The long-anticipated fifth DLC fighter for Super Smash Brothers Ultimate will be Byleth, the protagonist of Nintendo’s 2019 hit Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but he/she won’t be the last. Another six fighters are in the works as of right now.
Nintendo revealed the news Thursday morning in a pre-recorded broadcast where series director Masahiro Sakurai broke down the details for the new character, as well as revealing the current plans for the next batch of downloadable fighters for Smash.
Super Smash Brothers Ultimate officially became the best-selling fighting game of all time at the end of 2019, with almost 16 million units sold. By comparison, the Nintendo Switch itself has sold around 41 million units at last count, giving Ultimate a nearly 40% attach rate to the system.
Smash Brothers, a crossover fighting game that pits Nintendo’s stable of characters against each other and a handful of guest stars in what amounts to a really flashy round of king-of-the-mountain, has been a tentpole franchise for Nintendo consoles since its debut on the Nintendo 64.
Unlike previous Fire Emblem characters in Smash, Byleth is designed with low mobility but long reach. Sakurai described the character as a “distance demon,” capable of mounting effective attacks from across the screen. Byleth can change weapon types on the fly, taking advantage of the traditional Fire Emblem “weapon triangle” system to switch between a spear, axe, bow, or whip sword. Byleth is built to harass other characters from medium to long range, as opposed to the up-close swordsmanship that characterizes most of the other Fire Emblem characters in Smash.
As in Three Houses, you can play as both male and female versions of Byleth. Their various alternative color schemes include skins that are based off of the trademark colors of the three titular Houses, so you can represent whichever team you played for. Byleth also comes with a new assortment of music, as well as a background stage based off of Three Houses’ setting, the Garreg Mach military academy.
Byleth is scheduled for release on Jan. 28. They will be available for no additional cost to players who own the Fighter Pack, or can be purchased individually for $5.99.
Byleth’s debut has been mildly controversial for several reasons, chief among which is that Byleth is the sixth Fire Emblem character to be included in the Smash Brothers series. If you count “echo fighters,” then he /she is the eighth, which means Fire Emblem now has more characters in Smash than any other franchise besides the Super Mario games. (In fact, the unexpected popularity of Fire Emblem characters in Smash Brothers is why Fire Emblem started getting translated for international release at all.)
It would’ve been one thing if they’d come out at or just after the game’s launch, but Byleth is following up two surprising third-party character picks, Terry Bogard and Banjo-Kazooie. The audience had been expecting another shocking revelation, and instead, after six weeks of uncharacteristic silence on the subject from Nintendo, got yet more Fire Emblem.
That being said, Three Houses is the most successful Fire Emblem game (PDF link) in the history of the series, having sold over two million copies since its debut on the Switch last summer. While the vocal minority of Smash fans aren’t happy with Byleth, many of whom are expressing their irritation through Photoshop and fan art as I write this, the Fire Emblem series has attracted a lot of new fans in the last six months, many of whom are likely to be pleased to see Byleth and Garreg Mach in another game.
If you were hoping for some other character to finally get into the Smash Brothers roster, and every Smash fan has a long wish list on the subject, there’s still some hope. You can pre-order a new wave of DLC called the Challengers Pack on Jan. 28, which will feature another six as-yet-unannounced DLC fighters. Just like 2019, it seems like 2020 will be another year punctuated by occasional volleys of Smash Brothers character hype.
Sakurai’s address also featured the debut of several new skins for player-created Mii Fighters in Smash Brothers Ultimate, including outfits styled after Assassin’s Creed‘s Altair, Ubisoft’s Rabbids franchise, Capcom’s Mega Man X and Mega Man Battle Network, and, in a big surprise, the indie hit Cuphead. The latter skin, for the Mii Gunner move set, is a near-complete model rework, and comes complete with a Cuphead musical track. Each new skin will be available on Jan. 28 for $0.75 each.
Nintendo also announced this morning that it plans to release new story content for Three Houses in early February, in a side campaign called Cindered Shadows. Here, players will discover a secret fourth house in the Garreg Mach military academy, called the Ashen Wolves, the members of whom are a collection of misfits who meet in the catacombs below the building.