The Smash Bros. DLC train keeps rolling along with the introduction of Dragon Quest’s Hero, and while Persona 5’s Joker is a tough act to follow, Hero keeps the ride running smoothly. He’s the second of five currently planned characters that are part of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s Fighter Pass, all of which are available separately as well for $5.99 each. And while he may be called by the generic title of “Hero,” his RNG-heavy implementation in Smash Bros. is anything but.
On the surface, Hero seems like a hodgepodge of other swordsmen characters. There’s a little bit of Ike and Shulk in his wide-sweeping and powerful arching aerials; a lot of Link in his projectile-nullifying shield, dash attack, and dual side-hitting down-smash; along with a touch of several other Fire Emblem characters in his upward-stabbing up-smash and chargeable lighting and fire projectiles, a la Robin.
While his normal attacks are a bit underwhelming and familiar thanks to those similarities, things really get interesting when it comes to his specials. First off, they’re all governed by an MP meter, with every move having its own MP cost. If you run out of MP, you must either wait for it to replenish very slowly over time or land regular hits to regain about one MP for every percent of damage he deals. It’s a mechanically crucial and thematically appropriate balancing mechanic that allows Hero to have these superpowered moves while keeping them in check and also feeling true to the Dragon Quest universe.
His up-, side-, and neutral-B attacks can all be charged up to three levels, which is a fun way to incorporate the tiered spells of Dragon Quest. It also has a small nuance that separates it from other chargeable specials: unlike Samus, Donkey Kong, Mewtwo, and Lucario, who can all store their charges by canceling out of the animation with a shield or a roll, Hero must complete the charge in order to hold on to his level three neutral-B fireball. If he cancels it early, he must start the charge from the beginning, which is great because it allows the charge to be quicker than other charge moves, while having its own unique drawback that prevents it from being too powerful.
At level one, his fireball is a pretty standard forward-moving projectile. At level two, it travels farther and hits harder – but if you manage to charge it to level three it hits like an absolute truck, and your reward for all your effort is 37 percent damage with tremendous knockback.
His level two and three charged side-B lightning attack are extraordinarily powerful as well, but if you rely on either of them too much you risk leaving yourself without the MP required to use them again in the future. Draining your MP can also dramatically limit your ability to come back to the stage when knocked off, since his up-B needs MP too.
But it’s Hero’s down-B that really makes this character special. Pressing it brings up an RPG-like menu with four randomly selected special moves out of a whopping pool of 17; these run the gamut from being practically useless, like Kaclang, which turns you into an invulnerable steel statue for several seconds, to the recklessly dangerous Kamikaze, which is guaranteed to KO yourself while creating a powerful explosion that can easily take foes down with you.
There’s even the inconsistent but potentially deadly Thwack, which creates a huge AoE spell that has a chance to just instantly vaporize enemies that get caught in it. The higher your damage percentage the more likely it is you’ll get KO’d when Thwack hits, but it’s still entirely possible that you could potentially get killed instantly at a low percent with a lucky Thwack, or its lesser version, Whack. It’s an overpowered move balanced by the amount of time it takes to recognize it in the menu, select it, and then the time it takes for the move to come out. That being said, if you were to mash down-B and it just so happened to appear in the top slot, you could have a fast, wide hitting, potentially insta-KOing attack …or you could blow yourself up with a kamikaze.
This high reliance on randomness is a double-edged sword. It succeeds in making Hero stand out from the rest of Ultimate’s massive roster, despite him being another swordsman with very familiar moves. And his kit seems specifically designed to generate those hype, pop-off moments that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is so good at delivering – especially with his smash attacks having a one-in-eight chance of critical hitting for extra damage and knockback.
However, it also makes Hero feel inconsistent. Without his down-B, he feels like a solid character with heavy hitting normals, a great recovery, and extremely powerful projectiles that are kept in check thanks to the MP meter. With his down-B, though, he’s the unpredictable embodiment of chaos, capable of stealing stocks away from skilled opponents with moves like Kaboom, Magic Explosion, Thwack, and Snooze, while also being likely to throw his own away with an accidental Kamikaze, Hocus Pocus, or Kaclang.
All the World’s a Stage
Hero also comes with his own stage, Yggdrasil’s Altar, which is a transforming flythrough stage much like New Donk City Hall and Prism Tower that takes you on a tour of the world of Dragon Quest XI, Erdrea. As someone who prefers playing with items and stage hazards off, I love this stage because it’s visually spectacular, but also doesn’t come with any stage gimmicks that would disqualify it from being picked in competitive play. For the most part, you’re fighting on a flat stage with occasional platforms being floated in and out.
It’s a shame that the famous Dragon Quest Overture theme isn’t part of the eight songs included in the package, but still, it’s nice to have two songs each from DQXI, DQIII, DQIV, and DQVIII. While not all of them feel like they totally fit the chaos of Smash Brothers, the selections are great nonetheless, especially because Final Fantasy VII only had a choice of two songs when Cloud was released.
Speaking of choices, another appreciated choice is the ability to choose between four different heroes. My favorite is the Dragon Quest III hero, Arusu, mainly because he’s voiced by Noboyuki Hiyama, who longtime Smash fans will no doubt recognize whenever he screams, since he’s also the voice of Link from Super Smash Bros. Melee (and Ocarina of Time for that matter).