In a way, Ness is kind of like the poster child of competitive amiibo training. For as long as his amiibo figure has existed, he’s either been one of the best fighters in the metagame or one of the most discussed. We’ve got tons of resources available for those of you looking to train a Ness amiibo of your own — his Super Smash Bros. 4 training guide, his Super Smash Bros. Ultimate training guide, and a long-form essay about his metagame position and matchups. Take your pick!
Strengths & Weaknesses
In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Ness is an excellent example of a glass cannon. When uncontested, he hits incredibly hard and can rack on ludicrous amounts of damage in just a few seconds. On the ground, this is mainly thanks to PK Fire; he can shoot it from a distance and then continue attacking an opponent trapped in the flames. Figure Players cannot learn to SDI out of the flames, so they take much more damage from PK Fire than a human would. When Ness’s opponent is in the air, they become vulnerable to his signature PK Thunder juggling. FPs in this game struggle to counter PK Thunder, and often mistime their air dodge and let themselves get hit by the projectile. As a result, Ness is often able to rack up tons of damage or KO an opponent outright by spamming PK Thunder from a distance. His aerial game is also excellent; his up air can drag victims down for combos and his back air packs tons of power. Finally, his down throw can set up into a forward or back air and his back throw is one of the strongest kill throws in the game.
As a result of his extreme on-stage power, Ness is considered one of the strongest FPs in Ultimate. So much so, in fact, that he has occasionally been the target of bans in certain trainers’ self-hosted tournaments. However, no official ban ever came to fruition; this is because Ness has severe weaknesses that skilled trainers can easily take advantage of. His recovery AI is almost identical to its appearance in Smash 4. When knocked off-stage, Ness consistently wastes his double jump to aim at the ledge with PK Thunder, which leaves him horribly vulnerable to aerials or well-spaced projectiles. As a result, anytime Ness is launched off-stage, he is very likely to fall to his death – even at 0%. Furthermore, opponents that perfect shield often have a rather easy time making it past PK Fire and PK Thunder, since both attacks only strike once. Ness also struggles against enemies who can absorb or reflect his projectiles; the Lucas matchup is nearly unwinnable for him because he can heal off of Ness’s projectiles and survive off-stage. It’s also important to note that Ness cannot juggle fast-fallers like Fox or Mii Brawler, as they fall too fast to be hit by PK Thunder.
Overall, Ness runs hot and cold. If his opponent never launches him off-stage, Ness is almost certainly one of the five best FPs available. Unfortunately, when he is launched off-stage, Ness turns into one of the worst. Trainers looking to specifically counter Ness in tournaments are encouraged to use characters like Snake, Ridley, Mr. Game & Watch, and Lucas – all fighters who Ness often struggles against.
Many of Ness’s most significant flaws stem from outdated AI quirks carried over from Smash 4. When Ness is launched off-stage, he almost always wastes his double jump to then aim at the ledge with PK Thunder. Specifically, when he wastes his double jump, he jumps slightly away from the stage. This leaves him terribly vulnerable to projectiles, aerials, and meteor smashes; as a result, he is occasionally KO’d at extremely low percentages. On-stage, PK Thunder is one of Ness’s best moves, but his AI has a few quirks using it as well. When Ness is in the middle of using PK Thunder to chase an opponent, he can be tricked into hitting himself with the projectile and self-destructing. This usually happens against fighters who can switch – Pokémon Trainer and Pyra/Mythra, to be exact. When these characters switch, there is a brief moment in between the swap where no opponent is on-screen. If there is not a target on-screen for Ness to chase with PK Thunder, the AI will stop aiming it. Sometimes, it will accidentally hit itself!
Ness has a few other problems, too. If he is standing on a platform and perfect-shields an attack from below, he will almost always use an uncharged PK Flash that never hits immediately afterward. On that note, Ness’s AI is actually incapable of properly using PK Flash in the first place – it never charges the attack. Stages like Kalos Pokémon League and Northern Cave have soft platforms that stick out over the bottom blast zone. When Ness drops down off of one of these, he may consider himself off-stage and line up a PK Thunder recovery, which leaves him vulnerable to attack.
In summary, Ness’s AI is incredibly flawed and is the one thing holding him back from being one of the top five best fighters in the game. Along with Bayonetta, Ness has what is arguably one of the worst recoveries in competitive amiibo training. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has been updated to its final version, which means that Ness’s AI will never be fixed. Furthermore, its recovery angles and tendencies cannot be adjusted through training.
Metagame History (Super Smash Bros. 4)
Super Smash Bros. 4’s first amiibo figures were released in November 2014. As a result, you might think that the Smash 4 metagame started around this time, but that’s actually not the case — it took almost a year for there to be any kind of interest. Ness’s amiibo figure was released as a GameStop exclusive in May 2015, so by the time his Figure Player was made available, tournaments weren’t going strong just yet. They never really did, to be honest — in Smash 4, there were no more than five tours per month and only a handful of dedicated trainers were present for each one. Point is, despite being released several months after the first wave of amiibo figures, Ness made waves in early tournaments — and most (if not all) of these waves were caused by Cloud and his Ness amiibo, Super NES.
What quickly became apparent to Smash 4 competitors were Ness’s potent grab options. In this game, his AI was capable of linking a down throw into a forward air. Sure, this was a solid damage-racker, but what really concerned trainers was his nuclear-powered back throw. Smash 4’s amiibo Buff boosted the strength and knockback of their attacks by 1.5x, meaning that Ness could finish off an only slightly weakened opponent both easily and consistently. At this rate, Ness was going to cement himself as the most powerful fighter available — but trainers adapted, and this never came to fruition. Smash 4 tournaments allowed and encouraged trainers to equip their FPs with stats and bonus effects, and it just so happened that one of these effects made Ness’s back throw essentially non-functional: Improved escapability. With this, the user would escape from grabs before being thrown unless their damage percentage exceeded around 200%. As you might expect, the surge in FPs running Improved escapability caused Ness’s viability to tank.
After Critical-hit capability and Explosive perfect shield (two heavily-centralizing bonus effects) were banned, Marth and Lucina became the two best characters in competitive tournaments. Smash 4’s AI reacted poorly to multi-hit attacks, and would always drop its shield when faced with a move with several strikes. This was the case for Marth and Lucina’s side specials, Dancing Blade, and Ness unfortunately had few answers for this maneuver. Each of his attacks was either too slow or too short-ranged to be able to contend, which resulted in a mostly poor matchup against these two fighters. By the end of the metagame, though, Bowser was actually considered Ness’s worst matchup — he could use Flying Slam to outspeed any of his close-ranged options and then finish him off with a strong smash attack.
Despite his poor top-level matchups, Ness boasted a variety of unique strengths that ensured his spot in the tier list’s higher rankings. Up smash, PK Fire, and PK Thunder 2 were among his most important tools; the former two are rather self-explanatory. In the case of PK Thunder 2, Ness’s AI was actually hard-coded to launch itself at opponents as a grounded attack. Believe it or not, this worked incredibly well because FPs in this game were often blind to its hitbox properties. It was rather risky against fighters with counter moves, who would be able to one-hit KO Ness if they were to successfully counter his electrical rocket. Still, between these three tools (plus a sprinkle of jab, forward tilt, and down smash), Ness was able to hold his own well enough in late Smash 4 tournaments. He wasn’t the strongest contender around, but was certainly up there among some of the best.
Metagame History (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate)
Ness went on to make even more waves in the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate metagame. When this game was first released, trainers initially thought his FP had been nerfed. As mentioned earlier, Ness is now easily picked off as he tries to recover back to the stage. This often results in KOs at very low percentages; as a result of this, Ness’s first few tournaments were a complete flop.
No significant developments were made until late 2019, and no significant results were accrued until early 2020 — when PK Fire and PK Thunder spam became commonplace. At this point in the metagame, trainers didn’t know how to counter this strategy, so there were several calls for complete bans on the character. However, no official ruleset ever complied with this, and Ness quickly fell off afterward due to a relative lack of representation. Nowadays, Ness is high-tier, but not necessarily top-tier. He’s ranked within the A tier on all (vanilla) amiibo tier lists.
If you’re looking for additional training resources, look no further! We’ve got much more content available on Ness to help you raise a powerful FP. Remember to join our Discord community if you have any further questions!
Training Guide (SSB4) – Training Guide (SSBU) – Long-Form Essay
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