So, Sephiroth has joined the incredible 78-fighter-deep roster of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros: Ultimate, and the immediate question on everyone’s minds is, “How good is he?”

Via: tgtkai

Most people’s initial impression – beyond being wowed at this oft-requested villain from Final Fantasy: VII actually being included in the game – may be negative. His frame data is extremely slow, while the current meta supports almost exclusively very fast characters in the upper tiers of play.

Check out his official fighter page here! Yes, Sephiroth has his own official page from Nintendo!
Via: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

However, I’m here to tell you that you are, indeed, wrong. While his frame data (that is, the amount of time his moves take to become active, and how long he takes to recover from using them) does vary from ‘below average’ to ‘did my game crash… oh no that’s just his end lag,’ he brings a unique combination of abilities to the table that I’m here to tell you make up for the frame data and more.

Via: Screenrant

In fact, I suspect that in the hands of a pro and with some time invested we may see him winning tournaments in as little as a few weeks. Stick around as this guide examines what exactly makes him so powerful, and a case for why he may indeed be a top tier and how you can see success with him.

The One-Winged Angel in the Room

One of the biggest mechanics in Sephiroth’s favor may be somewhat familiar to you if you’ve played Joker. That’s right, it’s his comeback mechanic: Winged Form. Love them or hate them, comeback mechanics are here to stay.

Via: Screenrant

When the game detects you’re in a dangerous situation, Sephiroth’s familiar single black angelic wing unfurls from his back, granting you an additional jump, faster move speed, and a whopping 30% increase to all of your damage (not to mention that feeling of spine-tingling badassery). Needless to say this is an incredible boost in power, especially for a character which already boasts a strong move speed attribute.

The circumstances that cause the winged form to be unleashed are a bit complicated, but it’s easiest to examine from an example where he is fighting an opponent on even terms. If both fighters have the same amount of stocks remaining, it activates at roughly 65% damage. Looking at typical 3-stock rules, if he’s ahead by two stocks it may take until up to ~90% before the wing activates, while being behind by two stocks means it will activate at as low as ~39%.

Check out his wiki page for exact details on Winged Form. Or just to check him out.
Via: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

The important part is how you make use of this boost in power. Obviously, all of your moves will kill earlier with this increase in strength, but there’s one big trick in this form that will net you huge gains: Down Smash. This move already does increased shield damage normally, but in winged form it will shield-break an opponent from anything but completely full shield! In fact, with a mere small charge (less than 1 second), even a full shield stands helpless against it! Down Smash also has the quickest startup of any of Sephiroth’s smash attacks, so consider not throwing out side smash and using this move instead.

While we’re talking about it, this incredible move can also be used to catch opponents at the ledge since it hits low. Knowing all this, you can consistently shield break your opponents, netting a kill even if they’re at 0%. How? Well for that we need to talk about Gigaflare.

How to Put the ‘Giga’ in Gigaflare

Sephiroth’s Neutral Special is a tricky one to use well — it has a long start-up, the projectiles as a whole move slowly, and it’s easy to avoid most of the time. However, even with all this in mind, it remains one of the best tools in his kit when used properly.

So here’s the scoop: Flare, the weakest of the lot, is used when the move isn’t charged or is only charged briefly. You should almost never use this version, as the damage is low and typically isn’t worth the time spent activating the move. If you can dodge a tumbleweed slowly drifting towards you, you can dodge Flare.

Via: Dexerto

Megaflare has decent range and does quite good damage, however, and is used when charging the move a moderate amount. It has good use trapping people at a ledge or going for a long range poke at a character who doesn’t have good range.

Gigaflare, the final form of your neutral special, is where the move becomes something amazing. It has a short range, but covers a large area and has extreme damage and knockback.

Via: Thesixthaxis

So how do you use it?

Remember that shield break setup from above with the winged form? That’s one of the areas in which Gigaflare excels. Get your shield break and push the opponent to the edge of the stage. Back up a little and fire a Gigaflare, and as soon as you let go of it, hit a side smash attack.

While the opponent is caught in Gigaflare, your side smash will also hit them. Between these two attacks, you can kill most fighters off the side of the stage at 0% damage. This makes Sephiroth one of extremely few characters in the game with a consistent 0 to death kill option. Oh, and don’t forget – if opponents try to shield a Gigaflare from you,  it will also result in a shield break. So you can also go Gigaflare into Gigaflare into side smash for an easy kill!

Via: Eventhubs

There’s one other common use for Gigaflare that’s worth mentioning, which is ledge trapping. If you knock an opponent far off the stage, you can simply stand near the ledge and charge Gigaflare. This makes it extremely hard for most fighters to recover, because it takes up a huge area and lasts for a long time. One of the only ways to avoid it is neutral get-up, but it must be timed absolutely perfectly to work. Practice using this at ledge and learn how people try to avoid it to trap them.

One last comment on flare: the charge can be cancelled at any point by tapping shield lightly. Use this to trick your opponents and catch them out when they try to punish you or preemptively dodge your attack.

He Definitely Won’t be Just a Memory

Practicing good use of Gigaflare and taking advantage of your winged form with Down Smash will take your Sephiroth from a party trick to a tournament winner. Sephiroth has a lot of unique traits – he has massive range while being a light fighter, and is incredibly mobile in the air. The biggest skill you’ll need as a Sephiroth player, though, is spacing. His huge range is a great resource, but if you don’t space properly, people will punish you for your whiffs. So practice that spacing!

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Via: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

In addition to the big game changers above, here are some small tips and tricks of Sephiroth’s kit that will help you up your game:

  • Scintilla (Down Special) is your counterattack, and it’s incredibly strong at ledge-guarding people’s recoveries, especially those who have big hitboxes like sword fighters. Use it at ledges to get early and easy kills.
  • Up Tilt will grab enemies at very close range in front of you and push them up to your sword tip. This can be a good mix-up and even kills at high percentages.
  • Use Shadow Flare (Side Special) to put opponents in bad positions. It can kill if it explodes while they’re off stage, but if they’re on stage and try to shield it, hit them with a down smash for another extremely easy shield break.
  • Octaslash (charged Up Special) is a great recovery move and good kill option, but make sure not to use it on stage unless you’re confident it will hit. If the opponent shields or dodges it, the end lag on the move is extremely high and will leave you vulnerable to a punish.
  • Hell’s Gate (Down Aerial) can be used at the edge of the stage to both two-frame and spike enemies. Make sure you’re still on stage, though, or you self destruct!

Practice his kit and get to know your kill setups. The setups on Sephiroth are maybe more important on this character than any others so far. However, if you learn them and get your spacing right, especially with your short hop front and back aerials, Sephiroth will take you a long way. Use him well and you just might find yourself taking home first at your local tournament — or higher!