Guys, if you want to get good, pick a fucking main. Dual maining, or playing even more characters than that, is for people who are like top 50 in the world. You are gonna suck for way longer than you need to if you don’t pick a character. Learning how to play matchups that feel bad as your character teaches you to get good at the game. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t pick a main and are counterpicking when you can’t get out of pools, that means you don’t really want to get good at the game. Changing characters for doubles is fine though because you don’t have to play neutral and try to salvage neutral game disadvantages the same way you do in singles. Here’s a brief explanation of characters from my perspective, in the same vein as the “Are you an X main” SSBM Tutorials videos.
Ground movement stratum:
Fox – Fox has strong ground movement and by far the most diverse toolkit of anyone in the game. What makes his ground movement so good, despite having a worse DD than Falcon and Marth, is how well he can threaten out of his ground movement. Running or JC shine is a one frame move that can be used to call out other’s ground movement. Nair is super strong and pretty safe. Running/JC usmash can be very strong as an approach if you know what the enemy is going to do. Even dtilt can be used as a strong ground to ground option. If you want to feel in charge, Fox is probably the best character. You get infinite room for creativity and a ton of freedom in how you choose to play matchups.
Falcon – Falcon plays more like a cheetah than a Falcon. You wait for your moment, then pounce. You run fast af and can leap through the air. But you will rarely be able to win with brute force. Your moves are slow af so it can be quite hard to play on reaction in many situations. If you can trick your opponent as Falcon, the rewards are enormous. Forcing one defensive error from an opponent frequently leads to stocks. Conversely, one defensive error of your own can also lead to stocks because your character is combo food with terrible recovery. If you dislike protracted ledge guards and want to combo someone to death or end it with a 1-2 piece ledge guard, Falcon is one of the only characters who can do this. If you want to play safe all the time, this character probably isn’t for you. He favors high risk/high reward play, though in a game like Melee, at a top level, everyone except n0ne plays relatively safe, so take that last statement with a grain of salt.
Marth – Marth is a really interesting character because of his dash dance. The main thing that makes his DD comparable in usefulness to Fox’s and Falcon’s is that his hurtbox warps with his dash dance. Falcon doesn’t have this benefit at all—that dude is tall and always a huge target. Fox’s makes him really short. But on top of making him short, Marth leans back the other way immensely once he changes direction. This makes it so that if someone swings at where you were 1 frame before you dashed, they are likely to whiff because your hurtbox changes so much each time you dash. This allows you to dance with people in really tight quarters, and to be incredibly evasive if you are good at dash dancing. Using slippery ground movement and getting an opening like this pivot grab on a running shine https://gfycat.com/ConcernedPastDodobird, then comboing a spacie to death, feels real good. His other strengths are that he has the best ground to ground poke in the game in his dtilt, so you can make it really taxing for other characters who want to stay grounded. Between his dtilt and fair, he covers the space in front of him amazingly well. He is probably the best character at forcing checkmate situations, but unlike some other characters, these situations where you take away all your opponent’s options don’t always lead to kills because you often have to hit people a dozen times.
Pikachu (maybe) – I don’t know too much about this character, but he is fast, and can be pretty threatening out of his dash dance because of nair. He’s a tiny annoying rat. People are going to get frustrated at the situations they encounter against you because your strengths are pretty obnoxious. The frame data on his aerials is fantastic. You can do some crazy ledge guards with him as well. He is a good character for playing around at the ledge because of his up+b and uair. He struggles to kill in matchups where ledge guards aren’t forthcoming, because despite having an awesome usmash, it can be very hard to set up. Expect floaties to play extremely lame against you.
“Deal with it” stratum:
Falco – Of any character that forces people to deal with your obnoxious shit, Falco is by far the frontrunner, both in terms of how good he is and how ridiculous his strengths are. The reason why so many top Fox players are bad against Falco is Falco is the character that most restricts the set of rules that Fox has to play within. Lasers are really good. Don’t listen to people who say they aren’t going to be effective as time goes on. They are wrong. Powershields don’t counter lasers. The fact that people think they do is a sign that they have no idea whatsoever about how lasers are used at high levels. If anything, tanking lasers and SDIing/dashing out of them is going to be more of an answer to lasers as years pass. Falco’s vertical mobility is stupidly strong. If someone doesn’t read it/cover your jump preemptively, you can pretty much always just jump to safety. Even the other characters with good vertical mobility like Falcon and Fox get completely left in the dust (this makes him the only character that can really do singles combos in doubles). Lastly, his use of lasers in tandem with the AC bair and utilt can make people feel like they are in a catch-22, where they need to approach but they can’t approach.
Puff – Her aerial drift is comparable to Marth’s ground movement. She can change her momentum so quickly. This makes her back air entirely unpunishable when done in many situations. Dash dance grab should never work on Puff because by the time she’s landed, she’s a mile from the outer edge of the disjoint of her back air. Don’t pick Puff if you’re emotionally fragile or you can’t deal with a long, patient game. People hate your character and they are going to camp the shit out of you. Puff is for people who appreciate drawn out neutral games, where the road to winning the neutral often relies on calling out the character’s defensive escape option.
Peach – Once you’re good, fighting against you can be reminiscent of this scene https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kujd9IbAbIo&t=20s. Note that this is one of the rare times when ICs win a stupidly lopsided matchup.
Sheik – You want to feel like a fortress. You want to make them feel like they can’t get in on you or escape their bad position. You appreciate subtle movement and repositioning. The utility of Sheik’s movement isn’t straightforward. It’s crazy when you think about it that Sheik is such a grab reliant character when she doesn’t have the same movement tools to get grabs that other characters do. But as she encroaches on you, she’s very threatening. Her slow encroach on the ground is comparable to Peach floating at you.
“Weird motherfuckers” stratum:
ICs – I don’t think you need my input here. Being such a weird and unique character makes it appeal to certain people and they probably know who they are.
Yoshi – You are down to put in a ton of work without as much reward as other characters get. He has a lot of options but the floor for this character is so high that you have to be more 5x more technical to play him at a competitive level than anyone else. He can do some sick things though, and his few good matchups seem like you can really make it frustrating for your opponents when you play to his strengths. This guy isn’t a bad character if you are willing to put in the work. If top Yoshi play speaks to you and you have a good work ethic, give him a shot.
Street Fighter stratum:
Samus – She’s bad. She plays like a Street Fighter character. She reminds me a lot of Ryu actually. But put SF4 Ryu in a game with Marvelesque characters and it’s a struggle. Feel free to pick her if that actually sounds like fun to you. Personal bias here is that this character doesn’t seem very appealing to me so I struggle to find good things to say about her, though she does have a shitton of little tricks and gimmicks. Lab monsters would like her I guess? The Street Fighter analogy is quite accurate though imo.