Movement Options in Melee: Part 1 - The Basics
Thu 6th Dec 2018 - 9:28pm
One of the defining features of Super Smash Bros. Melee, setting it apart from the other Smash Bros. titles and other competitive video games in general, is the fluidity of its movement options. Melee is a game where players have incredibly precise control over their characters, which allows for differences in playstyle between players of the same character, creating the potential for personal expression in the way one plays the game.
Of course, the fact that Melee moves so fluidly can be ascribed to the fact that its movement system is incredibly complex. Over the years, players have discovered a plethora of movement techniques, some intentionally designed and others simply inherent in Melee as a result of the game’s engine. What’s more, individual movement options can have multiple potential uses depending on the situation. In this series of articles, I hope to outline all of the movement options players have at their disposal in Super Smash Bros. Melee.
This article will go over some of the basics of movement in Melee. All of these techniques are considered fundamental for excelling at Super Smash Bros. Melee. However, when talking about these techniques, I will also include information about some of the more advanced applications. As a result, this article should provide some rudimentary information about movement options, as well as some techniques to consider for players who are starting to grow in their level of skill.
Walking is the most basic movement option in Melee and is admittedly inconsequential in high-level play compared to other techniques. The primary advantage of walking over the more commonly seen option of running is that characters can perform tilt attacks and smash attacks out of walk, something which can’t be (as easily) done out of run. As a result, walking is useful for spacing an attack in order to land its sweetspot hitbox against an immobile character, such as a Puff who has just used Rest or another character who has just had their shield broken. Beyond this, however, walking has little utility in regard to meaningful movement.
Unlike walking, dashing is a tactic which, though basic, is incredibly pragmatic in high-level Melee. Notably, the commonly-used umbrella term “dashing” actually involves two distinct modes of movement: dashing and running. The initial animation, the dash, lasts for 7-18 frames, depending on the character, after which the character enters the technique’s second phase, the run. During the dash, characters are able to turn around after only a single frame, which allows for one of Melee’s most frequently seen spacing methods, dash dancing.
Dash dancing is a character’s repeated movement from right to left, or vice versa, making use of the one frame turnaround option during the dash animation. There are a slew of useful ways to effectively use dash dancing. Dash dancing aids in ground control and spacing in the neutral, as the character holds theoretical control over a wide range of space as they move back and forth; while the player technically loses control over a certain space upon dashing away, their ability to quickly turn back around while dash dancing and punish an approaching opponent may keep their opponent away, allowing them to effectively remain in control (Schrödinger's ground control, if you will).
Dash dancing also makes one’s approach strategy ambiguous, as the constant back and forth can be interrupted by a dash towards the opponent at any time. Players may use dash dancing as a way to bait an approach from an opponent by dashing slightly into the opponent’s range, only to dash away as they throw out a hitbox and whiff punish them. Dash dancing is also commonly used to help players follow their opponents’ rolls during tech chases.
After the dash animation expires, the dashing character will begin running, often marked by more pronounced movement of the character’s legs. Unlike while dashing, turning around out of a run is extremely laggy, as is outright stopping. As a result, players should be sure to act out of their run with an available option such as dash attack, jump, grab, shield, or a special move. Characters are also able to crouch out of run, allowing players to crouch cancel incoming attacks (at applicable percents) on the go. In addition, crouching causes the character to cancel their run after one frame, allowing them to return to a standing state more quickly than any other option out of run allows.
A more advanced variant of this technique is the Cactuar Dash, which is a dash out of crouch. A running character can crouch to run cancel and then Cactuar Dash in order to alter the timing of their approach and potentially throw off their opponent or to perform a broader dash dance-esque movement that incorporates the running animation. With this technique, players can also opt not to dash dance during a tech chase, instead crouching near opponents stuck in knockdown to cover multiple options with crouch cancelling and Cactuar Dashing.
The mechanic of jumping has a surprising amount of depth in Melee. Of course, every character in the game possess a double jump, with Jigglypuff and Kirby boasting five midair jumps. Players are able to control the height of their characters’ grounded jumps, but to do so requires an understanding of the jumpsquat animation.
Jumpsquat is the first animation which occurs after pressing the jump button, lasting 3-8 frames, depending on the character, during which the character enters a brief crouching animation. Letting go of the button during the jumpsquat will cause the character to short hop, while holding the button during the jumpsquat will cause them to full hop. As a result, there is a natural trade-off wherein characters with short jumpsquats can more easily transition between the air and the ground but may find it more difficult to perform a successful short hop.
Characters can also jump forward or backwards, and players can control the specific trajectory of the jump through a process known as analog jumping. This is done by holding any given direction on the second-to-last frame of the character’s jumpsquat. Though difficult to time correctly, this allows technically proficient players to have extremely precise control over how far their character travels after jumping. In addition, jumping out of dash goes farther since characters retain momentum while jumping, and players can control these dash jumps with the analog method.
Because of these characteristics, players can alter the game in subtle, but significant, ways by mixing up the direction, height, and trajectory of their characters’ jumps while moving in the neutral or preparing to approach. Naturally, jumps are also crucial to use effectively for carrying out aerial combos and following an opponent’s landing.
One advanced application of jumping is the jump cancel. If the standard attack, special attack, or grab button is pressed during a character’s jumpsquat, their jump animation will not occur, and instead they will perform a jump-cancelled up smash, Up-B, or grab, respectively. This allows characters to use up smash out of shield, or dash or standing grab out of dash (neither of which are possible otherwise), since both dash and shield can be cancelled by a jump. Furthermore, jump can be used to cancel Fox’s and Falco’s shines.
Much like jumping, merely turning the other direction in Melee is a surprisingly complex occurrence. Characters are able to perform standard attacks at any point during the turn animation, although many movement options cannot be immediately performed, and Neutral-Bs, walks, and subsequent turns cannot be performed at all until the turn animation is finished.
Depending on how far the control stick is pushed in the opposite direction, characters can perform either a tilt turn or a smash turn. While the entire turn animation last 11 frames regardless of which type of turn is performed, characters are able to dash or jump more quickly out of smash turns. Following a tilt turn, these movement options can only be performed after 5-9 frames, depending on the character, whereas they can be performed after only one frame following a smash turn. Since the running turn animation is very slow, running characters can crouch to run cancel and then smash turn, allowing them to act almost immediately out of their turn as they would after a turn out of dash.
Turning out of a dash is commonly referred to as pivoting, and it has seen significant use at Melee’s highest levels of play in recent years. Pivoting can help players precisely space their characters in the neutral, whether to keep away from their opponent or to land the perfect hitbox of an attack. Pivoting also allows players to effectively perform a standing jump out of dash, further extending the potential for mixing up jump spacing.
In thinking about movement options collectively, it is important to note that the necessity of turning makes dashing back more difficult than dashing forwards. While dashing forwards is pretty straightforward, quickly dashing backwards requires the use of a smash turn. Otherwise, the character will be stuck in the turn animation for 5-9 frames before they can actually dash.
Though technically an “advanced” movement option, wavedashing has become so prominent in the competitive Melee scene that it is important for even beginner players to consider while playing. Performed by air dodging diagonally into the ground, a wavedash can vary in length depending on the angle of the air dodge, the character’s distance from the ground when the air dodge was performed, and the character’s traction. Though it is one of the faster movement options in Melee, characters do still experience a bit of lag during the landing animation, so players must space their wavedashes appropriately to avoid getting punished.
As an offensive option, wavedashing allows the character to perform an attack while sliding along the ground. Wavedashing is useful in that it does not limit a player’s options like dashing/running does, as every action available while standing is available during a wavedash. This even includes defensive tools like shield or spotdodge. In terms of defensive utility, wavedashing is also useful for moving away from an enemy attack and counterattacking, or simply resetting the neutral.
Characters are able to waveshield and (in the case of Fox and Falco) waveshine, allowing them to progressively move while keeping these options active, because shield and shine are jump-cancelable. Wavedashing is very useful for approaches and, to a lesser extent, positioning in the neutral. Some more of its merits include the fact that it is the only horizontal movement option available out of shield (besides roll), and it allows the character to move backwards without the risk of messing up a dash back (although it does not turn the character around like dashing back does). In addition, wavedashing allows characters to easily grab the ledge while edgeguarding since wavedashing near the ledge will cause the character to slide off the stage and fall onto the ledge. Of course, a failure to perform the wavedash successfully could cause the character to air dodge off stage and lose their stock, so correct execution is key.
Wavedashing also has a few notable variants which extend its utility in specific situations. Wavelanding (air dodging from the air onto a grounded surface) on platforms is a crucial aspect of quick aerial movement on applicable stages. Ledgedashing (jumping from the ledge and air dodging onto the stage) is one of the safest ways to get back onstage from the ledge without getting punished, albeit with the risk of messing up and air dodging offstage. And finally, triangle jumping is a similar, though less commonly seen, tactic wherein the air dodge animation appears briefly before a shortened wavedash occurs. This provides a bit of invincibility before the character starts moving, although its uses are so situational that it is generally inferior to a regular wavedash.
These techniques provide a foundation on which the rest of Melee’s complex movement system is built. As this article already shows, slight variations in the usage of seemingly straightforward techniques can drastically change the way in which one’s character moves across the stage. These serve to make Melee an incredibly deep game in terms of possible movement sequences. Future articles will detail some of the more elaborate movement options players will often use to enhance their gameplay.
Like our content? Support us by getting our merchandise in our shop