Nitro+ Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel

Year: 2015
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: Fighting
Review Date: 8/1/17
Rating: ***

Firmly in the mould of other anime cross-over fighting games like "Aquapazza" and "Dengeki Bunko," but featuring an all-female cast. The living grimoire of the dead is making a mess of things by bringing together characters from various Nitroplus visual novels, manga, and anime series and forcing them to fight each other. This "Hellhazard" event is facilitated by Nitroplus mascot Super Sonico, who unwittingly distributes a bunch of dangerous D-phones to the combatants.

Similar to other games in the genre, this one features lots of character dialog which is fully voiced by a talented Japanese vocal cast. The high resolution character models are gorgeous and the animation is attractive and smooth. Unfortunately, the static stages are dull and uninteresting, even though they include several levels of parallax scrolling. They are the weakest and most disappointing element in the entire game. The music is pleasantly innocuous, although a couple of tracks noticeably stand out above the rest.

There are twelve playable characters and twenty support characters to choose from. The main characters fight with guns, swords, knives, hammers, and good old fashioned martial arts, while Super Sonico uses her cats to fight with. The support characters essentially provide special attacks, which include clumsy girls on scooters, girls armed with swords and baseball bats, girls that emit energy beams, girls that can summon swarms of creatures, and even Super Sonico's band. Each playable character also has a devastating super attack, which plays out as a flashy animated sequence. One of the more interesting ones involves Ein's sniper rifle, which you have to manually aim at your opponent.

In addition to the twelve main characters, you can also purchase Heart Aino ("Arcana Heart") and Homura ("Senran Kagura") as DLC, and another add-on unlocks bikini costumes for some of the characters. If you're a fan of "Arcana Heart," the Heart DLC is definitely worthwhile, and seeing her in high-res is fantastic. The game consists of the standard story mode, versus mode, training mode, and online mode, but doesn't feature much in terms of extras. There's a sparse image gallery and a lengthy visual novel that brings all of the characters together to solve another mystery once you've cleared the primary story mode. It involves clicking through a lot of dialog screens with an occasional fight thrown in, and is overly tedious.

I only recognized a few characters in the game, with Ein ("Phantom"), Ignis, and Heart being my favorites. The writing is quite clever and does a good job of capturing each character's personality as they interact with each other. Super Sonico's inclusion feels like fan service more than anything, complete with bouncing boob title screens. I've never understood her popularity, as she just glorifies being a big-busted dingbat. Her cheerfully dimwitted enthusiasm quickly wears thin, but I guess some people really buy into that. I just find it annoying. However, her rival Ouka provides some interesting dramatic tension, as she was Nitroplus's first mascot and is desperately trying to defeat Sonico and take over as the main heroine of the game. The self-referential parody is both amusing and endearing, much like Eltnum's fourth wall antics in "Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late."

Overall, I found the game to be solidly entertaining and it becomes more enjoyable the deeper you get into the fighting mechanics. The difficulty is reasonable, although the final boss can be a total pain even on the easiest setting. I really appreciated seeing an all-female cast, which seems to be increasingly rare these days. The DLC is a bit pricey for what you get, but having Heart Aino was worth it for me.