This all comes from a casual player’s mindset. While I’m not a button mashing new player with no concept of the shield button and I understand what profession players are talking about, I myself am not a professional. In fact, I’m all thumbs. I can’t input a combo, a combo breaker, or even a C stick Smash. It’s not pretty. Therefore, don’t expect these to be a technical discussion, or a high level point of view. I’m writing these for the people who follow-up their Kirby Rock Form with a second Rock Form. I’m writing to the players that go out of their way to pick Star Fox and say “Pew Pew Pew” as he slams the B button like it owes him rent money. And yes, I write to you, the heavyweight characters who spam smash attacks hoping for the best. There may be some real content in here, but only because I back doored my way into it.
Today, we’re going look at Wolf, the leader of Star Wolf. Bit narcissistic, no? Why was Wolf removed from Smash 4? And what’s under that eyepatch?
“To be forgotten is worse than death” – I don’t know who. Maybe Confucius or someone?
As a series in general, Star Fox has become one of Nintendo’s forgotten franchises. Sure, it’s in better shape than F-zero, or whatever series ROB has, but barely. Imagine being an F-Zero fan in this day and age? I mean, first, your favorite franchise is based on making high-speed left turns. It’s like a Super NASCAR. Congrats on that. Then, not only have you failed to get a new game in over a decade, 7 Fire Emblem characters appear in Smash. F-Zero struggles to get 7 spirits in this game. At least the Falcon Punch represents the Racing Genre so well.
Star Fox has a deeper fall from grace, in my opinion. Primed to be one of Nintendo’s marquee Series after Star Fox 64, a true classic, the series’ quality took a nose dive. After a bizarre Zelda Rip off featuring Fox, the series received a token, mediocre title with each new system. Fans were disappointed the games never reached the 64’s heights. The series also continued to included characters that appealed to the darkest corner of the Internet. I’m looking at you Krystal. Boy is the internet a disturbing place.
Fox and Falco haven’t suffered from the declining series. They seem to be just as popular. In fact, a lot of their popularity stems from their dominance of Melee for nearly two decades. Not every Melee contest is a space animal brawl these days, but for years, if you weren’t playing as Fox or Falco on Final Destination, you were a filthy casual. Don’t bring that weak Rock Form in my house. So while Fox and Falco continue to boost a solid Q rating, Wolf, suffered mightily.
I would argue no playable Smash character has been treated so poorly. You can mention old school characters, like Duck Hunt Dog, ROB and Mr. Game and Watch, but each experienced a renewed interest by making the roster. Wolf was always just kind of there. While some players find him to be the most fun Star Fox character, other consider him a waste of roster space that could have went to Waluigi. Imagine being this wrong. Imagine enjoying Waluigi!
Let’s look at a brief history of Wolf, for both his home series and Smash. Wolf’s debut game was Star Fox 2 on the Super Nintendo. Or it would have been, had that game not been canceled. This explains why in Star Fox 64, everyone acts like Wolf is an established character. They writers cared so little about Wolf, they failed to remove the information pertaining to an unreleased game. That’s cold as ice. After a decent “debut” appearance, Wolf is shown as a mercenary who fights who whoever pays him. His character rarely develops, and he’s nowhere near as skilled as Fox. He’s the team rocket of Nintendo, blasting off again after being decimated by his rival. Certainly his own series has been rough on him, but Smash can’t be worse, can it?
By the way, you can play Star Fox 2 now on the SNES classic, which is a sweet addition. I have not played it because I can’t beat the first stupid level in Star Fox 1. Boy did that series peak on 64.
Wolf’s legacy in Smash is sad. In Brawl, it’s painfully clear that Wolf was a last second add on to pad the roster. In the game’s story mode, Wolf is unlocked by finding a random room with no story context. He appears in a grand total of one cutscene. What an honor.
Now, Wolf’s gameplay is another story. He touted some of the more unique moves in the series, and despite being similar his fellow space animals, remained unique as the heavy version of the three. His moves were slower, but not slow. His attack power was higher, but not through the roof. He was a fun choice and made up for a lackluster entrance. Wolf fans wondered what changes awaited him in Smash 4. There was a huge one.
He was removed. He was removed from the frigging game but Dr Mario was there. No, that’s outstanding.
Finally, because literally every last character returned, Wolf was brought back in Smash 5. His move set was tweaked, and despite one major nerf (in my opinion), he’s more fun than ever. This is likely the best Wolf appearance since the 64. Granted that’s not a tough bar to climb, but hey, it’s something.
Before we discuss Wolf the fighter, I’d like to address one last thing. Who named these Star Fox Characters? Why did they chose Fox McCloud and Wolf O’Donnell? Heck, even Peppy O’Hare. Can space animal be Irish? Apparently, they can. Something tells me this was an American translation move. I don’t see Nintendo avoiding some sort of stereotypically Scottish or Irish accent if it was intended for the whole world. Bless my Bagpipes that didn’t happen. Also, this naming pattern makes zero sense when you consider one of the character names is Slippy Toad. That’s just a description of what he is. It ruins everything.
Slippy always ruins everything.
But, we’re not here to hate on Slippy Toad yet. That’ll happen when he’s announced for DLC. In the meantime, here’s Wolf.
Character Gimmick – How would it feel to play as a stronger, slower Fox? Or a heavier, stronger, Falco? Honestly, there’s no gimmick here. The Space Animals all have similar move sets, but actually play vastly different. While Fox and Falco have some similarities, Wolf is really his own animal. You know, being that Wolf isn’t a fox or bird.
But no, there’s no gimmick here at all.
Play style – I consider Wolf a balenced fighter in the vein of Mario. While he is on the heavier side, Wolf has tools for basically all situations. He’s not elite in any one particular area, but he doesn’t really struggle anywhere. In fact, most tier list have Wolf in the top 5-10 characters in the game. Being an all around character isn’t an insult when everything works together. For Wolf, it does.
Costumes – Wolf really suffers in the costume department. For Wolf, you choose your favorite color and run with it. There’s nothing original in the collection and no references I spot. I tend to pick the standard color and live with it. Thankfully he has style to cover up this horrific weakness.
Taunts – Wolf oozes personality, and his taunts emphasize this. Other characters have a roar or a howl, but few can match Wolf’s. It fits the character perfectly, whether you’re talking about the mercenary or the animal. This is my taunt of choice.
The other taunts he has aren’t shabby either. Wolf also has a “bring it” taunt where he asks the opponent “Are you scared?”. I mean, getting one of those would be excellent, but both in one taunt? Sign me up. He also has a kneeling taunt where he puts a hand on the ground and howls again. This is a wonderful set of three taunts to mock your opponent.
But, we’re not done! For those sadden by the lack of taunts on-line, try Wolf’s Up Tilt. At the end of the animation, he flicks his nose with his thumb and smirks. He taunts while attacking. Isn’t this everything we’ve looked for in a character?
Yes… Yes it is.
Speed & Mobility – Wolf has below average ground speed. While he can move quickly with the first few steps of his dash, it’s very disappointing after. Honestly, he plays like a heavy on the ground so it makes sense. In the air, however, Wolf can really move. I guess this is to symbolize his life as a pilot? That seems like a stretch. I mean, he’s still a wolf. Reversing the speeds would make way more sense. I digress though.
Wolf should spend a good deal of the fight in the air, using his solid aerials to net damage. You should try to approach from above, taking advantage of his speed. On the ground, the key is to attack with tilts and his blaster, setting up for his plethora of finishers.
Wolf’s main mobility option beyond the joystick is his Side B. If you can space it correctly, you can hit a high damaging move from distance. It’s also a spike which never hurts. This isn’t a safe move by any means, but it doesn help Wolf zip around the stage. Typically, it’s better to get airborne and keep your options open though.
Projectiles – Wolf has one of the game’s better projectiles. His blaster isn’t the fastest move, but the laser is pretty big, making it hard to dodge. It’s not super laggy, so it’s spam approved. You can shoot in the air and on the ground, and the attack stuns the opponent. Even if your opponent manages to get a drop on you, the blaster also has a slashing move. You can defend yourself against approaches, and rack up double the damage. There’s a lot to like here.
Like all Star Fox characters, Wolf has a reflector to protect against opponent projectiles. This has many offensive properties – mainly several frames of invulnerability. It serves as a solid “get off me” move too. However, it’s main purpose is reflecting, and it’s fast start-up means Wolf should win most projectile battles. It’s not as versatile as Mario’s cape, but as a reflector, it’s one of the best in the game.
Recovery and Edge Guarding – As with Brawl, Wolf’s recovery is not ideal. It’s a similar story to Ridley. If Wolf gets great air speed for being a pilot (I guess), he should have better recovery. Instead, it sucks. Wolf has both horizontal and Vertical recovery options, but both fall flat. The side B does not give much vertical height, which isn’t ideal unless you are parallel to the edge. It could also prevent an edge guard with a game changing spike. However, if you’re below the edge, this is useless.
Up B is a worse version of Fox and Falco. It’s pretty close to Ridley’s, except with free choice of movement. It doesn’t cover a lot of distance and the pause before moving in a direction invites edge guards. If Wolf has a big weakness, it’s this.
Despite the poor recovery, Wolf’s edge guard game is ok. He can attack with Dair, Fair and Bair, plus his laser can annoy from the safety of the platform. If he had better recovery options, Wolf would be a strong edge guarder. As it stands, it’s a high risk, but high reward play.
Ground Game – With his slow speed, Wolf plays closer to a heavy character than a traditional Space Animal. Most of your time will be spent spamming blaster shots without shame. It’s a good enough move that this should be your primary strategy. When up close, using f tilt will be key. Utilt is somewhat of an anti air and all of Wolf’s smashes are great, albeit a little slow. Wolf is built to be annoying on the ground until the opponent can be defeated, then becomes a terror.
The biggest nerf in Wolf’s game is his changed F Smash. Gone was the incredibly useful sliding elbow. That was my most spammed move this side of a certain exploding tin can. It was great. The move in it’s place is pretty good, but doesn’t have the same utility. Ah well. Nobody is perfect.
Air Game – Wolf shines in the air with a great compliment of moves. Nair is a fast front kick that’s good for combos and pokes. Uair is one of my favorite juggling moves. Don’t expect too many KOs out of it, but the damage that piles up is tremendous. Dair is a Dragon Ball Z staple – a two handed axe handle that spikes. I love the move, but it’s not the most practical other than for crowd hype. Finally, Bair is Wolf’s best aerial finisher having quite a bit of power. It’s a great move while edge guarding to rack up an early percentage ring out. All in all, this is a wonderful set of moves.
We’ll be taking about Fair in a moment. Relax.
Power – While not a true heavyweight, Wolf has power on multiple smashes that can take a stock early. The best example is his FSmash. While not as useful as in Brawl, it’s brutal when this thing lands. USmash can still be somewhat dashed into, though not as successfully as Brawl. It remains powerful. Heck, even Utilit can take a stock early. Wolf has 4-5 moves that really aid him since he’s not the biggest combo character.
Most Stylish Move – Despite my Dair love, this is obviously Side B. I’ve struggled connecting with this since Brawl, but man is it hype to land. The screen will pause for just a moment and Wolf rips the soul out of the competition. Truly a beautiful thing. You can sort of combo into it from your forward throw, but not really. Still, if you squint, it’s a combo, so that’s pretty cool.
Moves to Focus On:
Blaster (B) – Not much more that can be said on blaster. It’s a fantastic projectile that provides close range protection. What more could you need?
Super armor, sure but don’t get greedy.
Leaping Slash (Forward Air) – Seemingly a guarenteee statement for all characters, Fair is a great approach. It’s a quick, great attack with just enough pop to potentially KO. It reaches pretty far despite just being a limb and not a sword. Nair may actually be the better approaching too, but you’re going to use Fair way more. It’s an all purpose attacking move – good for approach, chasing and combos. It might be better after it gets stale – potentially comboing into itself. Good, solid move.
Grounded Slash (Forward Tilt) – I loved this attack animation in Brawl. It’s not as cool now, but probably more effective. This is basically grounded Fair. I think it has a bit more range but the speed is about the same. There is knock back so it’s not a combo move, but you could follow up with a Fair or Nair and start something. It’s the poke of choice in neutral, assuming you can’t slam the b button for some reason.
Wolfman’s Strike (Down Smash) – Now this is a kill move. While it’s a tad bit laggy on a miss, the start-up is great for the power you get. This is a move that you can kill with from either side, and early. We’re talking around 60% near the edge. It’s the best kill move in the move set. Don’t use this move until you’re positive connecting is a kill. Wolf has plenty of options to avoid this.
Flex Kick (U tilt) – It’s not just that Wolf taunts after throwing out the attack. It’s also that it’s an anti air that packs some power. Against lighter opponents, this can be a kill move which is crazy for its speed. This is not a juggling tool, but you can probably get a Uair off of it. I really enjoy this move. The free taunt only helps.
Maybe sitting out an installment of smash does a character some good. Wolf changed a bit, but overall it’s for the better. I like characters that don’t need combos to succeed. Wolf can play a punish style or rush down depending on matchup. His flexibility is nearly unmatched. If he had his old Fsmash, I’d give him a 10. As it stands, he’s a fantastic 8.5 out of 10.
Characters already reviewed: