials really don’t reach very far, allowing them to be easily outranged. They don’t deal much damage, either; at the time of writing, its forward tilt deals 8%, its up tilt deals 5%, and its down tilt deals 6%. Fortunately, its smash attacks are noticeably stronger. Forward smash is Pichu’s strongest move. Though it has less range than Pikachu’s, it’s more powerful and doesn’t have any sourspots, making it more consistent when it does connect. Down smash is pretty strong, too, and is especially useful at the edge.
Though Pichu’s tilts don’t deal much damage, they do have combo potential. Pichu’s AI is actually kind of impressive when it comes to combos, as it can learn quite a few combo routes. Its up tilt can combo into itself, and up aerial, and then a forward or back aerial. Down throw can also lead into an up air and then forward / back air. Down tilt leads to forward air and up throw can lead to an up air. If you’re new to amiibo training, you might be thinking “these combos are really simple, how are they impressive?”. And you’re right to think that! Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s AI can only combo if said move string has been hard-coded into their artificial intelligence. Most characters don’t have nearly as many combo routes as Pichu. So the fact that Pichu has this many is actually kind of reassuring!
Of course, the title of this post isn’t “a long and drawn-out overview of Pichu’s moveset”, it’s “the problem with Ultimate’s Pichu amiibo”, so let’s talk a bit more about some problems. Those combos work well enough against human players, but they don’t always work against opposing Figure Players, especially when you add Spirits into the mix. If Pichu’s attack stat is too high, its moves might launch opponents too far. Pichu’s AI won’t notice this, though, so it’ll go for the second and third moves of its combo even if they won’t connect. This can leave Pichu vulnerable to punishment, which can be devastating for such a light little mouse.
And we haven’t even mentioned its recoil damage yet! Whenever Pichu uses an electric move, it takes recoil damage. Every move in Pichu’s moveset is electrical except for its jab, up tilt, down tilt, up smash, up air, back throw, up throw, and down throw. Unfortunately, you can’t really train Pichu to only use its non-recoil moves, because then its only kill move is up smash, which is often a bit too weak to finish the job. Pichu has to use its electrical moves. But here’s the issue: in my personal experience, I don’t think Pichu’s AI understands that it takes recoil damage. So if you train it to aggressively attack and rely on electric attacks, it will often spam them and miss, causing it to take recoil damage for no reason.
This is understandably problematic, because Pichu is already the lightest character in the game. It can’t afford to take recoil damage for no reason, so it needs to be trained to somehow be aggressive and passive at the same time. Which is very not possible! So Pichu basically has no choice but to be aggressive. Luckily, a few of Pichu’s moves are really well-suited to its aggressive playstyle. Though its tilts are short-ranged, their combo potential can rack up damage in a pinch, though said combos don’t often lead to KOs. Forward smash is super strong, but needs to be used decisively to minimize Pichu’s recoil damage (and to minimize its risk of being punished, as the move has quite a bit of ending lag). Perhaps Pichu’s best kill move is its down air, though. When landed, it’s a powerful meteor smash that can KO opponents at really low percentages. Pichu’s recovery is also really good, as it can use Skull Bash and Agility to recover from practically anywhere off-stage. Do note that it takes recoil damage for using these moves, and that can add up if Pichu is off-stage for too long.
Down air is most effective against fighters with poor recoveries, as they usually won’t be able to get back after being hit with it. It also helps that down air is very fast, which makes it a bit more spammable. So, to summarize: Pichu suffers from a lack of range, its really light weight, and recoil damage. It does have some tools that help it act aggressive, which keeps it from being the worst character in the game (at the time of writing). That being said, though, training Pichu is kind of a lose-lose. It doesn’t matter whether you train it to be aggressive or defensive in that it is still going to die in just a few hits anyway. My thought is that you might as well assume Pichu’s FP is going to die fast so that you can train it to take advantage of its short time staying alive. Be sure to check out Pichu’s training guide and wiki page if you’re interested in learning even more about the character.
AI Flaws & Quirks
We talked about Pichu’s combo tendencies earlier, and how they don’t always work against opposing FPs. That kind of counts as an AI quirk, but there are a whole bunch more to mention here! Let’s continue with an important note: Pichu doesn’t like using Thunder. When it does use Thunder, it does so when the opponent is above and will be hit by the cloud. The AI won’t use Thunder consistently, though. Not even when trained to. Some trainers report immense trouble getting their Pichu to use Thunder, while others say theirs uses it all the time. This is really inconsistent, and we aren’t too sure why. It could have something to do with that one CPU theory we talked about a while back, but who knows?
I’ve tried teaching my Pichu amiibo up throw to Thunder numerous times, but it hasn’t worked out for me just yet. If Pichu’s FP could use this combo, it would have an even stronger trump card, but unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Perhaps it’s possible for some Pichu amiibo to use up throw into Thunder, but I’d be surprised if this were the case. Of course, it’s also possible that Nintendo patches Pichu’s AI to be more consistent with its Thunder. This wouldn’t be the first time the developers have patched amiibo AI issues we’ve reported on!
Overall, though, Pichu’s AI is solid. But that’s actually kind of a problem in and of itself. Pichu’s Figure Player is flawed by design. Ultimate’s developers would have to buff Pichu as a whole, and one thing the developers do not do is balance characters around Figure Players (understandably so). There are just a few more AI quirks to talk about here. As with all characters, Pichu’s AI is hard-coded. If it’s launched far from the stage horizontally, it will use an uncharged Skull Bash and then Agility (if needed). Try not to get hit by Skull Bash when Pichu tries to recover with it, because then it’s going to start trying to attack you with the move. We definitely don’t want that!
It’s time for the final section: matchups. And oh boy are Pichu’s problematic. As mentioned earlier, Pichu’s AI is solid. It doesn’t have too many issues aside from failing to use Thunder, and it generally makes decent decisions. Problem is, it doesn’t matter how good Pichu’s AI is: it’s going to get hit eventually. And Pichu’s light weight makes its matchups against top-tier fighters almost impossible sometimes. The two best characters in the game right now are Bowser and Incineroar. They’re both really heavy and they both hit really hard. All it takes is two to three hits from one of these guys and Pichu’s a goner! Pichu’s AI has to play perfectly to even begin to contend against them, and no FP can play perfectly. It’s kind of sad!
In general, Pichu tends to lose to characters who hit hard or outrange it. Unfortunately, a lot of fighters fall under those categories. Sword characters give the Tiny Mouse Pokémon immense trouble, too. In my experience, Pichu really struggles to establish a lead in competitive matches. It’s either going to barely keep up or get demolished. There’s only one specific situation where Pichu can get the upper hand: if it’s off-stage with an opponent with a poor recovery. Then it has a chance to land a down air and hopefully seal the deal, but even that isn’t certain.
Unfortunately, the problem with Pichu’s Figure Player in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is that there’s not much room for optimization. No matter how well Pichu is trained, it’s going to be the lightest character in the game. Even the strongest Pichu amiibo will occasionally be KOed at 20% by Ganondorf’s forward smash. And there’s not too much you can do about it! And even though I personally prefer Pichu (who doesn’t?), it’s pretty much confirmed that Pikachu eclipses it in every conceivable way. Pikachu is heavier, stronger, has more range on its forward smash (which is really important), and it doesn’t take recoil damage. It’s a shame, really. But it’s still fun to watch Pichu’s AI try to style on opposing Figure Players with relatively complicated combos and then get destroyed by a forward smash.
To those of you training (or looking to train) a Pichu amiibo, I hope I didn’t discourage you too much with my lecture! I’m going to keep training Pichu, too, because I personally think it’s one of the most fun FPs to train in Ultimate. One thing Pichu does have going for it is that it performs well against human players. And maybe that’s all it needs to be able to do! If you’d like to read more about training Pichu, you can check out our training guide and our wiki page. Be sure to read the general amiibo training guide if you haven’t done so yet, because that’s a great place to start! And of course, you’re always welcome to join our Discord community and ask for help. At any rate, thanks so much for reading — until next time!
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