How Jigglypuff became cool

One fascinating trend separates Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma from the rest of the top tier of Super Smash Bros Melee players — besides, of course, his victory last weekend at the The Battle of the Five Gods: He’s the only player of the top six who plays Jigglypuff.

The next closest Jigglypuff main comes at No. 43 with Victor “Tekk” Abt, followed by Abhishek “Prince Abu” Prabhu at No. 55 and Joshua “S0ft” Davis at No. 82, according to the Melee It On Me rankings. That makes only four smashers, including Hungrybox, in the top 100 that play Jigglypuff as their main character. No other top-tier character has that wide of a margin when it comes to player skill. Hungrybox is the Jigglypuff player. His play style is well-rounded, and he creates expectations of what other Jigglypuff players should emulate.

Despite all of Hungrybox’s success with Jigglypuff, he wasn’t the first to bring the character to the spotlight. So let’s first take a look at Jigglypuff’s life on the tier list. In early years, she was thought of as a joke character. Her Up B and Down B were deemed worthless, and because of her low ground mobility and light character weight making her very easy to kill, she was left toward the bottom of the list when the first iteration of the the official tier list was created.

After the second iteration, Jigglypuff would rise slightly, eventually hovering slightly near the upper tiers, but still deemed mediocre for many years. The 2004 April Fool’s tier list jokingly placed her at No. 2, stating her aerial speed and the Wall of Pain ruled the air to the point of domination.

A stronger understanding of Melee itself helped Jiggs’ rise. The realization of the power in aerial usage, especially in combination with L-Cancelling, helped Jiggs grow as a highly air-based character. The first notable Jigglypuff player was Chris “KillaOR” McKenzie. KillaOR was one of the first contracted professional players by Major League Gaming, hence being one of the first official professional Super Smash Bros. players. He was among the best players in New York during the early days of Smash, but he never had extreme success despite being a contracted player. KillaOR’s best placing was third at MLG Los Angeles 2005, but he never placed within the top eight of any major tournament after that. Because of that, and the lack of any other successful Jigglypuff players, Jiggs was considered a decent character, but by no means a threat to win any major tournament.  

The next pivotal player when it came to the evolution of Jigglypuff’s metagame was Daniel “The King” Hutchinson, a member of the smash crew DBR, a group from California made famous in the early 2000s for their combo videos. The King played at the same time as KillaOR but saw most of his success slightly after KillOR. His combo video “Rollout” showcased a lot of newer advanced techniques for the character, such as unique edgeguarding techniques and Rest setups. The King did not place in the top eight of any major tournaments, and even though a lot of Jigglypuff’s metagame was being pushed forward, she still was yet to be a real threat.

It wasn’t until Joseph “Mango” Marquez came along and changed everything. Mango attributed his early influences to The King on why he become a Jigglypuff player. Before Mango came onto the scene, Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman was the game’s best player. A lot of the old players had quit by that time, and M2K had a pretty firm grasp at the top of the metagame. During that era, Mew2King was making strides in what it was to optimally punish your opponent. The idea that comboing and edgeguarding should be like a flowchart was pioneered by Mew2King’s play style.

For example, look at Mew2King’s Marth punish game on Fox and Falco. At certain percentages, based on the opponent’s DI, Mew2king studied what was the optimal move to do. When chain throwing Fox or Falco on Final Destination, Mew2King knew exactly what to do to be able to kill his opponent when getting a grab even at 0 percent.

Because the punish game was so important and being extremely fleshed out, it seemed as if defensive play was becoming the much more optimal than being aggressive. Because the punishes were becoming so optimized, the first person to make a mistake was going to lose. Hence, defensive play was seen as optimal.

When Mango came onto the scene and started beating Mew2King seemingly easily, the whole world of smash was shocked. How was it possible to beat a character that was seemingly impossible to approach, with the ability to instantly kill you with a 1 frame move? Any mistake was instantly punished by Mango. Accidentally get hit off the stage? Mango would wall you off. Miss a grab? That’s a Rest. Jigglypuff would make a lot of headway when it came to the tier list, and was placed at the third spot in 2010 with the 10th iteration of the tier list. The outrageous claim made in jest in 2004 became reality.

The rise of Hungrybox

Hungrybox entered the scene around the same time as Mango. While Mango saw success earlier than Hungrybox, Hungrybox was a rising star in the post-Brawl era, placing in the top eight in Revival of Melee. At the time, Jigglypuff was taking heat from the entire Smash community, as some people were scared that the new defensive play style would kill the game. (Bobby “Scar” Scarnewman, for one, explained why he thought Puff was so dangerous back in 2010.)

Mango changed from Jigglypuff to the spacies, coincidently dodging the hate Hungrybox received by staying with what was, and still is, considered a boring character. Hungrybox would go on to win ROM 2 and then Apex in 2010, making people think that Puff might be the new best character. The 10th tier list placing Jigglypuff at No. 3 could be seen as a move made in desperation, but 2010 was Hungrybox’s year, with a multitude of first place finishes. Hungrybox didn’t care about the criticism; he loved the character and was trying to push Jigglypuff’s game as far as it could.

Jump back to the present, and Hungrybox’s skill should never be questioned. Jigglypuff’s power has now been put into perspective, and now whenever Hungrybox wins, there’s a sense of validation.

Hungrybox is now the best American Smasher, and in a world amongst a plethora of Foxes, no one should doubt how far he has pushed a character once thought of as a joke.

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