By Etienne “HandsomeTom” Gagnon
Kirby dittos are probably the least understood matchup by the population of SSB players. This guide intends to help Kirby players of all skill levels gain a better conceptual understanding of how to play the MU and aims to offer to non-Kirby players the tools to better appreciate its subtleties from a viewer’s perspective. I believe that parts of this guide contain knowledge that was not priorly accessible for or understood by NA players, on a more than instinctual level at least.
As the meme goes, Kirby dittos are all about pressing up on the joystick, meaning that the only thing you have to do is jump a lot. Now there is a large part of truth to this seeing as:
- Kirby does not have a good upair.
- Kirby’s down air has a dominant hitbox.
- Kirby’s only antiair from the ground (uptilt) leaves him somewhat vulnerable.
For these reasons, Kirby has a lot of trouble attacking opponents above his head while he has a very easy time attacking opponents under him. This mix of conditions creates an ecosystem where both Kirbies need to acquire and maintain a position above the other Kirby to be in an advantageous position.
Obviously, this is best achieved by reaching and holding the top platform, for the simple reason that it is the highest point on the stage. A Kirby holding the top platform can hardly be attacked by a Kirby from a lower position, leading to the kind of drawn out stalemates that characterize the MU and despair the viewers.
On a more subtle level though, the Kirby from the bottom has a lot of options to slowly chip away at the opponent’s control of the top platform, and the Kirby on top needs to be very cautious so as to maintain that control. This guide aims to make more accessible these subtle interactions between the airborne Kirbies.
Obviously, as in all matchups, techskill matters if you want to make it at the top level. As I mentioned earlier, Kirby dittos are defined by the character’s positioning; the speed at which you move limits the positions that you are able to acquire. It is therefore essential to be as efficient as possible with your movement so as to give as few frames as possible to your opponent to get into better positions (more on that later). It’s very important to have a solid understanding of Kirby’s movement if you want to play this MU well.
- This means that you should mostly be using stick hops when jumping from the ground. As I mentioned, getting above the other Kirby is essential in this MU, and stick hopping allows you to gain more height with your jump. There are few scenarios when you want to c hop in a Kirby ditto. Moreover, stick hopping allows your character to rise faster than a c hop, so using the stick hop will allow you to climb to the platforms faster. Stick hop unless you have a good reason not to.
Bonus: on game start you can buffer a stick hop input on the very first frame. If you do this and your opponent doesn’t you should be able to get a free first possession of the top platform.
- To gain as much height as possible, it’s also essential to master the timing of your double jump so as to get maximum height out of every single one of them. This means double jumping when the rise of your previous jump is finished but before Kirby starts falling down. The timing varies with each jump and needs to be mastered.
- You must learn Kirby’s perfect land from ground to side platform, side platform to top platform and ground to top platform at a minimum.
Fastfalling vs Slowfalling
Most players simply fastfall as soon as they get the chance to. This is a mistake. The decision between choosing to fastfall or to slowfall requires a lot of nuanced thinking. Remember that SSB is a game that is played through both Time and Space. When deciding to fastfall or slowfall you need to think about when and where you want to fall. The relationship is the following: fastfalling lets you arrive somewhere faster but what you gain on a time axis you lose on a space axis because fastfalling makes you lose drift. By falling faster you lose horizontal space you could have travelled by staying in the air longer. This applies to every character.
In Kirby dittos more specifically, a Kirby that decides to fastfall reaches the ground faster than his opponent. This means that he will start a new sequence of jump while his opponent is still exhausting his remaining double jumps or is slow falling, allowing the fastfalling Kirby to gain the height advantage in the near future. This also means that he puts himself under his opponent in the present by fastfalling. This is something you need to consider when deciding to fall and is highly dependant on the relative positions of both Kirbies. Covering every scenario is not possible here.
As a rule of thumb though, if you are willingly putting yourself under the opponent you should do it as he is initiating a double jump since he won’t be able to come down on you until the rise of the jump is finished. This is situational.
Holding the Platform
If the Kirby on the top platform makes no mistakes he should almost never lose control of it. The first way to lose the platform is to get hit, so don’t get hit. The other way is to make spacing mistakes so as to get pushed off by the other Kirby’s superior spacing over an interaction. Holding the platform effectively implies not giving an inch if you don’t have to. The common mistake is to treat the top platform as some monolithic entity. The top platform has different spaces and the place where you land on it will affect your ability to maintain control of it. Consider these scenarios.
In scenario A the Yellow Kirby will have a hard time holding the top platform. This is because in spite of being slightly above the pink Kirby, the pink Kirby’s zone covers much of the platform so the yellow Kirby has less space to retreat to.
In scenario B the platform is basically unassailable for the pink Kirby since yellow Kirby has a lot more room to move without giving him the platform. Pink Kirby will have a hard time pushing off yellow Kirby with his spacing.
Consider these scenarios:
With both Kirbies on the ground, scenario C is much more likely to turn into Scenario B than Scenario A and vice versa for Scenario D. The takeaway from this is that the place where you land on the platform determines your ability to hold it at the end of a jump sequence. You should avoid yielding any space if you don’t have to because any space given is less room that the opposing Kirby will have to gain to push you off.
Sometimes yielding space on the top platform is necessary though. In Scenario E if the yellow Kirby just landed at the edge of the platform trying not to yield space, he’ll just get hit. The ideal landing point depends on factors such as the positioning of both Kirbies, the amount of jumps left, the timing of the jumps, etc. There are too many possible situations for me to cover exhaustively. Here is an example of Fukurou holding top platform vs Moyashi to illustrate what was just covered. Observe how Fukurou’s landing points lets him easily deflect any attack.
Taking the Platform
We just saw what mistakes to avoid when holding the platform. The most common way to take the platform is to capitalize on spacing mistakes made by the top Kirby when holding the platform. This means that you need to be ready to occupy any space yielded by the opposing Kirby in his landings. This also means that you should apply the same principles that we just covered about landing on the top platform to landing on side platform. A Kirby standing on the outside edge of the side platform will have a hard time gaining enough space to secure a landing on the top platform. A Kirby standing on the inner edge is much more threatening. Again, safety first applies. Don’t get hit.
Another method to taking the top platform is attacking from the bottom. The idea is quite simple: if Kirby is on the top platform then it is difficult for him to engage a Kirby that is on the floor, due to the distance between the two. Therefore you can be quite safe from the floor. What you do then is while the top Kirby is hovering above the platform you try to call out his landing with a stick hop and then a double jump poke through the platform.
- If the opposing Kirby is at a low percent this should be done using a perfect land fair to the top platform to open up a combo. The downside to this is that missing your read exposes you to getting daired on the top platform and comboed.
- If the opposing Kirby is at a mid to high percent you should poke with a bair while staying under the platform. This way a hit will successfully shove the top Kirby off of the platform while missing your read will result in you getting daired through the platform and going back to the floor, which will be hard to follow up for the top Kirby.
The risk reward on this second method of attacking the top platform is not so great so I wouldn’t really advise using it unless you’re really getting outplayed in the air.
Observe this clip:
I studied this match pretty often over the years and was confused for a long time as to how Moyashi gets hit so easily in this sequence. He seems to be spaced far enough to stay safe yet Fukurou dips down and whacks him off the stage like it’s nothing.
I think Moyashi’s mistake lies in the rhythm of his jumps in relation to Fukurou. Consider that starting from the side platform essentially means that you are down a jump to the Kirby from the top platform. This means that if both Kirbies are in sync while jumping, the Kirby that started by being down a jump will have no chance to ever catch up. In the above clip, Moyashi initiates a double jump sequence in sync with Fukurou. Fukurou identifies this, dips down instead of jumping (essentially sacrificing his extra jump) and hits Moyashi during the rise of his jump, where he is essentially in lag.
Now this clip:
Here Fukurou makes sure to jump so as to be one “beat” ahead of Kysk. You can see that his attack is much more threatening than Moyashi’s. The reason for that is that being one beat ahead lets him play at the same height as kysk for a few jumps, allowing him to negate the top platform’s height advantage. This technique is KEY to challenging the top platform adequately.
Here is a series of aphorisms :
- Every SSB recovery is a function of time and space. Good recoveries afford the character more solid mix ups along one of these two axis.
- Mario’s recovery is strong because he has a lot of mixups time wise as to when he will recover (plus the priority of his upB).
- Pikachu’s recovery is strong because he has a lot of mix ups over space. This goes without saying.
- Falcon’s recovery is bad because it’s linear through both time and space.
- Height is good for a recovering character because it affords him both more time to recover and allows him to choose different spaces to recover to.
- Gravity is problematic for a recovering character because it pulls it to the blast zone
- Gravity counters the effect of height.
- Gravity is a function of time.
The takeaway from this is the following. A recovery is only good as long as you have options. Upon losing height a character loses options. This is especially true for Kirby. Gravity makes a character lose height. Gravity’s effect is amplified by time spent offstage by a character.
Always remember this : Time works against a recovering character. If you force a character to spend more time offstage during his recovery, his options are going to exhaust themselves on their own.
This means that it’s important to not rush it when edgeguarding Kirby. There’s rarely a need to go for a read to hit him while he is double jumping. Often simply making him waste time offstage is a safer way to complete the edgeguard. Most of the time using this simple strategy will suffice.
Position your Kirby at a spacing similar to the diagram so that if the other Kirby tries to double jump a fair it will whiff. Remember that any jump essentially forces the opposing Kirby to move in a set direction (up) for a large amount of frames. If you are spaced like this and they try to jump with a full forward momentum, they will enter the zone where you can simply back air them on reaction. Being forced to go up from the jump, they won’t be able to dodge the attack. What this means is that at this kind of spacing , the opposing Kirby will have to make a jump with less than full forward momentum, to give himself enough room to avoid your attack. This slows down his recovery. Repeat this spacing at every jump until you have slowed him down enough for gravity to force him into an upB. Return to the stage and edgeguard the upB.
Applying this strategy effectively will suffice in most edgeguard situations.
As I have noted, height offers many more options to the opponent when recovering. If you send someone offstage high enough there is effectively no way to convert the edgeguard. This means that you should favor combos that hit the opponent offstage as low as possible. If you can do one less uptilt in your combo you probably should, because uptilt gives up a lot of height. I believe that this is also the reason why Fukurou (or myself for that matter) will prefer to use drill resets when comboing from the top platform instead of a bair to nair chain.
Another important concept is that you should take risks when the reward is at it’s maximum. This means that if you are going to force an engagement on an opposing Kirby, you should preferably do it when some of his jumps are exhausted and he is coming down to the stage to set up an easy edgeguard. K y s k is especially good at hitting these timings.
Playing against the Corner
In perfect play Kirby ditto, the top Kirby’s platform defense is so strong that it is impossible to take. Therefore the lower Kirby is eventually forced to retreat to a safe space under the side platform. This can be tricky to play against. To engage a Kirby that is under the side platform you will be forced to land on the side platform and to drop through to attack. The key is to not get called out by a perfect land fair from the bottom Kirby to the side platform. Therefore it’s important to condition the bottom Kirby into not using that option by faking a landing and baiting his fair. To do this, run off the side platform a few times but DJ before landing to check his reaction. Practice running off the top platform and DJ back with a perfect land to make this motion faster.
Once you have managed to secure a landing on the side platform the bottom Kirby will have few options left.
- Start jumping from the corner.
- Run under you into the center
- Jump at you recklessly.
None of these options are especially strong and you should already have a good idea of how to deal with them. Watching high level matches will do a better job of explaining than anything I can write really. Just make sure to always stay safe and minimize the risk of giving away your position. You should therefore be especially wary of option 3 and play around it until you have detected a pattern.
I believe that parts of this guide contain knowledge that was not previously available, on a more than instinctual level anyways, in the North American smash scene. Most of NA’s current top Kirby players fail to apply these principles adequately. Thus if you practice integrating the content of this guide to your play, you can easily become a dominant player in the Kirby ditto.
I hope to have demonstrated that Kirby dittos are, from a strategic standpoint, much more complex than what is commonly believed. Simply camping top platform is insufficient if you want to compete in this MU at the top level.