Blade Strangers Review

Blade Strangers Review

Developed By Studio Saizensen
Published By Nicalis
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on Switch and Steam)

Crossover fighting games are an interesting niche within a niche. Taking two or more series and engaging them in combat is pretty novel. Earlier this year we had the excellent BlazBlue CrossTag Battle that mashed four series together and really brought forth something unique. Now, Nicalis is grabbing as many groups as it can and making them cross blades. Spanning from a wide range of genres, these include indie darlings like Shovel Knight, Isaac from Binding of Isaac and Curly from Cave Story, to platformers like Azure Striker Gunvolt and a hearty swathe from Code of Princess. All come together to duke it out to become the Blade Stranger!

The story that Blade Strangers attempts to weave is a little unorthodox and a bit non-contextual. The story begins with a series of computer nodes discussing how an intergalactic war is faring poorly and that they need a Blade Stranger to help usher peace in the multi-verse. To determine who is a suitable candidate, the nodes gather strangers from various universes to duke it out in a tournament. Regardless of which character you play, the story ends the same way. It makes the arcade mode and story mode somewhat of moot point beyond getting eight rounds playing as specific character. The arcade and story are basically the same thing with a smidge more dialogue in the latter which doesn’t justify having them both. Speaking of which, the cast is definitely an interesting mixed bag. This diverse group definitely makes for some what if scenarios in terms of fights and each character certainly fits a specific fighting type well. I found myself particularly fond of Noko (I’m a sucker for bunker busters) and Helen for her cool sword and shield style. There’s a lot of different play styles and designs here so I definitely recommend giving the full cast a try.

Blade Strangers takes a note or two from Guilty Gear Xrd in terms of its visual design. It uses full 3D models converted to 2D sprites for each character and then animating them on a 2d plane. This is kind of hit and miss. Some of the characters like Shovel Knight, Gunvolt, and Curly look great, others look rather poor. The details of certain models looks rather distracting and some of them look awful. This can be jarring too because many of the backgrounds look pretty good. I do like the character portraits in the selection screen and the health and energy screens while a little bland, are serviceable.

Another area that is better thought out are the controls and mechanics. Taking inspiration from Super Smash Bros. the game uses a light/heavy set of buttons and unique/skills pair of buttons. The input is based on a neutral or directional input and each one performs a specific action. This is good because you can learn characters very quickly and this allows players with less experience to gain knowledge quickly. When you build enough energy you can trigger super moves that are as devastating as they are flashy. These can be executed with a two button combo and a directional input making them very easy to use. When low on health, you can trigger the Heat Up mode that grants some bonus damage. Meanwhile, veteran fighting game players will have plenty to sink their teeth into learning match ups, figuring out the EX moves, and learning the intimacies of the system.

I do have two issues that are a bit sour game play and modes wise. The pacing is very stop and go. The ebb and flow of a fighting game can often determine how exciting it can be. While there were times the unique skills brought that, the general match pacing is too slow. The second thing that struck me as odd was the activation speeds of super moves. I’m not sure if there’s simply too many start up frames but there times were it felt like a super should have connected but end up hitting air or a shocking block from my opponent. It’s discouraging to use them as a counter or combo ender. This is a shame because a lot of the supers are cool.

The next big issue are the training and tutorial modes. Both are rather bare. The tutorial explains a handful of things, but not why the mechanics are useful or anything more in depth for each of the characters. These things are a necessity for a newcomer friendly type game and it’s a little sad to see that there wasn’t more effort put into these two modes. Online was fun for the matches but the choices are once again very bare for online play. No bad connections to really ruin the time I tested it with so this definitely gets a plus.

I’ll cap things off with the voice acting and the sound track. The voice acting is limited to being in the gameplay itself. It’s a little disappointing because the story mode is not particularly expansive and it would have made the mode a bit less bare. Overall the voice acting is fitting for each of the characters with the exception of maybe Isaac who has a generic power caller for his supers. The majority of the tracks are hard rock with some electronic elements slathered on for good measure. It includes a handful of remixes from existing games and they are pretty good too. Not all of the tracks hit home but most fit the characters and their stages quite well. Even the lesser tracks still have some punch.

Blade Strangers is a first effort at a fighting game and it’s a commendable try. While certain things would have benefited from a little more prep time for certain modes. Tuning the start up of super moves would improve this potential series quite a bit and could probably be seen in the competitive market.


Maximillian Ringgenberg

Maximillian Ringgenberg

A man of many words and many color related dilemmas. Based in Tucson, Arizona Maximillian is a total anime nerd, gamer and fighting game enthusist. He loves watching a good anime on a lazy saturday and is proud to be part of the CFG crew.

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Blade Strangers is an interesting crossover with its unique characters from various games and for its deceptively simple control scheme. While it is lacking in single player modes, the character selection, great soundtrack, and good netcode make this a decent fighter to pick up.


3.2 out of 5

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