While Sakurai's own creation during his transition from Smash 64 to Melee it seems Kirby lost a bit of his spunk. He currently is considered the worst character in Melee being ranked 26th on the Melee Tier List. Is Kirby really a hopeless cause in Melee or is there more than meets the eye to this transforming character? We brought in the best Kirby mains around to weigh in!
- Triple R (a.k.a RRR) - Currently ranked 4th on the Minnesota power rankings. Has had close sets with Kels, Fruitloop, KirbyKaze and more. Placed 13th at Kings of the North 4.
- Cereal Rabbit - Took an unusual match against Armada at Get Smash at the Foundry #41. Placed 33rd at HTC Throwdown. Has taken sets off a handful of ranked and formerly ranked players in NorCal.
Being currently ranked last on the tier list, it comes as no surprise that the character comes with a combination of weaknesses. Both experts had their own thoughts on what Kirby's biggest problems were.
"I think Kirby's biggest weakness is his punish game." Cereal Rabbit told us. "If you are Fox and get grabbed on Marth on FD, it's very scary. Kirby has very strong raw moves like falling u-air, b-air, f-air, d-smash, hammer but nothing really sets up for something guaranteed. This doesn't mean Kirby can't 0 death. Everything is just a lot more situational. Kirby has some great gimping potential but his punish game is quite a mystery still for most of the world. I'm still working on developing it. It's very similar to how Falcon punishes, except it's much more read heavy."
Triple R has his own thoughts to shar. "MOVEMENT SPEED!" he exclaimed. "Why is Kirby soooo slow!? His run speed is okay at best, and his aerial mobility is pretty laughable to be honest. Kirby is a sitting duck if he finds himself above his opponent."
He also explained how this weakness is added to even more by poor aerial frame data. "Fastest one he has is bair at frame 6. Which actually isn't too bad, but there's characters out there with 3 and 4 frame aerials. After bair the next fastest thing is 10 frames. That's getting kinda slow. Also, let's just not talk about his frame 18 dair."
As for Kirby's second biggest weakness in his opinion? "His lack of good grab game. Which is slightly sad considering he has an INSANE grab range for his size. Sure you can get grabs, but what are you going to do with it? Fthrow and bthrow are worthless at low percents since the opponent can mash out. Dthrow leads to a tech chase situation where they get away with minimal damage. You can combo after uthrow, but only if the opponent DIs in. Kirby would honestly be a bigger threat if he combo throws into an utilt or something somehow."
Now that's we've seen the bad, let's see the good! Both experts agreed that one of Kirby's biggest strengths were in his edgeguarding game.
"Dtilt kills a lot of characters' recoveries." Triple R told us. "It may not kill outright, but it puts the opponent in such a bad position that a kill is likely to follow." Cereal Rabbit agreed adding "Kirby's d-tilt hits so low off the ledge it makes it 3-4 times harder to tech than a Fox-down smash edgeguard."
Cereal Rabbit also mentioned what is known by many as Kirby's 'Fence Of Pain'. "A KO is guaranteed if you can clip your opponents with a bair. It's very puff-esque."
Despite having multiple jumps like Jigglypuff, Triple R says he's best when he's on the ground. "His ground game is where he shines most. He has a good wavedash to help him stay slippery. The ground is also where he has some pretty good frame data. Both utilt and dtilt are frame 4, which is pretty good. Ftilt is a pretty underrated move too. Comes out pretty quick and has decent reach. Wavedash out of shield to ftilt/dtilt has become a staple of my game when playing careful. Dtilt helps you space against grounded opponents while crouching at the same time."
Cereal Rabbit also mentioned how Kirby's crouch was very useful. "His crouch makes him the shortest hurtbox in the game, dodging most high tier character grabs, lasers, and tons more of attacks."
And what would Kirby be without his 'Kirbycide'? "Another element that makes Kirby great is his suicide." he told us. "Though it's really cheesy, when you get your opponent on tilt, it's very easy to pull it off."
Both of the Kirby experts had varying opinions on which characters Kirby has the best time against vs the worst but Triple R was very adamant on Kirby's worst matchup.
"Fox. There is not a doubt in my mind. I don't understand the logic when people say any other character. This character can do everything to you. Fox can camp you. Fox can aggro you. It can be tricky to edgeguard Fox. Fox edgeguards you for free. Once you're in the air vs Fox, you can't get back down. The list just goes on and on for why this is so bad. He has an answer for everything."
Cereal Rabbit focused more on what matchups he thought were best. "Kirby's best match ups are Sheik, Marth, Falcon, and Falco. These are his best match ups because with a crouching neutral, you completely eliminate grabbing from your opponent. If you play perfectly, Sheik is be forced to space f-airs which can be punished by wd back d-tilt. Marth and Falcon are a little trickier, but tons of fun to gimp. Falco... I mean man you get Falco lasers and get a better neutral than him."
Triple R did not agree on Falco potentially being a good matchup. "He is similar to Fox difficulty in my mind except you can copy the lasers. Lasers do help a decent amount. Can make the Falco play an awkward game. Not a Falco ditto but there's still lasers. Short hop double laser is godlike. Otherwise Falco does the same things as Fox. Can camp you. Has better hitboxes than you do."
So who did Triple R think was the best matchup among the top tiers? "Probably Falcon. Falcon still wins the matchup, but you can definitely mess with him. It can be very hard for Falcon to hit Kirby if you play very low the ground and evasive. Crouching helps in this matchup. You just have to be keep moving and crouching. Falcon is relatively easy to edgeguard for a top tier as well. If they have to grab the ledge with up b they probably can't. Kirby's dtilt will hit him. He's likely dead after that. Falcon not having the best out of shield game means Kirby can apply some shield pressure of his own too."
For his second best matchup in the top tier: "I'm just going to say Jiggs. It's a long and draining matchup, but it feels fine. You'll suffer once you get knocked offstage. Onstage it feels very doable. Crouching helps a bunch too. It's hard for Jiggs to hit you since they will likely be weaving in the air. Kirby has better ground frame data than Jiggs too. They're basically opposites. If you play to Kirby's strengths, you can tilt and grab Jiggs to death. Kirby can also kill Jiggs pretty early from a missed rest. Kirby has a surprisingly strong up smash. And sweetspotted hammer does a decent chunk of % for a single hit punish."
Is Kirby Viable?
Despite them both loving the character, their answer was a resounding no. "No I don't think Kirby is viable nationally. It's simply because his punish game isn't as powerful as a top tier. True, I might have gotten top 32 at HTC Throwdown, but that doesn't really mean anything for Kirby but more so the player." Cereal Rabbit told us.
Triple R had a little more optimism, but more so in his local viability over viability on a national scale. "If you were to ask if a player could pick up Kirby and get on their local PR, I would say for sure. Most state PRs don't run that deep in regards to skill level. Sure you might have *insert top player* in your state, but that skill level doesn't trickle all the way down to player 10, or 20 like some states do.
National level I'm just going to say no. I guess it depends on what you feel viable means. If you are asking if it's possible for Kirby to win a national tournament, I would say no, not viable. If you asked me if a Kirby player could place higher than 90% of a tournaments participants, I would say yes. I'm going to assume it's the former though. Unfortunately you would have to outplay your opponents to an extreme level to win a national."
Advice For Kirby Mains?
Each expert gave their own advice for any aspiring Kirby mains in Melee.
"My advice for anyone looking to play Kirby is to keep playing Kirby." Cereal Rabbit said. "A lot of people give up and switch mains. They're really missing out on a lot of potential still in the character. Another thing of advice is to have top/high tier secondaries. Since playing a low tier character is mentally draining, it's good to build fundamentals and tournament experience with these characters. Ultimately the goal is to go back and develop your Kirby and succeed."
"Practice Practice Practice!" Triple R told us. "This goes without saying for any character though. I would concentrate on the good tools Kirby has. It's easy to focus on why a character is bad, but you don't make any progress doing that. I would grow some thick skin too. Many people will shrug off your wins as flukes or gimmicks.
Also be prepared for cringe worthy commentating if you're on stream. Commentators sometimes go down by tiers themselves while commentating low tier play. They'll start saying things that are utterly incorrect about your character. Basically, once you get Kirby down, most people won't understand Kirby but you. You kinda turn into lone wolf. Lastly enjoy the character. He's kind of a goofy thing."
A special thank you to @Cereal Rabbit and @Triple R for giving their expertise for this article. To learn more about Kirby in Melee be sure to checkout the Kirby Forums right here on Smashboards! To learn more about Melee's lesser seen characters consider checking out our character experts article on Donkey Kong.
Agree or disagree with these Kirby experts? Have a suggestion for the next character we should cover? Sound off in the comments below and stay tuned to Smashboards for future expert analysis on characters from all Smash titles