Super Smash Bros. Ultimate pro players already have some steamy opinions about the newest fighter, Byleth from Fire Emblem: Three Houses, who was just added to the game on Tuesday. Byleth is the eighth Fire Emblem character to join the cast of Nintendo characters and other random contenders. Many of the other Fire Emblem characters — the vast majority of which wield swords — rank high in most tier lists, especially among the game’s most seasoned players.
Early impressions of Byleth, however, don’t cast them in the same light at all.
Smash Ultimate pros had their doubts about Byleth when Nintendo announced the fighter, and a lot of those gut feelings were confirmed when they tested out the DLC character. Game director Masahiro Sakurai described Byleth as a “distance demon” during the most recent Nintendo Direct, highlighting that their long-ranged melee attacks were incredibly deadly but their speed and close-quarters combat were lacking.
It’s too early to say for certain, but a majority of Smash Ultimate’s best players believe Byleth’s weaknesses greatly overshadow those strengths. A handful think it's possible for Byleth's viability to grow as players continue to develop strategies, but right out of the gate, Byleth is looking like a mid-tier option at best.
“I think she's pretty good and has potential.” — Zero
Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios is considered the “best Smash 4 player of all-time” and is one of the few pros that sees hope in Byleth’s future.
He played a few hours of the new character online Tuesday night for a YouTube video and praised Byleth's ability to ledge trap and cover opponents' jumps with long-ranged and sweeping aerial attacks.
“Byleth’s up-air is going to be in the conversations for one of the better up-airs in the game,” he said in the video after rocketing an opponent to the blast zone with the move.
However, he did note that Byleth is so slow on the ground that players will definitely “miss easy punishes.” It seemed like Barrios was trying to highlight Byleth’s strengths above their weaknesses, but that sluggish speed on the ground, according to many pros, will be her greatest downfall.
“I think this character’s kit is fun. I love what they did with it, but she seems so bad.” — Dabuz
Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby was ranked the ninth-best Smash Ultimate player in the Fall 2019 season of the Panda Global Rankings (PGRU). He thinks Byleth looks cool and is true to their character in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but that’s pretty much it.
“She’s only very slightly faster in run speed, initial dash speed, and air speed than Ganondorf,” he said in a first impressions video. (Ouch.) “That’s a hard thing to overcome.”
Ganondorf is the fourth-slowest character in the entire game and the fifth-heaviest. As a trade-off, he has some of the heaviest-hitting moves out of anyone. Byleth, on the other hand, is a mid-weight character that will die much earlier than Ganondorf in most matches. And because players need more space to execute most of their moves within that narrow maximum-damage sweet spot, it makes her even less viable when compared to Ganondorf.
“She look doo doo.” — Nairo
Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada came is ranked the fourth-best Smash Ultimate player in the PGRU. He was not impressed by Byleth whatsoever, noting their lack of aerial mobility as perhaps the most problematic flaw.
Nairo mains Palutena, who’s considered one of the strongest characters in the game, and Byleth’s jump is only about half as potent as Palutena’s. Byleth also doesn't have any smaller hops to help. One of their strongest moves, the Up Special, also works against Byleth in this regard.
Byleth's Up Special feels like a mix between Zero Suit Samus’ Flip Jump and Joker’s Grappling Hook in that they can use it to hook onto the edge of the stage or spike opponents downwards. The move can seal out stocks off-stage, but it's risky on the stage because it puts Byleth directly above the opponent, leaving them vulnerable to being juggled.
“It sucks because I put myself in disadvantage and I lose stage control by going for Up-B,” Quezada noted. Why does one of Byleth's strongest moves put them in such weak positioning?
“No way this character is high-tier.” — Leffen
One of the top Smash Bros. Melee players in the world, William “Leffen” Hjelte ripped into Byleth the hardest. After playing Byleth, Leffen said the character is fun if you play with a bunch of your friends, but they don't make the cut in more competitive, one-on-one scenarios.
“Byleth is the guilty pleasure of Smash Bros.,” tweeted Hjelte. “He's got all these big moves that'll make a great time with friends, but c'mon, nobody's gonna actually use him. I give it two weeks until he disappears into the same void that Banjo and Incineroar fell in.”
Leffen's biggest issue with Byleth the extremely limited tools to get out of a disadvantaged position, mainly because most of Byleth's moves are so slow. Faster characters can continue hitting Byleth with quicker attacks as Byleth struggles to keep up.
“This character was clearly designed with free-for-all in mind.” — Armada
Adam “Armada” Lindgren is placed firmly within the pantheon of the “five gods,” some of the all-time best competitive Smash Bros. Melee players. While he thinks more highly of Byleth’s strengths than other pros, he agrees that all-in-all, the character doesn’t make the cut to be a high-tier competitive option.
“The strong side of the character is actually not that bad,” he said in his own video. “The overall package is probably not good enough, but advantage state and range seem to be very good.”
This might be early days for Byleth, but the latest Fire Emblem representative seems to be missing some key ingredients to make them a high-tier.
Byleth is currently available in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch.