Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the most comprehensive and arguably the best-looking entry in the Super Smash Bros. series, but it can’t compete when it comes to input lag. According to detailed analysis from Gigaboots, which has analyzed input lag in a number of games and is quoted extensively in the game’s Digital Foundry breakdown, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the least responsive game in the series.
The group filmed themselves hitting a button at 1,200 frames per second, measured the amount of time before the character reacted on-screen and then subtracted the input lag of the display. This was done 30 times for every setup, and the results are charted according to the highest, lowest and average amounts of input lag.
The team behind Gigaboots put in an immense amount of work to bring the community this data, especially when you consider that input lag was measured across every game in the series, with multiple controllers tested per game. The video embedded at the top of this post is definitely worth your time, as is the video comparing the input lag of past Super Smash Bros. games, embedded directly below.
So what did they find?
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has a lot of input lag
There are between 87.87 and 112.87 ms of input latency between hitting a button in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and a character reacting. That means there are between six and seven frames of animation that pass between hitting a button and seeing a character move onscreen.
Here is the data so you can see the numbers for yourself. The data also shows why so many players like using GameCube controllers aside from the familiarity; GameCube controllers are also the most responsive.
This might not hurt Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s chances among competitive players. A game’s input lag will be the same for all players, outside of the small variance that comes with different methods of control, so everyone will be working with the same handicap. Players will adapt to this amount of lag and the community will grow more precise as everyone gets used to the feel of the game.
But you might be distracted by the input lag if you’ve played an extensive amount of previous Smash Bros. games. Take a look at how Ultimate stacks up against other games in the franchise.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl for Wii U introduces between three and five frames of latency between hitting a button and seeing your character react, compared to the five to six frames of latency seen in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
The increased input lag in Ultimate could be even more of an issue for players who are coming from Super Smash Bros. Melee, which is still considered by many to be the gold standard in competitive Smash titles. Melee’s two to four frames of input lag makes it one of the most responsive games in the series.
Is this a big deal?
While Ultimate’s input lag may not be significantly worse than other modern fighting games, it is significantly worse than past games in the series. The input lag might make Ultimate harder to get used to for veteran players. Smash Bros. also isn’t played like a traditional fighting game.
“1/10 of a second input delay may be standard fare for a modern fighting game, but it really worsens the experience playing Smash,” one player wrote on the game’s Reddit page. “It’s a game where people are flying all around the map, approaching from dozens of angles and varied hit boxes and trajectories ... Especially with how fast this game can be played it just makes for an objectively worse experience having this much lag.”
Other players argue that any change in “feel” is due to the new buffer system, and not the input lag.
“If you hold an action while locked into another one it’ll get buffered and come out on the first possible frame,” one fan wrote, explaining the difference. “While this generally makes things easier there are cases where the behavior is inconsistent (eg. dashes don’t buffer) or undesirable (eg. accidental dodge roll on land, short hop aerial instead of fast full jump aerial).”
“I think the lag is probably almost never slower than the built-in buffer anyway, which is why they allowed for the lag as it is,” another player explained. “Would literally make no difference as such.”
There is good news, however. Nintendo actively patches Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and it’s possible that an update minimizing the game’s visual effects could decrease the amount of input lag. Community testing has found that Capcom’s updates have significantly reduced the input lag found in Street Fighter 5, for example. The buffer system could also be adjusted.
It’s possible that a high percentage of more casual players will never notice Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s input lag, and competitive players may adapt quickly enough that it’s a non-issue. You’re not wrong if you thought the game felt fine before reading this article, but experienced Smash Bros. players who may have been confused by the game’s timing may now have a better understanding of why things feel a little off.