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War has arrived.
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Rivals of Aether is an Indie Fighting Game heavily inspired by Nintendo's Platform Fighter franchise Super Smash Bros.. Created by Dan Fornace, the game takes place on the planet Aether, where four warring civilizations themed after the four classical elements of fire, water, earth, and air use the powers of their respective elements to do battle.

Like Super Smash Bros, Rivals of Aether is a Platform Fighter where the goal is not to deplete your opponent's health, but rather to force them off the stage by knocking them progressively further away or simply blocking attempts at recovering. However, unlike Super Smash Bros, there are no items, you cannot grab ledges, and shields and grabs are replaced with a parry system that rewards proper timing by stunning opponents and granting temporary invulnerability. The game is designed to be highly competitive with emphasis on combos and extremely aggressive play-styles, and thus has a high skill ceiling to attract veterans of the competitive Smash Bros scene while retaining a skill floor low enough so that practically anyone can grab a controller and have a good time with some friends.

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The game was fully released for PC on March 28, 2017 and is available on Steam. The Xbox One version was released on August 22, 2017. Both versions are available for $14.99 USD.

As an April Fools joke in 2019, the team has also created a dating sim involving the characters in a High School A.U. called Lovers of Aether. You can download the game from Steam for free. Tropes exclusive to this spin-off are also included on this page.

If Rivals of Aether is more like Melee, then Brawlhalla is more like Brawl.

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Tropes present in Rivals of Aether:

  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Characters include a purple bird of prey, a green ferret/raccoon, a blue orca/puma, a purple goat/sheep, and a purple snake. Even the less colorful characters can become this with their alternate color palettes.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Players can configure their names and control settings right at the character select menu, greatly reducing set-up times.
    • By pressing the Y button after selecting a character, players can enter a small play-test area to test their controller settings or to simply pass the time between matches.
    • Pressing the Y button during stage selection will 'ban' whatever stage the cursor is over, making it much easier for players in competitive sets to visualize their stage options. Additionally, in tournaments, counter pick stages are automatically marked as such.
  • Anti Poop-Socking: A bit of a more subtle one: the "READY TO FIGHT" button that appears when everyone is ready will also inform you what time it is.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Julesvale takes place on the rooftop of a densely populated city block, but none of the background characters seem to bat an eyelash when the playable cast starts duking it out there. Hell, the Aether version of the stage features a gimmick where the platform full of boxes is destroyable, but neither of the couriers seem to mind that their deliveries are being busted to pieces.
  • April Fools' Day:
    • A 2017 Twitter Post teased the appearance of a Penguin and a silhouette of Papyrus as upcoming playable characters.
    • For 2018, the devteam threw together a Nintendo Direct-style video. Among other things announced were a photorealistic texture pack DLC, the replacement of all Indie Pogo characters with Orcane, the reveal of the Lethal Joke Character Sandbert, and the reveal of the non-Joke Character Elliana.
    • 2019 featured a trailer for Lovers of Aether, a High School A.U. Dating Sim featuring the entire cast of the game. The kicker is that the game itself is real, and released on the same day.
  • Art Evolution:
    • The differences between the old Treetop Lodge stage and the new one are very apparent.
    • Recent patches have also touched up the visuals for several characters' moves and their official portraits.
    • Later additions to the roster have notably more complex animations than the earlier characters. This is especially noticeable with Zetterburn and Orcane, who were primarily drawn by Dan himself instead of a dedicated sprite artist.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Even level 9 AI fighters have a hard time getting combos and staying out of combos. The only thing they have going for them is their ability to read player inputs and perfectly parry and dodge incoming attacks, and even then, they rarely ever follow-up with anything overly punishing, if they decide to do anything at all.
  • Ascended Glitch: While less of a glitch and more of an unintended quirk of Melee's physics, Wavedashing is a fully fleshed-out mechanic in Rivals and the gameplay is heavily balanced around it.
  • Ascended Meme: The Excalibur skin for Zetterburn is based of the Parody Sue character of the same name created by the Youtuber Alpharad.
  • Attack Reflector: Parries can reflect projectiles.
  • All There in the Manual: The backstories of each of the main characters can found on the official site's character page, including ones for Absa and Etalus, who are absent from the game's story mode.
  • Character Customization:
    • Players can choose from a variety of Palette Swaps for each character. It's also possible to create a custom palette for each character.
    • Abyss Mode and Abyss Versus allow players to equip runes, which can modify the abilities and attributes of the characters.
    • Dev Mode allows players to adjust almost every aspect of the characters, but does not affect regular matches or online play.
    • The Workshop Update brings forth the ultimate character customization: you create your own characters from scratch if you have enough art and coding skills (or just steal the graphics from another game). The coding aspect is the same as the one used for the official characters, so complex gimmicks are completely possible.
  • Charged Attack: All strong attacks can be charged for additional power.
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer: Player 1 is red, player 2 is blue, player 3 is peach/pink, player 4 is olive/green, and computer players are gray.
  • Combos: The game is designed with an emphasis on combos and overall hyper-aggressiveness.
  • Competitive Multiplayer: Built from the ground up with competition in mind, the roster is rigorously balanced and many of the menu and interface elements help support tournament play. In addition, each stage has an "Aether" variant, the regular version with stage hazards and dynamic elements such as carnivorous plants or giant springboards, and the "Basic" variant, which removes stage hazards and shifts the stage and platform layout to ensure that no one character has too great an advantage over the others.
  • Crossover:
    • Like Super Smash Land before it, there's a stage based on Tower Of Heaven, with occasional laws that forbid players from touching a certain part of the stage or doing a certain action. The stage provides an additional level of strategy in keeping yourself from breaking said laws whilst making your opponents break them, and using the resulting Bolt of Divine Retribution in your combos.
    • Ragnir from Brawlhalla is in the game as a Maypul DLC skin.
    • Both Ori and Sein and Shovel Knight appears as Guest Fighters, and have accompanying stages based after one of the locations from their games.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Most people who pick up the game are used to the control scheme of Smash Bros., so the differences in Rivals can be problematic:
    • In Smash Bros., you perform smash/strong attacks by pressing the control stick and the basic attack button at the same time. In Rivals, this feature is turned off by default, and instead they are automatically mapped to a button.
    • To wall jump in Smash Bros., you pressed against the wall and moved the control stick in the opposite direction. In Rivals, you have to press against the wall, and press the jump button.
    • Tap-jump is off by default in Rivals. This is hardly an issue for many players, since competitive Smash 4 and Brawl players usually keep the feature disabled anyhow, but people who normally leave tap-jump on in those two games, or those who primarily play Melee or Smash 64 (where tap-jump can't be disabled), will most likely experience some confusion.
    • It's very easy for a Smash veteran to forget the fundamental differences in how Rivals handles wavedashing (can be buffered out of jumpsquat, and leaving the ground is entirely unnecessary) and shielding (doesn't exist, instead bringing up a parry which leaves you VERY vulnerable if mis-timed).
    • The lack of shields or grabs can be very disorienting to Smash Bros. players, and will likely result in a number of unfortunate punishes until they get used to the parry mechanic.
  • Death-or-Glory Attack:
    • A lesser example comes from the Hit Cancelling mechanic, where if you miss an attack, you suffer additional ending lag, which prevents players from spamming moves and makes accuracy incredibly important.
    • Wrastor's up special has a small hitbox that's hard to hit, and if missed, will leave you vulnerable for a few seconds, but has enough power to send opponents flying across the stage.
    • Etalus' neutral special has him create a hammer out of ice with a very long windup, leaving him vulnerable to attacks, but if it lands, it's by far one of the most powerful moves in the game.
  • Destructible Projectiles: Most projectiles can be destroyed mid-flight by attacks or other projectiles.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Parrying. It takes almost frame-perfect reflexes or a good prediction in order to get one right, and if you don’t, you’re vulnerable for a split second, which can be all your opponent needs to combo you into oblivion. But if you get a parry right, you become completely invincible for a few seconds, and your opponent will be stunned for a time proportional to the power of the move you parried. Parrying can also reflect projectiles.
  • Double Jump: As is a staple of a Platform Fighter. Interestingly, the three Air characters have different takes on this: Wrastor has a quadruple jump, Absa can rapidly float upwards instead, and Elliana uses limited on-demand flight.
  • Elemental Powers: The setting has four nations based on the classical elements. Each element has one representative, plus two other characters representing some "sub-element":
    • The Firelands have Zetterburn (Fire), Forsburn (Smoke), and Clairen (Plasma).
    • Water Town has Orcane (Water), Eltalus (Ice), and Ranno (Poison).
    • The Air Nation has Wrastor (Wind), Absa (Lightning), and Elliana (Steam).
    • The Aetherian Forest has Kragg (Stone), Maypul, and Sylvanos (Plant life for the latter two).
  • Expy: Each character takes some inspiration from the franchise that codified this game's genre:
    • Wrastor possesses a frightening air game and multiple jumps echoing that of Jigglypuff. His specials and some standard moves resemble those of Meta Knight and Captain Falcon, with his neutral special in particular being a near carbon-copy of Meta Knight's Mach Tornado.
    • Zetterburn, at first glance, plays almost identically to Wolf as he appeared in Project M, with all but a handful of moves sharing very similar animations and hitboxes to boot. He also possesses Fox's Shine/Reflector, except it can't actually reflect projectiles and can be charged increase its power, and has an exact copy of his Fire Fox recovery move.
    • Kragg takes inspiration from various heavy characters such as Ganondorf, Bowser, and Donkey Kong in terms of moveset and playstyle.
    • Forsburn's animations when swinging his dagger resemble Marth's or Meta Knight's sword swings, and has some shades of Sheik in terms of his combo game and ability to relentlessly chase the opponent while they try to escape.
    • Maypul bears similarities to Ivysaur in terms of theme and some moves, but plays a lot like Sheik, Zero Suit Samus, or Greninja with her high speed and impressive combo potential. Her forward aerial also functions very similarly to Mario's.
    • Orcane takes inspiration from Vaporeon from Super Smash Land, which was a fan-game made by the developer before Rivals of Aether had come to fruition. They both share the same base mechanics of swapping positions with puddles of water, and even share some basic moves such as their neutral and forward aerials. There's also heavy influence from Project M's Squirtle, including the manipulation of his ground momentum as a movement mechanic, explicitly named Hydroplaning after the technique in PM.
    • Absa plays very similarly to Project M's Zelda, focusing on a careful zoning game to provoke and punish her opponent's missteps, especially with her devastating lightning kick sweetspots. She also shares the double-jump cancel mechanics used by characters like Ness or Mewtwo. She also has an up special and a couple of Strong Attacks that are nearly a carbon-copy of Pikachu's.
    • Etalus' brutal combat style is most easily compared to Bowser, but also has shades of Donkey Kong. When his ice patches are out, he also gains some impressive burst movement on the ground reminiscent of Luigi, which plays a leading role in his neutral game.
    • Even the stages bear a number of similarities to those found in Super Smash Bros. The Aether variant of Rock Wall has destructible platforms and walk-offs similar to Castle Siege's second form or Green Hill Zone as they appeared in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
    • The Aether version of Treetop Lodge features large, carnivorous plants that will eat and instantly KO fighters, much like the Bulborb in Brawl's Distant Planet stage.
    • The Aether version of Blazing Hideout features a 'sea' of fire that rises and falls, leaving only the top platform safe to stand on. This mechanic mirrors the acid found in the Brinstar stages found in Smash 64 and Melee.
    • The Aether version of the Tower of Heaven stage features semi-random laws that will punish the player if broken. The WarioWare stage from Brawl rewards players for beating semi-random microgames that function similarly to the previously-mentioned laws. Additionally, the Basic version of the stage has three platforms arranged almost identically to the Battlefield stages that has appeared in every Super Smash Bros. game.
    • The Aether version of Frozen Fortress has giant chains covered in destructible blocks of ice on each side of the stage, providing an experience very similar to the Shadow Moses Island stage from Brawl.
  • Everything's Better with Plushies: Orcane and Etalus have official plush dolls for sale.
  • Free Floor Fighting: Almost every stage has platforms suspended in the air in varying locations.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Several appear in Elliana's reveal trailer when she first enters Julesvale.
    • Next to Sandbert in the building called Fornace, there's an unguarded sink for sale, with fine print reading that it doesn't come with Orcane.
    • In the building to the right of Elliana, the memetic "Somebody touch-a my spaghet" bear is visible through the window.
    • Finally, on the very right of the scene when the camera finishes panning, you can see a banner labelled with "FREE ORCANE BUFFS" and a discarded newspaper with the headline "NERF CLAIREN FLEAHEAD".
  • Guide Dang It!: Before May 2016, there were no in-game tutorials. In order to learn anything, players had to experiment on their own or look at community-made guides, especially when it came to learning advanced techniques. Since the May update, a rather expansive tutorial was implemented to the game.
  • Hit Stop: If a character is hit by a powerful attack, the game will slow down for a split second and produce a faint shock wave effect.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Parrying is this in a nutshell. Not only will your opponent will be stunned for a time proportional to the power of their attack, but any projectiles they use can be reflected back as well.
    • Reflecting Zetterburn's fireball back with a parry will light him on fire. Bonus points if his opponent is also a Zetterburn, meaning they can benefit from the double knockback on a strong attack.
    • Kragg’s rock can be broken by other players, and even picked up by another Kragg. His rock and stone pillar can also be used as walls to extend combos against him.
    • Maypul’s up special has her use a vine to land on top of or next to a marked opponent. Those anticipating her recovery can charge up a strong attack and use it as a free hit.
    • Forsburn's smoke and clone can be just as confusing to the player as it can be an opponent. Smoke can also be absorbed by another Forsburn, charging their down special for a potential KO.
  • Instant Flight: Just Add Spinning!:
    • Wrastor's neutral special has him use a Tornado Move that will allow him to fly upwards if the button is held.
    • To a lesser extent, Maypul's up aerial will extend the height of her jumps.
  • Knockback Evasion:
    • Just like in Smash Bros, while in hitstun players can press the dodge button just before they hit the ground or a wall to perform a "tech" and cancel their knockback, be given the option to stay in place or roll to the side, and even gain a small amount of invulnerability.
    • Additionally, "directional input", or "DI" allows players to control their knockback trajectory to a certain degree, helping them survive attacks they normally wouldn't and escape combos.
  • Lag Cancel:
    • Advanced techniques such as ledge canceling can reduce the lag of some moves, which in turn can allow for more rapid attacks.
    • The Hit Canceling mechanic reduces the end lag of moves whenever they land a hit.
  • Lightning Bruiser:
    • Kragg, despite being a textbook Mighty Glacier, isn't overwhelmingly slow, and has a great combo game while still being able to take hits and dish out very powerful KO moves.
    • Orcane is one of the heavier characters, yet can be quite mobile and can kill at absurdly low percentages with the use of his puddle.
  • Made of Iron: Characters are beaten, stabbed, crushed, blasted by high-pressure water, whipped, frozen, set on fire, and even struck by lightning, but show no visible signs of injury.
  • Man-Eating Plant: The Sylvan Beasts in the Treetop Lodge stage will eat anyone unfortunate enough to come into contact with them, resulting in an instant KO.
  • Mercy Invincibility: After being KO’d, characters gains a few seconds of invulnerability when they respawn.
  • Meteor Move: Most characters have this as a down aerial.
  • Mirror Match: When two of the same characters fight each other, moves one uses can affect the other in the same way.
    • Zetterburn can reflect another Zetterburn's fireball, which will light them on fire and allow for the double knockback bonus on a strong attack.
    • Wrastor's side special gives the same speed boost to another Wrastor.
    • Kragg's rock can be broken by all characters, but a fellow Kragg can pick it up and claim it as his own.
    • Forsburns can hide in each others smoke and absorb it for their down special/clone detonation.
    • Absa is capable of using another Absa's cloud to extend the hitboxes of her forward, back, and down aerials' sweet spots as she would with her own cloud.
    • Etalus can use another Etalus' ice to slide around, or they can destroy it with a neutral special to gain ice armor.
    • Orcane and Maypul can reflect the projectiles their doppelgangers fire and assume ownership of them, creating a puddle and marking an opponent respectively.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters:
    • Wrastor is obviously some sort of bird of prey, sharing traits with falcons and owls.
    • Maypul seems to be a mix of a ferret and a raccoon, having the slender body and movements of a ferret but has fur with the mask and ringed tail of a raccoon.
    • Absa has traits of both a sheep and a goat. Her eyes resemble that of a goat, but the shape of her head is more sheep-like.
  • Monochromatic Eyes: As a side effect of the pixelated art style, Forsburn and Maypul have their eyes represented as single white dots.
  • New Neo City: Clairen's home stage is distinguished from its older counterpart by being called Neo Fire Capitol.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: The "A" is silent in "Aether," making the pronunciation of it being /ˈēTHər/. While this seems like a minor one, most spellings of the word (especially in video games) usually drop the _a altogether, leading to some pronouncing it as /A_THər/ instead.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • Kragg used to be able to jump off-stage and use his up special to stall out a match, but this has been fixed so that Kragg can only stand on it for a few seconds before having the pillar sink back into the ground.
    • Similarly, Forsburn could use his smoke clouds to infinitely use his up special, which would keep him far off-stage or way above the range of other characters. This has since been patched so that Forsburn has a cap to how many times he can use his up special within his smoke before going into freefall.
  • Platform Fighter: Just like the series that inspired it.
  • Punny Name: The two members of the Earth tribe seem to fall under this. ("Maple" and "Crag")
  • Purple Is the New Black: Abyss mode enemies are all purple, but are clearly intended to be 'shadow' versions of the main fighters.
  • Recoil Boost:
    • Orcane's forward and up aerials have him use bubbles/water as a means of propulsion, both of which let him ram into opponents for damage.
    • Absa's neutral special can be used in mid-air for a slight bounce upward.
  • Retraux: The game uses graphics reminiscent of 16-bit games, while the Tower of Heaven stage and the accompanying character skins mostly restrict themselves to the color palette of the original Nintendo Game Boy.
  • Ring Out: Players lose lives upon leaving the boundaries of the stage.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When loading into Neo Fire Capital, the blue screens in the foreground display a red alert message a-la the Metal Gear Solid HUD when Snake gets spotted.
    • Zetterburn's Shine premium skin is named after theinvoked Fan Nickname for Fox's Reflector move in the Super Smash Bros. series. It gives Zetterburn's neutral special the same hexagonal visuals as Fox's shine, and lets him emulate Fox's taunt from Melee. The official artwork for the skin is even modeled after one Fox's victory poses from ''Melee''.
    • The achievement for completing Maypul's chapter of the Story Mode is called "A Maypul Story".
    • One of the background characters during Maypul's chapter of the Story Mode is a stag with flaming antlers, very much like Flame Stag from Mega Man X2.
  • Some Dexterity Required:
    • The fast pace of the game usually results in this, especially if you want to get into tournament play.
    • Several advanced techniques require very strict timing to perform. Averted with Wavedashing, which is far easier to perform than in Super Smash Bros. Melee.
  • Songs in the Key of Panic: When every remaining player is on their last stock or there are thirty seconds left in the Aetherial Gates stage, the background takes on a modified version of its appearance from the story mode and uses its more intense variant of the background music.
  • Special Attack: All characters have at four distinct special moves available to them. Most of them have one or more specials affect the field in some way, and others that rely on said effect to work at full ability. Some specials such as Zetterburn's down special will be altered depending on whether or not they're performed in the air.
  • Spin Attack: Literally every character on the roster has at least one, usually as a neutral aerial.
  • Tail Slap: Zetterburn, Orcane, and Maypul each use their tails in combat in one way or another.
  • Teleport Spam:
    • Forsburn uses teleportation in his dodging and up special, which can result in this.
    • Orcane can teleport to his puddle with his up special, or use his side special to teleport forward.
  • Taunt Button:
    • All characters have a unique taunt. A few characters have unique skins that can modify their taunts as well.
    • Absa and Etalus have taunts that can last indefinitely. Absa meditates on top of a cloud, while Etalus just falls asleep.
    • Kragg's taunt deals a very small amount of damage if someone is standing where he stomps the ground.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics:
    • Averted with Maypul. It’s not uncommon for players to refer to her as male, though the game does repeatedly refer to her gender throughout the Story Mode, tutorials, and info tabs.
    • Played straight with Absa. She has bright pink hair and a somewhat more feminine posture than the other characters.
  • Tournament Play: This is actively encouraged with the inclusion of Tourney Mode and dedicated competitive discussions in the official sub-reddit and Discord server. The dev team even makes exclusive stage and character skins available for purchase during certain tournament events.
  • Tuckerization: Ayala, the mechanic in Elliana's backstory, is named after the artist who drew her, Andy Ayala.
  • Variable Mix: The tutorial has this. The first trial ("Movement") doesn't change at all, but the rest of the trials feature a more intense version of the tutorial music whenever you're given the chance to apply what you've learned.
  • Wall Jump: This is vital to any character’s ability to get back on stage, because in addition to an extra jump, using one allows you to use your recovery moves for a second time.
  • Weaksauce Weakness:
    • Kragg's up special summons a giant pillar of solid rock to act as a platform. It can be instantly destroyed by any projectile, including Maypul's seed, which only does 2% damage and deals no knockback whatsoever.
    • Forburn's fully charged down special, one of the best KO moves in the game, can be interrupted and have its charge wasted by something as weak as Wrastor's finger-poke.
  • World of Funny Animals: Every character is some sort of Funny Animal. Zetterburn is a lion, Orcane is a killer whale-dog-puma, Wrastor is a bird of prey, Kragg is a rhino beetle, Forsburn is a hyena, Maypul is a raccoon-ferret, Absa is a mountain goat (with a sheep-like face), Etalus is a polar bear, Ranno is a poison dart frog, Clairen is a panther, Sylvanos is a dire wolf, and Elliana is a snake... and that's not even getting into the Story Mode extras.

Tropes present in Lovers of Aether:

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/lovers_of_aether_header.jpg
Clairen, the mysterious New Transfer Student
  • Adaptational Jerkass: The Lovers version of Maypul is a Class President who's gone full dictator. Literally: she wants to declare war on other schools, insists on a "fair and democratic election" in which she blackmails the class, co-opts the player into "eternal servitude" to her if given the chance, and even wears some sort of merit badges as a Chest of Medals. Eventually it's revealed that she's being tutored by Principal Loxodont, which explains it.
  • Dating Sim: The player's goal is to successfully ask someone to the Homecoming Dance.
  • Emo Teen: This version of Forsburn, complete with angsty poetry about how "Dads just don't get it".
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: The player chooses their name at the start of a run
  • High School A.U.: The setting of the story is Aether Academy, which all of the main Rivals characters attend as either teenagers or instructors.
  • Mythology Gag: Orcane at one point takes the blame for something he wasn't responsible for. Again.
  • New Transfer Student: Clairen
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