Landing from a disadvantaged position in the different Smash games is no easy feat. Even in Brawl, with its neigh-lagless landing during airdodge, the powerful characters in the game had ways to keep you juggled and off of the ground, continuously leaving you in a bad position.
Smash 4 is no exception, especially since landing in the middle of an airdodge puts you in a rather long 21 frame landing animation, leaving you vulnerable. One of the ways you get around these landing situations is by utilizing A-Landing.
Utilizing the small window at the start of some aerials to auto-cancel, you can pull your character out of the ‘tumble’ animation and have them plant their feet squarely on the ground with almost no landing lag (only 4 frames). This is especially useful in situations where you are coming out of hitstun close to the ground; rather than airdodging (and suffering huge amounts of vulnerable landing lag), teching the ground (and potentially getting tech chased and punished), or immediately double jumping (which can be baited out, and leaves you without your double jump if you do get intercepted), a player can A-Land and mount a safer defense (through immediately shielding or dashing away) or even switch gears and make a turn-around grounded offense!
A-Landing is pretty character specific, however; all characters have unique auto-cancel windows on their aerials. Many attacks are easy to A-Land with (Kirby’s D-air in particular has a massive 17 frame auto-cancel window on start up), but many others either don’t have an auto-cancel window at all, or have a very small window to auto-cancel (such as Roy, who only has a 2 frame auto-cancel window on some of his aerials).
A-Landing with auto-cancelling isn’t the only way to land in this sort of situation, however. With many characters, simply landing with an aerial leads to significantly lower landing lag than the 21 frames of airdodge landing. Let’s use Roy as an example, again; rather than attempting to land with the very small 2 frame window on his U-air and potentially suffer more landing lag, Roy can instead commit to N-air and take a guaranteed 11 frames of landing lag instead. 21 frames of airdodge landing vs 11 frames of aerial landing lag can make a much bigger difference than one might think, especially since falling to the ground in such a way generally gives opponents the impression that you will be teching the ground instead, and leave yourself vulnerable to tech chases. Landing with a fast aerial instead and then dashing in for an offense can catch opponents off guard!
As with A-Landing, which aerials you should choose to land with - assuming your character has any with low enough landing lag to make it worthwhile - is very character specific. Here’s a quick list of aerials that some characters have that make for good choices, either for A-Landing or simply landing with aerial landing lag;
Fair; 10fr landing, 1-4 autocancel
Bair; 14fr landing, 1-4 autocancel
Nair; 6fr (!) landing lag, no autocancel window
- Zero Suit;
Uair; 9fr landing, no autocancel window
Nair 10fr landing, 1-3 autocancel
Nair; 13fr landing, 1-3 autocancel
bair; 12fr landing, 1-2 autocancel
Nair; 11fr landing, 1-3 autocancel
bair; 15fr landing, 1-8 (!) autocancel
Nair; 10fr landing, 1-2 autocancel
bair; 12fr landing, 1-5 autocancel
For frame data on other characters’ aerials, make sure to check out Kuroganehammer’s Smash 4 section!
Landing with aerials isn’t the only solution to this problem, either. Check out this clip of Mr.R vs Fatality from WTFox 2, and pay attention Mr.R after he lands the full hop nair and then trades with Fatality;
Fatality is sent too low in the trade and is forced to tech (which he misses...unsurprising considering the strange angle he was sent in the trade). Mr.R gets out of hitstun slightly above the ground, and instead of A-Landing, instead opts do a reverse needle charge and then cancel it immediately, cutting out nearly all lag that he would have to go through on landing as well as turning himself around and facing the direction where Fatality landed!
There are many other special moves that characters can use in this sort of landing situation. Anyone who plays as Ryu will often make use of Focus Attack to avoid hitting the ground with lag, and then either punish an armored attack or dash cancel away from their opponent. Corrin’s Dragon Shot will pull her out of tumble and lead into a painful fully-charged bite follow up if her opponent tried pushing in to punish her landing. Many other charge-able moves can be cancelled similarly to the example of Mr.R vs Fatality, Ganondorf can side-B to grab opponents trying to shield an aerial, Little Mac can up-B to use its start-up invulnerability to beat attacks, and so on, and so on!
With the many different characters in the game, it is very important to utilize all the potential tricks your character might have up their sleeves for landing. Done properly, you can turn a bad position into a great one in a heartbeat!
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Feel free to drop the writer a line on his twitter; @S3thlon!