Developed by Arc System Works Published by PQube and Arc System Works America Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
BLAZBLUE CENTRALFICTION Special Edition is the latest release in the esteemed BlazBlue fighting game series. As Arc System Works’ foray into high-definition 2D sprite-based fighting, the series features crisp visuals, wonderfully diverse tunes, and intense anime-inspired action. BlazBlue titles also features straightforward controls alongside unique Drive abilities that diversify the action. Special Edition is the culmination of the series’ developments over the past decade, which results in a robust experience full of modes and characters to try. While the series’ mythos is quite dense across its numerous iterations, a few features ensure that anyone can have a fun time. Special Edition provides a fantastic fighting experiencing at home and on the go, but its repackaging of existing content may restrict its appeal to hungry veterans or those new to CENTRALFICTION.
CENTRALFICTION features the adventures of Ragna the Bloodedge, who strives to thwart Terumi’s plans for world domination. He encounters the domineering Novus Orbis Librarium, the science-driven Sector 7, and a variety of enigmatic figures. BlazBlue’s world features technologically advanced weaponry and otherworldly empowering entities that dynamically influence fighters’ abilities. CENTRALFICTION’s universe has been shaped by an array of phenomena such as time loops, time travel, and alternate personas that keep the game’s cast on their toes. The extensive encyclopedia entries and recap episodes help players keep track of the game’s events, but the ride is nonetheless amusing and full of charming interactions.
The game features in-depth fighting with a substantial amount of content. The goal is to reduce the opponent’s life-bar to zero using normal attacks, special moves, and super attacks. CENTRALFICTION adds a few twists on top of the existing action. It rewards consistent offense by granting an Active Flow state, and characters can perform a damaging Exceed Accel move to conclude a tide-turning Overdrive state. These terms can seem a bit daunting, but the game’s tutorials and per-character challenges can get anyone up to speed. CENTRALFICTION’s most striking feature is the sheer amount of single-player content. With three acts of Arcade Mode, a Story Mode, and other single-player challenges such as Score Attack and Speed Star, the game has plenty of ways to entertain players. Unlocking all of the cutscene images, previous games’ songs, and special illustrations can also take quite a long time. The game also features online play in which players can either jump right to Ranked Mode or enter player lobbies featuring others’ avatars.
Special Edition includes all of CENTRALFICTION’s content along with a few tweaks that provide a more robust experience. All prior downloadable content has been incorporated into the game, which means that players can select all thirty-six characters off the bat. This roster includes the downloadable characters Es, Mai, and Jubei as well as the twisted Susanoo, who was previously unlocked via Story Mode. All character announcer voices are also immediately selectable. Players can also select from twenty-four color palettes, which includes almost everything except for one prior promotional palette. However, Special Edition features a red and blue neon Joy-Con color scheme for every character, which is rather appropriate and amusing. The main menu also lets players press R to instantly remap controllers, which especially helps given the Switch’s wide variety of control schemes.
However, Special Edition’s sheer similarity to prior versions of CENTRALFICTION means that it also misses a few opportunities to provide a more robust Switch experience. The game lacks any sort of touch screen functionality, which is a slight let-down. Touch-screen swipe scrolling could have facilitated players’ encyclopedia browsing in in handheld mode. Furthermore, the game lacks local wireless connectivity, which requires players to either play on one Switch or play online. Playing with a single Joy-Con is also possible, which actually works fairly well for Versus Mode given that BlazBlue is a four-button fighter. However, a Joy-Con lacks enough buttons to perform everything in other modes such as Training, which requires swapping to another control configuration. Furthermore, this version of CENTRALFICTION still lacks English audio, which is understandable given the game’s sheer content but nonetheless disappointing given the English cast’s fantastic performances in prior games.
The game essentially runs identically to the PlayStation 4 version of CENTRALFICTION in both docked and handheld modes, which is great to see. It was fantastic experiencing BlazBlue on the Vita years ago, but the Switch displays the game’s pixel art and 3D backgrounds in their full glory in handheld mode. In docked mode, the game keeps the sprites’ detail intact with a slight filter. Since BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle’s Switch port presents certain sprites strangely in both docked and handheld modes, it is fantastic seeing the visuals this way. However, the anime cutscenes seemingly run at a slightly lower frame rate and resolution than prior versions’, but these sequences are relatively uncommon.
BLAZBLUE CENTRALFICTION Special Edition provides the definitive BlazBlue experience at home and on the go. While a few additional Switch-specific tweaks would have been appreciated, Special Edition marvelously encapsulates existing content. Veterans who have played CENTRALFICTION will be totally familiar with the entire experience, but being able to try every piece of previously downloadable content is nonetheless convenient. Any fighting enthusiast who has not played the series in a while will likely enjoy what Special Edition has to offer.