A steep learning curve for big payoff, mastering Steve is only for those who live and breathe Smash Bros – begging the question: is it worth playing as Steve in Smash Bros Ultimate?.
It’s really happening – Minecraft Steve is the seventh DLC fighter for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Fans across the world rejoiced as this blocky boy burst onto our screens as the second fighter of the Ultimate Fighter Pass. Vol. 2 DLC. On October 3rd, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai led a Smash Presentation, detailing how Steve and his alt skins (Alex, Zombie, and Enderman) would play. We’ve gone hands-on, live on Twitch, to try out his innovative gameplay and give you some helpful tips on how to fare better online than we did as we figure out: is it worth playing as Steve in Smash Bros Ultimate?
IS STEVE FUN TO PLAY AS?
First thing you’ll need to know about Steve – he’s unlike anything we’ve ever played before in Smash Bros. And that’s saying something – it’s hard for a game with so many unique fighting styles, ranging from the duo Ice Climbers, to the charge of Cloud, to work so seamlessly. The art department has, yet again, smashed it out of the park with capturing the essence of these franchises. If there was extensive combat in Minecraft, this is exactly how it would feel and play. As, as a competitive Kirby main, Minecraft Kirby sparks so much serotonin in my brain it’s unbelievable.
A huge mechanic of Steve’s inventive gameplay revolves around crafting, mining resources and upgrading your gear to deal more damage, depending on what materials you’ve collected. It fills me with nostalgia for the simpler days of playing Minecraft with friends until sunrise. This faithful implementation translates perfectly in Smash and the feeling you get when you land a hit is incredibly satisfying. But the question of ‘is he fun to play?’ is an entirely different story and one I’m still not sure I have the answer to.
You can see Steve’s iconic sword in neutral attacks, smash attacks and air attacks. If you hold the attack button down you can repeatedly swing the sword whilst walking, which can be very useful for opponents with poor recoveries. Mega Man mains will recognise this chain attack/juggling strategy anywhere. This is his main weapon, which can be upgraded by the crafting mechanic. More on that in a bit.
Ness mains, it’s time to move on. On behalf of all Kirby mains ever, PLEASE move on. Similar to PK fire, Steve’s down tilt uses flint and steel to create a fire in front of you. If you really want to show off, I found myself able to use it to block projectiles and, if I was feeling PARTICULARLY cruel, it’s also great for edge guarding.
Steve’s up smash is a magma block, great for airborne opponents like a floating Jigglypuff. It also goes through platforms, which is a god-send on Battlefield stages.
His Down air attack is an anvil, which uses one piece of iron. It’s worth mining for though, because this is one of Steve’s strongest attacks. If you can time it right, it’s great for spikes. Fellow Kirby mains will recognise this down-b approach and, yes, it’s just as satisfying if you time it right. His down smash is the lava bucket, which throws lava on the ground surrounding Steve. The length of attack and its low height is great for launching opponents with poor recoveries, like Little Mac.
STEVE’S SPECIAL ATTACK STRATEGIES
Last up, here’s a quick overview of Steve’s Special moves. These are, arguably, the most important mechanics to Steve’s gameplay, so I urge you to experiment with them yourself if you want to figure out if you should play as Steve in Smash Bros Ultimate.
First of all, it’s important to know that his Neutral specials work differently depending on whether you’re in the air, ground or at the crafting table.
If you press B whilst on the ground, Steve will mine materials from the stage. More on that in a second.
If you press B whilst at the table, you can craft and upgrade weapons, which we’ve covered already.
If you press B whilst in the air, you can build a block, which is great for additional height and feints. I’d like to give credit to the programmers, who had to update every single stage to make this feature work. Again, the amount of time and effort gone into this game continues to astound me.
His Side special is a minecart and one of my favourite attacks in the game. Similar to Bowser Jr’s side special and Jigglypuff’s Rollout, Steve’s Side special is a super powerful attack that can send enemies flying and scoop them up in the cart if you jump out. Paying attention to Steve’s resources is critical – this attack will only work if you have iron. If you have redstone in your inventory, you’ll get a boost.
In Minecraft, you get Elytra after defeating the Ender Dragon. In Smash Bros, Elytra is Steve’s Up special, which gives Steve some much-needed height in his recovery. Finally, his Down special is the iconic TNT. You’ll need materials like dirt and stone to pull this off, but the explosion is in a gorgeous pixel style that really ties the whole experience together.
WAIT, WHAT’S MINING AGAIN?
If you made it through that breakdown, congratulations! Now, let’s talk more about the mining mechanic. It’s so important to understand this if you don’t want to embarrass yourself live on stream like I did.
Just like in Minecraft, Steve’s weapons will degrade over time. This is why it’s so important to gather materials and use them to replace his tool-based abilities.
By holding B on the ground, Steve will mine crafting materials using his pickaxe, which he can then take back to his bench and upgrade his weapons. What I particularly love about this mechanic is that the materials you gather are influenced by the environment. So if Steve is playing on a stage like Kongo Jungle, he’ll gather more wood. It’s a small detail, and all materials can be gathered anywhere, but it just goes to show how much care has gone into the design.
Your equipment will power up in the following order: Wood, Stone, Iron, Gold, Diamond. If you upgrade one weapon, all your weapons will be powered up. For example, if you craft a Diamond sword, your pickaxe will turn Diamond too! Each material has a different benefit. For example, Gold tools are fragile, but speed up your attacks.
The material gauge above the character shows the materials collected by ratio, so it’s important to keep an eye on what you have available to you.
THE DARK SIDE OF STEVE
Still with me? We’re done with the gameplay now, it’s time to tackle the question of ‘Is Steve in Smash Bros fun to play?’
The short answer… Kinda?
The long answer…
As I’ve mentioned before, Steve is, mechanically, a genius character. Realistically, this is the best way Sakurai and the entire Smash development team could implement Steve in Smash. But his reliance on resources, the unclear HUD that can’t really be deciphered with a quick glance and his tethering to a crafting bench make Steve feel almost inaccessible to entry-level players.
Not every Smash character needs to be the easiest character ever, and I do appreciate that. But with most Smash characters you CAN get away with basic controls. Steve’s gameplay is constantly evolving depending on what materials have been mined and that can get confusing and frustrating at times. It makes it pretty tough to play as Steve in Smash Bros Ultimate right off the bat. Unless you invest time and effort into developing counters and strategies, coming up against a character with projectiles, or even a quick character, was a borderline miserable experience. This dependence on resources meant I spent most of my time online running away from characters in order to mine steel, which wasn’t particularly fun.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Whilst Steve might be inaccessible to the majority of casual players, if you don’t take Smash seriously, he can be a riot. I recruited my Player 2 to try and make sense of it all. And honestly, admiring the animations and just whacking each other with minecarts might be some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing Smash. It’s so ridiculous I couldn’t help but laugh.
MINECRAFT WORLD STAGE
Each fighter in the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Fighter Pass Vol. 2 comes with a brand new stage to add to the roster. Minecraft World brings six of Minecraft’s biomes into Smash. These are gorgeous stages, plain and simple. Each stage – Plains, Birch Forest, Savanna, Taiga, Snowy Tundra and Stone Shire – all have unique environments and platforms that change up how you play.
Plains is clearly meant to be the lead stage though. During sunrise, NPCs walk around in the background, farming and going about their daily lives. As the sun sets, zombies come out to play and burn up as the sun rises once more. This level of detail would have been nice to see consistently in each stage.
Music in Minecraft is legendary. The Creative OST is actually in my sleeping playlist for when I struggle to sleep. Not exactly conducive to smashing. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Fighter Pass Vol. 2 introduces seven new tracks to the game, six of which are new remixes. They’re fine? The new remix of Earth is quite good, and Clockwork Crafter is ripped directly from the game. But for a game that is renowned for its music, I would’ve liked to see remixes of more iconic tracks.
Overall, Minecraft Steve is a love letter. Not only to Minecraft, but to the Smash Bros community in general. It almost wouldn’t feel right for something that’s been an in-joke in the Smash community for years to take itself seriously. But in the right hands, Steve could be devastating. The care and craft (hah) that has gone into perfecting this character is so clear. It’s heartwarming to see the level of painstaking detail that has gone into creating the most mechanically unique character I’ve ever played. Unfortunately, his inventiveness is also his downfall. His complex controls are too intricate for a game as fast paced as Smash Bros. Ultimate and led to a lot of frustration.
So should you play as Steve in Smash Bros Ultimate? For me, I just don’t think I could call myself a ‘Steve main’ with a straight face.
If you’re in the UK, you can buy the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Fighter Pass Vol. 2 here. You need to have purchased the base game in order to enjoy it.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Fighter Pass Vol. 2 was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
Featured Image Credit: Nintendo