In a game with defense as strong as in Smash 4, optimal use of shield is extremely important. With high landing lag, low shield stun, and fast shield dropping, it’s vital to be shielding properly, and using shield drops and other out-of-shield options to push your punishes as far as possible.
Perfect Shielding (or Power-shielding) is another way to push your shield punish game as far as possible. With only a three frame PS window, however, it can be pretty difficult to set them up properly, and react to the situation if you didn’t manage to hit the small PS window.
That’s where Perfect Shield option selects come in.
(All these techniques are based off of One Smash’s Tech of the Week videos for Perfect Shield option selects. If you haven’t seen them, you should check them out!)
As with all things, understanding of the techniques comes with understanding the base mechanics behind them that make them possible…so let’s take a moment to go over how shields work.
The Anatomy of a Shield
There are three different segments to a shield. Firstly, the first 3 frames it takes to put a shield up; shielding an attack in this window results in a Perfect Shield.
Secondly, the frames in which you are in full shield; shielding an attack during this window will result in a standard shielded attack. Important to note is that Smash 4 has a mandatory minimum of 8 shield frames; even if you tap the shield button for one single frame, your character will still go through the PS frames (3fr) and then the minimum shield frames (8fr) before starting to go through shield drop.
Thirdly, you have shield drop frames; any time after the minimum shield frames have passed and you are not holding shield, your character will enter the shield drop animation, which lasts for 7 frames before you can act in whatever fashion desired. Note that if you are attacked during these 7 frames, you will not block the attack!
Some other interesting (and important) facts about shields; shield stun from blocking an attack overlaps with your minimum mandatory shield frames; if you shield an attack and the shieldstun is less than 8 frames, you will have to wait out the difference before going into shield drop. During the 8 frames of mandatory shield time, you can do any action that you would normally be able to do out of shield (aside from shield dropping); so you can still shield grab, roll, spot dodge, or jump.
So, why would you want to land a Perfect Shield in the first place? There are two benefits. One; you receive 25% less shield stun from the attack that you shielded, making it more likely that the move will be punishable. Two, which is the important part; if you Perfect Shield an attack and then drop shield, you can cancel your shield drop frames directly into an attack, effectively removing the need to wait 7 framesto retaliate!
(Fun fact of the day; Ryu is the only character with a unique Perfect Shield noise. His PS audio cue is similar to the parry sound effect from SF: Third Strike!)
Perfect Shielding quick attacks and then reacting with your own shield drop response with optimal timing takes some pretty incredible reflexes…but fortunately, reflexes aren’t actually required. Remember that you cannot buffer something out of a shield drop where nothing had hit your shield. That property results in being able to do something like this;
Basic Power Shield Option Select
Shield for one frame, stop pressing shield next frame, and hit the A button early on in your shield lock frames to do a jab.
There are two possible outcomes to this; if you Perfect Shielded an attack, the jab will buffer itself in on the first frame of your (now cancel-able) shield drop frames.
If you did not Perfect Shield an attack, whether shielding an attack too late or not shielding an attack at all, the A button does not register, no attack comes out, and you go through shield drop frames as normal.
This is the essence of the PS option select; inputting multiple button presses to get a desired attack to come out on PS, and nothing (or something else!) to come out on no PS.
Naturally, the A button isn’t the only thing you can buffer in after releasing the shield button. Any c-stick attack will utilize the OS properly; setting the c-stick to tilt can be a handy way to get easy PS tilt option selects.
Note that any direction on the control stick during the minimum shield frames will not properly integrate into this option select, however; pressing down, to the side, or up will result in your character cancelling into a spotdodge, roll, or jump, respectively (assuming that your controls are set to tap jump on).
So, this simple option select is a good way to make your retaliations after a PS quick and clean, but there is an obvious down side. Even if you do execute this OS properly, if you don’t PS an attack, you won’t have the endlag of whiffing move you want to punish with...but you WILL be forced to go through your minimum shield frames, and more importantly, the shield drop frames afterwards, which leave you vulnerable. Not exactly ideal.
However, this is just the surface level of Perfect Shield option selects. Shall we go deeper?
Improved Power Shield Option Select
Inputs; press shield for one frame, release. During the minimum shield frames, press down on control stick. Immediately afterwards, input desired attack.
Two different outcomes here; if you PS an attack, you’re in hitlag/shield stun for a short period. Control stick down gets buffered, but the attack button buffers and overrides afterwards; resulting action is an attack.
If you did not PS an attack, you are not in hitlag/shield stun when you press down on the control stick, and your character immediately spot dodges, with no attack coming out.
This OS requires a little more finesse, but greatly improves the safety of attempting a PS option select; no longer are you going through vulnerable shield drop frames, dangerously close to your opponent.
Of course, this OS isn’t limited to the specific actions in this example. The control stick can be pressed in any direction, replacing the “spot dodge” result of the OS with something like roll, jump, or even shield grab. The attack input can be anything at all; jab, tilt, smash attack, special, etc. Since you are already inputting a direction as part of the non-PS part of the option select, you can safely input attacks including the control stick afterwards, without fear of an unwanted roll or spot dodge.
So, when would you want to use an option select like this? Basically any time you want to bait out an attack from your opponent. Say you are both facing each other down in neutral; often times, an opponent will react to you running at them to meet you half way, either to attack you out of your start up or to grab you if they think you are going to shield. Instead of guessing for either one, you could input a PS OS; power shield and punish if they attack early, or roll away/spot dodge if they grab.
Here's another personal concoction that I like to use;
Re-Shield Option Select
Inputs; tap shield for one frame, immediately press an attack, and then start holding shield again before minimum shield frames end.
Two different outcomes; if you PS an attack, the attack that you inputted comes out.
If you don't PS an attack, your attack does not come out, and the game reads you as still pressing shield when minimum shield frames are over, so you stay in shield.
Why this OS works is a little bit strange; from all of the info that I've stated already (and all that I can find), what should happen is that the attack button gets overwritten by the shield input, regardless of whether or not an attack was shielded or PSed. Instead, the attack gets buffered out if an attack was Perfect Shielded. I suspect it may be because the game doesn't allow you to buffer into a shield after Perfect Shielding an attack and inputting an attack into your buffer, but it may be some other odd exception.
This OS is handy because there is no unnecessary movement. If your opponent is next to you and you suspect that they are going to put out in attack, you can use this OS without fear of your defensive maneuver being predictable. While the improved PS OS allows you to put in a defensive maneuver ahead of time as a fail condition, this OS gives you a little bit more flexibility in that you are able to see the outcome of the failed OS and then react to the situation however you want.
Note of course that this OS requires you to react with your follow up defensive maneuver (if indeed you want to do one); it offers excellent flexibility, but the standard improved OS offers a bit faster speed in exchange.
An example of when this OS might be useful; say that you are Mario, and have an opponent's Sheik on the ledge. You have a guess that they are going to do a rising double jump fair, since they've done that already in the set. You input this OS, using c-stick up-tilt as your attack. If they did do a rising fair and you timed the PS properly, up-tilt comes out, and now you've got a combo string going. If they didn't do a rising fair, you are now shielding while facing the ledge; whereas a standard PS OS might have you rolling away and giving them space, now you can still actively pressure them, punishing with a drop shield if they did a get up attack, timing a shield grab to catch them in their stand up vulnerability, or chasing an attempted roll behind or ledge hop over you.
That's all for today's topic. Perfect Shield option selects aren't a game breaking tool, but they are something that can be very handing when utilized in the proper situations!
Questions? Comments? Reccomendations? Feel free to send a message to Sethlon on his twitter; @S3thlon