Blade Strangers is one of those games that you don’t expect to come into existence. A Smash Bros-like occurrence that, while interesting, seems like it could never actually work. It brings together characters from a variety of franchises and genres and throws them together into a Melding pot made of popular characters set in a nonsensical and, rather unsurprisingly, whimsical story.
Release Date: August 28th, 2018
Developed by Studio Saizensen
Published by Nicalis, Inc
Size: 2.00 GB
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch, also available on Steam and PlayStation 4
The story is both over the top and underwhelming. Instead of simply giving each character an arcade mode in which they fight their battles and have some sort of inner monologue. The story revolves around these robots that really remind you of either refrigerators or the two robots from Tenchi Muyo, Azaka and Kamidake. The brunt of the story revolves around them and their mission to stop Lina, the antagonist and one of the games two original characters, from destroying eating them for some reason or another.
Each character has their one slight variations to the story and near the end, you get a bit of backstory or history on that character. This was so that you could feel some sort of emotional attachment to the character however it falls short and comes off as cheesy and unimpactful. The characters memories are also altered at the beginning of the story so this 180 to drop some character backstory feels like it doesn’t belong.
All of the characters, save for one, are from other franchises that have a sort of cult following. Most are from action-platforming games and all were created by indie developers. There are only two characters that are original to the game. Lina the main antagonist that I spoke of before. As well as Helen, a goddess that is in the game for and fighting for one reason or another. The game gives no explanation as to why these two are motivated or any sort of concrete backstory. It more so just gives vague information about their pasts and who they are. This holds true for all of the characters. You get a bit of backstory about them while playing the story mode and then they fight the boss and its over.
One of the games strong points is that through the characters, it shows off their respective franchises. Gunvolt is quick and agile, Shovel Knight has many tools, and Isaac has different friends and helpers on top of his tears to help take your opponent down. You really get a feeling of how each of the characters games play and it peaks your curiosity about their games themselves. The two original characters Lina and Helen are also quite interesting to play with. Lina is a close to mid range fighter and Helen is just straight up rush down. They fill the types of fighting game characters that would be missing without their inclusion.
Gameplay is rather simple for a fighting game. It is a four button game with different button combinations that allow for things like EX moves and specials. Each character also has a skill move that really diversifies them and gives the game more depth and variety. Also, the skill moves are mapped to a button and a direction rather than a combination of directions and buttons. Making it much easier to do cool moves. The mechanics are fairly simple and straightforward making it more accessible to those that have either never played a fighting game or are not very good at fighting games.
Most of the characters are very approachable and you are even given a short combo tutorial for each character to see what all the moves are and some of the combo setups. There are three types of characters. Close range, Balanced, and mid-range. Each of these requires a different approach and strategy to use well. Like most other fighters there are also EX moves that cost meter in order to use. These moves are faster and stronger than their standard versions. There is also a heat mode that allows you to ignore hit stun on most attacks and keep hammering away at your opponent. However, you can only use Heat up when you are low on health and have a least one full special bar. These tools really make it easy for newcomers to the fighting game genre.
The online of this game is hit or miss at times. Many of the games that I played were quite smooth however a few were very bad with tons of input delay. Causing me to either react too late or throw out an attack that I didn’t mean to at that time. When jumping on you can choose between a ranked or a casual match. Unfortunately, there is no best of 3 with the ranked matches so if you want to play that same person again then you will have to hope that you get reconnected with them. While playing online this did happen quite often which is both a good and a bad thing. On top of that, the ranking system doesn’t set you with those of similar rank. Instead, it pulls from any rank which can lead to some very lopsided and frustrating matches. These two things combined can make ranked mates a nightmare. The causal matches are a bit more laid back and fun as people aren’t trying to make it to the top of the leaderboards.
Graphics and Sound
The Sprites are ROUGH in this game. They aren’t sharp and feel a bit cut out and awkward as opposed to the background. Their movements are fluid, however, the jaggedness of the sprites is off putting. Conversely, the art for the characters looks great. They are sharp and look as though the artists from each franchise drew them. Each one received the attention that they needed. The backgrounds are acceptable. There is a stage dedicated to each character and they are all vastly different and unique. Also after each round, the stage slightly shifts its look. Things move and fall in the background giving it a dynamic attribute.
Unlike the graphics the audio is good. Each hit feels impactful. Every blow to your opponent feels weighty and damaging. Each shot fired rings out and just feels like it belongs. Every characters battle cry sounds like it was ripped from the games that they came from. The soundtrack is also fairly good. Each track is upbeat and gets you ready for the fight. Amping you up and making you want to go all in on your opponent. While you may not find yourself humming along to them while in or out of the game, they do get you wanting to pull off cool combos and impressive comebacks.
Blade Strangers is a crossover game for those that love these titles. It’s simple and intuitive controls allow those who are not well versed in fighting games to play and have a good time. As a crossover game it is serviceable, however, lacks depth in certain aspects. Also, the ranked match settings and rough sprites hold the game back from turning into a great title. If you love any of these games or enjoy Nicalis games then you will definitely enjoy blade strangers.
- Beloved characters fight it out
- Easy to learn and play
- Character art looks fantastic
- Many characters to choose from
- In-game sprites look rough
- Forgettable story
- Online can be brutal for new players
- Cannot set region to worldwide for online