Platform: PlayStation 4
Review Date: 11/7/18
"Blade Strangers" is an anime-styled crossover fighting game similar to "Dengeki Bunko" (2014) or "Nitro+ Blasterz" (2015). All realities are computer simulations that are governed by a group of machines (or Motes) who answer to the divine goddess Exiva. When a cyber-terrorist named Lina starts devouring those worlds, the Motes call on a group of people from the remaining worlds to become Blade Strangers and defeat Lina. But first they must compete in a fighting tournament to determine who is the strongest...
It's a rather unambitious effort, but the game realizes that and never attempts to be anything more than it sets out to be. The roster includes fourteen playable characters culled from other games including "Code Of Princess", "Cave Story", "Umihara Kawase", "Azure Striker Gunvolt", "Shovel Knight", and "The Binding Of Isaac." Isaac is definitely one of the most unusual guest appearances I've ever seen in a fighting game, but the absurdity of it all is the game's most endearing trait. All of the characters have their own story modes which offer just enough background information to be entertaining. Conversations consist of speech bubbles that are partially voiced in Japanese. I'm guessing there wasn't enough budget to record all of the dialog? About half of the characters are young girls with awkwardly large breasts, which clearly defines who the target audience is. Solange from "Code Of Princess" wears the most scandalously minimal lady armor I've ever seen, which covers her nipples and nothing else. At least that's some protection. My favorite character is a single-minded time cop named Noko from "Umihara Kawase", whose tonfa also serves as an energy gun of some kind.
The gameplay is intentionally simplistic, with the intent of catering to beginners and evoking a nostalgic sense of 90's era arcade games. It also offers a wide range of difficulty settings from super easy to super hard. The controls consist of light, heavy, special, and unique attacks, and every character shares essentially the same move set. Simple attacks can be strung together for limited combos and button combinations yield extra attacks, but no fancy inputs or dialing techniques are required. The art direction is solidly mediocre. The 3D rendered stages are attractive, but uninteresting, and visually clash with the 2D pixel animated characters. The characters themselves look decent and animate smoothly, but some of their detail gets lost in the pixel art. Perhaps due to a lack of anti-aliasing? The music is generic sounding guitar-driven rock, which is fairly innocuous and sets an appropriate tone and pace. The game features story, arcade, mission/survival, versus, training, and tutorial modes, and completing story mode unlocks all of the playable characters. I was especially happy to see the inclusion of an arcade mode, which is something that "BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle" (2018) is missing. Overall, it's a fun diversion for a few hours, but there are much better games in the genre that feature more depth and more interesting characters.