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Rivals of Aether Review

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Fast Facts

Rivals of Aether

Developer: Dan Fornace
Publisher: Dan Fornace
Website: rivalsofaether.com
Genre: Fighting, Action, Platformer
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 24/09/2020
Price: £26.99

A code was provided for review purposes.

Introduction

Rivals of Aether is a brand new indie fighter which is set in a world ravaged by war, with the forces of nature summoning the power of fire, wind, water and earth to fight back forces of darkness.

In this indie fighter play multiple stories from a cast of quirky, original characters as you set forth on a journey of discovery. Take part in mortal combat using a variety of attacks, learn skills to defeat your opponents and win!  

Rivals of Aether boasts a selection of game modes catered toward solo play, multiplayer with friends locally and online.

Rivals of Aether Nintendo Switch
Choose your character!

Unlock new stage variants, pets and costumes for your characters with a milestone system by playing various game modes, giving you an incentive to keep playing and fighting to unlock all the extra content.

There’s never a dull moment in Rivals of Aether with its extensive tutorial, ease of control, Smash-like mechanics, ranked online, casual matches, story mode and other solo, local play options.

Super Smash Bros. Clone?

Thankfully this isn’t just a cheap knock-off of popular beat-em-up… Rivals of Aether throws in its own unique take on the party beat-em-up genre and shows that it’s not just mere clone of Nintendo’s popular franchise.  Rivals of Aether stands as one of the best indie created beat-em-ups I’ve ever played; that’s a testament to great game design by the developers, and the amount of heart and soul they’ve dedicated to the development of this title.

Modes Galore

Local Play

Within local play you’ll find six modes for solo and local multiplayer. I’ll be honest it was a nice surprise to see so many options available from the get-go.

Rivals of Aether Review
Play with friends or go it alone against bots!

Versus Mode

Versus mode is your standard match selection; you can play solo against bots 1 vs 1, all the way up to 1 vs 3 other players.  There are a maximum of 14 different characters to play as and a selection of different types of rules to change or tinker with. A great little addition here is you can play test any character within the character select screen allowing you see what they can do and how they perform in battle. It’s a really nice little extra feature.  Also when you’re selecting a character you can look through different tabs on selected character frames, find more options to change characters’ colours and add custom controls, names or little pets that wander in background during a fight.  These can be unlocked through purchasing them with currency earned from matches or through milestones.

Story Mode

Story mode allows you to play through multiple stories from different characters’ perspectives. While not considerably long it does offer insight to each character’s back-story, and proves some challenging fights.

Tutorial Mode

Tutorial mode allows you learn the basics through 3 tiers of difficulty: beginning, intermediate and advanced. It also touches upon character specifics, allowing you to learn everything you would need to know in combat. It’s a welcome addition and I found it very informative.

Abyss Mode

Abyss mode sees you fighting shadowy creatures in an endless horde mode which is pretty fun. It adds in a new challenge in-between rounds to keep things exciting. There’s even a versus mode that allows you to customise your characters with abyss power-ups, adding in an extra layer of complexity.

Tether Mode

Tether mode sees you playing a sports game where players must try to hit a ball around a pole to score points. It can be fun and frantic for a while with friends, but it wasn’t a mode I invested too much time in alone.

Rivals of Aether Nintendo Switch
Experiment to find your favourite character and move set.

Online Mode

Online mode offers lobbies, casual matches and a ranked mode which is pretty much the staple for most beat-em-up these days. Thankfully everything is pretty smooth here, and I haven’t experienced too many laggy matches, but finding matches may vary.

It seems like the Switch version doesn’t support cross-play with the Steam community at the moment, which could be the down fall of Rivals of Aether on Switch. As you all probably know, Switch games that tend to have online functionality can slowly have their online communities diminish over a period of time, before it can become increasingly difficult to find games at all. I think cross-play would alleviate this problem as the Steam community seems to be pretty active and engage with this title still.

Gameplay

I can’t stress enough how easy playing Rivals of Aether feels; the game just flows with each unique move set feeling impactful and satisfying to pull off. And just like Smash trying get back on to platforms after being knocked off can be challenging rspecially against the more advanced players. The game’s incredibly fun in local multiplayer as it should be, but I also enjoyed playing solo against bots.

Each character available has their own unique abilities and styles of combat.  I’ve got a few favourites such as Sylvanos who can transform into a Venus fly trap during side specials or sink into side of a stage to recover from falling, and Elliana who is a snake that controls a mech suit with an over-heat meter. Every move she does increases the meter; if she over-heats she’s unable to attack, making for an unusual attack style where moves can be done but being aware that you can’t push her too hard, which is an interesting mechanic. There are even two guest characters here: Ori from the Blind Borest and mighty Shovel Knight which are welcome additions!

The two guest characters are Ori and Shovel Knight!

There’s also a wealth of stages to play including 22 levels with unlockable variants.  One of the cooler features is that you can play levels in a basic format like Smash without hazards. Or play Aether stages, which means hazards will be turned on which greatly affects levels and how you play them.

Extras and Milestones

Rivals of Aether also has alot of extra content to enjoy like the ability to watch replays, customise your own unique colour palettes for all characters which I just love, view statistics, listen to music and re-watch cut-scenes from story mode. There’s also a milestone system that monitors your death and kill ratio. Once you’ve reached 250 kills or deaths which is marked by a yellow line, you unlock the unique reward for that character.  This could be a new pet, a new costume or variant stage which is cool.  While these are nice extras, they feel a little long in the tooth to unlock a single reward. The fact you need to get 250 for each character just to unlock one of the 14 rewards feels like a complete chore to do, unless you’re really dedicated. It’s probably one of my only issues with this title.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics are gorgeous in Rivals of Aether, everything looks great.  Character movement is fluid, stages look especially lovely and the package as a whole is brimming with colour.  For a game that uses a pixel art style I can’t say enough nice things about it! The sound is equally good with a lot of catchy tunes; the developers have really created something wonderful here.

Verdict

If you love Smash then you’ll positively love Rivals of Aether too! The game is bursting with modes to play. While the game may look simple from the outside, there’s a complexity to fighting that competitive players will enjoy as well as players who are just starting off. While the roster isn’t as varied as Smash, there’s still a lot to enjoy here and unlock. I think if you give the game a chance you’ll find it quite difficult to put down once you’ve started! Rivals of Aether is hands down the best indie beat-em-up on Nintendo Switch and I highly recommend it!

Rapid Reviews Rating

You can purchase Rivals of Aether from the Nintendo eShop here.

You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.

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