Rivals of Aether: A Variation of the Super Smash Bros. Recipe?
“Do you play [Super] Smash [Bros.]?” This question perhaps is the one bit of information needed to convince gamers to join a college gaming club today. Super Smash Bros. has left a huge impact on the gaming community—the collections of Nintendo fighters have created and monopolized an entire genre of games, evolving into a gaming culture. But how? And is there a way to duplicate Smash authentically? Rivals of Aether, a Steam-released early access game, may have done just that. Dan Fornace, the mind behind the game, states it’s fully based on the Super Smash Bros. series according to their website; so, does Aether continue the legacy of the Smash-style fighting game? Before we answer this question, we need to first explore the origins of Smash, leading to the “secret sauce” of the Smash Bros. revolution. (Thanks to JakeNoseIt for having used the term “secret sauce”.)
Ingredients of the Secret Sauce
The recipe for success lies in the game’s origins, with the original game setting the Smash standard. Melee, Brawl and the Wii U/3DS version take it upon themselves to expand the potential of Smash. Looking deeper into the features of the Smash games, there seem to be four core elements in the series that are very strong. Familiarity, game aesthetics, customization, and simplicity combine to create the series’ unique selling points.
Nintendo isn’t trying to reinvent its own wheel or anything. Kirby can ingest characters and change appearance, while Pikachu can do Thundershock in battle—Nintendo fans expect these unique movesets from the playable characters. Bob-ombs, Pokéballs, and more items are also available to use during battle. And nearly every aspect of the game delivers fan service. The multitude of unlockable trophies also count as fan service, recounting Nintendo history in a way Wikipedia will never be able to do. Among Mario, Link, and Samus trophies, Clu-Clu Land, Balloon Fight, and Duck Hunt characters are also thrown in, among many other characters and items. The multitude of familiar elements bring the universes of Smash together in an epic way, finally answering the “when are the Nintendo worlds going to combine?” question from fans.
Visually, the series’ appearance is given lots of attention. The Nintendo 64 game has smooth animations, yet the chunkiness of the characters were increasingly smoothed out in later games. Now, it’s surprising how noticeable it is that Luigi is wearing denim overalls! All of the game’s assets have evolved into fleshed-out, colorful, and visually-appearing versions of themselves. The action does move rather fast, but Smash has built in a way for players to appreciate the artistry. In many fighting games, pausing brings up a menu box in the middle of the screen. The Smash menu options are placed on the outer edges of the screen, where the standard word “pause,” can be seen, as well as the controls to resume the game, or quit the game. The game camera can be rotated to view different angles, zoom, and even take snapshots (in Brawl). Characters could make hilarious faces and strike poses mid-attack or after being hit, such as in the photo of Luigi shown above, to remember that epic moment when “that one character had done that one thing.” Paused games are often humorous to look at, if the person pausing the game times the action at just the right moment. The general aesthetics of Smash shouldn’t be glossed over at all, nor should its pause camera.
The casual, the competitive, the inexperienced, and anyone else can customize their in-game experience to their liking. With over fifty characters to choose from today, there are over fifty movesets that players could potentially learn, and several ways to find that comfortable playing niche. Changing the classic character outfits, battling with up to eight people as singles or teams, setting a time limit, and setting life counters are only some of the possible ways to instantly relieve boredom from playing over and over. There’s a plethora of stages available, and the availability of any item in battle can be changed. It’s no wonder tournaments can become quite interesting. The single player modes are just as good as multiplayer. Since Melee, it’s possible to face gigantic enemies or armies of them, as well as several other types of challenges. Even if your friends are ill, the game is still worth exploring as a single player. The multitude of ways one can interact with this game allow for a very large, diverse audience. Anyone could pick up a controller and play along, no matter the level of gaming experience or ability.
Smash does a great job at settings players up for success; newcomers can join in without too much difficulty. Unlike traditional fighting games, memorizing lengthy combinations or engaging in button-pushing madness isn’t necessary to win. Attacking your opponents is simplified to using at most two or three buttons, adapted over time to GameCube and the Wii U. Easing the amount of controls needed to play helps everyone learn to play quickly, and have a good time in the process.
How do the values of Smash match up with Aether?
Aether is a new world, but there’s still elements we’d recognize from our planet. Rivaling nations of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth? Avatar: The Last Airbender is a prime example of how the foursome are featured in modern culture. Minus water, the other three elements make up the name of a “shining star” band from the 1970s. The characters represent their respective elements very nicely; looking at the picture shown directly above the previous paragraph, one could tell the dolphin-like character on the bottom right hand corner (Orcane) represents water, and the bird-like character on the top left (Wrastor) represents air. In battle, Zetterburn delivers powerful fiery attacks, and Kragg can throw boulders. Aether is new, but hasn’t invented concepts that aren’t familiar.
The visuals don’t have those smooth contours as in Smash, but the art style is very detailed and interesting to look at. It’s an allusion to twenty-five cent arcade games, using joystick and button combinations to take down the opponent. Though this game has much more fluid action sequences; melted butter might come to mind when describing the game’s smooth animations. There’s a lot to see, but also just as much to hear; the dynamic original soundtrack is worth listening to, both on and off the playing field.
Kragg has the skill to create a pillar of rock ascending to his position, and Forsburn can create a duplicate himself. Wrastor can actually quadruple jump when needed. Each character has unique abilities and powers that leave players to decide for themselves what element to crush their enemies with. Not only are the players unique in their specialties, but have specific roles in the game’s story mode (Rivals Mode). Smash assumes that players know the stories behind the Nintendo world, but Aether needs to make it clear there is unrest in Aether, and reasons for it. Those who want to test their skills alone might consider Abyss Mode or Abyss Versus to fight waves of various types of enemies. Versus Mode brings friends together, and then immediately places them against each other for an epic showdown. Hopefully, by this point in the article, your friends are feeling better and will want to face off with you in an Aether showdown.
Aether does a fantastic job at condensing the game to feature its most important elements: the characters. As compared to over fifty characters in the latest version of Smash, there are only six playable characters. (This number has already grown to seven, and more are expected.) Having a large amount of characters in Smash works since the Nintendo universe has already been established, yet in Aether, the characters are new and need to make a good impression quickly. No button-pushing madness is required in this game either; each character is given only three moves. Combinations of moves are easy to perform, and can really increase your opponents’ damage counters. Limiting the palette of moves, like in Smash, helps in keeping the game easy to learn and fun to play for everyone. Less rivals and less moves may mean less choice, but more time to understand the game as a whole.
What does this all mean?
Rivals of Aether matches up closely with the Super Smash Bros. series in that players can relate to elements of the game, the aesthetics are superb, and the controls are simple. Aether follows a similar blueprint to Smash, but the art style, number of characters, and its storyline set itself apart from the Nintendo quartet. The game, though not fully released, should graciously accept the Smash-fighter title as an independent game for XBox One. One opinion is great, but many more will make all the difference; what are your thoughts about Super Smash Bros. or Rivals of Aether? How does Aether compare to Smash?
What do you think? Leave a comment.