The Hero in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has become the subject of controversy in just a few days since his release. The character has become quite infamous due to his RNG system that has made the character quite a deadly force to be reckoned with.
Culminating with the community becoming split with whether or not the character should be banned from competitive play entirely.
However, is that ban really justified? Are there aspects about Hero’s character design that actually would make him unworthy of the game’s competitive scene? Are there any other examples of a character that heavily relies on RNG as much as Hero does? Let’s dissect this discourse and see what the fuzz is about.
For those uninformed, “Hero” is a collective title given to the protagonists of the Dragon Quest series, as their name (and in some cases, gender) is chosen by the player. The Hero is often skilled in both swordplay and magic and is a well-rounded character that has a wide range of equipment available to them.
In Super Smash Bros. The Hero is represented by the Luminary (XI), Erdrick (III), Solo (IV), and Eight (VIII) as alternate characters. The Hero is also classified as a semi-heavyweight fighter with a slow walking and air speeds and powerful damage output and KO Potential.
The Hero also possesses an MP Gauge mechanic, which is a bar that starts at 100 and depletes whenever he uses his special moves.
The amount depleted varies depending on the spell, but it can be restored over time or from attacking foes with standard attacks. His special moves require MP to be cast, including his Up Special used for recovery purposes.
Every Special attack by The Hero has several effects and costs. We’ll save the explanation with this table:
The Hero also has access to what’s known as a Command Menu by pressing Down B. When the command is inputted, the Hero will go into a thinking pose, and the player will be given a random selection of four spells from Hero’s spell pool to choose from. The spells available are chosen upon inputting the move.
Some of these spells can be great utilities that grant extremely useful buffs to Hero’s abilities. Abilities such as Oomph and Psyche Up increase the strength of attacks while Acceleratle and Zoom focus on mobility. Other abilities like Kaboom, Bang, Flame Slash, Kacrackle Slash, Hatchet Man, and Magic Burst can be used offensively.
Some of the most controversial spells are Snooze, which puts opponents to sleep and can even disable movement in midair; Bounce, which reflects projectiles until the shield breaks, or the move expires; Heal, which heals Hero by 11% damage; and Thwhack/Whack, a physical/projectile attack that has a chance to Instantly KO an opponent.
Thwack and Whack are the main reason behind Hero’s ban consideration. The fact that he has access to two different attacks that can potentially kill opponents at 0% can definitely be a hindrance. However, there is another spell that also has become part of the controversy: Hocus Pocus.
This spell has random effects. These include casting any other Command Selection spell for Hocus Pocus’ cost (although Magic Burst still consumes all of Hero’s MP if used), as well as shrinking/growing Hero, placing a flower atop his head, putting him under the Timer effect (making him move in slo-mo), invisibility, invincibility, refilling/emptying his MP, inflicting poison on himself, and putting himself to sleep.
This puts players at a major guessing game where not even the Hero player knows what the outcome will be. For example, a player using Hocus Pocus can end up getting some invincibility or downright killing themselves with Kamikaze. The uncertainty of outcome is already at its peak with the number of random spells. However, it doesn’t compare to yet another aspect that is also governed by RNG: Critical Hits.
The Hero’s smash attacks all share a unique perk: they have a 1/8 chance of striking with a Critical Hit, doubling their damage and knock back given, allowing them to KO at extremely early %. While the Smash Attacks themselves can be quite slow, some Smash attacks with Critical Hit effects can break shields (Namely Forward Smash).
The element of randomness plays a huge role in Hero’s play style. Making him a very unpredictable character to fight with/against. He truly is his own worst enemy in this regard, as while many people can find really good matches with him, some others have experienced firsthand how to it feels to truly become tainted by the worst end of the stick.
Unfortunately, his unpredictability has culminated with his recent ban from South Australia Smash Central. “Hero is so dependent on randomness that it cannot be ‘played around’ or accounted for in competitive play. The argument is similar to the reason why items are banned in competitive play.” Said the competitive community in a statement.
However, something like this is quite unprecedented in the Fighting Game Community. While character bans have happened before, they were often due to other design aspects, not because of RNG. The best example of this is Akuma in Super Street Fighter II Turbo, who was banned because he was designed primarily as a boss fight and wasn’t balanced around it.
Destructoid community member VirtuaKazama made a comprehensive list of bans across FGC history. Some were justified while others have been called into question for a number of years. But in terms of Smash Bros., even characters like Meta Knight have become tournament legal after their initial bans.
Meanwhile, characters like Teddie (P4AU/BBTAG), and Faust (GGXrd) have become staples of the fighting game scene with multiple RNG-based attacks that can either benefit or affect the player. The world hasn’t ended, and the characters certainly aren’t broken either.
In terms of the Hero, while he does have some tremendous strengths, he has a fair share of weaknesses. Since all of his special moves use MP, the Hero is limited in the number of special moves he can perform at a given moment until the MP Gauge recharges. If he runs out of MP or does not have enough, he will be unable to cast the appropriate spell, INCLUDING HIS RECOVERY.
Many of Hero’s attacks suffer from very slow start-up and ending lag (sometimes both). His combo game is quite low as well. His Command Menu, charging abilities, and other special attacks put him as an extremely slow character with a high emphasis on Defensive play. A rush down character or playstyle can make Hero’s life completely miserable.
Should Hero be banned? In my opinion, absolutely not. Many characters throughout fighting game history have RNG mechanics and IK properties. This doesn’t make them broken or ban-worthy by any means. This only means that the opponent needs to play around those strengths and even learn how to use that uncertainty of outcome against the player.
The only real problematic aspect of the Hero is the heavily favorable RNG he has. 1/8 of a chance might sound small for the Critical Hits, but 12.5% chance to get a Critical is definitely more concerning. Thwack and Whack should also be able to have an extremely low chance to work at 0%. Dragon Quest fans might know a certain meme about how ineffective this ability is:
Unfortunately, the same reality isn’t true in Smash Bros Ultimate. The Hero seems to have a higher chance to hit this attack in this game than in all of the Dragon Quest games combined. So many videos on the internet showing just how easy it is to kill at 0% are proof of this fact.
However, that doesn’t mean that the Hero should be banned from any competitive venture. In fact, this only screams about a much bigger problem that can be seen in the Smash Bros. community that has the FGC hesitant of acknowledging it as a proper competitive fighting game. However, that is a subject that should be discussed another day.