Welcome to the first chapter of a new series here at Cloud Nine, Amiibo Training Analysis! By now, I’m sure you’ve read most (if not all) of Cloud Nine’s amiibo training guides. These were intended as a starting point for trainers hoping to succeed with a particular character.
Amiibo Training Analysis is very different from the guides you’ve come to know: hence the name of the series, it focuses on analyzing one particular aspect of the metagame in great detail. In future installments, I may cover a wide range of topics: a specific character, a particular stage, or even a bonus effect. The goal is to help you all become more knowledgeable and involved in the amiibo game.
Today, we’re starting with Ness, a fighter who’s seen his ups and downs over the course of the metagame. If you’re a trainer who wants to raise a great Ness amiibo, today’s your lucky day: we’re going to take an in-depth look at what makes this character work.
History of Ness in the Amiibo Metagame
When Super Smash Bros. for Wii U launched alongside the initial shipment of amiibo in November 2014, nobody was overly concerned with the mechanics and complexities of amiibo training: instead, they wanted to learn how to play the game for themselves. As a result, there wasn’t a formally-established “amiibo metagame” until early 2016.
At first, Ness was slept on. Trainers preferred to raise characters that boasted more immediate power – examples include Bowser, Ganondorf, and Little Mac. Now, it’s going to seem like I’m “tooting my own horn” here, but I was one of the first trainers to pick up and dedicate time to raising Ness. I trained him tirelessly in preparation of Amiibo World Tournament III, a big-name online tourney hosted by Amiibo Dan (an amiibo training YouTuber who has since moved on to other content).
Now, in early 2016, nobody knew what they were doing – that is to say, no one had a clear vision for their amiibo. More often than not, trainers would load their amiibo with offense and hope for the best. In this early stage of the metagame, I was the only one to have a clear vision for my Ness: a defensive playstyle intended to counter aggressive characters. That vision for my Ness amiibo allowed him to win Amiibo World Tournament III by a longshot. In fact, he never dropped a single game.
Many dedicated trainers watched replays of my Ness amiibo in action and realized – he was able to score many KOs by using his powerful back throw to great effect. In an attempt to counter Ness, who at the time was a newly emerged threat, trainers began running the Improved escapability bonus to help their amiibo cheat death by breaking free of Ness’ grab. To this very day, Improved escapability is considered 100% mandatory on every “serious” amiibo.
Over time, trainers began to adjust to Ness. The sudden rise of Improved escapability hurt his placement in the metagame, essentially invalidating his strongest kill move. Although Ness is no longer considered top tier, he is considered high tier, and remains a solid and capable contender in today’s metagame.
- Neutral attack: Ness’ neutral attack is a series of punches that ends with a weak forward kick. It inflicts negligible damage, but packs enough knockback to keep opponents away. At point blank, this is Ness’ most optimal move, as it creates a necessary distance between him and his enemy.
- Forward tilt: A roundhouse kick that can be aimed upward, downward, or neutrally. Kind of like Ness’ jab, forward tilt is a good get-off-me move, and can even KO heavily damaged opponents as a last resort.
- Up tilt: An upward push with weak damage and knockback. It brings Ness little benefit, and so should not be prioritized during training.
- Down tilt: A swift kick that can be used continuously. Despite the fact that it can trip opponents and combo into stronger attacks, it’s best to avoid the move entirely. Ness amiibo have an odd tendency of using down tilt at inopportune times, and its short range encourages Ness’ opponent to close in and strike.
- Dash attack: Ness amiibo rarely use this move. In fact, in my two years of owning one, mine has used it only two or three times. As a result, dash attack isn’t important, and can be safely avoided during training.
- Forward smash: Ness’ forward smash is one of his strongest attacks. It has a powerful sweetspot at the tip of bat that KOs particularly early. However, the move itself is slow in terms of both startup and ending lag, so it can’t be used raw. Forward smash is best used when Ness’ opponent is trapped in a pillar of PK Fire.
- Up smash: Ness’ up smash is actually the weakest up smash in the game, but it still has its uses. It works as an out-of-shield option, and covers a half-circle around Ness’ head. Up smash should definitely be used every once in a while – particularly to catch rolls – but it isn’t strong enough to serve as a primary attack.
- Down smash: Ness’ down smash is actually really good. It hits on both sides, from back to front, and inflicts respectable damage and knockback. That being said, it must be used sparingly – kind of like an ace up your sleeve that you pull out once in a while. Here’s an idea: if your Ness amiibo is hanging from a ledge, position yourself in front of it, turn away, and charge your down smash. If timed correctly, your amiibo will be hit as it pulls itself up.
- Neutral aerial: It’s best to avoid aerials, but Ness’ neutral aerial can work under very specific circumstances. However, you shouldn’t use it during training: over time, your Ness amiibo will determine the proper time and place to put this move to good use.
- Forward aerial: This is a Ness amiibo’s favorite move. Every so often, yours may use its forward aerial out of a short hop. Don’t let this become a habit: block or dodge the attack and respond with an up smash if possible.
- Back aerial: One of Ness’ most useful aerial attacks. It comes out fast, and is quite powerful to boot. Just like with neutral aerial, don’t use this move against your Ness amiibo: give it time to work out the proper timing by itself.
- Up aerial: Up aerial is, in my opinion, Ness’ most useful aerial attack. It has quick startup and excellent KO power, but should be used sparingly. If your Ness amiibo was knocked upward and is falling towards you, up aerial is a decent option to catch it before landing. Don’t use this maneuver too often, because you don’t want to encourage your Ness to jump.
- Down aerial: One of Ness’ worst (and most annoying) moves. Be warned: Ness amiibo love using it. If it was knocked upward and is falling toward you, chances are, it’s going to use its down aerial in an attempt to hit you. Dodge the move and respond with an attack of your choice.
- Forward throw: In general, Ness’ forward throw isn’t all that useful. It inflicts a good amount of damage, but that’s about it. Focus on Ness’ back throw instead.
- Back throw: I probably don’t even need to explain this one, but I’ll do it anyway: Ness’ back throw is the strongest throw in the game. If it weren’t for Improved escapability, back throw would be his most reliable kill move. Even so, be sure to frequently KO your Ness amiibo with back throw. And when you do, don’t pummel. Just throw.
- Up throw: Similarly to Ness’ forward throw, up throw just doesn’t accomplish much. It can set opponents up to be juggled, but even that’s kind of situational. Once again, focus on back throw instead.
- Down throw: A Ness amiibo’s favorite throw. It will try to combo its down throw into a forward aerial. If said forward aerial hits, it will try to follow up with a second forward aerial. If said forward aerial misses, it will use its double jump and try to attack with a back aerial instead. If you give your Ness any investment into its Attack stat, these maneuvers won’t work due to their increased knockback. They won’t work against other amiibo, either, so try your best to avoid using down throw during training.
- PK Flash: One of Ness’ special moves, and a situational one at that. In fact, it should only ever be used as an edgeguard. Your Ness amiibo should learn to edgeguard with PK Flash automatically, but in case he doesn’t, try to hit it with a fully charged attack as it recovers.
- PK Fire: Hands-down Ness’ best move. That probably sounds newbish, to say the least, but it’s true. PK Fire can be spammed to great effect: especially since other amiibo have trouble escaping it. Ninety percent of your neutral attacks should be PK Fire, and that’s not even an overstatement. Try to hit your Ness amiibo with as many consecutive PK Fires as possible before finishing it off with PK Thunder 2 or a well-spaced forward smash. Oh, and try to avoid using PK Fire in the air. It has heavy landing lag that leaves Ness vulnerable.
- PK Thunder: In addition to serving as an excellent recovery move, PK Thunder also serves as an excellent kill move. Your Ness amiibo will often use PK Thunder to fire itself at opponents (this maneuver is referred to as PK Thunder 2). Fear not: you actually want it to do that. Other amiibo will walk or roll right into it – most of the time, anyway. Use PK Thunder 2 as a frequent kill move, but remain wary of characters with counter moves.
- Alternatively, you can control the ball of electricity generated by PK Thunder to hit your amiibo, but this is not recommended. If a Ness amiibo uses PK Thunder, it is going to fire itself no matter what. This tendency cannot be changed.
- If you find that you have trouble recovering with PK Thunder, don’t worry: Ness amiibo do it perfectly every single time. No matter how bad you might be at it, your Ness amiibo will execute its recovery without fail.
- PSI Magnet: It’s safe to avoid PSI Magnet entirely during training. Even at Level 1, a Ness amiibo knows that it can absorb energy-based projectiles. And no, it won’t go off-stage to try and gimp opposing Ness or Lucas.
Ness has several specific tendencies coded into his AI that are shared across all Ness amiibo. For the most part, they cannot be changed, but it’s good to know what kind of knowledge your amiibo is working with.
First, I’m happy to report that Ness amiibo can learn to use the double PK Thunder technique on certain stages. However, it is not explicitly programmed into his AI: you must teach your amiibo to use this trick. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the basic premise: when Ness hits a wall after using PK Thunder, there is a short window of opportunity where he can use the move again. To teach your amiibo to utilize double PK Thunder, all you have to do is use the technique yourself. It might be difficult to get the timing down, but with continued practice, it isn’t too tough.
Next, Ness is one of the only amiibo that can learn to taunt! Perhaps not the kind of taunt you’re thinking of, though. After each KO, a Ness amiibo has a change of using an uncharged PK Flash – almost as if it’s celebrating its kill with a quick burst of fireworks! If you want your Ness amiibo to pick up on this habit, all you have to do is used an uncharged PK Flash after you KO it. It’s as simple as that! It also helps if you KO your amiibo by using a fully charged PK Flash attack to interrupt its recovery.
Speaking of recovery – although Ness amiibo can aim PK Thunder perfectly, it does exhibit a few quirks that might take some getting used to. If a Ness amiibo is knocked off-stage, it will almost always use its double jump to distance itself away from the ledge to aim at it with PK Thunder. I’m not sure why this is, but as far as I know, it’s impossible to change. This makes Ness amiibo very easy to gimp, but I recommend you resist the temptation: amiibo aren’t risk-takers, and they won’t go off-stage to gimp a vulnerable opponent.
Furthermore, Ness amiibo sometimes recover high, exposing themselves for a split second before they grab the ledge. For the most part, this is a bad tendency, as it gives the opponent an opportunity to strike. If you find that your Ness amiibo is recovering high, make sure to hit it with a powerful smash attack.
Stats, Bonus Effects, & Custom Moves
Ness is a fairly straightforward character to equip. Give him a standard healing set and you’re good to go. Lifesteal may not activate for PK Fire, but it does work for all of his other moves: and believe me, there’s nothing more satisfying than watching your Ness amiibo KO its opponent with PK Thunder 2 while simultaneously restoring health. Auto-heal capability is particularly powerful on Ness – as mentioned before, his go-to technique is chaining PK Fire attacks together. The longer the chain, the more time your Ness amiibo has to recover health over time. It’s a win-win. And then, of course, Improved escapability is necessary to help your Ness amiibo escape from grabs and throws.
As far as custom moves go, the only one you should consider is Forward PSI Magnet. Not only does this custom down special restore more health, but it inflicts damage as well. It’s very important that you keep your Ness amiibo’s PK Flash, PK Fire, and PK Thunder moves intact – all of their custom move versions are simply inferior and reduce his effectiveness. Keep those default no matter what.
Ness is a solid fighter on his own, but some of his matchups aren’t so great. In particular, Ness struggles against many top-tier characters. If you need to familiarize yourself with the current amiibo rankings, go ahead and do so now. Here are some of Ness’ worst matchups – in other words, these are the characters you need to prepare for most of all.
- Bowser. By far and away Ness’ worst matchup in the amiibo game is Bowser. In theory, this might not make sense, but in practice, you’ll quickly see why. Ness amiibo like to get up close and personal with their usage of PK Fire, and in doing this, they unknowingly expose themselves to Bowser’s side special, Flying Slam – it comes out too quickly for Ness to react. A properly-equipped Bowser amiibo’s Flying Slam inflicts about 50%: just a few of these, and your Ness amiibo is within KO range. Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult for Ness to defeat a well-trained Bowser amiibo. That being said, there are a few steps you can take to prepare your Ness amiibo for a clash against the King of Koopas. Most important is distance. As you train your Ness amiibo, try to keep a constant two- or three-character distance away from it. From there, use PK Fire – if it hits, start a PK Fire chain. If it misses, hang back and then try again. Another good idea is to teach your Ness amiibo to rely on its jab at point blank. You have to make sure the amiibo has its spacing down, or else Bowser’s Flying Slam will outrange Ness’ jab and connect. One more strategy: at high percentages, make sure your Ness amiibo uses PK Thunder 2 as a KO move, and make sure it knows to use it against falling opponents. Even a well-trained Bowser will slip up and fall into the attack’s path every so often.
- Marth & Lucina: A battle between Ness and a Marth or Lucina is not at all in Ness’ favor. Marth and Lucina amiibo tend to rely on their side special, Dancing Blade, which comes out fast and has good range. None of Ness’ melee options can counter Dancing Blade – his jab’s range is too short, and his forward smash is too slow. A Ness amiibo must be careful using PK Thunder 2 against a Marth or Lucina, as either of their counter moves could spell disaster. Just like with Bowser, Ness needs to stay a certain distance away from his opponent, “fishing” with PK Fire until one of them connects. Emulate this behavior to the best of your ability – use PK Fire as many times in a row as you can, and then go for the kill with a forward smash, PK Thunder 2, or back throw.
- Characters with fast jabs: In addition to having poor matchups against Bowser, Marth, and Lucina, Ness hates fighting characters with fast jabs. Examples include Charizard, Luigi, and Pac-Man (the former two most of all). As mentioned before, Ness’ melee attacks don’t have much range, and the one that does (forward smash) is too slow to work. Charizard and Luigi can rack up damage with their jabs and then go for the kill with one of their powerful smash attacks. Once again, you have to teach your Ness amiibo to keep its distance. It also doesn’t hurt to refine its reaction time by teaching it to perfect shield these kinds of attacks.
- Characters with counters: This goes without saying – but due to Ness’ reliance on PK Thunder 2 as a kill move, characters with counters give him trouble. In addition to Marth and Lucina, both of whom we already covered, examples include Shulk, Corrin, and Ike. Don’t teach your Ness amiibo to use PK Thunder 2 as its only kill move: be sure to hammer in PK Fire combos as well.
Although Ness has trouble with numerous characters, his matchups against the rest of the cast are quite solid. He readily defeats most fighters in tiers below him, and even has a neutral matchup against top-tiers Ganondorf, Cloud, and Link. Regardless, it’s important that your Ness amiibo receives matchup experience against every high-ranked character – even if the character has a neutral matchup.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope the knowledge I’ve gathered on this character over the years has (or will) help you in your amiibo training endeavor. If you ever need help training your Ness amiibo, or want to ask a general question about the character, please don’t hesitate to fill out the Contact form or join the community Discord server. I wish you the best of luck training your Ness amiibo – I promise it’ll all be worth it!