In Super Smash Bros. 4
Ness is currently placed in the A tier in Super Smash Bros. 4. As one of the most threatening fighters available, Ness was once a metagame-defining threat. His powerful back throw was one of the most reliable finishers in the entire game – that is, until the Improved escapability bonus became standard and essentially invalidated the move. Even without his back throw to rely on, Ness is still a potent contender. PK Fire and PK Thunder 2 are among the best tools in his arsenal; the former links into itself and racks up incredible amounts of damage very quickly, while the latter serves as a trump card of sorts that inflicts huge damage and knockback.
However, Ness is held back by several glaring flaws. Despite being high-tier, he has trouble against several fighters; his matchups against Marth and Lucina are poor, and his matchup against Bowser is nearly unwinnable. Furthermore, Ness’ recovery is exploitable; fighters with projectiles (examples include Mario, Link, and King Dedede) will send them off-stage in an attempt to interrupt his up special. As mentioned before, the presence of Improved escapability hinders Ness’ otherwise stellar grab game, removing the option of his back throw as a quick and reliable kill move.
Ness is one of the most successful characters in Smash 4 (albeit not to the level of Marth, Lucina or Bowser) and has accrued excellent tournament results and representation. Throughout most of the metagame, a portion of Ness’ results were from Cloud and Super NES, but trainers like Supernova and FarmingSim found success with the character as well.
If you would like to read the Super Smash Bros. 4 Ness amiibo training guide, please refer to this post.
In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Ness received a mix of buffs and nerfs for his appearance in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but is considered to be nerfed overall. Despite this, he has received a solid amount of positive changes; these include enhancements to his aerial and grounded mobility and less ending lag on his up smash and aerial moves. His most notable buffs, however, are to PK Fire and PK Thunder: the former has less startup and ending lag, deals more damage, and has a larger hitbox; the latter deals increased damage and the AI will now edgeguard faraway opponents with the ball of electricity (whereas in the past it would only fire itself on-stage with PK Thunder 2).
However, Ness suffers from a slew of flaws that hold him back from top-tier status. His AI has been updated from Smash 4, and though it benefits from being able to utilize combos, its recovery maneuvers have not been updated. It will always fire itself at the edge of the stage with PK Thunder even if it could have used a double jump to recover. This makes Ness more vulnerable than ever to edgeguarding, as the AI will always freeze in place when recovering. As a result, he has a poor matchup against characters that are comfortable off-stage and can gimp opponents (examples include Captain Falcon and Lucas, among others). Furthermore, Ness’ AI has gained a new flaw; it can no longer charge PK Flash and will use it uncharged at inappropriate times. This leaves the character vulnerable to attack.
Despite Ness’ nerfs, he has seen above average tournament representation and results. His transition to Ultimate started off weak, but Cloud was able to win several tournaments with the character and prove that he retains a good amount of his viability from the previous title. Supernova and DONkLE have also found success with him. Overall, Ness is not as strong as in Smash 4, but is still a powerful contender in the right hands.
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