Written by Peter Watts
As a massive fan of the Street Fighter series since the 90’s I was shocked to find Blade Strangers had slipped under my 2d fighter radar. As a cross over fighter taking its characters from more indie developers with characters such as Shovel Knight I was instantly drawn in. What I found from playing the game is a well rounded, very accessible take on the genre that unfortunately hasn’t much to offer except offline fun.
Blade Strangers takes the Anime style adopted by ARC System Works titles such as Blazblue and more recently seen in the excellent Dragon Ball Z Fighterz and applies it to a brand new Intellectual Property. It markets itself as a more accessible take on the genre with the removal of complex motions to pull of special moves and lengthy combos and in this regards its a resounding success.
Blade Strangers fuses several indie game characters from Code of Princess, Cave Story, Shovel Knight, Binding of Issac and a lesser known game called Kunasawe Karusa into a nonsensical story of having to fight each other to save a digital realm. The story isn’t the games biggest highlight here and while the opening animation that leads to the title screen is full of promise the story definitely takes a backseat to the core gameplay.
Controls & Move Sets
Whereas games such as SF5 and Blazblue have started to alienate more casual fans of the genre with overly technical characters and movesets that assume a full knowledge of the genres staples such as dragon punch and fireball motions as well as more complex stuff such as frame buffering and kara cancels Blade Strangers strips a lot of it back.
By placing special moves on a dedicated button and having an accessible combo system that uses chain linking soft and hard attacks with unique attacks and dedicated specials allowing the player to focus on the characters. It doesn’t go the whole hog and offer a Mortal Kombat style block button but itrs clearly an attempt to help create a more even playing field for everyone. This does mean that if you have casual players who approach this type of genre by button mashing they may see some flashy combos but will still get wrecked if they haven’t learnt the basics of high and low blocking – a barrier of entry for very casual players.
The game has the usual modes, Story which involves a bit of banter between fights – but nothing as drawn out as in Blazblue. Arcade which cuts out the cut scene dialogue, Survival which is hidden away in the menus and Mission which is the expected trials to learn core combo strings. Otherwise you have offline versus and online modes such as Casual, League (ranked) and a mode to hide your profile as well as the usual tutorial options.
Game Modes & Characters
In Online, Arcade and Versus mode all 14 characters are unlocked from the get go with a choice of two initial colour swops. The game rewards play through in story, mission completion and Online success with extra colours and profile pics….and that’s about it.
Characters that are clearly very distinct from the core story such as Shovel Knight, Issac, Quote and Curly are only unlocked after playing through the story mode with the various characters.
Graphics & Sound
The Art style I personally really enjoyed although I found some of the women’s clothing to be a tad on the vulgar side – especially Solange who is the main character. Even her opponents sometimes quip that she seems to be fighting in her lingerie. The animation is smooth and the game has a polished feel throughout.
In terms of sound, It’s a very Japanese game with a lot of Japanese spoken language and the occasional English for special moves. The soundtrack is passable with nothing too memorable. If you are fan of Manga then it will all seem very familiar,
While 14 characters doesn’t seem like a lot they all play differently but are relatively easy to learn due to the simplified controls. The game seems to favour keep away characters such as Curly and those with fireball type projectiles as it is very much a more grounded fighter. There are no super jumps akin to Marvel vs Capcom and slower characters can have a tough time getting close to projectile spammers. The game provides simple button combos that string together and it can lead to a fight being more about who can block and spot openings better.
Still I really enjoyed my time with Blade Strangers. It offers a more joycon friendly control scheme than Street Fighter. Is great for casual portable play and looks vibrant on the switch screen. In docked mode the jaggy edges of the characters are more apparent but I found this didn’t stop my enjoyment.
A fighting game lives and dies on its community and it is here that unfortunately Blade Strangers is seriously dead on arrival. Much like street fighter you only play solo with a standby mode for other online gamers to challenge you. Not once did I receive a challenge. In fact I only fought 4 opponents in the course of my review time. Online was smooth and great fun but sitting in an empty lobby room for 20 minutes hoping to play one fight isn’t fun. Do not, I repeat do not by this game expecting lots of online matchups.
There is no indication of future DLC so no sense of the game getting a resurgence in player base. Perhaps a discounted sale might bring in new players but to be released so close to SNK Heroines and so soon after Capcom discounted Ultra SF2 hasn’t done the game any favours at all.
In conclusion: A great accessible quirky Japanese fighter that will keep your interest for about 10 hours offline. A non-existent online community limits this crossovers appeal to casual local offline match ups only.
Developer: Studio Saizensen
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4 & PC
Release Date: Out Now