Blade Arcus From Shining EX

Year: 2015
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: Fighting
Review Date: 9/13/17
Rating: ***

"Blade Arcus" is an anime-styled fighting game featuring characters from Sega's long running "Shining" series. The game mechanics are fairly simple and the characters all share the same command set, so you don't have to learn any strange combinations. It utilizes the familiar 4-button control scheme for weak, medium, and strong attacks, plus a button for calling your support character. Additional moves require simple dialing commands, while special attacks can be charged up and executed with more difficult double-dialing commands. The gameplay modes include Story, Arena, VS, and Training, and there's a large gallery of unlockable character art. Unlike other games in the genre, the support characters come from the same roster as the playable characters, and the feature seems pointless and ineffective.

Since the game is entirely in Japanese, story mode is completely incomprehensible. While most of the stories have a serious tone, several have comedic elements based on different characters' personalities. For example, Xiaomei (the ogenki cat girl) is just a cute, fun, bubbly, and blissfully naïve character, while Rouna (the ninja fox spirit maid) is a timid and clumsy airhead. Each story builds to a climax in an alternate dimension, where you face an evil version of yourself.

The character roster includes nine female characters and six male characters, plus one DLC character (Sonia). Unfortunately, the DLC is only available for Asian PSN accounts. Each character has a unique fighting style based on what skills they have and what weapons they use, and some are easier to play than others. Pairon, who is an original character created for the game, uses lightning based punches and kicks, and is the most intuitive character to play for those who are familiar with "Street Fighter" type fighting games. Sword users like Sakuya and Urayukihime have standard move sets, while characters with ranged attacks like Altina and Misty move differently and require different strategies. Melty is the requisite "silly" character, who fights with popsicles and ice cream cones, and is accompanied by a goofy looking flying demon. And of course there's the cat girl and the fox girl who provide coquettish comic relief.

The graphics are pretty and the colorful stages do a good job of reflecting the fantasy setting. However, the final stage is a bit odd and looks like a rainbow colored rendition of cyberspace. The character art is very good, but it looks like they're rendered models rather than sprite animations (similar to "Phantom Breaker Extra"). The character movement is silky smooth, but the edges and details tend to be a bit blurry. The music is enjoyable and reminiscent of "SoulCalibur." The voice acting is very good, although it's frustrating not being able to follow what the characters are saying if you don't understand Japanese. The game features a broad range of difficulties from "very easy" to "very hard." For me, the "normal" difficulty felt just right - not super challenging, but enough that I had to think and pay attention. Surprisingly, the "very easy" setting is so easy that the opponents don't even fight back, which makes it a good training ground for newcomers. It's disappointing that there are so many male characters in the game when the target audience is clearly the femme fighter niche, but there are still plenty of diverse characters to choose from. Overall, if you're a fan of the genre, "Blade Arcus" is a simple, no frills fighting game with colorful characters and a low entry barrier. It's easy to learn and fun for a few hours, but that's about it. Unless you REALLY want to unlock all of the artwork.