This week as part of my Character Crisis I made Olimar my main a powerful character that I struggled to click with.
Preconceptions On Olimar
Captain Olimar and his coworker Alph have crash landed in the Smash Bros universe! Originally introduced in Super Smash Bros Brawl Olimar was unlike any character Smash had ever seen. His core mechanic revolves around managing Pikmin, anthropomorphic plants that can fight for you. At the beginning of Smash Ultimate’s release it was quickly identified that Olimar was one of the best characters in the game. His damage output combined with an oppressive neutral game made it very difficult for other characters to keep up with him. After a few nerfs and with the introduction of DLC Olimar is now instead considered a respectable high tier.
Even with the drop on the tierlist Olimar has been doing incredibly well for himself in Ultimate’s current metagame. Thanks to several representatives of the character at top level such as Shuton, Dabuz, and Myran, Olimar is still a threat competitors need to account for. This can be challenging to do considering that he is a very uncommon character to come up against unless your region has an Olimar main. Despite his tournament pedigree and being widely agreed upon as a great character, very few players invest time towards learning him. In my region the closest thing we have to an Olimar player is someone who probably wouldn’t even add Olimar to their Squad Strike lineup.
Why is Olimar such an unpopular character? On one hand Pikmin isn’t Nintendo’s most successful franchise with the series selling 7.65 million copies across three releases compared to Duck Hunt which sold 28.3 million on just the NES. Olimar is also a character that many players do not enjoy fighting against. His strategy of tossing Pikmin, running away, and then tossing more Pikmin to replace the ones who died can be very frustrating to deal with. Combine that with a toolkit that is not easily understood and it can lead to a small playerbase towards a character that at one point was considered the best in the game.
Olimar Training Mode
So what about Olimar makes him such a great character? To put it simply, if you were to play Olimar but weren’t allowed to use Pikmin, Ganondorf starts to look like a top tier in comparison. Proper Pikmin management is the most important part of playing Olimar and using the right Pikmin for the right job is necessary for success. There are 5 different colors of Pikmin that are plucked in the order of Red, Yellow, Blue, White, and Purple. This guide created by Myran does a good job of explaining the differences across the Pikmin.
These attributes lend themselves to different strengths and weaknesses. Red Pikmin for example, deal more damage whenever you hit your opponent with an attack but deal less damage and knockback during a grab. Intelligent Olimar players know how to turn these weaknesses into an advantage. Because Red Pikmin throw the opponent a shorter distance, combo follow-ups from a Red Pikmin grab last longer compared to other colors. Generally speaking, Red is good for attacking, Yellow has the longest range, Blue has the best kill throw, White deals the most damage when latched on, and Purples deal the most damage and knockback. Keeping track of which Pikmin is active is important for deciding your next move and has you constantly changing your gameplan on the fly.
You can change the order of your lineup either with Up-Air or with his Down-B Whistle. This move recalls your Pikmin, but also comes with the advantage of having Super-Armor. This means that if timed correctly Olimar can Whistle through any attack in the game, take the damage, but receive 0 knockback. The Super-Armor on this move starts on frame 2 which is 1 frame faster than Air-Dodge and gives Olimar a unique option to escape combos that very few characters are capable of.
While it may seem like a lot at first Olimar fundamentally plays like any other character in Smash. You can think of Olimar as a character with an amazing projectile and aerials that are basically swords. The difficult part of playing him comes down to how you manage your Pikmin. As long as you put yourself in positions where you can take advantage of the best attributes of each Pikmin it’s easy to do well with this character. I hope you enjoy what I was able to accomplish during my time with Captain Alph.
Olimar Tournament Report
If I’m going to be honest, I struggled to learn Olimar. I learn a lot from spectacting and playing against characters but Olimar is so rare that I have less time observing the character than I do playing as them. But I am determined to give every character a fair shot at becoming my main and Olimar is no exception. I spent dozens of hours researching the character, learning the subtleties of his Pikmin, understanding his matchups, and playing as the character on Elite Smash. But eventually, the time came to go to my local and see how I did. I have gone 2-2 the last five tournaments in a row even with characters significantly worse than Olimar. Will his strengths be enough to compensate for my weaknesses as the player? Let’s find out.
Round 1 Beat
Beat was once again my round 1 opponent. With my Duck Hunt I was able to bring him to game 3 and it was well within my capability of winning the set. It was a different story for Olimar. In both games I got torn apart and struggled to find any openings against Corrin’s massive sword. I wasn’t controlling center stage very effectively and would often give it up to toss more Pikmin at him which he could then easily kill. After the set I asked for advice and he said that the best Olimar player he ever fought had him fighting Pikmin the whole time instead of Olimar. I tried to keep this in mind as I prepared for my next set.
Round 2 Thermal
Thermal is a player I haven’t faced until now. They led with Pac-Man which forced me to put the fighting with Pikmin instead of Olimar strategy to the test. And for the first game it worked really well with me able to rack up lots of damage from a distance. This forced them to switch to Kirby for the second game and it immediately became apparent that Kirby’s close quarters combat was much stronger than mine. I go for a Forward Smash that clanks with an aerial which then leads to him spiking me. By game 3 I learned that I needed to respect Kirby’s space better and was able to win the set because of my adaptations.
Round 3 Royal Blue
Royal Blue is a day 1 Ike main and has never wavered from the character. I remember beating him once at the beginning of Ultimate but it’s been a while since we’ve fought each other in bracket. The Olimar was unfortunately not up to the task of defeating his Ike. He did a great job of pressuring me in the corner and conditioning me to shield which resulted in a disheartening shield break in our last game. I asked him for tips and he told me that anytime I latched a Pikmin onto him I would try to be aggressive which he would then punish me for. I may be out of the tournament only going 1-2 but I feel like I gained a lot of valuable data because of it.
Olimar was not an easy character for me to play. Managing Pikmin proved to be a confusing task for me as I would frequently try to throw out attacks only to discover that my Pikmin weren’t there. I would expect a certain color to be at the front of my lineup only to be surprised when it was a different color that wasn’t as well suited for the situation at hand. Despite a seemingly simple gameplan on the surface, keeping track of my Pikmin was just enough complexity to drag down my skill with the character.
Regardless, I’m still very happy that I learned how to play Olimar. His playstyle was a radical shift from what I am used to playing which provided me a great opportunity to learn about my weaknesses. Both of the opponents I lost to essentially gave me the same advice that I was too aggressive. With other characters I have played in the past this wasn’t as much of an issue since they benefited from approaching. Olimar, on the other hand, is at his weakest when an opponent can hit him. His disadvantage is bad and I was frequently putting myself in situations where I could be put in disadvantage state. Had I played more careful and assessed situations for longer before making decisions I would have done better with the character.
I don’t want this article to dissuade people from trying the character. Had I given myself a week or two longer to learn how to manage my Pikmin I’m sure I would have gotten a better grasp of how the character works. And looking back through my gameplay I’m surprised by the sheer amount of damage I was able to dish out. Olimar is still a very strong character and while it may take some time to get used to, the reward is well worth it.
But this isn’t the end of my Character Crisis. Instead of leaving it up to a Twitter poll I decided to return to an old favorite of mine as I prepare for Crown 3. By the time this article comes out I will have already competed at Crown so look forward to a report on that. Of course if I’m battling for the Crown it’s only fitting that I play as royalty. The hero king himself, Marth, is my character of choice and could potentially be my new main. I’ll see you on Tuesday!
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