Note2: lazy formating yawn
Note that in the guide it's assumed that you know how to perform all the advanced techniques and understand all the terms like SHFFL, wavedashing, dashdancing, wavelanding, SHL and whatnot. If you don't, you can check this video or ask:
Falco is one of the best characters in SSBM. His most famous and feared moves include his dair(drill), down B(shine), and blaster. He is able to play both a zoning game with his lasers and some of the most fearsome rushdown in SSBM, only behind Fox's. Falco has some of the most powerful combos in all of SSBM as well. Falco is a great choice for players who enjoy flashy combos and heavy pressure at a slightly slower pace than what Fox offers. However, Falco's recovery is terrible and his defensive options are poor. He easily gets comboed all day. If you make a single mistake, it's likely you're going to pay with your life. He's the high risk / high reward-character of Melee.
Pros / Cons:
+ Amazing combo game
+ Terrifying shieldpressure and pressure in general
+ Perhaps the best projectile game in all of Melee
+ Dair is great as a combo starter, combo ender, stock finisher, edgeguard...
+ Has his Shine with a 1 frame startup, in my opinion the second-best move in the game after Fox's Shine.
- His up B is in my opinion the worst recovery in the game and Falco is almost certainly dead whenever he gets thrown off stage.
- Slower than most top tier characters, making Falco weaker in close range battles. Very weak when the opponent is just outside of the range of his shine.
- No good, reliable vertical finisher. This causes his opponents to sometimes be able to survive until 150+%.
- Along with Fox, the most easily comboed character in the game. Getting comboed from 0 to death is not uncommon as Falco.
- If the opponent is able to powershield well, Falco's lasers become far weaker.
This is just for how to use them. Read his wiki page if you want to know what all of his moves do(http://www.ssbwiki.com/Falco_(SSBM)).
Jab: There's different opinions about this. Personally, I feel like it should be used relatively sparingly. It's great for linking into your other moves as a combo extender or catching the opponent in the air, but is risky to use very often mostly because it's both shieldgrabbable and CCCable if you use it too often. However, jab -> grab or jab -> ftilt combos are both very useful for pressuring the opponent from a little further away in order to give you more advantageous stage position.
Ftilt: This is a great move, even if it's a bit underrated. The most common use for me is to use it after a jab or a SHL when other moves wouldn't be able to combo after them. It can also be used to edgeguard when angled down, as an anti-air when angled up and as a long-range pressure tool as it's safe on shield against most characters. Doesn't combo into anything but sets up a nice situation to fire lasers and is able to perhaps set up a tech chase or edgeguarding opportunity.
Utilt: One of the best tilts in the game. This can be used as a combo starter, combo extender, an amazing anti-air, as an edgeguard, as shield pressure... The uses go on and on. Safe on shield when spaced except perhaps against Marth. Abuse this move against opponents without good options down from the air(Sheik). Leads into shine, aerials, fsmash vs fastfallers, grab, usmash... Anything.
Dtilt: Falco's best vertical KO move and even then it's not that great. Can set up some combos when you're out of range for a shine after an aerial but even so, a turnaround utilt or even usmash is generally superior. Good option for CCCing if the opponent is in range for it but out of range for shine afterwards. Can combo into his aerials or shine against most mid/fastfallers. Useful for finishing off a Peach or Jigglypuff when the opportunity presents itself, or for finishing off a damaged Sheik during edgeguarding, for example.
Fsmash: One of the best Fsmashes in the game. Great combo finisher, edgeguard and your strongest finisher on-stage. It also is relatively safe on shield when spaced well. When the opponent has no jump and is stuck in the air, SHL -> Fsmash is a very good way to grab the kill or set up an edgeguarding opportunity. However, don't be one of those Falcos who spams this move with hard reads(unless it really is a hard read). It's very risky and the reward is miniscule if it doesn't at least set up for an edgeguard.
Dsmash: Another great smash attack. It's one of your primary CCC options because it still hits even moderately spaced aerials because of its quick startup and great range. It can be used to truecombo from SHL for a kill on stage, can be used as a great edgeguard and can be used to shieldpoke the opponent with. However, use it sparingly because it can be punished hard if if whiffs or it gets shielded.
Usmash: Falco's worst smash by far. Utilt generally heavily outclasses this. However, it's still perhaps Falco's best option out of shield to hit in front of him when the opponent isn't in range to be shieldgrabbed and can be used as an anti-air when you don't have the time / skill to turnaround utilt fast enough. Leads into a shine or aerial against fastfallers and midweights sometimes but overall not a great comboing tool. Weaker vertical KO move than dtilt but jab -> usmash is a decent way to finish the opponent off in that way. Usually you really don't want the opponent to live long enough for them to get enough % to get KO'd off the top by this, however.
Nair: A standard nair, but one of the better ones. Falco also can utilize this well. Beats most aerials when performed rising towards the opponent. Very good as a combo ender and as a combo extender after something like shine or utilt. Depending on DI, you can also follow a nair up with a second nair. A very good approach tool as well and leads into huge damage if you catch them in the air with this.
Fair: Falco's fair is far superior to Fox's. The damage is enormous if you are able to rack up a few hits. Some good ways to get them is with uthrow -> fair or fairing the opponent if you predict the double jump out of your uthrow, or just catching them in the air with it(Falco's fair has great priority up-forward). If you are able to get it hit like 4 times, that's around 30% of damage just from Falco's fair and it can even lead into a followup, especially with platforms. Seems to also have slightly more range than nair and so can be used to finish combos where nair cannot reach. Not very good as an approach, however, and Nair is generally superior for that purpose.
Bair: Falco's bair functions very similarly to his nair. It has the same startup and a similiar hitbox that covers almost his entire body. However, the front leg that's lowered down never seems to have a strong hitbox to it even if you hit with it as soon as the attack comes out. Generally, when you can land this aerial instead of nair, for example as a combo ender, you should go for it. It also can function as a great combo extender especially if you hit with it reversed - A weak hit can lead into a dair against fastfallers at higher %s and a strong reverse bair can lead into followups like dash attack. This move is also great for spacing and zoning an opponent because it's very likely to outprioritize the opponent's approaching aerial assuming they aren't called Marth. If you delay the fastfall / don't fastfall at all, you can even autocancel the bair allowing for faster recovery. Jump -> shineturnaround -> double jump bair is a great combo finisher against targets who are tossed too far away to be reliably followed up with nair of dair. Finally, after a fulljump bair, you easily have the time to waveland afterwards, or even fire a laser in either direction without landing if your timing is truly on point. This can be great for following up with pressure after catching an opponent without his doublejump with the fulljump bair.
Dair: The best dair in the game, hands down. It's fast, it has great priority down, it spikes and kills at relatively low %s, it has relatively low l-cancel lag, it combos into almost his entire moveset and leads into tech chases. This is a move to be abused. When you catch a grounded opponent with this, it's almost certainly going to lead into at least 30% and often far more than that. When you catch an opponent off stage with this, they're usually dead with no hope of recovery. It also cannot be crouch canceled In my opinion the best aerial in the game and one of the best moves in the entire game. Watch out for the opponent jumping into this at very low %s, however, as when they drop down to the ground they have no lag and can punish you.
Uair: Falco's worst aerial, but it still has its uses. It's a very nice vertical KO option and can kill surprisingly early after your shine pops them into the air(even as low as 100% on some stages). It also is difficult to DI against because DI-ing against makes them go straight up and DI-ing away makes them go completely horizontally, setting up a nice edgeguard. Can be used to poke at the opponent from under the platforms and can be used as a combo extender. However, make sure to hit with the tips of Falco's feet as the hitbox near the center of Falco's body has almost no knockback and usually just gets you punished. This property can be abused in some shine combos for followups, however.
Neutral B: Falco's Blaster. One of his most feared moves and perhaps the best projectile in the game. The shots only do 1-3% damage each, but when performing an SHL you have no landing lag and the shots stun the opponent long enough to give you the initiative you need to start your pressure. Can be used for zoning, for approaching, for pressure, for extending and starting combos, for edgeguarding, for retreating, for antiair... Possibilities are almost limitless. Powershielding greatly reduces the effectiveness of the SHL but it's still amazing when the opponent is not able to shield.
Forward B: Falco's generally better recovery option. While it's not a good recovery by any means, at least it's hard to react to and with the shortens(press B again with the right iming as the move is starting up), the recovery can be mixed up well. Falco can autocancel with this easily on some stages(For example when going from platform to platform on pokemon stadium) for some additional mindgames. It can also be an all right option to throw out very very rarely as an approach/punish as it's quite difficult to react to and it leads into a combo, but the endlag is so severe that it needs to be done in moderation.
Down B: One of the best moves in the game, and Falco's best move along with dair. Its original purpose is reflecting projectiles, and it does this pretty well. However, it actually has an attacking hitbox that's out on frame 1, which is jump cancelable and pops the opponent into the air. You can waveshine or jump out of the shine and follow up with combos. The shine also has a special property(I haven't been able to replicate this with anything but shine): It causes your dair that hits during shine's hitstun to have full hitstun when the opponent hits the ground, instead of recovering instantly. This allows you to dair -> shine combo fastfallers like Fox or Captain Falcon from 0% all the way until ~40%, into even more followups. That's not all, however - It's Falco's fastest option for counterattacking out of shield and is wonderful as a CCC. It also is great for pressuring the shield and as it can be canceled into a JC grab as well, just landing a shine on the opponent's shield is almost guaranteed to give you the upper hand.
Up B: Perhaps the worst recovery in the game. The opponent has forever and a half to kick Falco out of the startup and unlike Fox's, it has no protective hitbox. It also has very poor range. Can be used to combo after shine on fastfallers to kill them off the top on stages like Yoshi's Story. However, when you're forced to use this to recover, expect yourself to die.
The general gameplan obviously depends a lot about the matchup but those shall be handled seperately. However, the basic idea is to pressure the opponent with lasers, trying to get an opportunity to close in on them, leading into your sublime shield pressure and eventually into damage. Your general pressure might consist of something like SHL -> SHFFL Dair -> Shine-Grab. The SHL is going to cover your approach, preventing them from attacking you with the aim of forcing them to shield against you. You SHFFL Dair their shield and then shine immediately. If done properly, the shine will hit your opponent before they're able to act out of shield. If you then cancel the shine into a grab, you can almost guarantee yourself some damage or at least force a roll if the opponent made the mistake of shielding the initial dair.
The fear of this can take the opponent into the air, where they are vulnerable to your wonderful utilt antiairs and your SHL. One of your most important goals is to make the opponent spend his doublejump, after which your SHLs on the falling opponent are practically guaranteed to lead into good damage. It can also cause the opponent to roll predictably, which can lead into some huge damage(Landing a dair due to a predicted roll can easily mean 50+%).
You want to maintain center stage control and generally try to push the opponent close to the edge. You need to be very careful with spacing as Falco: He functions well at the tip of his ftilt and jab, where his SHFFL aerials and SHLs are viable options. He also functions well right next to the opponent, when they're in the range of his shine. However, Falco isn't great slightly further than shine range. Because of his low grab range, poor mobility and evasiveness, he often gets outmanouvered at this range. Falco also needs to avoid the edge of the stage like the plague - Dying off a back throw at 0% is commonplace for Falco.
Falco is able to utilize platforms pretty well due to his great shielddrop options in dair, bair, nair and shine and his huge vertical jump, giving him better control over the top platform than most charactes. Falco also can poke at opponents on lower platforms from below pretty safely with uair, although it's dangerous against shield drops. Platforms give Falco extremely powerful combo and tech chase options against most midweight and floatier characters who he couldn't otherwise combo nearly as well. They also give him an alternative avenue of attack by utilizing wavelanding, which is higher than his short hop but lower than his enormous full jump.
Divided into floaties(Peach, Samus Jigglypuff etc), midfallers(Marth, Sheik, Ganondorf etc.) and fastfallers(Fox, Falco, Falcon). Note that while my definition of floaties ranges from Jigglypuff to Dr. Mario and Ness, they still should be generally treated the same way even though it's a bit more easy to combo Dr. Mario than Jigglypuff.
Comboing floaties as Falco is mostly difficult. At low %s you want to go for just short 2-hit combos. It also isn't generally possible to shine -> dair -> shinecombo without platforms and attempting this can lead into getting punished. Stable combos are dair -> shine -> aerial and shine -> aerial as well as utilt -> aerial at most %s. At very low %s it can be better to try to bait the nair instead of trying to combo unsafely. This can open them up for punishment. At higher %s dair is your best combo starter and leads into aerials and shine very consistently. Shine becomes bad at high %s and shouldn't be used in combos at this point(around 100%) apart from the aerial shine - dj aerial that works practically always. With platforms, it's possible to do more extended combos like shine -> dair -> utilt -> aerial but they can be simple to escape by DI-ing away from the combo-enabling platform. Comboing off the top is very possible against this type of characters with shine -> shine and shine -> dj uair. Overall, Falco doesn't have great combo opportunities against this type of characters and the matches are mostly going to consist of short 1-2 hit sequences and prediction, based followups instead of straight up combos. Off SHL, the only really safe thing to do is ftilt without getting hit out of it. Jab doesn't lead into much either , generally just an ftilt and maybe an aerial if they DI against. Comboing off a dash attack against these characters is generally a waste of time and you will need to mindgame a little to land a followup.
These are a lot more comfortable to combo and are especially nice to combo with platforms. At low %s you can do utilt into aerials, utilt into shine -> aerials, shine into dair into utilt / another shine(if they don't DI away), utilt into fsmash at low %s if they DI the utilt to a side, and so on. On stages with platforms, the combos become even more fun as for example in the middle of Battlefield you can do things at ~40% like shffl dair -> utilt -> jump shine -> double jump waveland on top platform -> shffl uair -> full jump shine -> bair/uair. You can use platforms in all sorts of creative ways for your combos as Falco at many %s, the possibilities are almost endless. shine -> waveland -> fsmash is a great finisher at specific weights and heights. It's very difficult to actually give anything concrete for comboing these characters with platforms as Falco because it is so situational and the height of the character and the shine changes all the time. The only real way to get good at it is to experiment a lot. An important thing to learn is to be able to quickly airdodge down to a platform even after shining slightly above it. Apart from shine combos, dtilt is a very good combo move to use if you predict the opponent to do survival DI as it will send them almost directly up. Wonderful near the edge leading into a spike where a shine would send them a bit too far inwards . It's also great at a bit lower %s(around 40) if you can get it off as for example CCC because it still leads nicely into your aerials. Jab can lead into ftilt safely and even usmash or most aerials and even jumping shine depending on DI. Jab -> dsmash is also a great finisher for picking them up from hitting the floor and finishing them off if you don't think they will be teching away. Dash attack works great against these characters at all but the lowest %s. It can follow up some aerials / utilts that were DI'd away or just function as a combo starter. At lower %s it can lead into a shine or an utilt, at higher %s aerials or shine -> aerials and for example in the middle of battlefield, while new options open up with dash attack -> jump shine -> waveland on top platform and extending the combo as usual. You can get very creative against these characters as Falco. Falco's in my opinion the best character in the game to abuse this kind of characters.
Fastfallers: Unlike both midfallers and floaties, in my opinion it is the most easy to combo fastfallers on stages without platforms like Final Destination. You can do SHFFL dair -> waveshine followups(always waveshine towards the character and react swiftly) regardless of their DI until the dair begins knocking them down(around 37% for Fox, can't recall if it's this exactly but this has usually worked). After your last dair, instead of shine you probably want to utilt, and if they don't DI, you can utilt again and follow up with an aerial or shine -> aerial. uair is a great idea if you don't think they'll DI away in order to go for a very long, extended combo. If they DI the utilt to either side, you can just fsmash them or extend it with usmash, dash attack or even grab. Either way, it's very important to utilt after the last dair before it starts knocking them down because your followups aren't nearly as good if you shine instead(generally you only get one more nair off afterwards). At 0%, landing a shine or a dair on FD should lead into at least 50%+ if not a stock outright. It's a bit more tricky for platform stages. You will not be able to follow up nearly as well if they DI away from you and onto the platform. Generally, you're forced into going into a tech chase situation, and while Falco's very good in those, it just isn't as good as comboing straight up. Still, if they don't DI the first shine, you can jump and shine->waveland with the second one and go for a followup for your choice. You will be able to perform great dair tech chases from platform to platform at a bit higher %s and for example can do things like dair an opponent on a battlefield side platform at ~50% towards the center -> jump and shine -> waveland to the top platform -> dair the opponent down while landing on his platform -> another tech chase with dair for more followups or a dsmash/fsmash to finish. Your utilt combos on the other hand actually function better than on FD on platform stages because you can follow most utilts up with a jump shine -> waveland and then go for extensions from there. In short, FD is better for very low %s but platform stages are superior for comboing fastfallers at higher %s in my opinion. Falco's dash attack is amazing against fastfallers and leads into utilts, usmashes, shine -> aerials, shine -> wavelands on platforms, aerials and even combos into itself if the opponent doesn't DI it properly. Against a very scared opponent it's possible to even combo 5+ of them together and against a bit better opponent, you might want to go with a finisher after chaining around 2 dash attacks together. Dtilt functions great if you predict DI against and you can combo into it off a jab that picks them up from falling to the ground or off a SHFFL dair and numerous other things. It also functions as a finisher to your waveshine combo on FD if you think that they're likely going to be DI-ing towards you at that point. You can perform all sorts of creative combos against fastfallers and using jabs to extend combos that the opponent could otherwise tech is great as well, for example catching them before they hit the ground and going into dsmash or dtilt -> dair.
As a short summary: Falco's not very good at comboing floaties, you have to work a bit harder for damage against these characters. A key is to predict and bait their combobreaker nair and try to outspace / punish it instead of going for hard combos. Falco's wonderful at comboing both midfallers and fastfallers - Better on platform stages against midfallers at all %s and better at comboing fastfallers on FD at lower %s and better at platform stages at higher %s. Learn wavelanding off shines onto platforms, it opens up tons of combo possibilities.
To be continued...