Rivals of Aether is a fighting game created by Dan Fornace, and released for Microsoft Windows in March 2017, for Xbox One in August 2017, and for Nintendo Switch on September 24, 2020. The game’s characters are animal champions from different warring civilizations, who battle to stop a shadowy force from threatening the world. It received positive reception from critics, who commended its deep gameplay.A focus in the development of the game was making it faster and more combo-oriented than Super Smash Bros. A spin-off game, Creatures of Aether, was released for iOS and Android on September 28, 2020.
Rivals of Aether is the spiritual sequel to Super Smash Land, a fan-made remake of Super Smash Bros., and therefore its gameplay mechanics are heavily based on the latter game. Each character must try to knock the others out of a two-dimensional arena. Characters can also use elemental-based attacks or passive abilities that also affect the stage. This creates a meta game of not only attacking other players but also affecting the arena itself. Gameplay in general favors offense more than defense compared to Smash Bros.; attacks can only be blocked by executing a timed “parry” rather than holding up a shield, and characters cannot safely grab edges when returning to the stage.
Each character represents a natural element, and this element is central to their play style. The playable characters are Absa (lightning), Etalus (ice), Forsburn (smoke), Kragg (earth), Maypul (plant), Orcane (water), Wrastor (air), Zetterburn (fire), Ranno (poison), Clairen (plasma), Sylvanos (forest), Elliana (steam), and guest characters Ori and Sein from Ori and the Blind Forest, and Shovel Knight from the series of the same name. In Smash Bros., many characters possess only close-combat attacks, with most projectiles being very short-lived.
By contrast, all Rivals characters have at least one move with a long-lasting effect on the stage itself, such as bubbles that trap enemies, ice that lets the user move quickly, or a water puddle that can either power up the user’s attacks or act as a point for the user to teleport to. Some even create platforms that change the physical makeup of the stage. Cecilia D’Anastasio of Kotaku described Smash Bros. move sets as being more “reserved” compared to those of Rivals of Aether. On April 1, 2021, it was announced that four of the best original characters from the Steam Workshop: Mollo, Hodan, Pomme, and Olympia, will be added to the game in late 2021.