by Doc – Owner, Founder, Asker of Existential Questions
The endless, repeating joy of being Amiibo Doctor is that I get to read these comments on my Youtube channel, ad infinitum:
“ur tier list is wrong, diddy kong is not D tier lolol“
“LMAO Amiibo “Doctor doesn’t know anything about smash if he thinks zero Suit Sams is bad“
“You’re literally a scammer trying to get people to join your Discord servers communities by baiting them by saying Bowser is S tier and I see right through you“
These are real comments.
So today I’ll settle the age-old question: why do bad placements happen to good characters?
What’s a “Good” Character?
Ultimate’s been out for a while, and human players have a pretty good idea of which characters are in what tier. If a character is top-tier in human play, it’s because it has something unique that players can take advantage of.
Pikachu, Pythra, ROB and so on are top tiers, each for their own reason. Broadly speaking, Pikachu can combo you to hell and back without putting himself in danger. Pythra is incredibly versatile, featuring both combo ability and KO Power. ROB is cute as a button. Having strengths that are both useful and powerful is a necessity for a character to be “good”.
Amiibo tosses this paradigm out the window, and replaces the idea of a “good” character with two simple factors: KO Power and weight.
In the Thicc of It
Unlike humans, amiibo simply don’t have higher functions to their playstyle and strategy. “Stage control” doesn’t exist – so Snake’s C4 can’t be used to section off a platform. “Mindgames” don’t happen, because amiibo don’t have a mind. “Combos” and “Chains” are pre-built, and only a dozen or so amiibo have any beneficial combos.
Basically, everything that human players can take advantage of doesn’t exist with amiibo, and is taken off the board. Now we deal with amiibo play, which is limited by the AI.
The removal of combos means that characters that were designed to combo often can’t. Zero Suit Samus doesn’t have much beyond a simple Up Air chain. Jigglypuff has nothing except Pound into a few aerial options. Pichu has Up Tilt and its follow-ups. Even if these combos were to land, they wouldn’t land often enough to do any real damage.
Meanwhile, characters like Bowser don’t need to worry about combos – if Bowser wants to attack you, he only needs one move. Not only will it connect, but it’ll do more damage than any combo would’ve. Heavyweights can typically KO the opponent faster than lightweights because they have KO Power.
“But Doc! Suppose the heavyweight gets trapped in a pre-built combo! Wouldn’t that mean easy KOs for the comboing amiibo?”
That’s where the other factor – weight – comes in. Heavyweights do get comboed, but it doesn’t matter to them. They’ll survive it much longer than a lightweight would because they’re so darn heavy. Then, once the combo ends, they only have to retaliate with 2-3 attacks of their own to compensate.
In summary, “good” characters that relied on combos no longer have combos (or have combos that basically aren’t helpful). They’re also lighter, so they die earlier. Formerly “bad” characters never needed combos, so they can more easily KO – and they’re heavy, so they’ll last longer.
There’s a handful of exceptions to this rule:
- AI Patches that add combos
- High and Top-Tiers that aren’t heavy
- AI Breakers
After 8.0, the developers started messing with amiibo AI periodically. Amiibo characters that previously didn’t have built-in combos now had some. Notable characters that have been patched include:
These amiibo were given combos, and in some cases those combos helped them gain tier list placements. Broadly speaking, though, the combo patches weren’t that useful, and really only made them a more interesting Raid Boss.
Mid-and-Lightweights in High Tiers
The big, notable exception to this rule is Ness. At the moment, Ness is in A+ tier, despite being significantly less heavy than his counterparts. You would think that a middleweight with minimal KO power wouldn’t be placing so high.
Ness places high because “KO Power” is really comprised of two components: damage-building and knockback. Most heavyweights do both pretty well. Ness does damage-building extremely well, but doesn’t do knockback that well.
This is because optimal Ness uses two to four moves:
- PK Fire
- PK Thunder Juggle
- Back Throw
- Up Smash
That’s right. The optimal Ness amiibo plays like a For Glory Ness. He PK Fire spams you to hell, and then goes in for the kill. If you’re above him, he uses PK Thunder to frame-perfect juggle you. If you get past the PK Thunder, he’ll use Up Smash to send you back to the heavens. Ironically, Ness’ PK Thunder juggle is a far better combo against amiibo than any real combo.
Ness’ playstyle is so bizarre and effective that it earns him a placement in the top tier. There’s a few other situations that you’ll find in the A and B+ tiers as well just like this – middleweights that have some unique gimmick or AI-breaking problem that just invalidates everything else.
Much like Beauty and the Beast, Incineroar’s brokenness is a tale as old as time. Incineroar’s a heavyweight with good KO Power, but he has a single move that invalidates nearly every character in the game: Alolan Whip.
See, Alolan Whip is a command grab, and for some reason, amiibo don’t really respond to command grabs. Don’t ask why – they just don’t. Alolan Whip is also a long-range KO move, and the Incineroar AI can consistently get perfect timing every time he connects Alolan Whip.
So we have amiibo not responding to Alolan Whip, plus Alolan Whip being a long-range KO move, plus the amiibo always getting the strongest possible timing on the Whip. The end result is that the opponents just stand there and get hit by Whip. After 3-4 times, they take a stock – and they were never able to respond in the first place because their AI doesn’t know it’s getting hit until it’s too late.
Amiibo is unfair, and good characters don’t always get what they deserve.