In Super Smash Bros. 4, Ness’ amiibo was a metagame-defining threat. His claim to fame was his powerful back throw, a kill option so strong that trainers were forced to work around it. Lo and behold, the Improved escapability bonus soon became standard, essentially invalidating the character’s go-to finisher. By the end of Smash 4′s amiibo metagame, other fighters had proven themselves more viable; the rise of these stronger contenders eventually dethroned Ness from top-tier status. But now, the game has changed, and these changes haven’t been kind to Ness. In the previous title, his training regimen was fairly simple; in Smash Ultimate, it is a bit more complicated, as the updated AI and revised air dodge mechanics are hindrances to Ness’ viability. Regardless, he retains several of his key strengths, many of which have had their power, speed, and range increased.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. 4
In terms of his raw moveset, Ness has been significantly buffed. As with all characters in Smash Ultimate, Ness’ mobility has been increased; his walk speed, run speed, and air speed are all noticeably faster. The game’s revised air dodge mechanics allow him to effectively edgeguard with PK Thunder, and the amiibo AI is now capable of chasing its opponents with the electricity. Ness’ ground game has also improved: his neutral attack, forward tilt, down tilt, up smash, and down smash have all seen a respectable increase in power, while his up tilt is faster and has a larger hitbox. The aforementioned up and down smashes have had their charging hitboxes restored from Super Smash Bros. Melee. Adding to Ness’ extensive list of buffs is a bolstered aerial presence: his neutral aerial has increased range, his forward aerial deals more damage, and his down aerial has had its power, speed, and range enhanced. He has also received a new up aerial that deals more damage and enables dragdown combos. Ness’ special moves have been altered as well: PK Flash travels faster and can descend through platforms and PK Fire is both stronger and faster.
However, Ness has received several nerfs that serve as a detriment to his potency. His up smash and down smash both have increased startup, making them less reliable out of shield. PK Flash has also lost its incredible power from Smash 4, and is much more situational as a result. Ness has also gained two new AI flaws: the amiibo will continuously chase offstage enemies with PK Thunder, even if they are in freefall and would have been KO’d; the AI also uses uncharged PK Flash attacks at inappropriate times. In spite of these nerfs, Ness’ downfall is ultimately his recovery. Even if it is possible for the amiibo to recover using only its double jump and a directional air dodge, it will always double jump to position itself away from the ledge to fire at it with PK Thunder 2. This makes intercepting his recovery incredibly easy: Ridley’s Plasma Breath, Link’s Bow & Arrows, and King Dedede’s Gordo Throw can all spell doom even at 0%. Most of Ness’ deaths are from being gimped – and changing his double jump-wasting habits is hard-coded into his AI (impossible to fix without editing game files).
In this early phase of the Smash Ultimate amiibo metagame, it is difficult to say how Ness fares against the rest of the cast. What is known is that he is not top-tier and may not even be high tier; at the time of writing, mid to low-tier seems more fitting. That being said, his tournament results are salvageable. Though Ness struggles immensely due to his exploitable recovery, it is believed that he can still contend with stronger fighters as long as he avoids off-stage play.
Stats & Spirit Effects
In Super Smash Bros. 4, an amiibo’s equipment was incredibly important. There were only four or five viable bonus effects, and if an amiibo did not run Improved escapabillity its setup was considered suboptimal. In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, there is more variance in potential loadouts for amiibo.
Fortunately, there’s no reason to be particular about stats in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. As long as an amiibo has investment in Attack and Defense, it will contend just fine. The combined total cannot exceed 5,000 between both stats. With each added Spirit effect, this total is reduced; with all three slots filled, the total cannot exceed 4,200. Most trainers run an even 2100 in Attack and Defense, but these values can be tailored to better fit specific playstyles.
In terms of Spirit effects, there is one that seems like it would benefit Ness: Additional Midair Jump, which functions exactly as its name implies. Unfortunately, when given this bonus, the AI wastes both double jumps to position itself away from the ledge and will recover with PK Thunder 2 anyway. Because of this, Additional Midair Jump is not recommended for Ness.
What is recommended on Ness, however, is the Armor Knight build. Armor Knight is a new skill introduced in Smash Ultimate that greatly increases defense and attack but decreases mobility. Fortunately, Armor Knight only occupies two slots, meaning the last slot can be filled by a Move Speed ↑ enhancement. The improved defense is especially beneficial for Ness, as it helps prevent him from being knocked off-stage where he struggles most.
Another potential setup is Instadrop and Impact Run. It’s a fun build centered around aerial moves. Instadrop turns its user’s fast fall into a weak attack that can combo into consecutive hits, while Impact Run allows Ness to combo into a forward aerial or up aerial at higher percentages. It certainly isn’t the most efficient setup for the character (as Ness may self-destruct using Instadrop off-stage), but it’s certainly one to consider.
Other options include PSI Attack ↑, Special-Move Power ↑, Air Attack ↑, Strong Throw, Toss & Meteor, Great Autoheal, and Easier Dodging. In Smash Ultimate, power enhancement bonuses only bring about a ten percent increase, so these effects can be mixed and matched interchangeably. Even so, Armor Knight & Move Speed is likely Ness’ optimal setup. Armor Knight is obtained from the Halberd support Spirit, which can be purchased from Funky Kong’s in-game shop.
An amiibo will quickly reach its highest potential if it is trained in mirror matches with its Learn button switched on. Playing a best-of-five game (configurable via the rules menu) will cause it to level up much faster.
As mentioned earlier, Ness’ recovery is his greatest bane. During training, avoid off-stage play at all costs. At most, stand at the edge and shoot PK Fire (or PK Thunder) forward. Another note: do not charge smash attacks – instead, use them uncharged – otherwise, the amiibo will overcharge its smashes and leave itself wide open. Here is an individual breakdown of each of Ness’ attacks and how each one should be prioritized during training.
- Neutral attack: A three-hit jab. Inflicts weak damage, but has fast startup. It’s best used at point blank to keep the opponent at bay, but isn’t a move to heavily prioritize.
- Forward tilt: A quick kick that can be angled up or down. Its startup is slow for an attack of its range. Best used when the opponent is about a character length away.
- Up tilt: Much more useful than in Smash 4. It can be used as a kill move at high percentages, but its main draw is that it can combo into an up aerial. Definitely an attack to use frequently.
- Down tilt: Unlike in the previous title, it no longer trips enemies. Its hitbox is very small, and because amiibo jump fairly often, it rarely connects. Do not prioritize this move.
- Dash attack: Three bursts of PSI are fired at an opponent. It’s kind of situational and leaves Ness vulnerable if he misses the attack. Use it every once in a while if desired; otherwise, avoid this move for the most part.
- Forward smash (Batter Up!): A slow bat swing that can reflect projectiles. It’s difficult to hit an opponent caught in PK Fire with forward smash due to its launch angle, leaving the move mostly outclassed by faster options. Its main use is to reflect projectiles, which the amiibo knows to do fresh out of the box.
- Up smash (Around the World): A quick get-off-me move that can be used out of shield. Its power has been ramped up from Smash 4, and now serves as a viable kill move at higher percentages. One of Ness’ recommended finishers.
- Down smash (Walk the Dog): A yo-yo attack that covers both sides. Do not use its charging hitbox, even at the ledge. As mentioned before, the amiibo will learn to overcharge its smashes. Otherwise, down smash is a recommended kill move and neutral option.
- Neutral aerial: A diagonal spin with solid range and power. Best used out of a short hop.
- Forward aerial: Hits multiple times. A down throw can lead to a string of forward aerials depending on how the opponent adjusts their launch angle.
- Back aerial: A fast, powerful move that comes as a recommended kill option. Even out of a short hop, it can KO at very realistic percentages.
- Up aerial: Strikes multiple times with good kill power to boot. An up tilt can link into an up aerial. Great combo for a Ness amiibo to learn.
- Down aerial: Mostly useless. Ness should not be going off-stage in any capacity, making its meteor smash capabilities pointless. Avoid down aerial during training.
- Forward throw (PK Throw): High base knockback, but cannot kill at realistic percentages. It can be used at the edge to toss the opponent towards the nearest blast zone.
- Back throw (Reverse PK Throw): Ness’ primary kill move. If the amiibo is at a high percentage, grab it and immediately use Reverse PK Throw without pummeling.
- Up throw: Ness’ AI loves to use its up throw. It can link into an up aerial at lower percentages, but does not accomplish much else.
- Down throw: Can link into a neutral aerial, forward aerial, and up aerial. Do not use these combos too often, as the amiibo will become too aerial. This means it may go off-stage to use them, which is never a good thing for the character.
- Neutral special (PK Flash): It has been nerfed from Smash 4, and is now 100% useless. Do not use PK Flash at all during training. When the amiibo inevitably uses it uncharged, be sure to move in and punish without getting hit.
- Side special (PK Fire): Ness’ best damage-racking tool. It can link into itself, an up smash, an up tilt, or a grab. It has less ending lag in the air and can be used at the edge to catch opponents who recover high. Spam PK Fire to no end and the amiibo will immediately become stronger.
- Up special (PK Thunder): Unlike in Smash 4, Ness’ AI no longer uses PK Thunder 2 as an on-stage attack. Instead, it will chase opponents with the ball of electricity. When the amiibo is off-stage, hit it with PK Thunder. Do not hit the amiibo if it is in freefall; let it be KO’d.
- Down special (PSI Magnet): Ness’ amiibo knows how to use this move already. There is no need to teach its functionality. Only use it to absorb the amiibo’s projectiles and restore health during training.