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Bowser Jr's Hurtboxes: An Inconvienent Quirk

Divade011 - May 4, 2017

     In any tourney, commentators love to bring up any character specific knowledge they have, to help the viewers understand the character and matchup. Whenever a koopaling is on screen, the go to trivia is getting hit out of kart, or his unusual hurtboxes. Anytime a koopaling is hit by an upsmash and survives, a well intended player may say "he survived the hit 'cause he's in the kart" but it isn't quite that simple. 

'Head'ing to world 8
'Head'ing to world 8.

   Before I get too deep I want to explain the basics. Bowser jr's body, the turtle parts, take 1.15 times damage (therefore knockback) from moves compared to every character in the game (except Shulk's Monado arts). The kart portion, to balance this, takes 0.88 times the damage. So when one of the young turtles use their up special to recover, they are guaranteed to take 1.15, since there is no kart to hit. This is compensated by revealing his strongest killing move, the hammer swing (as it is commonly called, it is not a Bair/Fair/nair for the commentators reading this).

Hammers, Tools of Champions
Hammers, Tools of Champions.

   This concept of taking less damage from below, would normally encourage approaches above the opponent, and makes up air strings, Jr's best combo tool, a tad more risky since that is where his face is. This even makes sense canonically since the Koopa Clown Kart is usually flying above Mario, and Mario needs to find a way above the driver. This isn't quite how the mechanic works however. Imagine if in Mario you could jump through the bottom of the kart, just enough to reach and hit the evil koopa feet. This isn't far from what happens in Smash. If Bowser Jr. is hit by a move that covers his body and his kart, he takes 1.15 times damage. This is coupled with the fact that Jr's body hurtbox overlaps a good portion of the kart. Below is a hitbox map I've researched and created to show where he takes more or less damage.

Koopaling hair doesn't have a hit-box. If it did Iggy would have no competitive appearances.
Blue= x0.88, Red =x1.15, Mixed=x1.15
Koopaling hair doesn't have a hurt-box. If it did Iggy would have no competitive appearances.

    Using this image it is easier to tell, The Clown Kart doesn't even cover half of the body hurtbox without overlapping! Technically the metal kart hurtbox could exist above the eyes, but it if so it is completely overlapped by the weak, fleshy hurtbox. These hurtboxes can take hits from two sources: stationary or moving hitboxes. Assume Jr is on the ground. If the move is stationary and hits, like fox's up tilt, it's first active frame will be on both hurtboxes, unless spaced perfectly. A moving hitbox, like Shiek's needles, will hit the thin layer of clown face if it's first active frame didn't hit (near the eyes of the kart in the above picture). Stationary hitboxes occur for a majority of ground moves that don't use a sword. Sword moves swing and therefore have a moving hitbox. Some stationary moves purposely hit low, like many down-tilts and a few dash attacks, so those will only hit the damage resistant hurtbox.

Cool, we take less damage by moves.. that tend to be combo starters... oh.
Cool, we take less damage by moves.. that tend to be combo starters... oh.

   Looking further into these moving hitboxes, I'll explain why even ground sword moves can avoid the .88 multiplier. The swing has to start below and rise or else it would hit Jr's face. It also has to have its first active frame not hitting, or hitting the bottom of the Clown Kart. Not many swings have their first active hitbox right on the stage floor, so swords too, prove unreliable. Even other projectiles like Fox and Falco's lasers are high enough above the ground that they hit the turtle flesh. This narrows the ground use to be almost exclusive to falling projectiles, like Pac-fruit or arrows. Aerial moves can also be considered moving hitboxes, for example Mario's neutral air lingers as he can fade in or out. Aerial hitboxes however will almost always hit the top of jr (cause ya' know, it's in the air), so even those moves will do x1.15 damage. Since these baby dragon turtles aren't doing well on the ground, let's take to the skies.

Robin's F-air and U-air swing from below, but they do enough damage to break the armor anyway.
Robin's F-air and U-air swing from below, but they do enough damage to break the armor anyway.

    Being above the opponent starts to make use of this goofy helicopter. Trading hits against recoveries becomes a little better if a koopa uses the down aerial drill to stuff a recovery. The weak drill hits have no knockback and drop the opponent while we take less than the usual damage. This mechanic could also take a stray up aerial or up smash a little better then usual, if it doesn't poke to the turtle's feet. That's the catch though, a 'stray' hit. In real matches up aerials often come after a down throw, or are used in combos. In both cases spacing doesn't matter as much since the koopaling would be in hitstun, and it's likely that after being thrown or hit the first time, The koopa would be in tumble, where they could be upside-down when they get hit by the next move. 

This is gonna hurt, about 1.15 time more than usual.
This is gonna hurt, about 1.15 times more than usual.

    In the first example about the commentators claiming jr lives longer from up smashes, it is absolutely possible. but are some stray saves worth taking more damage for the rest of the match? I don't think so. Before covering where this hurtbox is most influencial, I have one more topic to explain and complain about: Recovery.

This is what i want when a commentator says Jr can always get his kart back by pressing AThis is what I want when commentators say Jr can always get his kart back by pressing A.

    Jr's recovery exceptional, besides the whole get hit by a weak nair and die at 20% thing. His Clown Kart Dash has good horizontal movement, it gives a 2nd midair jump, Abandon Ship gives plenty of height, and it allows air-dodges. Recovering high actually can make use of the resistant hurtbox with those pesky stray up aerials. If recovering from the side or low however, when these reptilian pilots get hit  they will probably be hit on the 1.15 hurtbox. Abandon ship is made to be a high risk, high reward move, but when jr abandons his ship, he's not really at more risk since at mid and low heights, he'll take the same damage and knockback as if he was in his kart. There's no reason to think about the hurtboxes besides "don't get hit", which you may be learning is the over arching issue with the mechanic. This mechanic would have more importance in a match if it had some kind of armor.

Humiliation avoided.Humiliation avoided.

    The Clown Kart Dash, the move of unusual armor. Initially I thought that only the wheels had it, because it would work usually as  Bowser Jr. falls onto a hitbox. This move has heavy armor with a threshold of 8% while moving, but only on the clown car. This .88 resistance actually raises the threshold of the armor too, (8% / .88 = 9.09%) so it can take an extra percent, which is cool. However, remember when Falco's lasers were shot high enough to hit the body hurtbox, but shieks needles hit the kart? Here's a hurtbox map during The Clown Kart Dash:

Pro tip: Point and laugh at enemies as you run them over.Yellow ring= Hitbox

    Due to the slight forward lean of the clown kart, even Shiek's needles will hit Jr's body (remember red & purple is Jr's body hurtbox). This move grants the armor to get through weak hits, but when it's grounded almost all moves hit Bowser Jr's body anyway (luckily we we can at least charge past a reflected mecha koopa). The ways these separated hurtboxes prove useful hits a near endless amount of limits. To use this armor you have to be in the air, which make it almost exclusively useful for high recoveries, (as we've already covered that mid and low recoveries make it all too easy to hit the fleshy bodies of the koopalings), have it spaced so they don't hit through the kart as swords often do, and it has to be less than 9%. 

High in the air, Check. Opponent hit swings, Check. Damage iw under 9? Uh-oh.High in the air, check. Opponent hit swings, check. Damage is under 9? Uh-oh.

    I'm sure Sakurai had good intentions for this mechanic to make Bowser Jr a unique character, but He suffers from it. Bowser Jr virtually always take more damage and knockback when in tumble from combos, and when level or below the opponent. His main ground approach tool, Clown Kart Dash, has heavy armor that only resists a handful of moves from down tilts, low dash attacks and falling projectiles, and only if the damage is less than 9%. From the air we can effectively use this armor, but at the cost of not having any active hitbox until we cause the kart to spinout.

Maybe they will  make bowser Jr Deluxe for the switch version.Maybe they will make Bowser Jr Deluxe for the switch version.

    I've talked plenty so I won't dig deep into the possible 'fixes' about how much it would help if Jr just took normal damage, or how kart dash would be fixed if the hurtboxes didn't overlap. What I do want to talk about is that I believe this was an unintended issue. I think they had both hurtboxes set, and realized it may be unfair if the kart hurtbox was prioritized over the Jr hurtbox, so they switched priority and broke the usefulness of the heavy armor. I've been working on a trick to make the armor more useful, (It's Done!) and I think creativity will be what keeps Bowser Jr and The Koopalings from falling off the competitive map. Luckily in this rendition of smash, every character is viable, and month by month players like me are finding new tricks to push our favorites characters forward.
There, I made sure I got every Koopaling in at least one picture.There, I made sure I got every Koopaling in at least one picture.

   If you enjoyed this and want to here from me more, I've videos on other Bowser Jr oddities here, and I retweet any behind the scenes and unique smash mechanics on my Twitter.

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