Shulk is a great example of a fighter who’s been strong in both his Super Smash Bros. 4 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate amiibo forms. Of course, he was strong in both games for different reasons, though. We’ve got quite a few resources available to those of you looking to train a Shulk amiibo of your own: the Smash 4 guide and the Smash Ultimate guide.
Strengths & Weaknesses
On paper, Shulk is a simple character. In Ultimate, his game plan consists of his forward smash and not much else. Indeed, it’s among the most powerful options in the game; it deals great damage and knockback and hits twice. As we know, Figure Players in this game almost always fail to block every strike of a multi-hit attack, and so Shulk is often able to score free damage even against heavily defensive opponents. Thanks to his sword, the Monado, Shulk boasts an excellent attack range that certain characters simply cannot deal with. This range also lets Shulk clear a safe landing with forward air (or even Vision), meaning he can easily defend against being juggled. Finally, although Shulk’s AI often misuses its Monado Arts, they can significantly boost his kit if the correct Art is used at the right time.
That being said, Shulk’s over-reliance on forward smash can come back to bite him. Most of the time, opponents won’t properly block the move. However, if the opponent has a projectile, they can simply stay far away and spam the projectile and Shulk won’t have much of an answer to it. He also has a bit of trouble countering jumpy opponents; his up smash is strong, but it’s rather slow and easily avoided. Shulk’s AI has a tendency to spam certain attacks, which is why his optimal training only involves a few moves. Lastly, though Monado Arts can be beneficial, they can also hurt Shulk; for example, using the Smash art when Shulk is highly damaged but his opponent is not. And yes, the AI is wonky enough to try this on its own.
Overall, Shulk is easy to train — in theory, that is. His optimal moveset only includes a few attacks, but his AI’s misuse of Monado Arts and his lack of an answer to projectiles hold him back. As a result, you might find your Shulk FP losing to fighters with projectiles, moving hitboxes, or attacks that come out faster than Shulk’s forward smash and forward tilt. Some examples of problematic matchups would be Lucas, Captain Falcon, and Kirby, among others.
As mentioned previously, Shulk’s AI is not proficient with its Monado Arts. It often selects Arts that are completely inappropriate for the situation at hand; in some cases, this may even hinder Shulk’s progress in the match. Whenever Shulk is launched off-stage, the AI will switch to the Jump Art — even if he was barely launched (if Jump is not available, it will switch to Speed instead). With the Jump Art active, Shulk’s up special, Air Slash, gains increased distance. The AI doesn’t know this, though, and recovers back to the stage assuming Air Slash has its normal height. This means Shulk will sometimes recover too high and miss the ledge, giving his enemy a great opportunity to strike.
Another flaw you might notice is that the FP may use Air Slash immediately after dropping down through a soft platform. This isn’t too unusual; several FPs have odd hard-coded platform routines. For example, Ness and Lucas use uncharged neutral specials after they perfect shield an attack while standing on a platform! Finally, Shulk’s AI may use Back Slash if it’s launched extremely high in the air… even if it winds up falling off-stage and to its death.
In conclusion, Shulk’s heavily flawed AI is part of why his optimal training routine forgoes so many moves. Since his Monado Art selection is essentially random, we avoid using the move altogether. It’s important to note that most (if not all) of these AI flaws were carried over from Smash 4, and were not fixed in the transition to Ultimate.
Metagame History (Super Smash Bros. 4)
Shulk was stronger in Smash 4 than he is in Smash Ultimate. In this game, Shulk’s smash attacks are incredibly powerful; he can even use Critical-hit capability to help his forward and down smashes shatter a full shield. Alongside these, Shulk has access to the strongest counter in the game: Power Vision. This is a custom down special that deals much more damage than usual. It’s so powerful, in fact, that Shulk can one-hit KO Bowser and Ganondorf if he counters just one of their smash attacks. As a result, he was ranked in the A tier in the Smash 4 tier list’s final revision.
Though Shulk boasts many promising strengths, he is plagued with just as many flaws holding him back. A general rule of thumb in Smash is that great power comes with great lag, and Shulk is no exception: his strongest moves are horribly slow and can be taken advantage of if they miss. Shulk’s AI likes to use Back Slash off the edge and to its death, and it also shuffles through its Monado Arts while recovering (therefore becoming distracted and self-destructing). Shulk also prioritizes the Jump and Speed Arts over the much superior Buster, Smash, and Shield Arts.
In spite of his many weaknesses, Shulk has accrued great tournament results and representation. Supernova (among many others) has found success with Shulk, helping cement his position as a top-tier character. Though Critical-hit capability would significantly increase his damage output, most of these results were obtained after the bonus was banned from competitive play.
Metagame History (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate)
Character-wise, Shulk was undeniably buffed for his appearance in Smash Ultimate. He runs faster, his attacks execute quicker, and his smash attacks inflict even more knockback. Unfortunately, and as mentioned before, none of his AI flaws from Smash 4 were fixed for this game, and it didn’t take trainers very long to notice that. By 2020, most trainers had given up on the prospect of teaching the Shulk amiibo to use its Monado Arts.
In 2022, amiibo personalities were finally cracked, and it was found that Shulk’s FP data saves character-specific functions. It’s currently estimated that these may somehow relate to Monado Arts, but at the time of writing, testing has not led to any concrete conclusions. His Monado Art selection still appears to be random while on-stage. Though Shulk’s optimal training is mostly solved otherwise, there may someday be a new revelation regarding the function of these character-specific values.
If you’re looking for more training resources, we have a few for Shulk that we mentioned toward the beginning! If you have any questions, you’re welcome to join our Discord community and ask as many as you want. Good luck!
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