Understanding the Smash 4 Language

So a lot of people have been wondering -  what is all this Super Smash Bros lingo? The game is extremely enjoyable to watch, especially at a higher level of play.  But when listening to the commentators you may be googling a word every 30 seconds trying to keep up in the fast-paced fighting game.  Here's a list of some of the Smash 4 language you may see and/or hear when watching  LML or other tournaments:


Neutral Game - The point of the game where nobody has a clear advantage.  You begin on the stage against your opponent.  The purpose of the ensuing fight is to put your opponent in a position where they are off stage or in the air, and you are edge guarding against them. Depending on what character you play, you'll have different forms of pressure.  Take into account the character's range, speed, specials, aerial moves and air mobility.  There's so much more that goes into the neutral game, depending on player skill level, but just these few variables can get the point across.

Think of the neutral game as an ongoing, fast-paced game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.  One approach will beat the next until every approach is beaten by the one before it.  It's like a snake eating it's tail!

In smash there is a rock, paper and scissors.  Shielding, grabbing and attacking.  Shielding is beaten by grabbing, grabbing is generally trumped by attacking, and attacking is beaten by shielding.  

Watch this very informative video to understand clearly what is meant:

To understand a player's ability to succeed in the neutral game, you must first take into account the player's understanding of their characters' options and their opponents options at any given point.  This concept is preliminary stuff to mind games and player skill, but it is the fundamental game you play every time you do battle. More later!

Blast Zone - The boundary line where if a character passes, they are K.O.d. A simple concept in Smash Brother's but important to note exactly where the Blast Zone is on every legal map. For example, Town and City has a "low ceiling" which means it's ceiling blast zone is closer than compared to a stage like Battlefield, which has a higher ceiling.

Aerials - Simply the non-special aerial attack a player chooses. Neutral-air (Nair), forward-air (Fair), down-air (Dair), back-air (Bair) and up-air.  Each character has different aerials that interact in different ways.  It's important to understand how they all work!

Specials - The 'B' buttons! You have 4.  Neutral special (B without an input), Down special (B while holding down on the analog stick), Forward special (B while holding forward), and Up special (B while holding up).  Every character has different specials.  Some are projectiles, some are counters, some are long-winded powerful blows, and some are completely based on RNG!

In the nature of smash and fighting games, there will be options that are generally considered good options and bad options.  The good options are simply applications that serve a vital role in the neutral game, this can be the core of a character.  

An example of this could be Luigi's green fireball (neutral special).  Unlike Mario's bouncing fireball, Luigi's will move in a straight horizontal line upon being input.  This has potential to remove the enemy's approaches or make for a safer approach for Luigi, depending on where it's placed.  This can allow the Luigi player to think steps ahead and react to the opponent's reaction to the fireball.  Smashception!  This is a simple application to a much bigger picture.

A bad option is one that consistently leaves you in a position where you can be punished.  A good example of a 'bad' option would be Ganondorf's Warlock Punch (Neutral B).  Similar to Captain Falcon's Falcon Punch, this beefy move doesn't come out til frame 70! What's worse?  You can't act out of it until frame 118 of inputting the move.  If you've spent any time on Kurogane Hammer checking out the frame data of your main character (please do this), you'll understand that this is the equivalent an eternity.

Frame & Frame Data - A frame is 1/60th of a second, meaning that the game plays at 60 fps.  During every frame of gameplay, the game is registering controller inputs and a variety of unique situations that arise from player interactions.  We are about to get into teching, which is a key defense mechanic in the Super Smash Bros. series.  To tech, you have to make a shield input 20 frames before encountering a floor, ceiling or wall.  20 frames = 20/60 seconds.  This means that in order to successfully tech, you need to shield one third of a second before encountering terrain.  

Frame Data is the information gathered about characters' movesets.  What frame does a certain move create a damaging hitbox after being input?  When can you act out of that move?  Does it have a lot of end-lag?  These are all questions that should be asked when digging deeper into smash.  

ex. Yoshi's Fair hitbox is active from frames 16-20.  Yoshi cannot input another command until frame 44 of this move. We call this end-lag, which transitions into FAF (first actionable frame) in which the player can begin to input new commands.  

Tech - "Officially" yet less known as a breakfall, it acts exactly as it sounds.  Instead of landing on the ground like a sack of potatoes, which leaves you vulnerable to attacks, you touchdown and stand up with a short period of invincibility.  This is performed by inputting the shield button 20 frames before contacting the floor.

Techroll - The same as a standard tech, but while contacting the floor you moves the analog stick left or right to roll.  

Wall tech - This tech follows suit, with a 20 frame or fewer window to execute.  This is commonly used defensively offstage when your opponent is trying to stage spike/gimp you.  Got hit with a back air from the majority of the smash cast? No problem! Time that shield button to ricochet off the stage, eating your momentum and giving you a few invincibility frames.   

Rage - A damage multiplier new to Smash 4.  As a character gets damaged, they begin to become enraged, doing increased knockback on damaging abilities, up to a cap.  Rage comes online once a character has reached 35% and maxes at 150%.  

Directional Influence (DI) - Having changed many times through the series, Smash 4 DI is the players ability to influence their characters' movement.  Trajectory DI, in this case, is the direction in which you influence your character to go from the point of getting launched.  

Imagine eating a Captain Falcon knee (F-air).  When the knee connects there are freeze frames (or hitlag) before you are launched away.  During that hitlag, you can DI away from where you are intended to be launched, reducing the trajectory.  There is specific DI that is optimal against certain characters move-sets,   and with based on a characters' damage percent and their opponents rage, DI may not make the biggest difference.

Still, consider it a last ditch effort; it's do or die.

Smash Directional Influence (Smash DI/SDI) - Tech that changes the position of your character during the freeze frames of an ability, or while being hit with multi-hit attacks.  

Ex. 1: Rather than sitting in the Captain Falcon knee waiting to act afterwards, you can take that near half-second time of hitlag to slightly manipulate where you will be launched from as well as how far you will be launched by following optimal trajectory DI.

Ex. 2: When caught in Little Mac's 3rd jab multi-hit, rub the analog stick up and away from Mac in an attempt to jump out of the hit-stun.  This works on many multi-hit jabs with slightly different SDI for each.

Perfect Shield (powershield) - Arguably a bit more advanced, but you've probably seen or done this yourself whether aware or now.  This is the act of shielding an incoming attack four frames before an incoming attack.  This acts as the 'parry' of Smash bros, as a perfect shield results in no shield damage or knockback, as well as avoiding the freeze frames you would typically receive if you did not perfect shield.  This gives the player who perfect shields an advantage, giving them the immediate jump on the opponent while they are caught in hitlag.  Perfect shielding will make a crisp parrying sound to let you know if you've executed this properly.  Ryu is the exception as his perfect shield will make the parrying sound from Street Fighter III.

Freeze Frames (hitlag) -  No news here to fighting game enthusiasts!  This is an occurrence when an attacking character 'freezes' for a short amount of time after an attack.  This is very noticeable during smash attacks, or a Captain Falcon knee where the game stalls for a fraction of a second.  There are plenty of situations where the defending player is capable of power shielding to remove themselves from the freeze frames, allowing them to act sooner than the attacker.

Labbing - Fighting game lingo for practice.  This can be anywhere from a friendly match to applying tech to in-game scenarios.  This is where you do your homework.


Boost Grab (extended dash grab) - When a character  transfers dash attack momentum into a dash grab, essentially extending a normal dash grab while *typically* being a safer option

Dash-Cancelling - Simply put, when a character cancels their dash animation by  jumping, shielding, pivoting or performing a smash move.

Dash-Dancing -  Performed by tapping the analog stick left and right quickly, cancels dash animation in one direction by instead performing a dash animation in the opposite direction.  Although the tripping mechanic from Brawl was removed in Smash 4, dash-dancing is not a popular mechanic in the newest iteration of Smash, favored by stronger neutral game options.

Frame Cancelling - Performed while you are about to land against a grounded opponent.  By performing aerial attacks against a non-shielding opponent, the landing lag will begin on the freeze frames of the attack, shortening the usual length of landing lag.  This tech is easily punishable due to perfect shielding's existence in the neutral game.

Jab-Cancelling - Any character with a rapid jab can execute this.  Before the 3rd jab that starts the jab combo, a character can shield, crouch or pivot to begin a new string without having to finish the 3rd multi hit jab.  Also known as a 'jab fake' the tech is used for a few reasons.  Firstly, the 3rd jab can easily be DI'd out of or shielded, losing you the neutral game and leading to a returned punish.  However if you were to bait your opponent into shielding preemptively, you'll be able to act with a grab.  They stuffed their air dodge into the stage?  That's a free grab.

Pivoting - The act of turning your character around from a dash without the lag you would normally get from harshly turning around.  This is done by turning the analog stick in the opposite direction of where you're dashing, followed by a move.  In smash 4 you can execute a pivot at any point in the dash, and depending on your controller scheme you can perform a tilt, jab, smash attack or grab.  There's nothing quite like getting pivot-grabbed by ZSS, Lucas or Samus, now is there?!  This technique acts as an incredible spacing and mind game tool by separating yourself from where your opponent thinks you'll be.  

Most notable in Smash 4 is Perfect Pivoting which is essentially just a faster pivot.  There is only a short window in which you can execute a perfect pivot, but mastering this wave-dash-mimicking tech will help take your game to the next level.  Here's a tutorial on perfect pivoting for those who are interested in labbing it out:

Reverse Aerial Rush (RAR) - A tech that changes the direction that your character is facing without intensely altering the momentum of a dash.  From a dash, input the direction change and quickly perform a jump.  The result will be a seamless turnaround.  This is most effective for characters with strong back-air options, such as Fox and Donkey Kong.

And this isn't even the full list!  People are constantly experimenting and learning the quirks of their characters.  It's important to understand how all of this tech functions in game.  So get into training mode and try it for yourself! We hope this guide helped orient you with the game a bit more.  Did we miss something? Have something more to add?  Leave a comment below and share with those who are trying to get into the Smash 4 scene!
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  1. Hey Slooze nice post! Question - when I asked my local community what "confirm" meant they laughed at me and called me a moron. Not very friendly! Could you explain what that means and give some examples?

  2. A confirm is exactly what it sounds like. During a game of smash you'll find percents where certain combos will guarantee an outcome. A confirm will typically be associated with a kill confirm, which confirms a KO.

    A good example would be Little Mac's down tilt into KO punch. Little Mac's down tilt will pop the opponent up and into hitstun, which is a perfect setup for Mac's finishing blow.

    Your community sounds a bit toxic! No worries, however. You have all the tools to improve your play right at your own wii-u. Happy smashing!

  3. A good example would be Little Mac's down tilt into KO punch.
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