- Game: Blade Strangers
- Consoles: PS4 (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC
- Publisher: Nicalis
- Developer: Studio Saizensen
A Blade Strangers code was provided by the publisher.
Street Fighter vs. Tekken. Dead or Alive vs. Virtua Fighter. Marvel vs. Capcom. All of these fantastical fighting game crossovers have resulted in some incredible matchups. And thanks to the hot streak of guest characters appearing in numerous fighters lately, the genre as a whole has enjoyed more success in the gaming spotlight. In a strange and unexpected twist, an outlandish 2D crossover fighter has now joined the fray. Blade Strangers provides a simple but deceptively deep experience filled with a huge foray of indie gaming greats. If you’ve ever wanted to see who’d prevail in a clash between Shovel Knight and Gunvolt, then you’ve come to the right place.
At its core, Blade Strangers is a beginner friendly brawler that offers everything you’d expect from a 2D fighter. There’s a Story Mode that lets you play out a fan fiction tale of sorts. Each character is made to believe that they’re competing in some sort of tournament. In reality, one of these would-be universe saviors is tasked with putting an end to the world-destroying efforts of a being known as Lina. The plot is far from memorable – it’s simply a lackluster story device used as an excuse to bring heroes/heroines from different franchises together. While it’s cool to see certain characters interact and throw hilarious quips at each other, the game’s Story Mode is just a means of getting new costumes for the entire roster.
Aside from the ho-hum Story Mode is your usual gamut of fighting game modes – Arcade, Mission (Character Combo Trials), Survival, Training, Online Play etc. Blade Strangers does the bare minimum when it comes to offering interesting deviations from your default fighting game modes. A Tournament Mode, Team Battle setup, or local/online King of the Hill party mode would have given this fighter more life. Blade Strangers still deserves a ton of credit for actually featuring these modes right from the very start, unlike some of its bigger contemporaries who add them later on as DLC.
When it’s time to enter the heat of battle, Blade Strangers provides a solid experience that seems easy on the surface. Traditional quarter circle forward command inputs aren’t needed here – the special moves you’ll deliver with each character are similar to the methods seen in the Super Smash Bros. series. One button is used to bring out those special maneuvers – you’re capable of using different ones just by pushing a different direction in conjunction with that special move button.
While that may make the more hardcore fighting game crowd scoff at its simplicity, the game’s easy to understand control scheme actually offers up an unexpectedly deep gameplay experience. Combo extenders are prevalent here – they’re tied to one button and when activated, take off one bar of meter. This mechanic helps beginners and experts alike dish out double digit combo strings. A special combo meter helps keep this system from being too broken, which is a nice touch.
Battles are fun and full of hype inducing moments, such as the last-ditch powerup feature known as the “Heat Up!” state. Coupled with the one-button inputs for special moves, easy combos, Super Moves, anti-air’s and more, Blade Stranger’s control scheme provides a vortex of combo possibilities. From a visual standpoint, the game is neither a 2D marvel or downright hideous. It’s just decent at best.
The same sentiment applies to the mediocre background audio heard within menus and during each battle. Watching Shovel Knight bounce around the screen in a much bulkier anime form is quite the impressive sight to see, however. Getting to see indie gaming stalwarts such as Isaac (The Binding of Isaac), Quote & Curly (Cave Story), and Gunvolt (Azure Striker Gunvolt) in full 2D sprite form makes Blade Strangers stand out. The rest of the roster comes from much-lesser known games published by Nicalis. While they’re cool in their own right, they simply don’t compare to the novelty of seeing beloved indie gaming characters duke it out onscreen.
Blade Strangers Takeways
Nicalis and Studio Saizensen managed to produce a fun 2D fighter that garnered more interest due to its indie start-studded roster. Without those indie gaming icons, it’s easy to see that this fighter would suffered and been buried underneath a mountain of disinterest. It does enough to make make playing with such a varied cast of characters an entertaining endeavor. The simple but deceptively complex combat system is easy to get into. There’s enough single-player and multiplayer modes within this fighter to keep players busy. And you’ll get a giggle or two from the dialogue sequences that take place between the eccentric roster.
However, Blade Strangers doesn’t look or feel all that different from your usual gamut of obscure 2D anime fighters. While not outright bad per say, there’s nothing in place here that will make you play it beyond another month or so. Blade Strangers offers some fleeting thrills thanks to its roster and easy to comprehend battle mechanics. You’ll get a quick dose of fun from it, but quickly move on to something more fulfilling in the fighting game genre soon after.
Our Blade Strangers Review Score: 6.5 out of 10