I’m torn. On one hand, I feel like calling Rivals of Aether a Super Smash Bros. clone with Digimon that didn’t make the cut is insulting to the fantastic game that’s in development. On the other hand, Rivals of Aether is definitely a Super Smash Bros. clone and I could definitely see most of its cast digivolving into champions.
I kid, I kid, and in this case, I kid because I love.
With a formula so simple that it still baffles me how Sony managed to ruin it with PlayStation All-Stars, Rivals of Aether takes the steak of that formula and leaves the sizzle behind to create one of the most awesome party fighting game experiences you can have without a Nintendo console involved.
The sizzle in that equation is, rather obviously, having a cast of familiar characters, and while Aether may not be able to boast having Princess Peach in game to smack around her kidnapper for some payback, that isn’t to say that the game lacks a sense of style. On the contrary, Aether has style to spare, and with its awesome retro-bit graphics and fun, unique character designs, there’s plenty of style to be found and enjoyed.
While that’s all well and good, what matters most is the steak, and Aether seems set to serve up a delicious filet mignon in that regard. The controls are tight and familiar for any veteran Smash player, and fully remappable (that’s a word now, deal with it) for complete customization. You can choose whether or not tapping up on your left stick jumps, for example, and you can choose if you want to enable Smash attacks (I mean heavy attacks, of course) with a tap of your left stick and the light attack button, or limit it to the dedicated heavy attack button and the right stick. The game can functionally play almost exactly like classic Super Smash Bros., and that isn’t just a good thing, it’s a great thing, especially for Xbox One owners who may not be able to enjoy SSB4 on a Wii U or 3DS.
While the story mode and the mysteriously named Abyss Mode were disabled in the build I had access to, there was still online and couch multiplayer modes available to enjoy, along with some pretty fantastic training modes to teach you how the pros play. I had heard of Wave Dashing before Rivals of Aether, but Aether was the first game to teach me what it meant and how to do it, which says a lot.
It’s obviously not complete yet, of course. The game desperately needs some catchy menu music and victory screen music, and to me, personally, I would like the inclusion of a grapple mechanic like there exists in Smash. Having the ability to enable items like in its inspiration would also be welcome from me, and while I would like to have a few more characters from which to choose, as it is right now Rivals of Aether is an incredibly fun work-in-progress that I can’t wait to support on release.