Fighting games, like Smash Ultimate, revolve around understanding a given character. Being keenly aware of a fighter’s strengths, weaknesses, and quirks are essential steps in gaining mastery over them. Players who understand those aspects of a character tend to do better than those just starting out or who only have some familiarity with the fighting game genre.
The same basic principle applies to the opponent’s fighter. Understanding the key abilities and mechanics of an enemy fighter provides valuable information on what moves are best suited to specific matchups. It also reinforces what sort of playstyle a player must adopt to prevail in the end, whether it be by outplaying the opponent with jaw-dropping combos or relying on cheap yet legal moves. It is from these bouts of trial and error where tier lists are born and favorable matchups are decided
Super Smash Bros. is no different in that regard. Every game in the series has its own tier list and roster matchup diagram, charting how well a fighter measures up against competition. Though tier lists and matchup prediction don’t account for player skill, they do provide good data and insight when heading into a fight. A fighter like Sephiroth objectively has an advantage over one like Ganondorf.
However, when fighting opponents, one would expect them to be consistently playing one fighter throughout the set, or at least for that round. That consistency lets people chart out their next game plan and strategize what sort of necessary countermeasures they might need to account for their opponent.
So what happens when an opponent can transform?
Nothing New for Smash
The ability to transform fighters isn’t anything new for Super Smash Bros. The games have dabbled in this practice ever since Melee let Zelda transform into Sheik and vice-versa. Brawl’s Pokemon Trainer took it a step further by giving players the ability to swap at will between three distinct Pokemon: Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Charizard.
The developers were well-aware of how frustrating fighting entirely different characters on the fly could be. Because Super Smash Bros. operates on a completely different fighting system than other fighting games, matches were heavily impacted and dependent on character statistics.
While games like Street Fighter would have varying hit point (HP) values and dash speed per character, Super Smash Bros. is unsurprisingly more complex because of its status as a platform fighter. Instead of HP variance, the developers must take into effect a fighter’s data in areas such as weight, air speed, air mobility, falling speed, and jumpsquats. It cannot be stressed enough that all of these factors have bearing in-game.
Weight determines how easy it can be to launch a fighter off-stage. Falling speed dictates what sort of combos work on fighters and how well they can juke opponents while recovering. Jumpsquats, the frames it takes for a character to enter their jumping animation, affect how long it takes for a character to get mobile in the air. Finally, air mobility has a significant impact on whether a fighter can return to the stage platform in time or not.
We expect these statistics to remain constant when fighting our opponents as they give us a clear sense of the method needed to use to take on our foe. So when these stats flip on a dime, so does one’s game plan. Certain basic combos may no longer be viable and planned pressuring techniques might put us at a severe disadvantage. As a result, the added versatility of a transforming fighter is as much a godsend for them as it is a nightmare for their rival.
The developers seem to have been aware of the sort of unbalancing issues that come with transforming characters and have tried their best to prevent said fighters from being overpowered. After all, a greater degree of versatility also means an increase in complexity of design. The more fighters a player has at their disposal, the more time is necessary in developing them to be fit for battle.
Just look at how each of Pokemon Trainer’s three Pokemon feel and play unlike one another. Squirtle is a fragile speedster designed to trip up foes with quick attacks and combos, but lacks killing power while also being easily killed due to its light weight. Charizard is a hulking behemoth with strength and survival to back up its size, but its moves are slow and cumbersome. Ivysaur treads the middle ground of the two but doesn’t have a solid recovery to aid its survival.
Since no character was outright superior to the other and all demanded a high level of technical skill to operate in an optimal fashion, a fair degree of balance is sustained. However, the newest fighters Pyra and Mythra throw this balancing concept off the platform and straight into the blast zone.
Rising Reign of Terror in Smash Ultimate…
We imagine various players have experienced some version of the thought “Man, if only my character moved just a bit faster, I could have followed up with an aerial attack and secured a stock.” Even if it wasn’t conveyed in those exact terms, we’re confident that many Smash players have wished that their fighter was a bit better in some regard. For those who have felt that way, Pyra and Mythra may fulfill their needs and then some.
As Super Smash Bros Ultimate’s game director Masahiro Sakurai demonstrated in his fighter showcase video, Pyra and Mythra operate as two separate fighters inhabiting one body, each bearing unique abilities. With a seamless transformation that puts Pokemon Trainer’s Pokeballs to shame, Pyra and Mythra can alternate forms in a flash, even serving as a quick evasive maneuver if needed.
Pyra is a fire sword wielding force of nature who delivers massive amounts of damage to any unlucky opponent that crosses her path. Though many of her moves are slow, they boast incredible reach and tremendous killing power, rivaling the other heavy hitters in the roster. What Pyra lacks in mobility and speed, she makes up with sheer firepower—literally.
Mythra, meanwhile, is less explosive than her fiery counterpart but still holds her own. She is the faster of the two, boasting lightning quick movement and attacks. While she doesn’t hit particularly hard, her strikes are overwhelming in swiftness to make up for it, being capable of preventing any sort of counterattack when catching opponents off guard.
Few fighters can shift their in-game stats to the degree that Pyra and Mythra can. Other than Pokemon Trainer’s swapping of characters, the only fighter to have any sort of ability to change up their fighter data is Shulk, thanks to his Monado Arts. However, while Shulk can change up his attributes via an input, the tradeoff is that one attribute drops for every one that Shulk raises, to keep his kit balanced.
In contrast, Pyra and Mythra have no such downside, particularly where time is concerned. Whereas Shulk’s special runs on a timer, Pyra and Mythra don’t have to worry about an arbitrary timer. The duo can just be ordered to perform their ability with the Down-B command without any hassle.
Due to the emphasis Ultimate places on movement and movement superiority, many consider Mythra to be the better of the two. Mythra serves as the early-game rushdown who racks up damage percentage and hits recovering fighters for easy knock-outs, while Pyra secures kills at higher percentages. However, their greatest value isn’t in their individual strengths, but rather in how they function similarly to one another.
Setting aside their obvious surface level differences, it’s the fact that they are fundamentally the same sword-wielding fighter that gives them the edge over someone like Pokemon Trainer. Where a Pokemon Trainer player has to learn and adjust any given scenario to all three of their fighters, a Pyra/Mythra player doesn’t have to deal with the same problem. They have no need to account for sudden changes to hitboxes and aerial attacks, whereas a Pokemon Trainer lives and dies by them. This kind of consistency in character design goes a long way in ensuring player longevity and convenience.
Plus, Pyra and Mythra transform so fast that there’s barely any downtime between switches, which can help make disadvantageous situations more favorable sooner than what Pokemon Trainer can manage. A Pyra/Mythra player who takes advantage of all her boons can be an absolute menace for potential opponents.
… Not Yet (Pending)
All of that praise aside, the two are not without their weaknesses, as many players have developed methods to dampen their superiority. Their recoveries are easy to intercept, Pyra is easy prey for combos, and Mythra struggles at high damage percentages. Though good players will know how to deal with these weaknesses, they are nonetheless a constant presence when playing as the duo.
Having been out for such a short time, the metagame around Pyra and Mythra has yet to fully develop and mature. There still needs to be more testing and matchups to determine where they sit on the tier list and fighter rankings.
However, by virtue of being a fighter with the ability to transform on the fly and gain new gimmicks in the process, we have no doubts they will fare well. All other transforming or attribute-changing fighters are among the highest ranked and most fighters in the game. We suspect that Pyra and Mythra will be no different.
So if ever a player faces that inevitable Pyra/Mythra online, this is our warning to be on guard. It won’t be a straightforward fight against two separate characters, but instead a pitched battle against a fighter with the most versatile ability in Smash Ultimate.
Pyra and Mythra are now available on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate via Fighter Pass 2 or individual purchase on the Nintendo E-Shop.