Byleth is a disappointing end to the first Smash Ultimate Fighters Pass

While Fire Emblem: Three Houses was one of 2019’s best role-playing games, the addition of its protagonist Byleth to Smash Bros Ultimate was met with quite a bit of disappointment.

It’s not that Byleth is a bad choice for the Smash Ultimate Fighters Pass, and it makes plenty of sense to advertise the latest Fire Emblem game when it has a substantial expansion releasing soon, but that it’s just a completely underwhelming one to close out what had been a great run of DLC characters. Fans were speculating it could be Dante from Devil May Cry, the protagonist from Minecraft or even Doomguy! In comparison, this is a safe and boring pick.

After all, the Smash Ultimate Fighters Pass kicked off with several third-party characters that many had assumed were either an impossibility or have been on fan’s wish lists for over a decade at this point. Getting Joker from Persona 5, a game that hasn’t even released on Nintendo Switch, was completely out of left-field as the series is more closely associated with PlayStation. Nintendo and Microsoft coming together in order to make Banjo-Kazooie finally appear was worth a celebration. Meanwhile, the inclusion of Terry Bogard and Hero celebrated two amazing franchises in Fatal Fury (and in extension The King of Fighters) and Dragon Quest.

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Meanwhile, Byleth is from… Fire Emblem, a series that already has plenty of representation and has had multiple playable characters ever since Super Smash Bros. Melee released for the GameCube back in 2001. We’ve already had Chrome, Corrin, Ike, Lucina, Marth, and Roy from the popular turn-based RPG, so additional characters weren’t necessary by any means. Fans were expecting something fresh and were served with what looks like a pretty boring addition at first glance.

While disappointing, Byleth does look fun to play

Not helping matters is that Byleth was carrying a sword during their introduction. Despite Fire Emblem featuring a wide array of weapons and character classes, most of the playable characters have been swordsman. There’s a fair bit of minutiae to how each of them plays, so it’d be unfair to categorize them as all playing like the same character, but for more casual players that is exactly how it appears. Thankfully, those that watched the full reveal hosted by Smash Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai will know that there is more to the fighting game’s latest addition.

While a lot of Byleth’s default attacks use the Sword of the Creator, their move-set is much more varied than the other Fire Emblem swordsman characters such as Marth or Roy. Three other weapons are also wielded by the Three Houses protagonist: a lance called Areadbhar, the ax Aymr, and a bow named Failnaught. This is the best representation of how varied the combat actually is in Fire Emblem yet, and is much more interesting from a mechanical standpoint as players will have to balance each weapon’s strengths and know when to use their corresponding attacks.

The corresponding stage that will launch alongside the character on January 28 is also an interesting one, as it is filled with Three Houses fan service. Called Garreg Mach Monastery, it has the playing flying around several locations from the RPG. While it sadly doesn’t feature the newly revealed fourth faction, the Ashen Wolves, all of the three main houses (Blue Lion, Black Eagle, and Golden Deer) are all represented as background characters. Even some of the Officers Academy instructors are shown and it’s a fantastic celebration of what is one of the Nintendo Switch’s best exclusive titles.

More than anything, the underwhelming reception is more due to the poor timing than anything else. If Byleth had been revealed as the first DLC character then it would’ve been a fun way to promote the heavily anticipated title. Due to past character announcements, there was also a fan expectation that a third-party character would be announced today. Even a delay to being the first character unveiled for the second Smash Ultimate Fighters Pass would have been more ideal, as more people would expect a first-party Nintendo character for the second set of DLC.

What can Smash Ultimate Fighters Pass 2 offer up?

Even if Smash Ultimate fans were disappointed by the unveiling of Byleth, the good news is that six additional characters are on the way via volume two of the Smash Ultimate Fighters Pass. Not much is confirmed about them, other than that they will all be released by December 2021, but Sakurai did note that all of the characters have already been decided upon in a way to stop fans from bugging him to include their favorites. It’s still fun to speculate, though, and today’s announcement shows that recently released Switch titles aren’t off the table as far as character selection goes.

Ideally, the second Smash Ultimate Fighters Pass will feature three Nintendo characters and three third-party characters that will further the representation in the game. By avoiding series that already have representation (like Fire Emblem), Sakurai can please a wider group of players. Most popular fan requests (such as Ridley and King K. Rool) have been fulfilled by now, but there are a few characters like Geno from Super Mario RPG that would leave players thrilled. Newer Switch titles like Arms and Astral Chain also have interesting characters that would be a natural fit. Beyond that, third-party contenders are a total wish list with Rayman, Bomberman, and many others being strong candidates. With Nintendo’s pull in the industry and Smash Bros being a real treat to be included in, there’s no reason that the second DLC pack should underwhelm.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate isn’t just a celebration of the series, but a celebration of gaming as a whole. It’s an incredible crossover title and Byleth will fit right in with the roster even if they weren’t the most heavily requested character at the moment. With six additional characters on the way, Nintendo has plenty of chances to get some other amazing characters into the game as well.