Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fans are obsessed with ranking the game’s extensive, crossover cast of video game characters in tier lists. Tier lists constantly change to reflect alterations to the game’s meta, caused by balance updates released by Nintendo, but also players finding new techniques. The Smash community recently found a new technique with potential to drastically change the game’s meta: the slingshot.
Nintendo released its final character balance patch for Ultimate last December, ending the game’s run of the regular updates that helped keep the competitive scene dynamic and responsive to issues found with certain characters. But this hasn’t stopped players discovering new techniques on their own, discoveries which constantly change the game’s meta–a term used to describe the best techniques used by top players in a competitive game. The latest to rewrite how people are approaching matches is the slingshot.
On the surface, the slingshot is a simple mechanic. In order to slingshot, Smash players push the analog stick all the way left or right to dash, and then down-back or up-back in the opposite direction. Then, players typically use a jump. This can be used to quickly glide across the ground and can be followed up by an attack or other movement options.
Players, for example, can attack and quickly move backward at the same time while still facing forward, which makes certain moves safer to use against an opponent. This technique gives players more movement options and an added layer of complexity that makes it reminiscent of wave-dashing in Super Smash Bros. Melee, something that came to clearly delineate top players from the rest. Previously, the Ultimate community only knew about these mechanics on a very basic level, not realizing how much depth and complexity there was if further pursued, according to the player who discovered the slingshot and coined the term.
That player is GimR, president and co-founder of VG BootCamp, the biggest source for Twitch streaming and YouTube uploads of competitive Smash Bros. tournaments. He unveiled the technique to the public in a May 6 YouTube video, but not without some preamble hype in the form of an Apr. 24 teaser trailer and a May 3 video with out-of-context reactions from professional players to the new technique. GimR said he found the technique by accident while playing around in the game’s training mode. “It was all kind of like right there, but it wasn’t obvious,” GimR said in his May 6 video.
“I truly believe this can change the meta,” GimR continued. “But as Ultimate players, you’re gonna have to be willing to be patient with something that you’re not going to be able to implement into your game in one sitting. This isn’t a 1:1 comparison, but it took Melee players quite a while to be able to consistently wave-dash, and they rolled with the punches until they got it right.”
But is GimR right about how much this could change the way top players compete? Professional players and fans have been playing around with the technique, and uploading their results and thoughts on YouTube and other social media platforms. GimR himself has commentated compilations of slingshot combos and responded to professional players’ takes on the technique, such as ESAM, the world’s best Ultimate player of the Pokémon character Pikachu.
In ESAM’s initial May 11 video about slingshotting with Pikachu, he said the new mechanic is just “relatively useful” for Pikachu, pointing out new tricks like a new, fast way to throw out electricity projectiles called Thunder Jolts while quickly moving back from your opponent. GimR uploaded a response video four days later that showed off more Pikachu techniques, and in a response to that response, ESAM admitted he missed or undervalued certain Pikachu slingshot techniques. One slingshot technique from GimR that allows Pikachu to quickly avoid and punish a really quick move, like Squirtle shielding and then quickly using a forward-air attack, particularly impressed ESAM.
Notably, the slingshot mechanic convinced the world’s best Ultimate player, MKLeo, to pick up the Persona character Joker again. MKLeo had a dominant winning streak with Joker shortly after the character released as DLC in April of 2019, convincing most of the Ultimate community that he’s one of the top characters. He has been known the past year or two to mainly play the Fire Emblem character Byleth, but this new method has been tempting him back.
“Started playing Joker after the release of slingshot, made the character fun for me again and decided I was gonna play him again,” MKLeo wrote in the description for a May 23 YouTube compilation of new Joker gameplay.
It’s unclear if this will translate into regular tournament Joker usage from MKLeo, but the video excited fans, including GimR.
Players have noticed that the Zelda character Sheik seems to have particularly benefited from early slingshot implementation. The best Ultimate Sheik player, VoiD, uploaded a few YouTube videos with gameplay implementing the slingshot mechanic, including the May 10 video “THIS SLINGSHOT MOVEMENT IS NOT OKAY.” Watching VoiD play Sheik, an elegant and complex character that requires finesse to do anything with at a high-level, is a delight, and, now using the slingshot, a sight to behold.
“Sheik isn’t supposed to be able to move like this,” VoiD wrote in the video’s description.
It may take a long time for Ultimate fans to grasp how much of an impact the slingshot mechanic will have, but, while it’s hard to tell how significant it will be, it definitely seems like it will change the meta to some degree.
Smash meta is always changing, after all. Throughout the week of May 9, popular streamer and Smash player Hungrybox released his most recent Ultimate tier list in five parts, released once a day. He dubbed this his “final” tier list because of the end of character balance patches from Nintendo, but the video series started just three days after GimR unveiled slingshotting, and also four days after an amazing performance with the Minecraft character Steve from player Acola, unrelated to slingshotting.
Hungrybox commented on the last video, responding to those wondering if his “final” tier list may already seem dated,
“Given recent changes in the meta, it’s advisable to know Steve’s placement changed in my personal list as of this week. However, this video series was recorded around a month ago, before Acola’s recent results and slingshotting was introduced. Regardless, Steve is MOST certainly a Top tier character in my eyes! So while this is the FINAL patch… This does not mean the meta is over.”
And then for his next YouTube upload, he reacted to slingshot clips. They blew him away. “Pros have had their hands on slingshot for a bit now ever since GIMR [gave] his breakdown on how to do it, and we are seeing BIG things!” he wrote in the May 14 video’s description. “Safe aerials, insane mix-ups, and WAVEDASHING IN Smash Ultimate!!! That’s right, and it’s all here.”