Full disclosure, dear reader: I’m not good at Super Smash Bros. in any of its myriad incarnations, but I’ve always enjoyed and respected it.
Specifically, I’ve always enjoyed it as a celebration of the pure and simple joy of gaming — initially covering simply the most well-known Nintendo franchises, but with Smash Ultimate, expanding to a more broad cross-section of (mostly Japanese) gaming.
I don’t care about the competitive scene, I habitually avoid any kind of Smash “discourse” on social media for the sake of my own sanity and blood pressure, and I rarely even play online with anyone other than close personal friends. I am, essentially, the quintessential casual Smash fan; arguably the game’s core audience.
So with the recent release of Pyra and Mythra, some beloved characters from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 — one of my favourite games of all time — I thought it was high time I jumped back into the fold and gave the game another go.
I haven’t really played it much for well over a year, after all — and to be perfectly blunt, the news that legendary gaming maestro Yuzo Koshiro had contributed a remix of Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s Tiger! Tiger! theme to the new Pyra/Mythra DLC was the one thing that finally tipped me over the edge to pick up the second Fighter’s Pass after I’d been mulling it over for ages.
In order to get a feel for Pyra and Mythra, I took them through a few modes I enjoy playing, beginning with the Training mode, just to get an idea of what their moves are like.
The first thing I noticed was that on the character select screen, you can choose either Pyra or Mythra to be your starting character with a tap of the Y button; switching between them in the middle of a match, as with most characters who have alternate “forms” or stances, is a case of pushing Down and B.
Training mode chose to give me Zelda to beat up on, so I spent a bit of time figuring out the differences between Pyra and Mythra, and how their various moves work. According to the blurb, Pyra is powerful while Mythra is speedy; my experimenting in Training mode also revealed that Mythra also has a slightly longer reach, particularly with her sideways special.
This would seem to make Mythra particularly good for players who like to keep at a distance from their foes and chip away at them from afar; her Photon Edge sideways special in particular is good for standing back and harassing an opponent, and even seems to have a decent amount of knockback potential if you manage a nice, clean hit with it.
Pyra, meanwhile, felt marginally trickier to get to grips with, but she definitely hit hard when I managed to connect. Her neutral special in particular seems capable of doing a really solid amount of damage and knockback, as well as being a great way to punish people who get too close if you time it correctly.
One thing I was already noticing in the Training mode was that unlike some other Smash characters, I wasn’t feeling the need to “button mash” with either Pyra or Mythra. Instead, each of their moves felt like it had a clear start and beginning, and making good use of them was more a matter of timing them correctly than simply trying to spam as many as possible in as short a period of time as you can.
This theory seemed to be backed up by my experiences in Classic mode, my favourite way to play solo Smash. At least against relatively low-level computer opponents, anyway; I tended to find myself moving around a little less than I would normally do in a Smash match, waiting for them to get into a good position and then unleashing one of the girls’ specials to deal a decent amount of damage.
I’m probably under-using Mythra’s speed by doing this, but it certainly seemed to be a pretty effective strategy; both Pyra and Mythra can cover a decent distance around themselves with a combination of their neutral and side specials, and their Smash attacks, and so doing my best to prevent the enemies from getting anywhere even a little bit close seemed to work rather well.
This strategy was a little trickier to implement against opponents who have some ranged capabilities — Samus being a good example. And in Pyra and Mythra’s Classic mode, you take on your foes in pairs, so Samus is, of course, joined by Dark Samus.
Under circumstances like this, you can still use the girls’ abilities to keep your foes at bay, but the battle becomes as much about space management as it is about understanding reach. You need to position yourself somewhere that it’s difficult to get surrounded or pincered by your two opponents, and preferably be able to nail them both with a solid hit or ten.
Ryu and Ken felt decently easy to deal with. Although they, of course, have access to their ranged fireball move, the majority of their attacks are intended to be delivered up close and personal. If you never afford them that opportunity to get close, you can knock them down pretty easily.
Again, this seems to be Mythra’s strength in particular due to her longer reach; while it’s early in my time with the characters, I would guess that if they did manage to slip through your not-so-impenetrable wall of Photon Edge, that would be a good time to switch over to Pyra and hit them with a neutral special just as they arrive within striking distance.
One area where I found the girls a little troublesome was recovery; they’re not equipped with anywhere near as many means of getting back on the stage as some other characters, so you better make damn sure you don’t fall off in as inept a manner as I did while fighting Kirby and Meta Knight.
Pyra’s up special in particular is one of those moves that will send you plummeting into the abyss beneath the stage if you time and position it poorly, so bear that in mind while attempting to recover from a fall.
Century Mob Smash, another of my favourite modes, turned out to be another good means of getting to grips with Mythra’s ability to control space. Initially, sideways and upwards Smash attacks were plenty to fend off the incoming Miis — without even really having to move from beneath one of the lower platforms in the early stages of the melee — but as the waves intensified and the character fighters started appearing, Photon Edge came into its element. I was a good halfway through the mob before I took more than about 10% damage.
Of course, it all then went horribly wrong and I failed with just two fighters left to dispatch, but, as a great man once said, sometimes it really do be like that.
All in all, Pyra and Mythra feel like great fun to play so far. While the cynical may look upon them as yet more “anime sword fighters”, they bring enough interesting mechanics to the table to make them worthwhile inclusions in their own right — plus the fact that the only real “gimmick” they have is the ability to swap with one another makes them accessible and easy to learn, even if you’re a Smash casual as filthy as I am.
It’s been a good long while since I played Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with any great seriousness, but with the release of Pyra and Mythra I think that will change — for a while, at least. It feels like a good time to return — even if I’ll likely continue just playing with friends online on occasion, with most of my time being spent in single-player.
How have you got on with the new Smash fighters so far? Let us know in the comments below, or via the usual social channels.
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