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Sora Ltd., Bandai Namco Studios/Nintendo via Polygon

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Smash Bros. Ultimate basics: Movement and attacks guide

Learn to walk and run and jump and everything in between

Traditional fighting games tend to be designed around the classical arcade stick, but Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the rarity that requires analog controls, fully incorporating the analog range of movement into its action. Think of it as playing a Mario game, but with punches and kicks. This might be tough to get used to, but don’t worry: We’ll take you through it.

Movement

In the first part of this guide, we’ll explain basic movements, from walking to running to jumping and the variations of each.

Running

Typically one learns to walk before they run, but in Smash, running is actually easier. Simply push the left analog all the way left or right to run.

You can stop on a dime by releasing the stick, or skid and turn in the other direction.

But here’s a finer point. If you release the stick for a moment and then push in the other direction, you won’t skid and will instantly start running back in the other direction.

This seems pretty mundane, but it’s part of a major new movement rule in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. You can interrupt your run with any action or attack at all, provided you let go of the analog stick for a moment. Once you’re more comfortable with the systems, come back to this: It’ll open up a whole world of new possibilities for your movements.

Walking

Running is great for getting around, but there are going to be times where you’ll want to make subtler movements, approaching your opponent slowly instead of slamming directly into them. Tilt the analog stick about halfway left or right to walk briskly without breaking into a full run. Give it the slightest possible nudge to tiptoe gently.

Jumping

There are two kinds of jumps. For the basic jump, press Y. You can jump one more time in mid-air, in any direction.

For a short jump that’s low to the ground and easier to attack your opponent out of, tap Y quickly, making sure not to hold the button down.

It’s even possible to jump off your opponent’s head a few times in a row, with diminishing returns as you can see here. Keep this move in mind when, for example, you and your opponent are both flying toward the edge of the stage and you’re just above them. It might just save your life.

Air movement

You have great freedom of movement during your jump and in the air in general, regardless of which direction you first jumped in. For example, you can jump forward and then immediately pull back if you see you’re falling into danger. You can even wiggle back and forth in the air with total disrespect for the laws of physics.

Also keep the air dodge in mind. Press the guard button (ZL or ZR) in the air to dodge, and press the guard button plus any direction to dodge in that direction. Even if you aren’t using it to actually dodge an attack, this move can cover considerable distance, especially the side dodges. In a pinch, it might just save you from the abyss.

Seeing as the goal is to avoid being knocked off the stage, this freedom of air control is a big part of playing Smash. Remember your air movements when you take a big hit off the stage and need to pull yourself back in.

Attacks

Also contrary to many other games in the genre, Su per Smash Bros. Ultimate’s attack moves are very simple to execute. At most, you’re pressing a button and holding a direction on the analog stick at the same time. That being said, each character’s arsenal is still quite wide, and there are some moves you might not even notice at first.

Neutral Attack

The fast jab is the simplest move. Just stand in place and press A to attack with a single quick hit in the direction you’re facing. Depending on the character, either hold down A or press it three times to get a close-range combo that does high damage but doesn’t send the opponent flying very far.

In the air, press A without pressing any directions for a neutral air attack. These moves are very fast to come out and generally hit a wide area around the character. In the case of Kirby here, his neutral air attack turns him into a little spin-kicking wrecking ball.

Run attacks

This is the next most straightforward move. Just tap the attack button during a run. These moves are like tackles: They deliver decent damage and can push your opponent pretty far, but you’re left quite open if they guard against you.

Tilt attacks

Remember walking? The “tilt” applies to attacks as well. While tilting the left analog stick slightly in any direction — but not tilting it far enough to break into a run — press an attack button. There are different tilt attacks for up, down and sides. Some characters even have diagonal tilt attacks.

These attacks are generally quite fast with good range, making them an excellent choice for intercepting other fighters’ moves. If your opponent only uses the slower smash attacks, use tilt attacks to counter-punch them.

(I set tilt attacks to the right analog stick so that there’s never a situation where I meant to do a tilt attack but pressed too hard and got a smash attack instead.)

Smash attacks

The signature move of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and very often the finishing blow, smash attacks slam the opponent a long distance in a particular direction. It’s usually one of these moves that hits the opponent so hard in one direction that it finally knocks them off the stage.

To do a smash attack, press either the right analog stick in any direction or alternatively, press a direction on the left analog stick and A at the same time. These moves deal big damage. As your opponent takes more and more damage, smash attacks will knock them further and further away in that move’s particular direction.

It’s also possible to charge a smash attack for extra damage and distance. Hold A, watch your character start to flash, and let go whenever you want. The longer you hold the button, the harder the strike, but keep in mind that human opponents are very unlikely to stand in place in front of you as you charge an attack for two seconds.

Special attacks

Press the B button to do a special attack. Unlike normal or smash attacks, special attacks are unique and have completely different uses from one character to the next. Depending on which direction you press along with the B button, you’ll get a different special attack. There are neutral (no direction) specials, side specials, down specials and up specials. You can also use these moves in the air.

As you can see in the video, Link’s special attacks involve his various tools from Breath of the Wild, each with a very specific function. Investigate each of these moves for your own character and experiment. If a move’s function isn’t completely obvious when you first use it, that probably means there’s a particular situation that it was designed for.

Up special attacks

There is one exception among the special attacks, a move whose use is similar for every character, and that is the up special. Up special attacks almost always involve some kind of big jump up. Sometimes this is an attack that can hit, like Ryu’s Shoryuken, and other times it’s simply an escape, like Sonic’s springboard. What each up special attacks hasin common is that you can use them as a last-ditch save to keep yourself from falling off the stage.

Keep in mind that as you land from an up special, you’re completely open to attack, which is signified by the character flashing on the way down. The higher up in the air you use an up special, the more dangerous the descent will be. Smart players will absolutely take advantage and hit you with everything they’ve got (like an up attack in the air) in this situation.

Air attacks

Finally, we have air attacks. Press A in the air for a neutral air attack or A along with a direction for an attack in that direction (typically up, down, back or forward). Note that rather than left or right, side air attacks aim either in the direction that the character is facing or away, reaching over their backs to slap an opponent behind them.

Use these moves to chase opponents who have already been launched into the air. Guessing where an opponent is trying to fall and aiming a punch at just the right spot is one of the great joys of Smash. As well as following opponents into the air, characters like Fox have blindingly fast air attacks that can easily aim for and harass standing opponents when used in conjunction with a short jump.