Pac-Man's general gameplan tends to switch up a lot depending on the matchup. In particular, when pitted against some characters, such as Luigi or Ganondorf, camping will be the most direct and powerful tactic against them. On the contrary, other characters, such as Hero or Simon may have him beat in the distance game, forcing Pac-Man to be the one on the offensive. Different players might also be particularly patient, others might be more hasty and exploitable, so Pac-Man's gameplan is not concrete and can change on a dime. In general though, Pac-Man's typical gameplan is to create space to get the right Bonus Fruit for the circumstance, using Hydrant or Trampoline to help create that space, and then punishing how the opponent approaches these walls. If his camp is disrupted, Pac will usually try to box out the opponent enough to run away and go back to charging Bonus Fruit, but he may just continue pressure if he already has the right fruit on hand.
As stated previously, Pac-Man's neutral tends to change depending on the matchup. There are a lot of factors that will influence how Pac-Man will play, such as who has the lead, what playstyle the opponent has, or what percent they are at.
Getting the time to charge the right Bonus Fruit for the given situation for Pac-Man is imperative. Each fruit has it's own purpose and offers a lot of utility, though in neutral there are a few specific fruits to want to charge for.
- Galaxian is the Fruit that Pac-Man tends to look for at lower percents, due to it's huge combo potential. It also is a big whiff punish tool due to it's range, and is typically used to punish bad options against Hydrant to rack up damage or whiff punish stubby or laggy approaches. Pac-Man usually will also try to recatch this fruit before using it against an opponent, to prevent it from being used against him.
- Bell is the fruit Pac leans on at higher percents to seal out a stock. Similarly to Diddy Kong's banana, it is a very good Out of Shield option used to punish unsafe options used against him, but this playstyle tends to crumble against characters with big disjoints or safe frame data like Cloud. Pac-Man might also use Bell as a conditioning tool to see how people react to it, and punish their responses by grabbing or anti airing them. This applies to all Fruit, but ESPECIALLY to Bell due to how much Pac leans on it to close out stocks.
- Key tends to be most effective vs other zoners or characters who rely on a projectile hard, such as Samus or Ivysaur. It typically will beat out most projectiles and hit the opponent in their endlag, allowing it to be used to punish some moves on reaction, such as Min Min's ARMs or Lucario's Aura Sphere. It is also a good way to punish an opponent's options against Hydrant from a distance, but it's mainly an anti-zoning tool.
The otherBonus Fruits tend to be utilized more in setups or just as get-off me tools or niche kill/combo tools, but the three above are the main fruits Pac-Man will lean on for neutral.
Hydrant and Trampoline
To create space to charge to the correct Bonus Fruit, Pac tends to rely on Hydrant and Trampoline to help. Both moves create an obstacle that the opponent will have to avoid to stop Pac-Man from charging Bonus Fruit, and Pac-Man can try to exploit how they approach against these obstacles to help make neutral easier.
Opponents tend to have a few options vs Hydrant that Pac-Man has to keep track of.
1. Attacking the Hydrant - This is the most popular option at low level. Attacking Hydrant will put the opponent through hitlag, and what happens with the Hydrant and how the opponent attacks the Hydrant tends to vary from character to character.
- Some moves, such as Smash Attacks, will instantly launch the Hydrant. Depending on the launch angle of the move and how much endlag it has, Pac-Man might be able to punish. For a lot of Forward Smashes, Pac-Man can dash under the launched Hydrant and punish with a Grab or F-Tilt or F-Air, but other attacks will launch Hydrant in a way that is hard for Pac-Man to punish, or will have so little endlag that they can punish the Pac-Man for attempting to punish their Hydrant option.
- Attacks that do not launch the Hydrant will "prime" it, or set it up for launching with the next move. This happens a lot with characters whose moves have low raw damage output, such as Sheik or Squirtle, but it is difficult to react to. Some characters can do a landing aerial into a tilt to launch Hydrant in a way that's difficult to punish, but some will be too slow and will allow Pac to either shield the Hydrant or punish with Key or Galaxian.
- Multihits tend to lose a lot to Hydrant due to the increased hitlag and the fact they won't launch Hydrant until the last hit, so characters like Pichu or Pikachu tend to struggle against Hydrant as a result.
2. Jumping over the Hydrant - This usually is a very popular option from characters with solid air mobility such as Jigglypuff or characters who have lacking grounded options against Hydrant
- Pac-Man doesn't have a good anti-air, so if the character drifts in, Pac-Man will tend to punish with a Fair or Bair to stuff out their jump. He might also dash-back and whiff punish what they do on landing.
- The opponent might double jump back, which Pac struggles to punish, causing them to outspace his anti air and giving them an opportunity to punish. They can also make their landing ambiguous and difficult to punish.
3. Projectiles - Projectiles tend to have a wide array of effects on Hydrant.
- Projectiles usually either launch Hydrant or will be blocked by it, but some will travel over or launch Hydrant in a way that's difficult to punish. Some even travel through (such as Mii Swordfighter's Tornado or Chakram.
- The best option vs these depends on the projectile. If they do not launch Hydrant, then it is essentially the same as if they primed it with an attack, so Galaxian is a good option
- VS ones that instalaunch, the best option is to shield or use Key, but specific characters might be a hassle for Pac-Man to punish if they abuse the right projectiles against him.
4. Counters - Counters tend to launch Hydrant on their own, some very odd.
- Lucario's for example will launch Hydrant instantly and can catch Pac-Man offguard due to traveling through Hydrant as well and the stall it gives.
- The best option vs these is to shield or outspace with mobility typically.
5. Rolling Through - A rare option that requires the Pac-Man to be on his toes to punish
6. Ignoring It - Some characters are so adept at launching Hydrant or have their own resources that they get from camping that it benefits them more to not approach Pac-Man.
- Characters such as Steve or Samus might be more interested in getting their resources/Charge Shot, so they might not approach vs Hydrant at all.
- Characters with the stock lead or who have stolen his Fruit might also not approach, which is difficult for Pac-Man to deal with.
Trampoline is very similar to Hydrant in how it is used to camp, however it is not able to be launched and whether you can roll through it is matchup dependent. Trampoline is also better at blocking projectiles than Hydrant due to not being launched. It tends to be more effective against characters with lacking air mobility and bad range on their aerial attacks like for example Luigi, who has poor air speed and lacking range on his aerials, making him susceptible to having his jump stuffed out by Pac-Man's options.
If the opponent gets in against Pac-Man's camping, or if the opponent is not playing his game, he may be forced to scrap himself. This isn't ideal since Pac-Man's mediocre mobility and stubby range make him struggle a bit with this, but he does have options.
- If the opponent is closing in on him, N-Air is a really good option to get people off of him and get back the space to continue zoning.
- Shielding with Bonus Fruit in hand is also viable, as well as dash shield, as Bonus Fruit in hand is fast OoS and can beat a lot of aggressive options.
- Pac can approach from the ground using Dash Attack or Pivot F-Tilt, though due to his mediocre speed, these can be easy to intercept or beaten by disjointed sword attacks.
- Pac mainly approaches from the air
- F-Air is a decent approach option, due to the mixup potential after using it, as you can do a landing N-Air, landing U-Air, or empty land afterwards and Jab or use a Bonus Fruit to beat a shield drop and throw the opponents timing off, or just grab them.
- Pac-Man is very floaty however, making these mixups slow and easy to see coming. F-Air is also unsafe while rising, so it has to be used in moderation, other wise an opponent might catch on and punish.
- The threat of Bonus Fruit on it's own conditions people to shield, making D-Air, Jab, or Dash Attack to catch shield drops a viable option, or using grab to beat shield a viable option in it's own.
- Bonus Fruit is a good way to have access to a disjoint to help stuff out other attacks or to whiff punish other people's attacks, and is usually how Pac-Man will operate at close range.
- Pac-Man's safe ground options are a spaced Down Tilt, Forward Tilt, and Dash Attack, but these tend to be unsafe if unspaced and will typically get beaten by fast out of shield options. Pac-Man's landing Nair, Uair, and spaced landing Fair will be somewhat safe, but these are hurt by Pac-Man being floaty.
Pac-Man's boxing is decent, but isn't enough to compete with many other characters with better boxing options like Mario, better mobility like Fox or disjointed moves like Cloud. Pac-Man's boxing is good at getting people away from him to give him time to charge Bonus Fruit, but isn't exceptional enough to make boxing the main focus of his gameplay, as many characters have him beat there, due to his poor range, mediocre speed, less available normal mixups, and bad fall speed making his aerial approaches predictable. As such, it is important to keep mixing up when you box with Pac-Man, so that way Pac-Man can return to charging his Bonus Fruit and operate where he does best, long range, as his midrange is very lacking and his close range is just okay.
Pac-Man isn't inherently great at juggling, as he is floaty and has lacking anti airs or an Up Air that lends itself well to juggling for long periods of time. He will often try to catch your landing with Dash Attack, dashback Fruit, dashback F-Smash, or a Grab, but he might also catch your landing with a launched Hydrant.
Landing vs Pac isn't necessarily terrifying if you are mixing up your options, and it's very unlikely he'll murder you off of a single juggle.
Pac-Man's strongest aspect of advantage state is arguably his ledgetrapping, as his ability to limit options using his special moves is really strong.
- Trampoline limits the opponent's options at ledge. Very few characters can roll through, so Pac-Man can just cover roll, getup attack, and neutral getup with the same option. He can toss Fruit above Trampoline as well or toss out an Fsmash above it to kill early, and he can punish the opponent hanging on ledge too long with Fruit or Dair.
- Hydrant also is a solid area denial tool Pac can launch high with Trampoline after priming it or with Apple, and he can act independently from the launched Hydrant, allowing him to cover many options at once.
- Bell and Melon linger for a long time and cover multiple options, especially in combination with his other specials.
- Pac-Man can also utilize shield well due to his fast Nair out of shield.
Pac-Man has pretty decent edgeguarding with the right resources, especially due to how noncommitally he can attack an opponent offstage and how deep he can go due to his far reaching recovery. However, it is inconsistent and not as easy as ledgetrapping, and Pac-Man's edgeguarding can be very matchup dependent or resource dependent.
- Melon Key and Orange all cover good space horizontally and are deadly to get hit by, allowing Pac-Man to cover a line of recovery from the opponent.
- Down Air's massive range and strong kill power also make it potent offstage if it catches an opponent mid recovery
- However due to the multihit nature, this can be inconsistent sometimes.
- Hydrant and Z-Dropped Bonus Fruit are good ways to cover low recoveries, due to being noncommittal and allowing Pac to stay on stage to ledgetrap.
- Hydrant will launch opponents upwards however, so they will either get stage spiked by Hydrant or will be in a better position due to being above Pac-Man, rather than offstage against him.
- Fair sends at a particularly ruthless angle.
- Pac can two frame opponents with Down Angled Ftilt or a special move.
Pac-Man all and all has a very solid advantage state, however his advantage state is very resource dependent and isn't easy to autopilot. The Pac-Man has to be careful with how he manages his Hydrants, Trampolines, and Fruits, otherwise the opponent will have an easy time getting back to stage, and Pac-Man's corner pressure and juggling leave a lot to be desired.
- Pac-Man's serviceable airspeed and slow fall speed make him adept at recovering from far distances.
- Side-B (Power Pellet) is a highly effective recovery move. It will travel significant distance on it's own, and has super-armor after Pac-Man eats the pellet. Side-B also does not put Pac-Man into freefall, and allows the Pac to choose from many angles to recover from.
- The Power Pellet isn't infallible however. An eagle-eyed opponent is able to hit the Pellet to prevent Pac-Man from eating it, canceling out the Side B.
- Pac-Man is also very susceptible to counters after eating the Pellet
- Overall, Side-B is Pac-Man's most versatile recovery tool. It's raw power and super-armor can scare some opponents out of edge-guarding Pac-Man, but in spite of all of the positives, the Pac-Man player must remember to constantly mix-up the angles in which they use Side B and how long they charge it for, otherwise a brave opponent might be able to harass him offstage.
- Up-B (Trampoline) is also a decent recovery tool. Trampoline provides Pac with three bounces, each increasing in height. The third bounce offers impressive vertical distance.
- Trampoline itself provides fantastic protection from spikes, due to sticking around even after it has been used. If an eager opponent attempts to spike Pac-Man, it is very likely Pac will be spiked into the Trampoline and get launched upwards instead.
- However, Pac-Man's Trampoline's jumps may also be stolen by opponents, especially after the second bounce, as Pac will land on Red Trampoline and get KO'd. For this reason, it is advised to use mainly to recover low after a Side-B.
- Bonus Fruit also can help protect Pac-Man while he is recovering.
- Bell in particular goes through the stage, making it a good surprise option to help Pac-Man skip the ledgetrapping phase.
- Bell, Galaxian, and Key are all fast and go through opponents or projectiles, giving Pac a big disjoint to protect him while he is recovering.
- Pac-Man also has access to Down-B (Fire Hydrant) to stall him mid-air for a short period of time, making his recovery timing harder to predict.
- Down-B (Fire Hydrant) is a very quick move that throws a hitbox out below Pac-Man and briefly stalling him mid-air. Fire Hydrant comes out at a decent frame 11, and Pac-Man may also land behind it to make it difficult for opponents to pressure what he does immediately after landing.
- Despite all of those positives, Hydrant loses to disjointed moves or multihits.
- Hydrant itself may also be reflected.
- Fast characters may be able to outspace Hydrant horizontally, and drift back in to punish Pac-Man in endlag, making it punishable if Pac-Man is too Hydrant happy.
- Pac-Man may not always have access to this option, due to Pac-Man being able to only have one Fire Hydrant out at a time.
- D-Air is also a serviceable option, with frame 9 startup and impressive range. The multihits themselves may also catch opponents off-guard.
- Due to the long animation, this leaves Pac-Man vulnerable on whiff.
- N-Air is an impressively quick combo-breaker that punishes opponents too trigger-happy with untrue strings.
- Bonus Fruit in hand is also a fantastic combo breaker and landing tool, provided Pac has it on hand. When Z-Dropped, it comes out frame 1, and travels downwards, helping leave a hitbox for Pac-Man to fall behind that can also disrupt anti-airs or juggling attempts.
- Bonus Fruit will tend to lose to disjoints when Z-Dropped.
- Item-Drop RNG might also come into affect, causing Pac-Man to lose Bonus Fruit in hand if he is unlucky.
- Fast Fall Neutral Airdodge (FFNAD) is an option, as it helps you land quickly and avoid an opponent who overcommits to landing.
- Having said that, this isn't as effective as some other character's FFNAD, due to Pac's floatiness, so it is a bit easier to punish and more reactable.
- Pac-Man is a very floaty character, making landing tough if he doesn't have the right resources on hand. However, Pac-Man is also able to drift offstage, if he feels more comfortable there, to help him mitigate any troubles he has landing.
Overall, Pac-Man has a fantastic disadvantage state, nevertheless, it is highly resource dependent in some cases and requires a lot of careful mix-ups to help make him less predictable.
Pac-Man's best and worst stages actually tend to vary depending on the Pac-Main. His best stages are very matchup dependent, sometimes Pac-Man appreciates a large spacious stage such as Kalos, but other times the large blast zones will be a hinderance to his ability to kill.
- Final Destination is generally a decent stage for Pac-Man against characters who struggle to approach and lose many combo routes, however Pac-Man also appreciates platforms as he usually likes to set up using platforms and it makes his approach far better.
- Battlefield is not ideal for Pac-Man usually. He doesn't mind platforms too much but his disadvantage is generally more exploitable, and many characters such as Captain Falcon gain better combos due to the platforms, and will maintain a better advantage state against Pac-Man due to this. Platforms also mess with Bonus Fruit, specifically Galaxian.
- Small Battlefield is very average. The platforms can get in the way of Bonus Fruit occasionally but the platforms make his ledgetrapping better due to being able to use Fsmash and Trampoline more effectively.
- However, this stage does not do anything notable to benefit Pac, making it a mediocre stage choice by default because of how many other characters benefit from it.
- Pokemon Stadium 2 is a great stage for Pac-Man, essentially better than Small Battlefield in every way aside from ledgetrapping. The larger size makes him harder to kill and gives him more space to setup, and the platforms are in convenient places to aid his Fruit setups.
- Contrarily, the large blast zones are a double edged sword, contributing to Pac-Man's trouble killing a little bit more.
- Smashville/Hollow Bastion is not typically a good idea for Pac-Man. While he does get to kill earlier on average, the platforms tend to mess with his camping and fruit tosses, and the smaller blast zones don't do him any favors when it comes to surviving for a long time.
- On the topic of weak Pac stages, Yoshi's Story is easily Pac-Man's worst. The platforms make other characters have better combos against him, the platforms get in the way of Fruit a lot more, he's easier to kill due to the smaller blast zones, and the platforms don't even benefit his approach or platform camping as much as Battlefield. A lot of his setups do not work at all either, and the slants messup a lot of his plays too, so this is usually an autoban for him.
- Kalos tends to be a really good stage for Pac-Man, as the close side blast zones help make his Back Air and Fsmash kill earlier. The platforms do not get in the way of his camping and the large vertical blast zones allow him to survive for longer. In addition to that, the larger stage gives him more space to run around to and charge Bonus Fruit.
- Similarly to PS2, the large blast zones can be a double edged sword. Pac-Man might also get uncomfortable vs characters who out camp or escape him easier here, such as Zero Suit Samus or other zoners.
- Town and City is also similarly good, as the platforms offer him better platform camping and the large blastzones and stage allow him a lot of space to setup shop.
- Pac might ban this stage against characters with very strong horizontal kill moves like Roy however.
- Lylat whenever it's legal is a mixed bag. He isn't hurt recovery wise and his edgeguarding and ledgetrapping is strong here, but the slants mess with his setups a lot, and even though they introduce new setups, it is generally really hard for Pac-Man to get his normal gameplan going, and even harder for him to land.
Pac has no real awful stages aside from Yoshi's Story, so he'll tend to ban based on the matchup. If he wants a slower game, he might pick Kalos or Town and City, but vs other characters, he might want to go to Battlefield or Final Destination, and like most characters, he does enjoy a bit of PS2.
Tips and Tricks
- Pac-Man can launch Bonus Fruit really quickly by using Hydrant's water to boost them towards the opponent.
- Fruit Looping is a tech where you shield while charging Bonus Fruit to store it for later and regain access to his normals.
To be continued.
- While playing against Hydrant, it is IMPORTANT to constantly mix up how you approach Pac-Man. Mix in some landing aerials to tilts, use moves that launch Hydrant upwards that have little lag, mixup when and what you do while jumping over Hydrant, with double jumps back to outspace Pac-Man's attempt to stuff out your approach, double jump back with projectiles, jump over and airdodge, get creative!
- Do not F-Smash Hydrant when Pac-Man is in a position to dash under and grab you.
- Do not use a weak move that won't launch Hydrant if Pac-Man has Galaxian on hand, unless it is a bait, as you will likely take over 50% if Pac-Man hits you with both Galaxian and the launched Hydrant.
- If you have a long ranged move that hits Pac-Man through Hydrant, it is usually a good strategy to use this if he can't shield in time.
- Some characters are perfectly fine not approaching vs Hydrant. If Pac-Man already has the ideal Bonus Fruit on hand, camping him is fine, as he is not threatening to get his win condition. This is especially effective if you have a solid percentage or stock lead.
- Bonus Fruit (if not recaught by the Pac-Man before throwing) is very easy to catch and utilize against him. Shielding or attacking the Fruit with a disjoint or quick attack will cause the hitbox to be disabled on all Fruit except for Galaxian. You can catch Fruit easily with a N-Air or F-Air OoS, or even a Dash-Attack without shielding it.
- Do not try to Z-Drop aerial with Fruit in hand, as you will not be able to recatch it yourself to use against him.
- Camping while holding his Bonus Fruit is a great strategy, as Pac-Man loses a big part of his neutral. There is a good chance he will be forced to approach you, which you can exploit. This is especially effective if you have good specials.
- It is recommended to check how each Bonus Fruit works and how Pac-Man uses it, so you can utilize it the same way against him.
- While Pac-Man's disadvantage state is phenomenal, quite a few characters can exploit it.
- Offstage, if Pac-Man is forced to use Trampoline to recover, you can airdodge through him and steal his jumps, especially if he's already on his second bounce. You can also attack him while he is falling trying to get his next bounce.
- If you have a counter, such as Lucina's, you can counter his Power Pellet to kill him really early.
- Disjoints and projectiles are also relatively decent at disrupting Power Pellet
- Pac-Man is also vulnerable to being juggled for quite a long time due to his floatiness and resource dependent landing options
- Shielding helps a lot vs Pac-Man in neutral, due to the fact he has a slow grab and a really bad tomahawk.
- None of his aerials are safe rising, so you can OoS him if you are quick enough. None of his grounded moves are too too safe aside from Dash Attack on the very last hit, so this will condition him to grab you after a while, which you can punish.
- Shielding also blocks his best combo starters (Galaxian, Bell, and N-Air). If Pac-Man has a Bonus Fruit in hand, shielding and running away is generally effective, because Pac-Man has to commit to putting (Bonus Fruit away before using his Frame 12 (Grab to beat your shield.
- Many Pac-Man mains approach with rising Fair
- The right counterplay in disadvantage can help you survive a lot longer.
- DI out vs Pac-Man's Fair and (Dash Attack and other combo starters, as that helps you avoid long strings that could lead to death.
- Make sure to tech Pac-Man's Fair as often as you can, or else you could eat a Bell or Galaxian which is not ideal.
- At ledge, be patient vs Trampoline, and wait to see if Pac-Man commits to trying to hit you off ledge with a Dair or other move. You may be able to time your getup to avoid this, but you could also regrab ledge and wait for Trampoline to despawn.
- Vs Hydrant launched by Trampoline at ledge, be very careful and try to avoid it. Do not neutral getup or roll, this will cause you to get hit by the . Jumps can occasionally work.
- Pac-Man has fantastic out of shield options but there is a bit of counterplay to them.
- Landing safely with a spaced disjoint usually helps you avoid a lot of his OoS options.
- If you have something safer than -8, you should be fine against Bell or Galaxian out of shield.
- A lot of characters are able to pancake under his Neutral Air and Forward Air.
- Tomahawks and spaced moves help a lot vs Pac's shield. Empty land shielding is also very viable as Pac's moves are all unsafe rising and it's a good way to bait him into wasting Bonus Fruit. It also avoids the risk of being too unsafe and getting hit by Bonus Fruit out of shield.
- Disjoints help a lot vs Pac in midrange, as his midrange is lacking, so if you can keep him in any range, midrange is your best bet.
Pac-Man is a hard matchup to pin down, and he exploits impatience harder than many characters can. Being patient and careful can go a long way vs him, especially with your shielding and how you approach his special attacks. Of course the better player will always win in the end usually, but hopefully this makes the matchup less annoying for most.
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