Platform: PlayStation 3
Review Date: 11/19/15
This fighting game mash-up of Dengeki Bunko characters is extremely similar to "Aquapazza" (2013) in both form and execution. Zetsumu, the crusher of hopes and devourer of dreams, has conquered nearly all of the worlds in the Dengeki Bunko universe. When you select your character, you become the "envoy of hope" for a goddess named Denshin, and she charges you with the task of saving everyone's dreams and returning them to their own respective worlds. She has the appearance of a Dreamcast cosplayer, which is one of the many ways that Sega forcefully injects its presence into the production. With each new battle, Zetsumu assumes the form of a Dengeki Bunko character that it has already defeated, which plays out on a Sega-themed stage. Depending on your performance, the final battle is against either Akira from "Virtua Fighter" or Selvaria Bles from "Valkyria Chronicles."
It's definitely a fun anime styled fighting game, but it doesn't bring anything new to the genre. The characters are fun and colorful, and even more enjoyable if you're a fan of the books that they come from. The characters include Shana ("Shakugan No Shana"), Yukina Himeragi ("Strike The Blood"), Asuna and Kirito ("Sword Art Online"), Mikoto Misaka ("A Certain Magical Index"), Kirino Kousaka ("Oreimo"), Kuroyukihime ("Accel World"), and Taiga Aisaka ("Toradora!"). There are a total of nine schoolgirl characters and three male characters, which is a ratio that I appreciate (although I'd still prefer an all-female roster). The male characters aren't too annoying, with the exception of SOA's Kirito, who is a constant irritant. Amusingly, when he faces Yukina she greets him with a dismissive "Oh no, another creepo." Akira and Selvaria can be unlocked as playable characters, but you can't select them in Story Mode. Similar to "Aquapazza," you also have a support character that can aid you during your fight. There are 21 support characters, plus Pai and Alicia when you unlock Akira and Selvaria. These come from a variety of sources, including "Spice And Wolf", "Boogiepop Phantom", "Golden Time", and "The Pet Girl Of Sakura Complex."
Story Mode is where most of the action takes place, and you can either play the arcade version (with the Zetsumu plot) or a series of dream matches against specific characters. The dream matches are particularly enjoyable if you're familiar with the various characters, as their interactions can be delightfully charming as well as fantastically bizarre. The difficulty is refreshingly relaxed and the gameplay mechanics are clean and simple. The controls are tight and responsive, and identical across the entire roster, which makes switching between characters relatively easy and painless. All characters have the standard weak, medium, and strong attacks, along with the typical dash and throws moves, and the normal and low guards. Each character has their own combos, impact skills, blasts, trump cards, and climax arts (super powered attacks), which provide lots of flashy animations and eye candy. The 2D character sprites are attractive and well animated, and the voice acting is superb. You can even unlock commentaries from the primary cast, which is a nice little bonus feature. The game is wonderfully goofy in an undeniably Japanese way, which is what makes it so charming. The characters are dead serious, but some of their attacks are deliriously absurd. In addition to the swords, spears, guns, martial arts, and magical powers, some of the characters attack with kittens, basketballs, microphones, mops, fans, roses, vending machines, motorcycles, futons, and trash cans.
Overall, "Fighting Climax" is great to look at and a lot of fun to play, but the biggest problem with it is the odd and unnecessary Sega influence. With all of these characters from the Dengeki Bunko universe, it makes no sense to have them fight in Green Hill Zone from "Sonic The Hedgehog" or the surreal landscapes of "NiGHTS into Dreams." Some stages work better than others, but it's both logically and stylistically incongruous as well as unattractive. The music is average at best, and annoying at worst. The game came with a soundtrack CD as a pre-order bonus, but it only has one track on it and it's less than ten minutes long. That's not a bonus; it's an insult.
And finally, as a Japanese game it's full of wacky dialog, clever in-jokes, and crazy shenanigans, but the most bizarre moment comes from Mashiro Shiina when she says "I can take off my own panties" after winning a match. I'm sure I'm missing some context here, but it comes across as very strange and a bit perverse. Another nice touch is when Shana faces Taiga, who are both voiced by the same actress. Shana's initial reaction is "There's something familiar about you..." which is very cute. It's probably too niche for mainstream appeal, but if you're a fan of Japanese anime girl fighting games, "Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax" will almost certainly tickle your fancy.