Intro to this Analysis
Melee players have a tendency to get hung up on matchup ratios and "on-paper" matchups. I want to convince you away from that approach. I propose considering the tools each character has within the context of the meta. I see this as a more fluid approach to discussing characters, and doesn’t reduce matchups to mere numbers. Learning to engage in character analysis this way will also help players articulate what exactly makes a matchup feel like a “hard 50:50.”
I'll be taking a look at the various skills that Melee players can learn, and examining those which I feel would yield maximum results for Peach players. That is to say that if you are average at every aspect of Melee, investing in the skills I describe will, in my opinion, yield the most results in the shortest amount of time.
Let’s start with this. Who is a better character: Princess Peach or Captain Falcon?
Most people, and most tier lists, will tell you Peach. After all, we have seen Peach dominate the very peak of competitive play for several years, and no Falcon player has even come close. But does Falcon not have a better matchup spread?
Against the top characters – Fox, Falco, Marth, Sheik, Puff, Peach, and Falcon – Falcon has two arguably positive matchups (Peach and Puff) and one arguably even matchup (Marth). Peach, on the other hand, is generally considered to lose to every single one of these characters. Not only that, some consider Peach versus Puff to be an unwinnable matchup, which is rare for a top character to have.
There is cognitive dissonance here. You could argue the nitty-gritty of those matchups I mentioned, but how can it be that the character with three even-or-better matchups is worse than a character with zero winning matchups against the top characters?
I’m not going to try and argue that one character is better than another. I want to offer a possible explanation for this dissonance: the degree to which a character’s strengths and weaknesses matter will depend on the meta and the practical nature of competing in bracket. The simplest example is punish game – a character like Fox, one could argue, has the best punish game. Peach’s punishes may not be as punishing, but they are more consistent and less varying when it comes to execution.
This article will serve partly as a guide to Peach, and partly as an analysis of Peach in today’s metagame. With all this in mind, let’s dive into what has made Peach such a staple in the competitive meta for so many years.
Disclaimer: I will be simplifying some of the scenarios I describe. There are many intricacies in Melee, so I won’t get into every possible iteration.
Right Place, Right Time
I characterize Peach as a “right place, right time” character. By this I mean that if she’s in the right place at the right time, the journey from “evaluating the variables” to “achieving an objective” is short. The execution and speed required to achieve an objective is low, so your efforts will be more about getting to the right place at the right time.
Take this example of how Peach can consistently push Fox into the next phase of neutral using relatively simple punishes. Let’s say Fox whiffs a Nair (or Nairs into a Peach holding down). If he is at low-percent, Peach gets Dsmash or Uthrow Dsmash for heavy damage. Fox is now out of crouch-cancel percent, so Peach can either take a stronger position, or, depending on how the Dsmash hit, she can tech-chase with a grab or dash attack to continue her punish. If he is at mid-percent, Peach could Dtilt or grab into aerial, then combo Fox offstage. Sometimes you don’t need more than Uthrow into Nair. From there, you edgeguard. If Fox is at high-percent, you pick Fair, Bair, or Nair to hit Fox offstage (or Dtilt Usmash to kill if there are no platforms).
This is different for a character like Sheik. Let’s take the same example where Fox whiff Nair, or Nairs into Sheik holding down. At low-percent, basically all of Sheik’s attacks are subject to getting counterhit, due to an inability to beat Sheik’s ASDI-down or CC. So Sheik is forced to attempt a Dthrow tech-chase, or shoot a full rack of needles. Sheik, of course, gets much stronger once Fox is outside of his CC percent-range, and her combo tree opens up.
But Peach can get Fox out of his CC percent-rage in one opening, and constantly discourages opponents from holding down with the threat of her Dsmash.
Proactive positioning, in my opinion, is the most important skill to master with Peach. Peach players must have a strong sense of when to seek out a stronger position from which to fight rather than pursuing her opponent. Essentially, when evaluating your list of possible next steps, you'll want to put a higher priority on seeking out a better position.
In general, center-stage is where Peach wants to be. While Peach is in center, she can use her float to threaten grounded opponents, and her zone-breaking dash attack to beat jumps. Float-cancel aerials from center, or a dash attack, will either push the opponent offstage or lead into a combo. If Peach uses FC Fair on shield, she is plus and can mix up with FC Nair, Dsmash, grab, jab-jab, or jab into one of the aforementioned options. Dash attack, of course, is not safe on shield, but then you can create a sort of 50/50 with dash attack and grab when threatening grounded movement into the corner.
While Peach is in the corner, she has a similar set of options. The difference here is that the opponent can disengage more easily from center and swing back in to whiff punish. This becomes even more difficult for Peach to deal with when you consider that she is slower than basically every other top tier. If Fox is holding center against Peach, he can threaten full-hop and double-jump Bairs to react to Peach’s aggressive float and grounded approaches. By mixing up his drift, and his decision on whether or not to actually attack, he can make it very difficult for Peach to reclaim stage control. This leads to the other two most important skills for Peach players.
Calling Out Movement and Controlling Space with Turnips
In order to overcome these disadvantageous scenarios, it is important for Peach players to be adept at calling out their opponent's movement and control space with turnips. The two reasons I would point this out for Peach over other characters is that: 1) she is slower than most of the other top characters, and 2) Peach usually benefits more from trading hits than her opponent. The latter is thanks to her high-knockback hitboxes.
If Peach moves forward without committing to an attack and calls out the Fox jump with her own rising Uair, she gets a big opening. She could also place herself in such a way that she gets Fox to use double-jump Bair and call it out with a full-hop Uair. In the second case, she has Fox in a juggle state without a jump.
Let’s say Marth plays reactively from the center, stuffing Peach jumps with Fair to discourage FC aerials, and using spaced Dtilts to beat both dash attack and grab. Peach gets stuck. It is harder for Peach to get a hard callout on Marth than on Fox from this position, and stray hits net her far less in terms of punish because Marth isn't a fastfaller.
This position looks much less bleak when you consider Peach’s turnips. With turnip in hand, Peach is able to mix up a medium-range, arcing projectile with FC aerials (because she can aerial out of float without tossing the turnip). Against a character like Marth, whose dash-dance and disjoint make it very difficult for Peach to control space, turnips are a necessity.
Throwing turnips into the mix creates new mixup opportunities for Peach. Namely, they force an opponent like Marth, who prefers the ground, to jump. Turnips control the ground very well, given their height and Peach’s ability to alter the distance they fly. Opponents may try to jump over them, or hit them out of the way, or move away from them. Regardless, they force Peach’s opponent to act.
Note: the longest distance thrown in this gif is performed with an “extended turnip toss.” If Peach inputs a turn-around just before tossing the turnip, it will go a bit farther than a normal smash toss. If you read my last article, you’ll know that she can execute an extended turnip toss out of her initial dash using pivots.
What Does This Look Like in Practice?
One of the defining characteristics of many top Peach players is consistency. Peach players are less subject to the variances associated with high-difficulty execution in Melee. Additionally, Peach has an amazing recovery that forces the opponent to play a low-reward mixup many times over – you can’t gimp her as easily as you can any of the other top tiers, barring Puff.
Armada, of course, is the shining example of this. As soon as he lands a hit with Peach, he is on the move. You can learn a lot from tracking Armada’s decision-making – he knows all of Peach’s mixups from advantage and disadvantage and is heavily focused on achieving his objectives. He also is extremely adept at calling out movement when it really matters (a trait also shared by Hungrybox).
We are also seeing a climb from Peach players such as lloD and Trifasia. I would recommend watching how lloD controls the ground, and how Trifasia controls the air.
Yet another player has forced Armada off Peach. Plup played the Sheik versus Peach matchup immaculately at The Big House 7 and has joined Hungrybox and Leffen in the Armada-plays-Fox-against-me club.
Defeating Peach requires you to forbid her access to her strengths. As another top tier, use your superior speed to take center and force Peach to fight for center. Many players get in a habit of constantly moving toward their opponent and scrapping but taking center against a slower character is a huge advantage. Like I mentioned earlier, Peach has difficulty against characters that have strong hitboxes and can move around her reactively. Combining strong positioning with safe moves that cover multiple Peach options, such as Marth Dtilt/Fair, Puff Bair, and Falcon Nair, will force Peach into tough spots.
Peach players use a mix of conditioning movement options and turnips to fight out of disadvantageous positions. But if your move choice is safe and you are able to deal with turnips effectively, you’re left fighting against a slow, light character.
Very few players have scratched the surface on dealing with turnips. If you have watched me play against lloD, who is familiar with my turnip counterplay, you have likely seen some funky interactions. But most Peach players have never dealt with very strong turnip counterplay. Depending on the character, you should experiment with catching, releasing, and throwing turnips. You should also consider how your hitboxes interact with turnips, how to move out of shield after blocking a turnip, and tracking the Peach’s habits around turnip usage. I expect that as the meta moves forward, we will see more players adopt strong turnip counterplay.
Hopefully this write-up has helped some players consider the types of skills they want to invest in, and in turn choose the character that’s right for them. If you want to be rewarded for proactive positioning with consistent punishes and strong mixups, then Peach may be a worthy investment. I see her maintaining her strong presence in the current meta.
I'd like to point out that if you're considering picking up Peach, don't get discouraged by her "on-paper" losing matchups. Even against Puff, there is little evidence, beyond Armada switching to Fox against Hungrybox, that the matchup is unwinnable at most levels. In fact, Emerald City was recently won by Bladewise, who defeated 2saint 6-1 over two sets. And not long before that, after losing to Prince Abu in winners 1-2, lloD also claimed a dominating 6-1 victory in Grand Finals.
I would also advise Peach players to stay ahead of the developing meta and theorycraft mixups against players who have labbed out turnip counterplay. I would also recommend streamlining your gameplay - after getting a hit, where should Peach be looking? Should she aim to fight from a new position, or to pursue the punish from where she is? And how does Peach get from point A to point B? This should be a solid framework through which to analyze your own gameplay, and that of top Peach players.
This is a difficult topic to write about, and it was my first attempt at trying to really organize my thoughts on this type of analysis. To be honest, I feel like I have barely scratched the surface. To really get the full gist, you should explore playing Peach yourself and watch the top Peaches play. I am very curious to hear people’s takes on this approach. All feedback is appreciated and let me know if you’re interested in reading a similar write-up on a different character.
Thanks for reading!
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