Dream match games are nothing new, in fact, the likes of Marvel Vs. Capcom and Super Smash Bros. are quite literally household names. Typically speaking, the kind we tend to see here in the west are full to the brim with the most iconic characters imaginable, however, these boundaries are being pushed more and more as time goes on. In 2008, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom was released, pitting classic and iconic characters from Capcom’s well-established pantheon against characters from golden-age Tatsunoko anime, most of whom are typically not ubiquitous in the west. Last year, Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax was localized, boasting a roster full of characters from Dengeki-published works. Among these characters, fewer than half are from anime that are considered particularly popular (to non-fanatics at least). Now, Xseed has published Nitroplus Blasterz, a game whose roster is entirely made up of characters from Nitroplus visual novels, with nearly none of them being ubiquitous in any sense of the word.
Can a fighting game with such an esoteric roster make it with the other dream match titans of today? Let’s have a look.
Name: Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel
Platform(s): PS3, PS4
Publisher(s): Xseed Games / Marvelous USA
Release Date: 2/2/2016
Price: $29.99 (PS3, PSN store only) $39.99 (PS4)
Any dream match game depends on two major elements to bring itself together: characters and combat. Normally, this would prove a detriment to this game due to the relative obscurity of its characters; however, with Examu, creators of Arcana Heart at the helm, Nitroplus Blasterz is able to push past its character problem with a strongly written “after story” mode. In this mode, all of the game’s characters play not themselves, but new characters entirely, becoming actors in a Lovecraftian drama. This story is short, but thanks to the narrative-driven visual novel formula it takes (in which all of the characters maintain their personalities and names from their original works), players who are not familiar with the cast can to come to appreciate the characters for who they are without having to dive into outside sources.
Though not as charming as “another story,” the game’s arcade ladder (the normal story mode) is a more basic storyline revolving around all of the characters being summoned to a parallel dimension and being brought back to their homes upon defeating the final boss. It’s fairly straightforward, but each fight comes with a short dialogue between the two combatants, which in many cases proves to be fairly entertaining while giving a little more insight into the identities of each character.
Of course, Nitroplus Blasterz is a fighting game above all else, and as such, a strong combat system is vital. With that said, the game’s combat overall is somewhat lacking.
Nitroplus Blasterz uses a five-button layout: basic light/medium/strong attacks, heavy attack, and escape action. Basic attacks work similar to most other anime fighters, with lights chaining into medium and strong. Heavy attacks push the opponent to the end of the screen and can be held to break guard. Escape action can be used for a multitude of defensive options, such as: rolls; short jumps; and vanishing guard, which and can block nearly any attack at the cost of not being able to counter throws. Though this may seem like a lot to keep track of, it all is rather simple in practice. Ultimately, the game suffers from a lack of depth. Practical combos are often bland, defense is very strong, and options in general are sparse. With that said, Nitroplus Blasterz does serve up fun gameplay with its resource-intensive options.
The standard super meter is used for three actions: super moves, variable rushes, and lethal blazes; each of which use one, two, and all three bars respectively. Supers are special moves dependent of the character’s fighting style, variable rushes are long combos which can change depending on which button you choose to press, and lethal blazes are high-damage cinematic cut-ins that have a bit more character flair to them. As a whole, these attacks are very easy to combo into and give a decent sense of satisfaction; this is especially true variable rushes, which allow players to very easily execute extravagant combos, even if they cannot be modified beyond which version you want to use.
Assist characters run on cool down timers, which each player having access to two assists each. There is a wide variety of assists available, each with its own level of utility. Though a system like this is nothing new, it offers an extra layer to combat and in some cases can really shake up how the game is played.
Finally, “infinite burst” runs on its own dedicated meter, much like burst in other anime fighters. When used in a neutral state, the player gains super meter and health – when used while blocking or taking damage, the opponent is pushed away, and if used while attacking, time slows down for the opponent, much like a roman cancel in Guilty Gear.
In all, playing Nitroplus Blasterz is a bit like playing Marvel Vs. Capcom with a friend, but neither of you have any advanced tech. The wording may be harsh, but this is not inherently bad. As it stands, there is a multitude of fighting games on the market, not to mention that quite a few anticipated new titles will be releasing this year; few people have time to get good at any of them, much less cover their bases with the more popular titles in the genre. Sometimes it’s nice to just pick up a game and not have to worry quite as much about the execution barrier.
Outside of combat, the rest of the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The story modes are good, but beyond that there is no content besides a score attack mode. The art in menus and visual novel sections ranges from pleasing to fantastic, but the in-game sprites look a bit bland, almost as if they took the backseat on this one. The audio is good, especially the voices, but sometimes character intros overlap, essentially ruining both.
So is Nitroplus Blasterz worth the price of admission? Well, that depends on what you want it for. If you want a competitive, highly cerebral experience, this game won’t likely suit your needs as much as today’s premier fighting games. However, if you’re the type who just likes powering on a fighting game with some friends, you’ll likely get your money’s worth.*
A word to the wise, if this sounds like the game for you, pick it up sooner rather than later. Services like Best Buy’s Gamers Club Unlocked and Amazon Prime that offer discounts on new games will get the price to a more comfortable amount. Plus, during the whole of February, Homura (of Senran Kagura) and Aino Heart (of Arcana Heart), the game’s two DLC characters, will be free (starting march 1, they will cost $5.99 each or $9.99 together).
*Review Copy Provided by Xseed Games.
A blast in its own right!
Nitro+ Blasterz honestly doesn't have what it takes to hang with the powerhouse fighting games of today, however, what it lacks in advanced-level depth it makes up for in intuitive mechanics and ease of access for players. If nothing else, it's a good pick for players who just like to round up some friends and have a good old-fashioned fight night.
- Decent story modes give characters more context
- Accessible for the genre
- Lacking the competitive edge of more popular titles in the genre
- Characters are really obscure for this kind of game
- Absence of additional modes, especially a tutorial mode