If you’re into the competitive Super Smash Bros. scene, then there is a good chance that you’ve heard of the new Indie title Rivals of Aether. Rivals of Aether is a fighting game very clearly inspired by Smash, and it has recently made its way onto Steam as an early access game. As of right, now the game has six different characters, five unique stages, local and online game modes, and of course, controller support (meaning that if you really wanted to you could set up a gamecube controller).However, another two characters, three stages, as well as a story and “abyss” mode are planned for the future.

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The game is aesthetically pleasing, rocking an old-school pixelated style and a rather catchy soundtrack. The core gameplay is heavily combo centric, and and gives players access to different forms of quick movement, much like Super Smash Bros Melee, with dash dancing, wavedashing and wavelanding. Dash dancing is done by quickly starting up a dash animation and then reversing it, thus allowing the player to quickly change direction while retaining momentum.. Wavedashing is done by short-hopping and then quickly air dodging into the ground, which propels the player into a quick slide across the ground that can allow for a change of momentum or an accelerated approach. Wavelanding has a similar application to wavedashing and is done by quickly air dodging into the ground while landing. While the game is very similar to that of the Smash franchise, it does enough differently to differentiate itself as a well-fleshed out, individual game.

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Rivals of Aether utilizes a parry system, as opposed to the shielding system in Smash, where a player can quickly hit the dodge button in order to avoid being hit by the opponents attack. If timed correctly, not only will the player avoid taking damage, but the opponent will be very briefly unable to act– allowing the player to set up a combo or possibly go for a killing move. Rivals also remove the ledge mechanic that Smash is so infamous for, so if you recover with the intentions of grabbing the ledge of the stage, the player will simply enter their freefall animation and go right by it. While this makes recovering more difficult to pull off, there are other options. For instance, after entering the free fall animation near a wall, the player can wall jump and utilize their recovery move once more. The lack of ledge mechanic also makes punishing an opponent for going off the stage a lot easier, and even more beneficial, as they have no way of getting back with invincibility. There is one thing that they changed mechanically that I’m not a huge fan of and that’s the removal of a grab system. While I do understand it from a design standpoint, it’s just something I wish was there. It feels weird playing a fighting game that doesn’t utilize grabs at all.

On top of the wonderful mechanics, Rivals of Aether has an incredible cast of characters. While it might be a relatively small cast, it offers so much to the player. Each character feels incredibly unique. Zetterburn, most notably similar to Wolf, can use some of his moves to set the opponent on fire, and while the opponent will gradually take damage, the most unique aspect of this is that when hitting an opponent with a strong melee attack, Zetterburn will absorb the fire and double the knock back, making it easier to kill your opponent. Another character, Wrastor sends out a tornado that allows him to move faster. Being a bird, all of his strong attacks are aerials, which allows for some pretty decent mix-ups. Kragg (otherwise known as the homie) has a recovery move that forms a giant pillar underneath him that allows him to regain his double jumps. If used properly, it can also set up for early kills off the top. Orcane utilizes a puddle that when a strong attack is used on it the move gets stronger and is longer range. When using your recovery move as Orcane, you will warp to the location on the stage where the puddle is and you can use it to span bubbles under your opponent to get some minor damage and hitstun. Maypul can use some of his specials to surround the opponent in leaves and when hit with a strong attack you’ll trap the opponent in a snare and it also acts as a recovery point when using your recovery move. Lastly, there’s Frosburn, who utilizes smoke to hide, and can then absorb it to obtain a relatively reliable kill move, his forward special creates a clone of the character that the player can control in tandem with the actual character. The unique aspects to each character make playing them to be an incredibly good time. The game is also very well balanced, so none of the characters feel overpowered in comparison to each other.

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Overall, this game is incredibly well made, and a ton of fun. If you’re into competitive fighting games, especially Super Smash Bros, then I would highly recommend picking this game up off of Steam. There are a couple of minor things that do bother me with the game, such as the lack of a menu theme and the windowed fullscreen (as a streamer it makes the game a little more tedious to stream, not that it’s a huge deal). But an important thing to keep in mind that this game is in an early access stage, and is still being developed, so things are subject to change. As a Smash player, this game is a breath of fresh air and I’m super excited to see where it goes in the future.

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