As a competitive “Super Smash Bros.” player and longtime fan of the series, I eagerly awaited Piranha Plant character addition in late January. Teased as the first downloadable content (DLC) character and with limited information on its moveset, one could only speculate how the Plant would actually work. New characters are a fun way to spice up “Smash Bros.” by introducing new play styles and strategies. Many of the DLC characters for “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U,” such as Cloud and Bayonetta, proved to be metagame-defining and the strongest characters available, forcing players to choose characters based solely on their matchups. But Piranha Plant is a fun and interesting character regardless, just not one that breaks the balance of the game.
This entirely new character is formidable in the right hands, and free for those who purchased and registered the game by the end of January. An asymmetric split between a zoner (a character that controls space with projectiles) and an offstage menace, Piranha Plant will struggle to knock opponents offstage but gets an excellent reward out of doing so. To find success with Piranha Plant, rack up damage and then secure knockouts once an opponent is knocked offstage or with a powerful smash.
Although lacking range, Piranha Plant’s sheer firepower and ability to chase opponents offstage are dangerous. The flytrap’s normal moves, those performed with the A button, leave something to be desired in terms of range, though. But the Plant compensates for its tiny reach with speed and power. Piranha Plant may walk slowly, but its jab (neutral A move) is the second fastest in the game, starting up at a speedy 30th of a second. Other moves, such as the up and side smash attacks, pack tremendous launching power and can yield early knockouts with careful positioning. However, they are also somewhat limited in range.
The real potential of Piranha Plant lies in its special moves, also known as B moves. The neutral special move flings a spiked ball into the air, which can be cancelled or launched to the right or left, making it great to hurl at offstage opponents trying to recover. This move can be great in team or large free-for-all battles, as the spiked ball crushes multiple characters in succession. However, it is a bit slow for one-on-one battles. The up special causes the plant to spin its leaves like a propeller, allowing it to fly; this move allowing the plant to go offstage with relative safety, including at the bottom magnifier on stages like Battlefield. The down special causes the plant to bunker up in its flowerpot, before snapping back out with tremendous range and power. Using this move is a great tactic to secure a K.O. in multi-person matches and can be used in the air to delay a fall. Piranha Plant’s real standout, though, is its side special, a poison breath attack that does nearly 60 percent damage in one-on-one matches and dissuades opponents from rushing in haphazardly. Piranha Plant can safely stand inside the gas, protecting itself while preparing a new plan of attack.
The secret to success with Piranha Plant involves controlling space. Special moves like the side special encourage opponents to jump at the plant, creating opportunities for the powerful up-tilt, up-aerial and up-smash attacks. Once a player pressures an opponent offstage, Piranha Plant truly shines. Edgeguarding, the process of keeping opponents offstage, is one of Piranha Plant’s strongest tactics. From spiking opponents straight down with down aerial attacks, to simply bullying them away with forward and backwards aerials, the Plant has several options to prevent opponents from recovering, all aided by its own exceptional recovery.
Piranha Plant unfortunately struggles against fast characters and swords. Although not exactly slow, the plant gets outpaced by several other characters, fails to keep opponents at bay, and fight back when they get close. Piranha Plant lacks the strong close-range tools to protect its space unless the opponent jumps in from above and, although its jab is quick, the character has limited range. Speedy characters can jump around the plant’s projectiles and poison cloud, making opponents difficult to fight against. Sword characters are also a problem, since many of Piranha Plant’s moves have limited range. Swords are known as “disjointed hitboxes,” which means if they come into contact with an opponent, they will do damage. Enemies attacking the weapon itself will not harm the opponent, though. Piranha Plant’s limited range causes it to lose to bigger sword swipes, so be careful not to attack too recklessly. Patient and deliberate play are essential to a good defense with this character.
Piranha Plant’s appeal comes from flashy K.O.’s thanks to tremendous knockback on hard-to-land moves. Though the characters lacks the combos into powerful moves that other characters possess and forces players to make predictions off their opponent’s plays, this paradigm can be much more satisfying than guaranteed setups. Although this high-risk, medium-reward dynamic means that the character isn’t competitively viable, it makes the Plant tremendously fun for beating the hell out of your friends during casual play.