BlazBlue: Central Fiction – Special Edition is anime fighting indulgence to the nth-degree, even though it’s more of what we’ve come to expect from Arc System Works. The series began in 2008 and quickly gathered a respectable cult following thanks to beautifully hand-drawn visuals, insane combos, wacky plots and balanced gameplay that left many in the fighting game community calling it the last bastion of sprite-based 2D aesthetics.
All those things remain true for this exclusive Nintendo Switch iteration, which includes all the additional characters, game modes and features right from the start. So, no need to worry about DLC because its all here, with some other bonus extras like new character colors tossed in to help sweeten an already sweet pot. Everything else as the fandom would anticipate is the same from its original 2016 console release, which my colleague enthusiastically reviewed back then.
Prior newcomers are faithfully retained such as Hibiki, a quick rushdown sort who uses dual swords, shadow clones and extended combos; Nine, one of the Six Heroes who we’ve been hearing about since the first game, who wields powerful magic in classic “zoning” style and has a hilarious special attack that deals massive damage after an extensive windup; Izanami, the latest big bad, who has both rushing and zoning abilities thanks to a stance change mechanic; and Naoto, the protagonist of a collection of BlazBlue novels who plays like another rushdown character with badass-looking blood attacks.
Gameplay changes in Central Fiction include an increased focus on offense in the form of ‘active flow’ by buffing power and faster gauge recovery for overtly offensive playstyles, and ‘exceed accel’, a goofy sounding feature that, when activated, can deal extraordinary amounts of damage within certain movesets. This is on top of already extensive mechanics that have been built upon over the years, so there’s a hell of a learning curve that might turn all but the most dedicated and/or curious people off – this is a Arc System Works game after all.
As usual, there’s a myriad of other modes that will serve up plenty of action. There’s an standard arcade mode which attempts to tell individual stories in condensed form, along with various survival, challenge, and training modes to get you up speed or provide mild single-player distractions. Of course, there’s the main story mode that laboriously goes through the saga of the game in novella form with occasional battles to break things up – it’s not the most engaging but thoroughly executed with a separate encyclopedia.
This being an arcade fighter in 2019, however, chances are good you’ll spend most of your time playing online, which is competent despite being on the Switch. The experience is surprisingly smooth with minimal lag through excellent netcoding that minimizes lag and ensures that your loses are (mostly) your own fault. One thing that can’t be helped, at least currently, is the lack of available competition or locked lobbies, which can make for some inconsistent matchmaking.
I’ve been repeatedly told that the Switch is quickly becoming a viable platform for competitive games, a sector every Nintendo console from the GameCube to the Wii U has tried and utterly failed to appeal to the numerous subcategories of hardcore communities. Fortunately, BlazBlue: Central Fiction joins an already healthy library of legitimate contenders that include Dragon Ball FighterZ, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary, Fortnite and, of course, Super Smash Bros Ultimate.
There’s more to come, but you’ll want to skip the default Joy-Con controllers and invest in either a Pro Controller or proper arcade stick to fully enjoy these games, of course. The stock analog sticks are simply too small for travel distance, too short and awkward to pull off any of the more complicated moves with precision or reliability. The “D-pad” is even worse since they’re separate buttons and ill-suited even for basic combos, to the point that I had to buy the aforementioned pro controller to finish this review.
Those well acquainted with the franchise will find BlazBlue: Central Fiction – Special Edition worth looking into, especially if you want to take your arcade battles on the road. Arc System Works has been cultivating the mythology of this series for a while and now is good time as any to wrap things up, considering the bevy of content here. It may not be special in the literal sense, but this remains a solid entry that dedicated fans will appreciate nonetheless.