Battle Strangers | Master T and Ali go head-to-head.
Master T and Ali (both from Code of Princess) go head-to-head. (Image courtesy of Nicalis).

In the opening days of E3, Nicalis announced that they were publishing a crossover 2D fighting game from Studio Saizensen called Blade Strangers and premiered a ten or so minutes worth of footage on Twitch TV. I was lucky enough to have a sit down with Nicalis where they allowed me to play an early demo of Blade Strangers on the PC with an Xbox controller. The initial release of Blade Strangers will contain a crossover of ten characters from both Studio Saizensen and Nicalis. So far, six characters have been announced:

Code of Princess (Studio Saizensen)
Master T

Umihara Kawase (Studio Saizensen)

Cave Story (Nicalis)
Curly Brace

Of these characters, I picked up and tried out Solange, Curly Brace, and (of course), Kawase. This is a four action-button fighting game that has eliminated quarter-circle and half-circle moves in order to make the game more accessible to fighting game novices. During my interview with Nicalis, they informed me that despite eliminating the quarter-circle/half-circle moves and there being only four action-buttons, the move pools themselves for the characters would not be limited as a result. In the demo, the characters fight to the best of five rounds, and there were multiple color palette swaps that were unlocked for me to use (though Nicalis told me that that it is still undecided if they will be unlocked from the start or not in the final version of the game). The stages are drawn from the various Studio Saizen and Nicalis properties.

Blade Strangers | Curly and Solange battle it out.
Curly (Cave Story) and Solange (Code of Princess) battle it out! (Image courtesy of Nicalis).

The gameplay, despite me literally having never played it before, controlled rather well and I was able to quickly pick up the different characters and use their attacks with relative ease. Special moves are triggered with a simple press of a controller shoulder button, instead of having to use a button combination, and I found myself being able to use my special attack rather often during the fight. I was able to combo fairly easily and I found myself able to actually juggle my AI foe with little difficulty as Kawase. Nicalis stated that Blade Strangers is to combine the dynamics of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue with the simple inputs of Super Smash Bros., and to a large degree, I feel like they succeeded with their aim. Though it will obviously be up to the fighting genre player base to say if it will gain in popularity enough upon release to start making appearances at fighting tournaments such as Evolution in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Blade Strangers | Liongate and Solange duke it out!
I seriously cannot stress enough how gorgeous the graphics are for Blade Strangers. (Image courtesy of Nicalis).

As for the fighters themselves, they definitely all play differently. Solange handled a bit slower than I would have liked, but she was an weapon-wielding and hard hitting fighter. Kawase was a lot more fluid, and I was using her fishing line to do more ranged attacks. As for Curly, it is important to note that her entire move set was not fully implemented at the time of the demo. Curly was an up-close pugilist who dealt small bits of damage but was able to get in multiple attacks at a time. I can see people quickly developing their favorites as they try to figure out some of the nuances in the gameplay, and I did not feel like there was any overlap in the various three character’s move pools. The special moves themselves were varied as well. Solange, for example, has a multi-hit sword attack and Kawase drops a pufferfish (yes, a pufferfish!) from the sky onto her foe. All of these attacks decreased the special bar across the bottom of the screen.

Blade Strangers | Kawase shows off her special attack.
Kawase (Umihara Kawase) uses a pufferfish that falls from the sky as her special attack. (Image courtesy of Nicalis).

As for the graphics: They are gorgeous. The characters in Blade Strangers were designed as 3D models before a proprietary process converted them into 2D sprites and Studio Saizensen somehow managed to keep it all looking beautiful. The stages themselves, such as Sand Zone from Cave Story, were beautiful as well. This is a simply gorgeous fighting game, and Nicalis stated during an interview I conducted with them that they are aiming for the final game to run at 60 FPS in the final version across all platforms.

Blade Strangers | Solange and Ali fight.
Solange (Code of Princess) lays a beatdown on Ali (Code of Princess). (Image courtesy of Nicalis).

All in all, it was a fun fighting game and I had fun playing it (especially with Kawase!).

Who are you hoping will join the fight? Are you planning on picking up Blade Strangers? Let us know in the comments below!

Quentin H.
I have been a journalist for oprainfall since 2015, and I have loved every moment of it.