Ranking Smash Ultimate’s Second Wave of DLC Fighters

Well, people, it finally happened. We can now say for certain that everyone is here. 

We’ve had quite a journey with this second wave of Smash DLC fighters. It all began as a bit of good news in January 2020 that we would get six more fighters, and then it kicked off for real in June with the reveal of Min Min as the first participant. It’s only been a year and a half, and we’re already done surfing on this second wave of hype. Like my post at the beginning of 2020 ranking all of Wave 1’s fighters, I want to review and rank all of Wave 2’s fighters. 

Screenshot from official Nintendo Channel’s Sora DLC video.

At first I thought about putting all of the DLC fighters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate together, but then I realized I didn’t need to. All of the fighters you see here are more or less middle of the road. None are my favorite, and none are my least favorite. My lowest pick sits exactly above my ranking for Terry (#5), and my highest pick sits directly below my ranking for Banjo Kazooie (#4). They sandwich very neatly into my previous post.

I briefly entertained the idea of reviewing and ranking all 89 fighters, and then I laughed. 

I laughed very hard.

Now that I’ve caught my breath, let’s begin:

6. Sora

In this world, you’re either a Kingdom Hearts fan, or a sane person. Just kidding. If Kingdom Hearts is your thing, that’s fine, but I’ve always been unimpressed by the games. In that sense, I find Sora a perfect representation of his franchise. Everything he can do some other character can do better. He has annoying spells, but he’s not the most annoying character — that honor is a tie between Ness and Hero. He’s floaty, but he’s not the most floaty character — that belongs to Jigglypuff and Kirby. His keyblade moves work fine, but they don’t grab my attention. He’s iconic for sure, it makes perfect sense for him to be in Smash, and he was a good way to end Wave 2. However, in practice he’s just not interesting to me.

5. Kazuya

Kazuya is officially my favorite character that comes from a traditional 3rd Party Fighting game. I’ve never played Tekken, so I can’t necessarily comment on how well he represents his games. I find the way he always faces his opponent rather interesting; it changes up how you are going to position him and space him out against your opponent. The way he can combo looks flashy with all the sparks that fly from his fists, and I like his stage with its destructible walls and roof. It feels really good to send an opponent flying through them. Of all the Wave 2 fighters, Kazuya certainly has the most unique feel to his moveset. I can respect that.

4. Pyra & Mythra

I believe that people who complain about Super Smash Bros. having too many anime sword characters are just salty because their particular anime sword character didn’t make it in. It’s okay. You can still like this one, too. There’s room in your heart. I know it. 

It’s true that Pyra and Mythra remind me most of the Fire Emblem fighters. Mythra reminds me of my main, Lucina, and Pyra is like a female Ike — slow and strong. On the surface it looks like their moveset is rather basic, but in reality the two play off of each other rather elegantly. You are supposed to use their attacks like one super moveset. Yes, I recognize that Sakurai is recycling the original Zelda / Sheik transformation from Melee; but to be perfectly honest, I think Pyra / Mythra executed the idea better. If you take the time and get to know them, you’ll find a lot of nuance to this fighter underneath the surface. In that way, these ladies are also perfect representations of Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

3. Sephiroth

Not a single move in Sephiroth’s moveset is without this malicious yet awe-inspiring style, and I’m here for it. He’s slaying, in both senses of the word. 

I’m a fan of characters with long reach, and Sephiroth’s moveset makes for an interesting dynamic, where his massive sword can be devastating in very specific areas around him, and as his opponent you need to watch out for those spots. He’s slow, methodical, and devastating. He feels like Ganondorf in terms of power, but also very different in terms of weight and movement. He’s certainly intimidating, but if you pay attention, you can find his weak points. It’s yet another playstyle that’s a perfect fit for this iconic villain from Final Fantasy VII. Also as a bonus, we can finally have the slappin’ J-E-N-O-V-A song as part of Smash’s soundtrack. 

2. Steve / Alex

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Steve and Alex’s reveal trailer last year. I still couldn’t believe my eyes when I selected them for the first time in the game. It’s taken a full year for me to finally accept these two are a real addition to the game and not some kind of elaborate joke between Nintendo and Microsoft. If there’s any character from a modern game that “deserves” a spot, it’s these two. I just never thought they would actually do it. You can never completely write off any character. Not a single one. Everyone is still on the table.

Anyway, the deliberately stiff animation of Steve / Alex reminds me of Mr. Game & Watch, only with an infinitely more interesting moveset. I love placing blocks, I find it highly strategic. The down tilt and up tilt are perfectly spaced to make sense for me and string combos together. The mining mechanic is kind of cool, but it’s also a little cumbersome. It means you have to pause and find some time to craft stronger weapons. Time like that is hard to come by in Smash, especially against an opponent that knows not to give you that kind of time. This character is so much fun to play.

1. Min Min

Min Min is honestly my favorite fighter from Wave 2. And yes, I know I basically just went in reverse release order with all of these characters, but that’s how I genuinely feel about them. 

Min Min’s moveset is remarkably refreshing for a Smash Bros. veteran like myself. I adore the way the A button controls one arm while the B button controls the other. She breaks so many conventions that it forces me awake; I can’t fall asleep at the wheel while playing as Min Min. The subtle variations of her arms create a clever way to anticipate and bait the enemy. I admit that Min Min has a glaring weak point that can be exploited if you know how to get above her or if she gets her timing wrong. No fighter is perfect. But I had the best time with her out of everyone in Wave 2.

Screenshot from official Nintendo Channel’s Sora DLC video.

The Smash Fan Experience

One thing I failed to mention on my Wave 1 review is how delightful it is that, with the arrival of a new fighter, we get a new set of Spirit fights and a new Classic mode run. Both of these types of challenges pay a lovely homage to the rest of the characters and games within their respective series. I love the way that Sakurai awkwardly dresses up his own fighters and stages, attempting to translate an encounter from a completely different game into his own. The result is something recognizable and fun, and yet not close enough to take it seriously. It simultaneously feels like a crude but earnest fan project and a deliberate comic parody. 

The amount of content in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was already cartoonishly overblown when it first released in 2018. It’s a good thing Sakurai stopped pumping in DLC now, because it feels like the game’s about to explode. When the base game was released I already had to squint at the Stage Selection and Fighter Selection screens, and now I have to squint even harder. We did not need any more fighters after Byleth wrapped up Wave 1, and yet Sakurai got up, walked back to the buffet, and picked out just one more tray of characters for us. In my mind, everyone in Wave 2 was like some Super Duper Extra Bonus Fighter. I’m okay with the fact that none of them are as bombastic as people might’ve been hoping (well except for Steve / Alex; you can’t get any bigger than Minecraft). And yet when I look up the discourse surrounding Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I see a mountain range of disappointment and backlash to said disappointment. I’ve stopped looking on the internet whenever a Smash fighter is announced, because I’m tired of the predictable earthquake/tsunami pattern of complaining and anti-complaining.

Screenshot from official Nintendo Channel’s Sora DLC video.

But Smash was made to create community, so as a critic I feel like I should share how I’ve managed my own expectations. Here’s the life-hack: Not getting your pick into Smash is part of the experience. It’s always been that way. I’ve learned to put myself in a mental state where I’m okay with whoever we get. But I haven’t always felt that way; it took work for me to get there. In summer of 2018, when the game hadn’t been released yet, I had astronomically high hopes following the announcement of Ridley. Smash has become the most prestigious video game museum in existence, so I had my own list of characters I wanted included. And then my #1 pick, Isaac from Golden Sun, was deconfirmed right before the game launched. And even as the years passed, I still wanted him in the game. I couldn’t help myself. When a character is added to Smash, it feels like some sort of Official Sakurai Stamp of Approval: this character is worth remembering, and their game is worth playing. People couldn’t ignore Golden Sun any longer if Isaac was in the game. I even started to feel jealous of characters that did make it in. It’s silly, but that’s the kind of place your mind goes to when you want your pick to be inducted into The Smash Bros. Interactive Hall of Fame. I’m positive this was also part of the grieving process for Geno fans, Lloyd fans, and Waddle Dee fans.

But it’s easy to lament what you don’t have while ignoring what you do. We got long-held requests like King K. Rool. We got Banjo-Kazooie, someone we thought was impossible. We got Solid Snake back! This kind of all-in-one content package will probably never happen again in the history of the series, so we should enjoy it while we can.

One of the many goofy photos that Sakurai regularly tweets. His sense of humor is classic.

Furthermore, even when your picks don’t get in, it’s not like Sakurai gets a character from a bad game. You can trust that whoever he brings into Smash will be a quality addition, even if you’ve never heard of them or their game before. Every DLC character is a bonus present. If we don’t view these characters this way, we run the risk of becoming bitter and lashing out as one of those toxic fans. It’s true that Sakurai takes some fan input into account like with the Smash ballot, but it’s plain to see that most of these decisions are made behind closed doors with the big businesses calling the shots. We can’t control that. No amount of angry tweeting can change that. Once you temper your expectations, then anticipating and predicting new fighters becomes a meta game outside of the actual game. I had predicted that Wave 2 would introduce Crash Bandicoot, Leon from Resident Evil 4, Tracer from Overwatch, Captain Toad, Rayman, and Geno. And I was wrong each time. I’m kind of impressed that I actually didn’t get a single one right. 

It’s still hard to believe that the DLC cycle is over. We’ve been speculating about Smash reveals for so long, what should we even look forward to in Nintendo Directs anymore? 

I guess I only have one more thing left to say: Sakurai, take a freakin’ break already!

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