Nicalis‘ 2D, crossover fighter, Blade Strangers, has just been released fresh out of the oven. And I’d have to say, this title was baked with love. Blade Strangers isn’t really some ambitious fighting game looking to change the genre or stake its claim as the next big thing. Nor will it probably garner the massive player base that more prominent fighting games have surmised. Regardless of these things, Blade Strangers is still definitely a fun game worth giving a go.
Game Name: Blade Strangers
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Steam
Developer(s): Studio Saizensen
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Price: $39.99 (USD)
Blade Strangers is a simple fighter that shouldn’t take too long to learn… Hell, this might just be the perfect gateway into the fighting genre for those out there interested in getting their feet wet. For instance, inputs are easy and don’t require a sliver of thought. If you’ve played Super Smash Bros. before then you’re already half-way there. The gameplay mechanics aren’t too complicated either; especially since the in-game tutorial does a fine job of explaining everything. The roster is small and can be viewed as limited, but that also means fewer match-ups to learn and grow familiar with. A novice or newcomer to fighting games should be comfortable in this environment free of feeling overwhelmed or intimidated.
Although Blade Strangers’ gameplay mechanics are simplistic, they’re still satisfying enough to warrant that classic “one more game” mentality. You have 4 buttons or attacks to work with, Lights, Heavies, Skills (special moves), and Uniques (command normals.) And all of the attacks in the game are based around these buttons or some combination of the four. Traditional inputs for moves are replaced with a single directional input alongside a button press making for an easy-to-pickup title. The gameplay itself is keenly intuitive; universal Unique attacks grant every character a universal anti-air, overhead, and sweep. Plus, these attacks are all performed with the same inputs amongst the entire roster. Offensive, defensive, and wake-up options are also shared tools between the cast. Learning how to play and handle yourself within a match is made to be a breeze with such a manageable system.
I decided to leave aside combos for their own dedicated section because I believe they are the game’s main highlight. Combos allow for a player’s creativity and this creativity is even encouraged within Blade Strangers. Utilizing the same move repeatedly will severely depreciate your combo to the point of the opponent just plainly falling out of it. To avoid this you’ll need to use everything your toolset has to offer if you want that optimal damage. Which is easy to do with an offensive mechanic that lets a character cancel either a normal, special, or throw into further attacks. This technique causes your character to dash forward or upwards toward your opponent which then leads to more subsequent follow-ups. Definitely, a fun mechanic to experiment with all the characters. Speaking of which…
Blade Strangers’ roster is actually sick, it includes some easily-recognizable characters and unknown oddballs alike. Much of the cast are of various Nicalis and Studio Saizensen properties, with the exception of indie superstars Gunvolt and Shovel Knight. So you get to play out matches like Isaac of The Binding of Isaac against Quote or Curly of Cave Story, which is pretty damn cool. Honestly, the character selection is probably one of the game’s strongest pulls if not the strongest pull. The roster might lean on the smaller side of things, but the uniqueness that each character brings to the table makes for a fair trade. As I played with and against a variety of characters it became clear that everyone had a general gameplan that was unique to them. Curly Brace wants to zone and play keep-away, while Shovel Knight wants to land knockdowns on his opponents for persistent pressure.
There are a total of 15 stages to choose from within Blade Strangers which are backdrops of various Nicalis and Studio Saizensen properties. The stages really capture the charm and personality of each game they represent. They almost feel like little dioramas showcasing their respective games. The musical themes accompanying stages are also nods to their game of origin and really help drive home that sense of different universes uniting.
Blade Strangers boasts a good amount of content to indulge in, both in regards to single player and multiplayer. Single player enthusiasts can enjoy a narrative experience via Story Mode, combo trials within Mission Mode, endurance battles through Survival Mode, or just the classic series of CPU matches that Arcade Mode offers. Just don’t expect Story Mode to be something spectacular; it’s short but does have unique dialogue and endings for each character. There is also Training Mode equipped with everything a lab monster may need for experimenting. Multiplayer Modes are pretty standard as well with a local Versus Mode and Online Mode. Online has all the necessities, Casual Match, League Match (Ranked), but also features a Stealth Match that bears no effect on ranking and also hides player info. Online overall performs decently for the most part, though at times can be plagued with sluggish or unresponsive inputs from the delay.
Blade Strangers is a refreshing change of pace from the more popular fighting games currently out. Playing this game is like taking a different, scenic route to drive on or grabbing a bite at a restaurant you’ve yet to eat at. Just something different for you to try out and enjoy.
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Blade Strangers proves that simplicity can be fulfilling.
Blade Strangers is a fun and charming 2D fighter that is readily open for any kind of player to enjoy. Whether you’re a newcomer to the fighting genre or a hardened veteran that instinctually whiff punishes anything. Everyone can play this game and appreciate the obscurely, iconic roster of characters and stages that Nicalis and Studio Saizensen have given us.
- Easily accessible for players of all skill levels.
- Colorful selection of characters and stages.
- Fun and satisfying gameplay mechanics.
- Online can be a frustrating experience.