Introduction to Character Crisis
I am suffering from a character crisis in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Traditionally, the way to solve this is to choose one fighter learning the game through the perspective of your main. But with how large Smash’s cast is, could I be missing out on someone? For as long as it takes I intend on maining each character in Smash Bros, learning the game through their eyes, and then testing those skills at my local tournament. If you’d like join me on my character crisis you can sign up to receive emails each time I post a new article. This week I’m playing Kazuya Mishima, one of the most feared characters in Smash Ultimate.
Preconceptions on Kazuya
Kazuya Mishima who hails from Tekken has now brought his fury to Smash. Tekken is a strange series with anthropomorphic jaguars who’ll suplex you. My first experience with the series is Tekken Tag Tournament which me and my sister messed around with when we were younger. (I was a Yoshimitzu main). Kazuya was the second to last fighter to be included in the Fighter’s Pass 2 DLC for Smash and very quickly rose to prominence in the competitive scene. His ability to touch people once and convert it into a kill is unmatched amongst the entire cast of Ultimate. Once players began to realize just how devastating his combo game could be many people picked him up as their new main. In a little over a year of the character being out Kazuya won his first supermajor with Riddles piloting him to a 1st place finish at The Big House 10.
As brutal as his combos can be Kazuya was balanced by having some of the worst attributes in the game. Perhaps his greatest weakness is his jump which takes twice as long to come out compared to every other character in Smash. This is a huge deal in a platform fighter where mobility is king. Despite this glaring flaw Kazuya has shown that he still has what it takes to succeed in Smash and is a terrifying top tier to face in bracket. Before I started playing the character I created this matchup chart to get an idea of how Kazuya pairs up against Ultimate’s cast. I then compare it to a matchup chart created by mains of the character.
First thing that stands out to me is my placing of Marth/Lucina compared to them. I have it listed as a losing matchup for him whereas the mains say that it is close to even and could be Kazuya favored. Maybe watching MKLeo reverse 3-0 Riddles with Marth at the Scuffed World Tour affected my opinion of the matchup. Diddy Kong is another outlier, with me saying that it’s Kazuya favored and them listing it as a bottom 3 matchup for him. I guess I didn’t consider how much banana can stop him. It shocked me to see Mii Swordfighter listed as a bad matchup as that character is often considered to be one of the worst in the game, but his zoning tools and disjoints combined must be difficult to deal with.
Overall it appears that Kazuya has a hard time against characters that don’t let Kazuya near them. When Kazuya can land a hit, ideally, it should lead to their stock evaporating. When playing against Kazuya it is important to practice whiff punishing, which is a concept where you let your opponent overextend trying to hit you and then you can punish them for it. Characters with disjoints such as swords have an easier time doing this, while unique character mechanics such as grenade or shield monado can help reduce how much damage they take in a combo if they mess up. The goal for the Kazuya main in these kind of matchups is to land a hit and make it count.
Training Mode with Kazuya
Kazuya has more moves at his disposal than any other character in Smash. With special inputs Kazuya has 36 moves, twice as many as a normal character. Learning all of these inputs and how they flow into his combo tree is important to mastering the character. However, the most important thing to learn when playing Kazuya is the Z input which is Forward > Down > Diagonal. This grants Kazuya access to some of the strongest options in the game including a crouch dash which makes you invincible and the infamous Electric Wind God Fist (EWGF).
If it weren’t for crouch dash Kazuya would be one of the worst characters in the game. Crouch dash is a mechanic unique to Kazuya that gives him invincibility frames while he is moving. This lets him close the gap and challenge characters who would otherwise keep him far away. Crouch dash can be inputted using a Z input, but if you want to link multiple together quickly the best way to do so is by tapping down on the C-Stick after initiating a dash. It can be tricky to learn, but is necessary if you want to compete with Kazuya. If you get good enough at this your character will start moving as if you’re performing a Korean Back Dash in Tekken. Abusing the invincibility you gain is one of the most important parts of playing Kazuya. I’ll include resources down below that go into more detail on how to do crouch dash and other Kazuya specific techniques.
Crouch dash is an integral part of Kazuya’s kit but Electric Wind God Fist is what makes Kazuya deadly. To perform this technique all you need to do is a Z input and press the A button at the correct timing. When done properly, this move will put your opponent in a stun long enough for you to follow up with practically any move. However, this is a 2-frame input which means you only have 2/60th’s of a second to execute it correctly. 2-frame inputs are difficult to learn, and it can be frustrating when you don’t get it ten times in a row or more. Try to understand why you are making a mistake and then slowly adjust and eventually it’ll feel like second nature. It’s also good to learn what other moves in Kazuya’s moveset can link into an EWGF.
Spending time in the laboratory is important, especially for a character like Kazuya. But part of labbing is understanding how other people will play against you. Kazuya has had a spotlight on him ever since he joined Smash, and as a result many players have learned how to play the matchup. While it can be tempting to throw out Electrics in neutral with no regard for your opponent, that is often exactly what they are looking for so they can bait it out and punish. Part of learning a character is learning what options your opponent expects you to go for, and then figuring out how they plan to counter it. This is the underlying principle behind adaptation and is an important part of understanding Kazuya in Smash. Use this to get through your opponent’s defenses and show them that the Mishima’s are not to be underestimated. I hope you enjoy some of the clips I was able to land this week.
Kazuya Tournament Report
Going into this weeks tournament I felt confident about my Kazuya. On the first day I was learning the character I had the chance to go to a small local to test out my day 1 Kazuya. Before the event I spent an hour practicing my Electric Wind God Fists exclusively. I even managed to win a set, beating a close friend of mine who plays Mr. Game and Watch. I then spent the next week practicing my crouch dashes and trying my best to get Kazuya to the top of elite smash. I was determined to prove myself after my disastrous performance the week before when I self-destructed three times with Donkey Kong.
Round One – SinVex
SinVex is a Lucina main and is a player with good intution and solid fundamentals. Lucina is a character I was a little nervous to fight because it still felt like a losing matchup. Kazuya mains say it’s even, but I haven’t played the character long enough to learn the matchup. Game 1 starts off on PS2 and I gain the lead pretty early on. However, SinVex lands a brutal shield break and kills me at 64%. I wasn’t able to mount a comeback and by the end SinVex nailed me with another shield break, taking game 1 with a convincing 3-stock.
I knew I needed to change things up for game 2. I noticed I was really struggling to get in. It felt like I was constantly just running into their sword. SinVex was doing a great job of giving up just enough stage to bait me into an aggressive option which he could whiff punish. Since jump isn’t a good option for Kazuya I started to roll behind him to get better positioning. I started off the game playing good until I reached 100% and got access to Rage Drive. After that all I could think about was landing it and SinVex stayed just out of my reach each time. Even though I was able to get him to his last stock it wasn’t particularly close.
Looking back on the set I can see that I had developed a really bad smash attack habit. More specifically, SinVex capitalized on my habit of holding shield every time I threw out a smash attack and whiffed. He broke my shield twice and grabbed me another time because of this. SinVex also did a great job of spacing around my Kazuya keeping me at swords length which prevented me from getting any combo starters. And when I did land a hit I was never able to convert it into a stock. I’m happy with some of the adaptations I made going into game 2, such as reading his platform habits and mixing up my approaches so I didn’t get stuffed by him swinging as much. Ultimately, however, there is still a lot of work to do.
Round Two – GERUDONAVI
Out of everyone I play with, GERUDONAVI is easily the opponent I face the most in a bracket setting. The Bayonetta player and I have faced off 9 times before this set with him holding the lead 6-3. Bayonetta is a losing matchup according to the Kazuya players and it’s easy to see why. Heel slide can hit Kazuya even if he is crouch dashing and Bats Within lets Bayonetta escape your combos. Despite this I wasn’t going down without a fight.
Game 1 I start off with a commanding lead taking their first stock and then racking up 70% on their second before he’s able to take my first. However, Kazuya is a great weight for comboing and after making some poor decisions in disadvantage it’s brought back to even and before I know it I’m at 80% on my last stock. In less than a minute my lead vaporized and this gave him all the momentum he needed to win. Bayonetta can do a lot of damage when you’re in disadvantage but I kept making mistakes such as bad directional air dodges that gave GERUDONAVI even more combo potential.
GERUDONAVI left Kalos open as a counterpick so I decided to take them there because Kazuya excels on flat stages. This was when I remembered Bayonetta has a wall cling. I tried to counter this off-stage play multiple times with down-smash but just like with Donkey Kong the week before I hadn’t learned how to abuse Kazuya’s super armor on his smash attacks yet. I then got hit by an F-Smash for trying to airdodge to ledge, something that also happened when playing against SinVex. On my last stock I was pretty far behind. I managed to string some hits together and almost combo’d into Electric Wind God Fist, just barely missing. This ended up costing me the set.
For as confident as I was in my Kazuya it was clear that he was not tournament ready by the time I brought him to my local. When initially trying to learn how to play Kazuya I only wanted to learn one thing and that was to master Electric Wind God Fist. It made sense to me as someone who doesn’t play Kazuya because it is the best move on Kazuya’s kit, and is arguably the best move in the game. However, looking back on my week with Kazuya I regret spending that much time learning only one move. It is an important move and a huge part of why Kazuya is a top tier, but it was the only thing I practiced in training mode besides crouch dashing.
Even though Kazuya has one of the deepest movepools in Smash I only really learned how to use Electric Wind God Fist. I practiced only one combo route instead of experimenting with him and seeing how stray hits can convert into combos. Without mastery of his combos Kazuya is not nearly as scary and becomes much easier to make mistakes against. Knowing only one combo route also made my gameplan obvious to savvy opponents who only needed to space around a couple of moves to beat me.
Despite my weak showing with him Kazuya is still a phenomenal character in the right hands. No other character has tools that even come close to what Kazuya can do and his kill potential is among the greatest in Smash history. Does this make him banworthy? Kazuya has been the subject of many ban discussions throughout his tenure in Ultimate, with many arguing that what he does is a step above the rest. My take on the issue is that counterplay to Kazuya needs to be developed further because when you properly abuse his flaws it becomes difficult to even play the game. Kazuya Mishima is one of my favorite DLC additions to Smash Ultimate and I feel like there is still so much to learn about the character. That being said, the Twitter poll has decided on my character for next week. See you next Tuesday!