Sam Arrowsmith welcomes Byleth, the newest addition to Smash Ultimate, and looks at how they might fare when put to the game’s multitude of swords
And so, the first Super Smash Bros Ultimate Fighter Pass is complete. First Joker from Persona 5, then the Hero of Dragon Quest, then Banjo and Kazooie from, uh, Banjo-Kazooie and Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury. All of these are new games for Smash Bros to incorporate, which makes the final challenger something of a deviation. That challenger of course, is Byleth, the stoic mercenary/teacher/part-time messiah of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Their announcement was met with surprise, followed by a wave of mixed feelings from the fanbase. Fire Emblem is already very well represented in Smash Bros, in fact Byleth is the 8th character from the series to appear, so fans may be getting bored of seemingly identical swordfighters showing up. Fire Emblem Fatigue would be understandable, but Byleth brings a number of different tactics to the table. I would argue they’re as much of a deviation from the traditional formula as Robin was. Like Robin and Corrin, male and female forms are available, with different skins representing Byleth, Claude, Edelgard and Sothis, as well as both genders with their green hair. You’ll need to play Three Houses to find out why.
It’s no secret that Smash Bros has a lot of swordfighters generally. You can feel Sakurai biting the back of his hand as a brief montage plays in the reveal trailer of Byleth being pummelled by all the swordfighters already in the game. To give them more flexibility, in addition to their trademark weapon, the Sword of the Creator, Byleth also has access to the powerful and exceptionally hard to spell weapons wielded by Edelgard, Dimitri and Claude from Three Houses. From Edelgard, they have the magical axe Aymr, which packs a serious wallop at close range, with a slow but exceptionally powerful down special. From Dimitri, they have the lance Areadbhar, which gives them more reach with their side special, as well as their forward smash. Finally, from Claude, they have the bow Failnaught, which has serious hitting powerful if you get enough space to charge it up. Sothis also lends Byleth her strength in their Final Smash, the interestingly named Progenitor God Ruptured Heaven.
However, there is a significant problem with Byleth. They may be more varied than most of the Fire Emblem characters on offer, but they’re also kinda slow. Their walking speed is pretty woeful and all of their special attacks leave them vulnerable to counters, which could be annoying, particularly if, somewhat ironically, you’re playing against other Fire Emblem characters. This lack of agility means you really have to commit to whatever move you’re about to make and, if you screw it up, you’re going down. This makes playing as them a little tense – you find yourself putting a lot of thought into every move, in case you don’t get another one. There’s a real sweet spot when playing as this character. It takes practice, but it feels good when you find it. Obviously, the character comes accompanied with new music, which is attractive for fans of the game and a new stage, Garreg Mach Monastery. The stage itself, while a good accompaniment, is also a little sparse in places. Given how large and plot central the monastery was in the game, a few more features would have made it even better. For those annoyed by the addition of a new Fire Emblem character, fear not, there will, of course, be at least six more additions to the fighter roster, while a new release of Mii Costumes, among them Cuphead and Altaïr from Assassin’s Creed will help tide you over. I of course, remain a big fan of the Ashen Demon, but I too wait with bated breath to see what Sakurai comes up with next.
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