Posted by: metinahurricane | September 29, 2011

Through the Looking Glass 01

Old movesets are awful today, they say – and they’re only going to get worse. Others, more careful with their words, say that old movesets are bad by today’s standards. We can’t deny this, can we? But why do you suppose that is?

Well, because we look for different things in our movesets today, surely. Playstyle didn’t exist in movesets before MYM 5.

Except playstyle exists in all movesets, let alone the wacky ones MYM was producing; we just didn’t know how to look for it. We didn’t know how to draw it out, how to highlight it. And when it was there, we mistook it for muted creativity.

This series, Through the Twisted Lens, will see me digging up old or forgotten or just plain disliked movesets, and essentially rewriting them, with an accent on playstyle and flow and all those things we love so much today. I’ll keep the original author’s moves and all credit goes to them – all I’m doing is reinterpreting their work for a new day and age. Let’s see if we can find nuggets of gold in overdetailed movesets, hidden depth in underdetailed ones, and genuinely interesting playstyles where we thought none existed, in the very temple of genericism and carelessness.

I’ll go fairly recent a few times, because there are a lot of sets that slip under the radar because the writer doesn’t draw out what’s there or people don’t want to look. All of the movesets I’m digging up are in some ways entirely new movesets, although obviously not votable and not my own work. Maybe we can give some credit back to almost forgotten MYMers while we’re at it!

Most importantly, we’ve got a long and strong tradition of movesetting that newcomers may be missing out on because those old sets just aren’t very interesting to read anymore.

So I’ll start with a bit of contextualization for the time period of my very first pick, and then we’ll dive right into the moveset itself.

An MYM 4 moveset by Pelikinesis

It’s early MYM 4. The contest has only been open for a few days and everyone has been raring to go since MYM 3.0 ended – because, mind you, there is no chat. Dracula and Cervantes are on everybody’s minds after their high placings in the recent top 50 – the first to even vaguely resemble an actual competition – and everyone’s eager to dial the detail up to 11 and prove that they, too, can compete with Warlord and Mendez.

The flood has been massive. Warlord, Spadefox and Hyper_Ridley have all already posted multiple movesets, and these are the big names of the time, mind you. New emerging powers like Tanookie and Baloo are making themselves known and will become some of the most promising newcomers of the contest (both of them did rather a lot during MYM 4 and then dipped off the radar later on). And with the infamous dancingfrogman producing movesets so detailed that they make Warlord look dietary, everybody knows that the stakes are higher and it’s time to pull up the ol’ sleeves.

Now, Pelikinesis is not a big name today, nor was he ever, but if I were teaching a History of MYM course, I’d make him a compulsory part of the curriculum. Few MYMers spent MYM 4 creating such consistently clever sets, often with really startlingly smart specials and a slate of calmer, quieter standards to supplement them. This was MYM 4, a time when movesets that didn’t have tacky animations and zany effects on every input were passed over.

He was also a really cool chat presence when he bothered to show up, but in any case, he was a man of his time and after MYM 4, like Tanookie and Baloo, he vanished into the mists of history.

Cactuar is his second moveset and he misspelled his character’s name all the way through. I’ll link to the original set at the bottom. If you want to look into Peli’s later, more refined movesets – if you could call them that, because his movesets always had this really palpable homegrown feel, as though they were half-finished but already funcational pieces of furniture – here are Tonberry, SOS Brigade, New Goblin and Top Man.


Cactuar is a recurring enemy from the Final Fantasy series with a distinctive tendancy to run away from battles. His face is three black holes and he has three wicked quills on top of his head. He can also be used as a summon, attacking with the mighty technique “1000 Needles”.

STATS – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 

Cactuar is light, small and quick. His attacks come out with low lag and his damage output can quickly become massive. For the most part, though, his attacks has feeble range and priority, and, as you’ll see, he can’t keep up pressure for very long… you’re going to be doing lots of chasing, but also lots of fleeing.

MOVESET – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 

Neutral Special \ | / Spine Generation
Cactuar plants both feet on the ground and the three very visible quills on top of his head grow ever so slightly as 1 needle sprouts somewhere on his body. One tap of this button, for one random needle, is obviously a waste of time and energy – this is an input to be mashed, which will cause numerous needles to sprout all over Cactuar, for a maximum of about 40. Don’t bother to keep exact count; the size of the quills on top of his head is all the visual indicator you need, because the longer they are, the more needles you’ve sprouted.

This can be used both in the air and on the ground, and when Cactuar reaches higher percentages and the pacing of his game becomes more frantic, every tap of the button sprouts 2 needles instead of just 1.

At every free moment, Cactuar can afford to use this attack. This is not an ammo bank you’re going to be sitting on. Cactuar is constantly losing and using needles, so you should be constantly sprouting new ones if you mean to keep up an offense.

Forward Special \ | / 1000/X Needles
Cactuar fires his needles directly forward! They behave much like Sheik’s, crossing the entire stage in a hurry; they’re also fired out in a stream, about two-by-two, causing notable pushback as well as repeated flinching hits of 1%. Cactuar will shoot all of his needles when this input is used, so treat it as a last-ditch effort to push the foe out of your face or, potentially, a KO move to be fired off from the safety of the edge of the stage. These needles have no special properties, but work wonders for Cactuar’s long-range game.

Up Special \ | / Float
Cactuar turns sideways and just keeps on running, straight up. No big deal, it’s just Cactuar running vertically. His exact trajectory can be influenced by the control stick and as he runs he leaves behind greenish afterimages which do a nice job of confusing the exact location of his hurtbox throughout. He also goes into kamikaze mode where his needles are concerned, firing them out in all directions, a wave for every second you hold the input down. The needles behave much as in X Needles, minus the FLUDD-like knockback, but their erratic trajectories permit Cactuar to make an ungraceful escape from difficult positions. Being near the edge of the stage is not usually a good thing for Cactuar…

Down Special \ | / Echo Prick
In a collection of incredibly small hitboxes, every needle on Cactuar’s body suddenly enlarges, becoming as large as the quills on top of his head are by default, and quite visible. Each and every one is a tiny hitbox that deals 5% but also devastating hitstun and surprisingly below-average knockback that depends entirely on the direction they’re hit from. When the foe’s overlapping you, which should often be the case, this attack, so quick to come out, is very versatile.

If there are needles embedded in the foe, meanwhile, they enlarge as well, dealing 1% and knockback in the other direction… but more about that in the playstyle section, after you hear about how to get those damn things stuck in them.


Jab \ | / Head Rush
Cactuar shifts to the forward leg and thrusts his head forward, dealing 3% and embedding precisely one needle in the foe (providing he has any needles to begin with). This gesture moves him forward ever so slightly, and at low %s it can quite effectively be chained across a flat stage (or uphill).

Regarding the embedding of needles: a needle, once embedded in the foe, disappears after three seconds. In the process of the actual embedding, an additional 1% is dealt to the foe – so this attack would do 4% and leave a needle stuck in the foe for three seconds, see? The actual direction that the needle is stuck into them is very relevant indeed, because activating your DSpec will deal the foe some essentially belated knockback in the opposite direction…

Forward Tilt \ | / Scooper Duper
Cactuar leans forward again and waves his arm upward shakily. His animations and movements tend to be erratic, but their poor range is made up for by how quick they are; this can be chained into from a couple of jabs, and deals solid knockback with 7% and potentially two needles embedded.

Up Tilt \ | / Hopping Mad
Cactuar stands up straight and pops upward ever so slightly, impaling foes trying to get the drop on him. This has pathetic knockback and also tiny lag, which means it can be chained beautifully (although with its paltry range and priority, the foe is likely to succeed in trying to get the drop on him with their generic stomp DAir or stall-then-fall). It deals 6% and two needles, so if you manage it, it’s a beastly damage output.

Down Tilt \ | / Stepping on Spines
Cactuar, from his crouching position, erratically extends his foot. This hitbox can be held out – although that’s not generally advisable – and deals 10% with decent upward knockback in the vein of Fox’s DTilt. It embeds three spines at the bottom of the foe, which is a rather good place to put them as it allows you to activate Echo Prick while the foe is being knocked away to add the needles’ knockback to that of Cactuar’s original attack.

Dash Attack \ | / Whirlwind
Cactuar comes out of his dash by whirling around once, his arms acting as hitboxes. This attack is very quick to come out and not terribly big on wind-down, either… although it embeds no needles and only deals 6% with middling knockback. All the better to keep up the chase and land another dash attack!


Forward Smash \ | / Soccerball
Cactuar sharply lunges forward, foot first, in a sneaky shin kick. This deals high knockback by his standards (and for his standards, ha ha), 13%, and embeds an impressive 5 needles, once again at the bottom of the foe. Watch that you don’t miss; despite its quick start-up, it’s easy to punish.

Up Smash \ | / Cartwheel
Cactuar pulls a complete spin in place, flipping head over heels, his entire body a hitbox (but most pronouncedly on the feet). Joy of joys, it’s not so easy to punish despite its long duration; Cactuar comes out of it quickly enough to go straight into a run and either pursue the foe he hit with it or flee from the foe he missed. In addition to dealing 12%, this can embed 4 needles. If used as an anti-air manuever, it’ll usually embed them at the bottom of the foe.

This is also a very nice attack to use out of a dash.

Down Smash \ | / Dashdance
Cactuar’s lost it! He manically runs back and forth, barely moving half a platform in either direction as he goes. This isn’t as slow as it sounds and Cactuar’s lightning-fast body is a hitbox the whole time. The knockback dealt is on a low trajectory – always nice, as it allows Cactuar to segue straight into his dash.


Neutral Aerial \ | / Maelstrom
All the needles on Cactuar’s body sprouts and shrink erratically, causing a wave of tiny hits to any foe that happens to be mostly overlapping him; the final hit sees every needle expanding at the same time, shoving foes away effectively. This can deal up to 14% but misleadingly only embeds 1 needle. Needless to say, this is much more effective if Cactuar has a decent number of needles.

Forward Aerial \ | / The Boot
Cactuar leans backward and thrusts out his forward foot, stretching it as far as it can go. This is rather weak on the knockback front – and deals only 7% with 1 needle – but that’s all to the good, allowing Cactuar to use his solid aerial mobility to pursue at lower %s.

Back Aerial \ | / Plank Punch
Cactuar turns to be parallel to the ground, then thrusts back with both fists. Quite aside from the oddball animation, this attack has impressive knockback – enough to KO – and deals 9% with two spines. Cactuar’s momentum and flow of attack is usually forward-oriented, so this attack is going to be the end of a pursuit, an acknowledgement that it’s time to space and sprout, and possibly a finisher to a foe that has been shoved right to the edge of the stage.

Up Aerial \ | / Quill Fling
The three massive quills on Cactuar’s head shoot up and off, flying a Luigi-height up and propelling Cactuar down as they go. They deal a nice 11% and some impressive knockback, with a satisfying cutting sound effect – but they don’t embed. As soon as they vanish, the three quills on his head resprout. This attack is quick and effective as a spacing option to give Cactuar the breathing space to sprout needles as well as a nice way to follow up on a Jab-Jab-FTilt combo or possibly an USmash.

Down Aerial \ | / Happy Feet
Cactuar runs in place madly, his feet moving twice as quick as otherwise. They deal multiple hits, weak spikes, anywhere from 2-12%. Even a slight hit will embed 1 needle – and this one at the top of the foe, a very useful place to embed a needle…

Using this attack also increases Cactuar’s downward momentum, which in conjunction with the UAir, allows him to drop like a rock and quite safely covered from hits from below.


Grab \ | /
Cactuar’s one-armed grab has lame range but is very quick and spammable. If he uses it out of a run, he launches into a cartwheel to increase his range and even ensure that he can snatch foes slightly off of the ground, perhaps just barely launching into a jump or coming down from one – or being pushed forcibly down by knockback from an activated Echo Prick…

Forward Throw \ | / Shin Kick
…It’s a shin kick. Minimal knockback allows a speedy Cactuar at lower percentages to chain this throw a time or two. This deals 7%.

Back Throw \ | / Suplex
Cactuar launches into the classic wrestling move, driving his foe into the ground backward. Despite the flashy animation, this also deals low knockback – albeit with 9% and notably long hitstun.

Up Throw \ | / Saguaro
Cactuar tosses the foe ever so slightly up, but the throw’s not done. He then braces himself and enlarges the spines atop his head; when the foe comes down on them, they take strong vertical knockback and 7%. Like other attacks involving the quills on his head, this does not embed any needles.

Down Throw \ | / Jungle Gym
Cactuar trips the foe to the ground, then bounces up and down on them, apparently having the time of his little life. Don’t forget the bounce sound effects for additional humiliation. The knockback after this rather long throw is done is small and on a downward trajectory, allowing Cactuar to quite effectively follow up at low %s.  It deals a nice 10%. He must be heavier than you think.

Final Smash \ | / Giant Cactuar
No, not Giga, Giant! The regular Cactuar runs pell-mell off the stage and a Jumbo Cactuar, a bit smaller than Giga Bowser, runs back in. It then leaps off superhero-style to the background, whereupon it launches 1000 Needles! Most of the needles deal knockback – some deal damage – and a rare few deal both lots of damage AND serious knockback. Dodgeable? Not really. Shield for a while, then when your shield breaks, beg for mercy. Generally you’ll be taking 40-60% unless you’re Gamzee and can vanish from the stage, Teferi and can phase in and out of existence, or Gengar and can turn yourself into a black smear on the ground at will.

PLAYSTYLE – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 

Let’s not mince words. Cactuar is a manic aggression character who phases from intense combos at lower %s to more complex and sophisticated set-ups for KOs later on. They key to his game is Echo Prick, which allows him to essentially hit the foe from afar, once they’ve passed beyond the range of his actual physical attacks.

The angle at which needles are embedded in the foe is of the utmost importance. Needles stuck in their head by a DAir can be activated when the foe has been tipped just over the edge of the stage to spike them. Needles in their feet can be activated if they’ve been launched upward to increase the knockback in that direction and shove them over the blastzone, or simply to knock them up when they’re trying to drop on you from above and allow you to jump right up and hit them from below yet again, hopefully embedding yet more needles. Cactuar is a master juggler, believe it or not, because for every attack landed he hits the foe upward twice.

Needles in their front are also KO aids or approach breakers. Needles in their back, meanwhile, serve one of the most interesting purposes in Cactuar’s moveset – they allow him to hit the foe toward him, letting him essentially combo the foe back and forth, alternating between an attack that pushes them slightly away and sticks a needle in them and Echo Prick, which activates that needle and pushes the foe right back toward you and your pathetic low-range low-priority hitboxes.

Cactuar has any number of attacks that he’s unlikely to land within some sort of external range – an UTilt combo is a prime example. But the knockback from an Echo Prick is decent and its hitstun even more notable, so all Cactuar needs to do to bog the foe down and incapacitate them – render them unable to avoid his attacks – is keep attacking. There is no planting of traps here; with every attack, Cactuar plants a trap in the foe.

We’ve got great mobility options, too. I wasn’t kidding when I said Cactuar plays both cat and mouse; while most of his game is given over to madcap pursuit and delirious ping-pong games with thin air, when there comes a point when he has no needles on him, he’s got to get out of it or risk being punished for his low range and priority. Usually you won’t want to let the needles run out naturally, and instead fire them all out in a torrent, either through FSpec or USpec; this clears a nice big gap and lets the speedy Cactuar start with breathing space and go from there.

You make a virtue of your low range, though, by trying to remain as close as possible to the foe throughout most of the match. Cactuar’s NSpec and NAir – both very effective, quick, and good at spacing – work only when he’s literally overlapping them. Normally this would be unlikely, but your needles are there to send the foe into remote, punishable hitstun.

Early on, Cactuar’s throws and weak attacks mark him for a combo character. Later his smashes and aerials take on starring roles. Throughout he’s impaling the foe, every hit effectively counting for two, every needle potentially interrupting the foe’s very step and pushing them back toward their dogged pursuer. He’s not very strong or very bright, but he’s got the hustle to make up for it.


And here is Pelikinesis’s original. You’ll notice that there were a few things I filled in myself; they were all implied, logically enough, through either language or basic common sense. This is much more his set than it is mine, and full credit to him – I always admired the hell out of him and you’ll no doubt note that Cactuar has a very clear and distinct playstyle, which is a marvel for early MYM 4. There’s a reason I chose this period, see.

I hope you enjoyed this look at an underrated set from an underrated MYMer from long, long ago! Next time we’ll be interpreting something from somebody a little more notorious…



  1. I remember Cactaur. I actually kind of liked this set back in the day, it’s a shame it was so easily passed over. And I LOVE this reinterpreting of it, I think my favorite part being the needles in the back allowing Cactaur to knock the foe towards him. Sure, his playstyle really isn’t as sophisticated as the ones we see sometimes today, but that’s kind of to be expected since it’s an MYM4 set.

    So, yeah, looking forward to more of these. *thumbs up*

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