Helpless (known as various other names, called "fallspecial" in game data) is a state in which characters are unable to take any action until they land on the ground or grab the ledge. Helplessness is typically associated with just having used one's Up Special Move, although it also occurs after using certain other special moves (usually ones which help recovery). Helpless characters can move sideways and fastfall but are otherwise defenseless.
Helplessness usually ends upon landing on the ground, although it also ends if the character flinches, allowing them to attack or re-use their triple jump. A helpless character is denoted by both a flickering black overlay and a distinct falling animation.
Using an air dodge in SSBM causes a character to become helpless (as airdodging's movement properties allowed aerial stalling and short bursts of recovery). This is not the case in Brawl; a character can airdodge freely until he or she hits the ground.
Landfallspecial and superdashtechnique
As a unique animation is used for falling while helpless, characters enter a different animation than usual once they land on the ground. This is called "landfallspecial" in Melee. Because airdodging enters this state, and wavedashing involves airdodging into the ground, when wavedashing was tried in debug mode, "landfallspecial" appeared for the character state. This led some players to believe that the "landfallspecial" designation was specifically designed for wavedashing and that developers put wavedashing in the game intentionally, further fueling the various debates over wavedashing's legitimacy. At one point, the myth morphed to where, instead of just "landfallspecial", there was purportedly another debug mode designation, cited as "superdashtechnique", "superdashattack", or other variants, created solely for the wavedashing animation. All incarnations of this story have been proven false and should not be taken as evidence that wavedashing was intentionally put or left in SSBM.
Moves that invoke helplessness
|Dark Dive||If the move's grab connects with an opponent, Ganondorf does not become helpless and can instead use the move again.|
|End of Day||Being ejected from the crashing spaceship puts Olimar into a state that is not exactly helplessness (it uses his tumbling animation, lacks the black overlay, and unlike helpnessness prevents his Pikmin from chasing him), but it is essentially the same.|
|ExtremeSpeed||If Lucario hits a wall during the move, he will wall cling instead of becoming helpless.|
|Falcon Dive||If the move connects with an opponent, Falcon does not become helpless and can instead use the move again.|
|Final Cutter||Normally, the move does not end until Kirby lands on the ground. However, if the platform Kirby has landed on disappears while he is still in the landing animation (such as falling off a conveyor belt), he will become helpless.|
|Fire||Does not cause helplessness in Brawl unless one fastfalls, although it cannot be used twice without touching the ground.|
|Flame Choke||If the move connects with an opponent, Ganondorf does not become helpless, although he (and his victim) will fall until he hits the ground.|
|Giant Punch||Does not cause helplessness in SSB.|
|Gliding||If the user has used all their double jumps, they are put into helpless once the glide ends (either by stalling or by attacking).|
|Parasol||Peach only enters helplessness if she decides to fastfall after using the move - she can also end the helplessness and resume parachuting by pressing up, the only character able to do so. The Parasol item allows any character to do this in Melee.|
|Rollout||Does not cause helplessness in Brawl.|
|Screw Attack (item)||When this item is thrown at opponents (Melee only), they execute a Screw Attack and become helpless.|
|Shuttle Loop||While the initial execution of the move does not make Meta Knight helpless, he does become helpless if the glide ends.|
|Super Jump Punch|
|Wings of Icarus|
- The moves Fire, Robo Burner, Spring Jump, and Cypher do not cause helplessness in Brawl, although they do restrict the user's choice of moves until they land - Mr. Game & Watch and Snake simply cannot use the recovery move again, while Sonic cannot use any special moves and R.O.B. cannot air dodge.
- If Kirby copies a move that causes helplessness, he will be affected just as the original character would be.
- In Brawl, certain characters are unable to naturally become helpless, as they lack any moves that cause it. These characters are Jigglypuff, Snake, R.O.B., Sonic, Mr. Game & Watch and Zero Suit Samus.
- In fact, R.O.B. is not programmed to have a helpless state, and attempting to see it via hacking causes the game to crash. All other characters have a helpless state, even if they cannot normally enter it.
- Characters can still Space Jump while helpless.
- The unique animation caused by landing while helpless is the cause of the landing lag glitch.
- Kirby can also get into helplessness when he uses Final Cutter on a platform and it breaks or moves as he lands to finish the move.