The most recent Super Smash Bros. Ultimate update addressed a number of concerns in the competitive community, most notably the strength of characters like Captain Olimar. The developers hit the Pikmin protagonist with a number of changes in order to knock him down a peg, but those changes had the side effect of severely limiting his ability to block incoming attacks.
Captain Olimar has received a ton of animosity for his advantages in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Much of his strength in previous versions of the game revolved around his small frame, which made it hard for opposing players to land attacks. The game’s ver.3.1.0 patch, which dropped late last week, addressed this by enlarging his hurtbox, or the space around his model that tells the game he’s been hit. As you can see in the comparison images below, this change made the hurtbox around Olimar’s helmet significantly bigger.
Pichu, another character who has found success in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate competition thanks in part to her small frame, also received a hurtbox adjustment, but with one key difference: the size of her shield was also increased to compensate for the Pokémon’s increased vulnerability. Unfortunately for Olimar players, the intrepid space captain wasn’t given the same consideration, which has proven to be devastating for his defensive options.
Like almost every aspect of the Super Smash Bros. franchise, blocking works a little differently in these games than it does in most other fighting games. By holding the block button, players can surround their chosen characters with a protective bubble known as a shield. This bubble shrinks in size over time and also when it’s attacked by an opponent, reducing its effectiveness. At a shield’s maximum size, it should block most attacks outright, but as it gets smaller, players can utilize what is known as a shield poke to attack the vulnerable portions of an opponent’s character that are no longer inside the protective bubble. There are exceptions—condolences to Mr. Game & Watch in Super Smash Bros. Melee—but, generally, a character with a maximum shield shouldn’t be able to get hit.
That is where things have now gotten precarious for Captain Olimar. With an increased hurtbox but no such expansion on his shield, slivers of his vulnerable bits are constantly sticking out of the bubble’s protective space. The competitive community was quick to pick up on this discrepancy and has produced a mountain of evidence of how this negatively affects Olimar’s ability to mount a capable defense, some of which comes from actual tournament play.
Another technique known as shield tilting, which allows players to shift the shield to other portions of a character’s body to cover an exposed hurtbox, has been raised as a possible solution for Captain Olimar players who have suddenly found themselves without a viable shield, but that still poses the problem of making the lower half of his body vulnerable. And what happens when the shield shrinks? Should players even bother blocking at that point? This is an obvious oversight by Nintendo, and many fans think this is a step too far, even the players in the competitive community who had formerly been calling for Olimar nerfs.
Where one stands on the latest Super Smash Bros. Ultimate patch has a lot to do with what you value in competition. There’s no doubt that characters like Captain Olimar, Pichu, Peach, Daisy, and others were very strong before this patch, but it remains to be seen how the extensive changes made to these top tier characters will affect tournaments moving forward. Olimar’s shield issues, however, fly directly in the face of basic game mechanics that have existed for 20 years, hobbling a character who, while powerful, doesn’t deserve to be removed from competition entirely due to hamstrung defensive options. Here’s hoping the developers fix this oversight in the next patch.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and loves writing about them even more. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.