Developed By: Studio Saizensen, Co. Ltd
Published By: Nicalis, Inc
Category: Fighting, Arcade, Action
Release Date: 8.28.18
It’s always a good time for a 2D crossover fighting series to start up, and Blade Strangers for the Nintendo Switch is here to prove it. The game crosses over characters from both Studio Saizensen and Nicalis games; Shovel Knight, The Binding of Isaac, Cave Story, Code of Princess, Azure Striker Gunvolt, and Umihara Kawase are all contributors. It’s fast-paced and easy to get into, so let’s do that.
Blade Strangers works like any 2D fight you’ve ever played, for the most part. It works like Street Fighter or King of Fighters from their 2D, sprite-based graphics days. You pick a fighter, you square off on a two-dimensional playing field, and you hit buttons to beat the crap out of each other until one of you has an empty health bar. It gets more complex than that, but not much more, actually, which is a huge strength of the game. Each character has combos, but the combo lists are fairly small compared to other fighting games. Some might call them a little shallow, but I just think it makes the game more accessible. You don’t need to spend hours and hours memorizing complex button combinations to compete; just a few minutes with each character in the training mode will do you.
Choose Your Opponent
There are a few different game modes in Blade Strangers. Most of them, however, boil down to the same thing. I mean, it’s a fighting game, everything’s going to boil down to fighting, but some games adapt their gameplay for mini games. It’s not a problem that Blade Strangers doesn’t have mini games since the fighting engine is pretty solid, though. There’s a survival mode, an arcade mode, a training mode, a mission mode, versus mode, and a story mode. They’re all pretty fun, but they’re all just different ways of setting up the same thing.
Survival mode sees you run through a gauntlet fighting against every other character in the roster to win. Arcade mode is story mode without the story; you just fight your way through seven random opponents. Training mode lets you set your opponent’s action so you can practice different moves or combos in different situations. Mission mode just gives you a sequence of buttons to hit to teach you how to string together a combo in different ways. Versus mode lets you play against your friends either online or on the couch. Story mode we’ll get to more in the next section, but it consists of fighting seven opponents like arcade mode. Completing these modes unlocks a variety of rewards; new costumes, new characters for story modes, and new character portraits can all be obtained through victory.
Probably the only gripe I really have about the game is a somewhat thin roster. There are fourteen characters total, which isn’t a lot. They’re all great characters with unique movesets and all, but I just wish there were more of them.
Way of the Fist
Story mode in Blade Strangers revolves around each character getting caught up in a struggle for the fate of the universe. A collective of servers known as the Motes watch in horror as different worlds in the multiverse fall one after another to Lina, a malevolent deity traveling from planet to planet devouring champions called Blade Strangers and destroying their worlds. There are only a few worlds left, and the Motes don’t have enough time to groom a new Blade Stranger to stand against her. So they gather up champions from different worlds and make them fight in a tournament to see who will take up the mantle of the Blade Stranger and defeat Lina once and for all.
The character you select has to fight for the fate of all worlds against Lina – unless you unlock and select Lena. Then you still fight for the fate of all worlds, it’s just the final fate of all worlds. It’s… sort of dark paying as Lina. But then, when have cyborg-cannibal-doomsday prophets ever been lighthearted scamps? The stories are fairly light, but they pack some great lines and develop some strong characters in the time they have. It helps that I’m familiar with some of the characters from their own games, but I got a good feel for the fighters I didn’t know from their scenarios. I know fighting game stories are thin as heck, but Blade Strangers packs some strong character moments and great skits in between bouts.
Blade Strangers throws its graphics back to hand drawn sprites like the glory days of Marvel Vs Capcom 2 and Street Fighter II. Character models are sharp and beautiful; they really look like they’re in an anime that you control. The character animations are smooth and absolutely gorgeous to behold in motion. The backgrounds are very pretty as well; they look like a mix of hand-drawn and 3D rendered elements to me. They’re animated and seriously detailed, but the details are tough to see when the fighting starts. I’m glad they put the effort into prettying up the playing fields, but you don’t have time to appreciate them in the middle of a bout.
One minor nitpick; some levels have falling objects. That’s not a problem most of the time, but sometimes if you are in just the right spot it can look like the movement in the background is part of an opponent’s move. I dodged phantom debris-based attacks a lot when I first started playing. Once you get a feel for the levels this problem goes away, however. I’m glad I got used to this before playing against my friends. It could have been embarrassing.
Sounds of Combat
The tunes in the game are fast and energizing. There isn’t an instant classic like “I Wanna Take You For A Ride” among the track list, but the rock and techno-inspired sound accompanies the action well. Blade Strangers has some voice work, but only during the fights. There are short character introductions before each round that seem to change depending on what character you’re fighting. I say “seem to” because it’s all in Japanese. There’s no option for English voice or subtitles. It’s not a huge issue, but it would be nice to know what kind of smack the fighters are talking before the bouts.
Blade Strangers has no touch or motion controls, so you can play it docked or undocked as you prefer. Maybe it’s just because I’ve played so many fighting games on consoles, but I greatly preferred playing it on my TV with a Pro controller. Hitting the combos just came more naturally to me that way, not to mention the graphics looked great on a big screen. Not that it looked terrible undocked, just why shrink it if you don’t have to?
TL;DR: Smooth, pretty fighting game with a borderline thin roster.
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