For the past month, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players have experimented with the game’s newest fighter, Kazuya Mishima from Tekken. Kazuya’s playstyle is more in line with that of a traditional fighting game than any of Smash’s other FGC characters. As a result, he may be difficult to master for competitors without a background in traditional fighting games.
Nevertheless, players like Michael “Riddles” Kim, John “Axiom XL” Smith and others have already found success with the character. Upcomer spoke to SWT Southeast champion Cameron “Vendetta” Garrett to get his insights on how players can improve and excel with Kazuya in Smash Ultimate.
Kazuya’s characteristics in Smash Ultimate
One factor that immediately sets Kazuya apart from other Smash characters is his sheer number of moves. He has eight tilt attacks, as opposed to the regular three. In addition, he has extra moves accessible by crouching and he boasts a plethora of command input special moves.
Players with little experience in traditional fighting games may be intimidated by the thought of picking up a character with so many moves, some of which require fairly precise execution. But, according to Vendetta, all it takes to learn how to use his moves effectively is time. With enough practice, anyone can gain the muscle memory to execute all of Kazuya’s moves properly.
“It all comes down to just practice, practice, practice,” Vendetta said. “Then, you’ll get it in no time.”
Like many other DLC characters in Smash Ultimate, Kazuya has a comeback mechanic. Once he reaches over 100%, his Rage activates, increasing his damage output and giving him access to a powerful command grab called Rage Drive. However, Kazuya’s Rage will disappear if he takes too much damage, whiffs too many grabs or uses Rage Drive.
Kazuya clocks in as the eighth heaviest fighter in the game. Like many other heavyweights, his run speed is fairly slow. However, he can alleviate this problem with his Crouch Dash, a command input movement option that makes his upper body invincible for the duration of the dash.
How to play Kazuya in the neutral
Despite the difficulty of implementing all of Kazuya’s moves, Vendetta attributes only 10% of his game plan to execution. The remaining 90% rests on Kazuya’s neutral game. Kazuya rarely wants to make the first move, since his moves have lots of start-up and lag. But, because many of his moves also give him invincibility, Kazuya is well-suited for a bait-and-punish playstyle.
I believe Kazuya to be 90% neutral and 10% execution. Having proper neutral is whats going to determine how far you will get this character. Getting the execution will be easy over time and it'll be for nothing if your neutral isn't polished.
Microspacing, Crouch Dash, Footsies
— Vendetta (@Vendetta_FGC) July 2, 2021
“You simply want to space and play footsies the entire time,” Vendetta said. “He really wants to be the kind of character that just plays around his opponent’s range and punishes whenever, wherever, however the situation sees fit.”
Thanks to his invincibility, Kazuya is able to contest many characters that might otherwise outrange him. Using his invincible Crouch Dash and similar moves, he can approach characters with projectiles, swords or other disjointed hitboxes. This forces them into close-quarters combat where Kazuya excels.
“[Kazuya’s invincibility] allows him to play the game without having to worry about his limbs getting stuffed out,” Vendetta said. “I think he beats everybody when it comes to playing close.”
The punish game
After some patient play in the neutral, Kazuya will eventually find an opportunity to punish his opponent. Fortunately for him, Kazuya has one of the most devastating punish games of any character in Smash Ultimate. He is fully capable of executing a zero-to-death combo on his opponent any time he gets an opening.
Kazuya’s punish game relies heavily on one move: Electric Wind God Fist. Players can perform Electric Wind God Fist by pressing the A button within two frames of the final input of his Crouch Dash. This move briefly paralyzes opponents, locking them in place and giving Kazuya plenty of time to put out another move and continue his combo.
“[Electric Wind God Fist is] kind of like the glue that holds everything together,” Vendetta said. “It pretty much links into anything. It’s like that fist into imagination. I think it’s an extremely busted move.”
This is gonna sound harsh but if you're not gonna learn and implement EWGF, you probably shouldn't pick up the character (Unless you're just playing him for fun).
— Vendetta (@Vendetta_FGC) June 30, 2021
Even without the perfect execution necessary to zero-to-death an opponent on every opening, Kazuya can still excel. Because of his solid neutral tools, he can consistently win neutral interactions against incoming opponents and repeatedly punish their approach attempts – whether it’s with extensive combos or stray hits that will eventually kill.
Kazuya’s incredible advantage state is countered by his poor disadvantage state. Once an opponent knocks Kazuya into the air, he has a difficult time getting back down. He lacks safe mix-up options in the air, often relying on a laggy air dodge or down-air to return to the ground.
“His only way of landing is, pretty much, the opponent just has to mess up,” Vendetta said.
Though Kazuya has a high double jump and overall solid recovery, he has the worst jump squat in the game. While every other character takes only three frames to get into the air after pressing the jump button, Kazuya takes seven frames. As a result, he has a hard time contesting airborne opponents.
In particular, Kazuya has a hard time chasing down opponents with good aerial mobility in Smash Ultimate. The likes of Zero Suit Samus, Yoshi and Jigglypuff can camp him freely, as Kazuya has few options to contest them. Coming back from a deficit against these characters can feel nearly impossible. As a result, it’s crucial for Kazuya to establish a percentage lead early in the game.
“If Kazuya attacks the opponent first and he gets [damage] off successfully, then he will have that advantage,” Vendetta said. “There’s no reason for you to keep approaching. You play that good keep away. You play that mid-range game.”
Kazuya > Ken > Terry > Ryu
Ryu > Ken > Terry > Kazuya
Kazuya > Terry > Ryu > Ken
— Vendetta (@Vendetta_FGC) July 1, 2021
Final guidance on playing Kazuya in Smash Ultimate
Kazuya’s best stage in Smash Ultimate is Final Destination because of its lack of platforms. He can execute his combos freely without giving opponents platforms to escape to. Additionally, he doesn’t have to worry about quick characters platform camping him.
Kazuya’s other good stages include Small Battlefield and Lylat Cruise, where the only platforms are low to the ground. Conversely, he struggles on stage with higher platforms. These include Town & City, Kalos Pokémon League, Battlefield, Pokémon Stadium 2 and Yoshi’s Story.
Kazuya is a glass cannon who can be devastating in the hands of any player with a strong neutral game. In Vendetta’s eyes, he could eventually become one of the best fighters in all of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
“I think that this guy could potentially be at least a top 15 character,” Vendetta said. “Once developed and optimized, maybe even top 10.”
While it may be tempting to jump into training mode and practice all of Kazuya’s combos, Vendetta implores newer players to focus on their neutral first. After all, it doesn’t matter how good a player’s execution is if they can’t find a hit in the first place. But, with enough experience, Kazuya can become nearly unstoppable.
“Once you get [neutral] down, you’re going to become a Kazuya monster,” Vendetta said.