By Justin Guillou / September 11th, 2018
|Release Date||August 28th, 2018|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC|
I never thought that I would live to see the day where characters from Umihara Kawase, Code of Princess, Shovel Knight, Cave Story, Gunvolt and Binding of Isaac would co-exist in a fighting game. Blade Strangers is there to not only make that happen but tell a story that actually attempts to try and tie these universes together and give them a purpose for co-existing. It’s strange but I have to give the game credit where it’s due. This is one ambitious crossover.
Blade Strangers’ story involves a being known as Lina who is out to devour data from across the universe. All of this data is guarded by computers known as Motes who have the appearance of old Japanese PCs. In an attempt to prevent Lina from causing any further damage to their network the Motes summon various heroes from across the universe to compete against each other for the title of Blade Stranger. This tournament is meant to be a test for these heroes to see who has the best chance of defeating Lina. The Motes are forced to alter some characters’ memories in order to get them to fight since some of their opponents will be people they hold dear. I don’t think many of you were expecting a particularly deep story in a crossover fighting game like this, however it does do its job in giving some sort of context for why Shovel Knight is suddenly fighting Emiko and her Giant Cat.
Blade Strangers features 14 characters and plays about as well as you would expect. You have a light and heavy attack along with a “unique” move and “skill” move button. This is where Blade Strangers tries to deviate from a typical fighter. Instead of traditional inputs such as a quarter or half circle motion for special moves, Blade Strangers opts for a simpler input scheme that involves pressing the unique or skill button along with a direction, similar to Super Smash Bros. This makes moves much easier to perform and they will come out very quickly, making for a very approachable fighting game. However that may also be the game’s biggest weakness: it might be a bit TOO simple to play. Part of the appeal of learning a fighting game is to learn how to perform these motions and how to use them effectively. While there is still a learning curve to executing a combo and getting in the groove of things, the skill barrier is significantly lower than in most fighting games which could potentially turn off seasoned fans of the genre. Of course, this also affects the game’s balance significantly.
For example, one character can do a teleport move similar to M. Bison, but it’s done by simply holding up and the skill button. This move is incredible spammable and having such a simple command makes it come off as a bit broken. Also I’ve noticed that the characters share very similar combos which is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it makes picking up a new character that much easier, but on the other hand it makes them feel a bit less distinct which can hurt the experience. Blade Strangers uses an animation technique where they took 3D models then converted the animations to 2D sprites and I have conflicting feelings about it. On one hand, the idle animations look a bit stiff and choppy but on the other hand when you are moving the characters or attacking, the animation suddenly becomes a lot smoother. It’s a weird kind of flow that’s hard to explain in writing so I definitely recommend watching a few videos.
There are seven fights in Story mode and each character has unique dialogue for each opponent they face. Keep in mind that some of your opponents’ dialogue may not make a whole lot of sense, until you play their respective story modes as some of the stories do interconnect. Also if you are a fan of the games where these characters originate from, there are plenty of nice little Easter eggs thrown in that may make you smile. What’s also funny is that the Umihara Kawase characters are given a lot of personality and character development that was more or less absent in their own game. I’m a big fan of that series so playing Kawase, Noko, and Emiko’s story in particular was a delightful treat. You can even unlock Lina as a character and she has a story mode as well, with an ending that may throw you for a loop. I won’t spoil it since it’s worth experiencing for yourself. Overall, I enjoyed Story mode for what it was and think it’s worth checking out even if you are the type to play fighting games just for the Training and Versus modes.
Other than Story mode there is an Arcade mode which feels a bit redundant considering it’s more or less the same as the Story mode just without the dialogue scenes. If you are looking for additional single player content, you can play the Survival mode and also Training mode. Training mode also features a small mission mode for each character to teach you basic combos for each character. Other fighting games also feature similar modes but here, the combos are very basic and usually can be accomplished without a whole lot of skill. As for unlockables, Blade Strangers doesn’t have too many. You can unlock various colors for each of the characters along with character portraits. What is nice is that some of the fighter’s colors reference other characters from the games they originate from. For example Gunvolt’s alternate colors make him look like other Copen or Zonda. In addition to colors and portraits, there are also special titles you can unlock for your profile by completing various tasks such as beating Arcade mode a certain amount of times, or winning a certain amount of times in online versus mode. This would be nice except that unfortunately the online community is not very big and I was not able to find matches. Of course, being a fighting game one of the most important modes is a Training mode which is present. However I should note that the move list for Noko contains unlocalized Japanese text, which as of the most recent patch has yet to be fixed. In addition to Training mode, there is a mission mode which can teach you some basic combos but not only are they very short, you only get about 5 per character which means you will fly through them relatively quickly.
For $39.99 Blade Strangers is the kind of game where you will know right away whether or not it is for you. It’s not a hardcore fighting game which is fine since it’s really not trying to be one. This is just a fun little game to appreciate some of the lesser known characters in gaming and give them some spotlight. For that, Blade Strangers is a lot of fun, however that does mean its audience will likely end up being very limited. While it can provide a few solid hours of fun, its lasting value will depend on how much you enjoy the characters featured here. If you are someone who really enjoys Code of Princess or Umihara Kawase, you should check this one out and can probably add half a star to the review score.
Review copy provided by the publisher
Blade StrangersCave StoryCode of Princessfighterfighting gameGunvoltShovel KnightUmihara Kawase