Pop-Eds: For The Next Super Smash Bros., Kirby Needs An Explosive New Move
Kirby was on the starting roster of the original Super Smash Bros., and his moveset has stayed relatively consistent throughout his long tenure with the series. He’s got his signature Copy Ability, of course, along with the rising Final Cutter, his falling Stone ability, and the hammer that was added in Melee when everyone received a new side special. A few moves, mainly his normals, have had subtle tweaks from game to game, and how he translates to a particular entry’s unique pacing or systems can vary. But if the last Smash Bros. you played was the original on the Nintendo 64, and you just happened to pick him up again 24 years later in Ultimate, you’ll find the same accessible, beginner-friendly character you knew from decades past.
And his kit has served him well, to be sure. Few things embody the joy of Smash’s crossovers like watching Kirby take Copy Abilities (and dress up as) absurdly unrelated characters, like Mega Man, Terry Bogard, or Simon Belmont. His many jumps give him excellent recovery, his kicks can be reliable combo and KO tools, and anyone who has played him knows the satisfaction of ambushing your opponents with a rock from above. Having mained Kirby in Smash Bros. since the fourth grade, these moves are ingrained in my muscle memory, and the series just wouldn’t feel quite the same without them.
Still, as the years have gone on, and Smash Bros. has gotten faster, more complex, and more populous than ever before, Kirby has struggled to keep up with his competition. While tier lists are subjective, Kirby hasn’t been a higher-tier character since the first Super Smash Bros., and for most of the series, he’s been among the least optimal for competitive play. These days in Ultimate, Kirby is now generally seen as a low-to-mid-range character—and that’s an improvement over some of his other showings. In the Melee scene, Kirby and Bowser are often ranked as the worst characters in the game.
Again, tier lists are subjective, and Smash Bros. is a pretty balanced game at the casual level. When I play with friends, among skilled but decidedly non-tournament level players, Kirby holds his own just fine. And yet, I think all Kirby players, regardless of level, have had moments where we’ve noticed what feels like a ceiling many characters just don’t possess.
In his current form, Kirby is a rushdown character who wants to close the gap and fight opponents up close. But he lacks the advantages that rushdown characters in fighting games typically have, like speed or specific tools to help them approach. If Kirby can use his Copy Ability to snag a move that plays to his strengths, it’s a godsend. But it also means he starts each battle lacking a solid neutral special until he gets one from his opponents. His Hammer and Stone abilities, while they may hit hard, are also generally unsafe and best reserved for particular situations. Throw in the fact that Kirby also is very light, with notoriously slow, floaty air mobility, and you get a character who is exceptionally vulnerable without the offensive tools to make up for it.
It's clear that Kirby is due for a tune-up, but what would I change about him, if I were asked to redesign Kirby for the next Smash Bros. game? It’s a topic that people have already discussed widely online for years, with extremely creative answers. Kirby’s different powers offer so many possibilities, and one could imagine entirely different takes on him that still feel true to the character. But since I do actually want to keep most of these classic moves we’ve come to know and love in place, I would primarily suggest just swapping out his hammer for something much more useful as his side special—bombs.
The Bomb ability would, finally, give Kirby the approach tool he needs. And his bombs would work the way we’re used to bombs working in actual Kirby games. Once he pulls one out, he could throw it in an arc, bowl it forward, or place it where he is standing. They could be used to help Kirby close the gap (consider throwing one in the air and advancing behind it, or leaping and bowling one at a downward angle) and they could also give Kirby flexible zoning options from afar. And yes, bombs are already one of Link's specials. But I imagine Kirby’s bombs being the bulbous, cartoony fireworks bombs of his own games, which can be aimed at varying trajectories and are quite different from anything Link currently does.
Crucially, bombs also don’t have the range or accuracy of a true projectile, so they don’t negate the utility of Kirby’s Copy Ability. I’ve seen people online recommending Beam for his side special, and that was my first thought as well. But were Kirby able to fire beams across the stage, he would have much less use for Samus’s Charge Shot, Fox’s blaster, or all the other projectiles he can borrow from other characters. A hefty, short-range attack, like Donkey Kong’s punch, could also still benefit him. Bombs give Kirby options, and I could see players devising all sorts of creative tech with them. But they don’t distract from everything Copy Abilities have to offer.
I’d adjust other things, too. Kirby’s crouching normal should be his slide kick, and he should shoot out an air bullet when he stops flying. The beam from the Final Cutter should travel slightly further, and I’d tweak Inhale and Stone to make them less risky to throw out. For his Final Smash, I'd bring back his Cook ability as well. These are mostly buffs, but they would also make Kirby play truer to how he does in his own games.
Ideally, I think Kirby could be a kind of glass cannon archetype—like Chipp from Guilty Gear or Akuma from Street Fighter—where the strength and versatility of a character’s moves are offset by how low their health is. In fact, a new game may want to make Kirby even lighter and easier to KO than he is right now. As light as he is, he still weighs the same as Pikachu and Sephiroth and is somehow heavier than Sheik and Fox. If Kirby proves hard to balance with better specials, making him lighter could compensate for that.
With Masahiro Sakurai's role in the future of Smash Bros. uncertain, and Ultimate feeling like the grand culmination of a particular take on what Smash Bros. can be, the next game seems like it could be the perfect opportunity to start experimenting with new ideas. I wouldn't want the series to change too much, but along with whatever new twists or characters are to come, I hope we'll also see some fresh takes on the old guard. And what better way to celebrate a new Smash game than with party hats, fireworks, and an explosive new Kirby?
But that's just my take, and I'm sure there are plenty of other ideas out there for how to update Kirby for a new age. If you have any thoughts, let us know in the comments below!
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