Announced at E3 2001, Fox (フォックス, Fox) is a playable starter character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. He is once again voiced by Shinobu Satouchi across all versions of the game, providing him with new, more energetic voice clips.
Fox currently ranks 1st on the Melee tier list, his best placement in the series to date. He is emblematic of speed, possessing fast attacks that also give him excellent comboing and damaging abilities. Overall, he can dominate foes with his quick movement and overpowering offense in all areas of his game. He also boasts numerous approaching methods, giving him some of the best neutral game options among the entire cast. He has access to effective, long-distance recovery options in Fire Fox and Fox Illusion. He has KO options and setups at a wide variety of percentages, and his high falling speed makes him resilient to vertical KOs. His aerial game also includes several low-lag yet effective and powerful moves to complement his ground game, especially when SHFFL'd, and is incredibly effective at approaching and edgeguarding. Fox's main tool in his success, however, is his Reflector (also known as the shine), which is one of the most versatile tools in the game. Aside from its intended purpose, the Reflector activates on frame 1 (making it the fastest move in the game), has set knockback, and can be jump canceled; this allows for shine spike gimps, neutral stance resets, getup option mixups, and even combos when wavedashing is incorporated.
Despite being ranked first, Fox is not flawless. His high falling speed makes him very easy to combo and chaingrab off of a single conversion from the opponent, and his light weight can result in extremely early horizontal KOs if the player's DI is poor. Although he boasts long-distance recovery options, their linear paths makes it easier for certain characters like Marth to predict his recovery path and edgeguard or gimp him. Fox also has an extremely high technical learning curve, as most of his techniques require extremely nimble fingers and fast reaction time. Also, due to his aforementioned flaws, Fox is considered to be a glass cannon, where he could lose a stock if a single mistake is made, giving him a high cerebral learning curve. So while Fox has incredible fighting process and potential, many consider Fox to be arguably the hardest character to play as and master, requiring a lot of practice.
Regardless, his pros greatly outweigh his cons, and Fox is notable for being one of only four characters in the series (the other three being Pikachu in Smash 64, Falco in Melee, and Meta Knight in Brawl) to have no disadvantageous matchups, with only three (Falco, Marth and Samus) being considered even.
Fox falls into a unique archetype: He is exceptionally quick, yet he is equipped with a plethora of viable finishers. He has the second fastest dashing speed (which remedies his low air speed somewhat), tied with Marth for the fastest walking speed, the third fastest normal falling speed, tied with Captain Falcon for the second fastest fast falling speed, fast dash-dancing, and fast attacks. His low traction and fast jump (only 3 frames before he leaves the ground) gives him a fast, moderately long wavedash.
Fox's primary reason for his top-tier placing is his unparalleled comboing and damaging ability, helped by a powerful approach game. His fast fall and low, fast short hop contribute to an extremely quick SHFFL, which can let him almost effortlessly start combos or act as a deadly approach option. Additionally, Fox's specials act as powerful ways to aid this; his Reflector makes for a potential combo starter, as well as a potential infinite combo with his waveshine infinite, and his Blaster is an almost unstoppable damage-racking method, due to its long range, inability to cause hitstun, high speed and its ability to be combined with Fox's short hop as part of the short hop laser technique. Additionally, a majority of Fox's attacks inflict significant damage while being very fast as well; his neutral aerial, back aerial, and tilts are especially notable in this regard, with the remainder of his aerials having little ending lag.
Additionally, Fox's KO ability is also among the best in the game, with numerous powerful vertical finishers in his arsenal, most notably his up smash and up aerial, both of which are among the most powerful in the game with huge hitboxes. Fox's Reflector also makes for a valuable tool for KOing, due to its set, semi-spike knockback properties that makes it extremely useful for edgeguarding or gimping. Its instantaneous startup time and its ability to be jump-cancelled also means that it is of very low risk to use off the edge. While not the strongest, Fox's forward smash is an effective horizontal finisher at higher damage percentages, capable of KOing even heavyweights like Bowser under 150%.
While not the best, Fox's grab game is decent. His throws' low knockback allow him to set up potentially lethal combos. His up throw can lead into a sweet spotted up aerial, one of Fox's primary KO methods, and can even chain throw fast fallers. His forward and back throws force opponents a fair distance off the stage, aptly setting up opportunities for Fox to use his smashes, aerials, or shine spikes to edgeguard. In rare situations, Fox can use his down throw to meteor smash his opponents off the edge of a stage. Despite this, Fox's grab range is average, though his high dashing speed gives him a potential method to "extend" its range. Fox also cannot reliably chain grab at higher percentages, though he retains his ability to hit most opponents out of his up throw with guaranteed aerials, depending on DI.
Despite being a top-tiered character and considered among the most powerful in Melee, Fox is not completely infallible. Because he is a light fast faller, he suffers more hitstun but less vertical knockback. As such, nearly every character can juggle or chaingrab him for decent damage or even to KO percents with little chance for Fox to escape (Marth and Peach being notorious for having deadly chaingrab combos on Fox at Final Destination). As a result, Fox can be considered somewhat of a glass cannon, as while his attack prowess is high, a single blunder by the player can cause the loss of a stock.
In addition to an ease of being comboed, Fox also suffers from a rather exploitable recovery. On paper, despite being a fast faller with poor air speed and the highest gravity value amongst the fighters, Fox's recovery is among the best in the game, as his two options, Fire Fox and Fox Illusion, both travel extremely long distances. He can also mix up his recovery options by angling Fire Fox in nearly any direction, shortening his Fox Illusion, or wall jumping on certain stages, making the opponent second-guess themselves about where they should be on the stage to intercept Fox's recovery. However, such techniques are also extremely dangerous if incorrectly spaced, as if the opponent obtains the correct read or gets into a position where they can hit him out of his recovery, Fox will most likely not be able to recover again. A multitude of attacks can intercept both moves, such as Mario's Cape or Falco's down aerial, and top-tiered characters generally have the options to cover several of Fox's recovery options at once, or even chase Fox off-stage before he even has the chance to recover.
As one of the only two characters in the game to not have any disadvantageous matchups (the other being Falco), Fox has, undisputably, the best matchup spread in Melee. He has only three matchups that are even, while he soft counters six characters, counters seven, and hard counters nine (second most in the game, behind Sheik). Fox's universally strong tools, such as his quick, versatile combo ability, great aerial attacks, and his very effective shine techniques, allow him to compete against any character. He even has very oppressive tools in certain matchups, such as a potential waveshine infinite that, even if performed to a limited degree, can shut down a large portion of the cast. However, Fox's very high falling speed and very low air speed undermine his otherwise relatively long recovery, making him predictable off the stage and easy to gimp and edgeguard by characters such as Falco, Jigglypuff and Marth. With his said falling speed, characters such as Marth can easily chaingrab him, and his light weight attribute makes him easy for characters such as Samus to KO horizontally.
In the modern metagame, it is still widely agreed that Fox has the best overall matchup spread in the game. However, there has recently been significant debate over his matchup against Marth. Some professionals argue that Marth has an easier time playing the matchup; they claim that Fox only has a true advantage at TAS levels of play, and that Marth beats Fox at the human level. Such professionals usually cite Marth's surprisingly high win rate in his favor against Fox in top-level tournament play, and the incredible prowess that top professional Marth players such as Mew2King and Zain have against Fox, with not many Fox players showing that level of dominance against Marth players. Nonetheless, the general perception of the community still suggests that the matchup is considered even for the time being.