Fighting games have seen a bit of a renaissance in the past couple of console generations, thanks largely to the ubiquity of online play. We’ve seen new entries from series both new and old; we’ve also seen the localization of some games that might have never seen the light of day in earlier years, like the Wii’s Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. What we’ve got here in Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax is another of those games that might not have made it overseas before the contemporary era – it’s a fighter full of characters from the Dengeki Bunko imprint of Japanese light novels!
The first thing you’ll notice about Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax is that you don’t know who the hell anyone is. That’s normal! Gamers will probably know who Selvaria from Valkyria Chronicles and Akira from Virtua Fighter are. If you’re a pretty hardcore anime type you might know Kirito, the Mary Sue protagonist of Sword Art Online, and his girlfriend slash wife slash online lover Asuna. If you’re even more hardcore than that, then maybe Railgun from A Certain Magical Index could ring a bell. Generally, though, the target audience for this game consists of everyone who knows who the rest of the cast is. I’m afraid this didn’t include me. I tried. Lord knows I tried. You’ve got over ten playable characters to Google, so get to it.
Gameplay is your typical anime fighter fare with slightly heavier physics reminiscent of Under Night In-Birth, another fighter from the same team. You’ve got three attack buttons and an assist button, used to summon the assist character you select along with your main character. These are equally obscure and hail from a diverse array of series; each has their own set of attacks to add to your combos. You’ve got a super meter to manage, appropriately bombastic supers to perform, and combo-breaking bursts to use to save yourself from a beating a la BlazBlue. There are a couple quirks in the form of armor-granting attacks, which are conceptually similar to the Focus attacks from Street Fighter 4, and buff-granting Trump attacks.
While functionally this all works, I didn’t find any of it especially inspiring compared to other series and I certainly didn’t think it compared well to Under Night. I didn’t come across any fatal flaws or imbalances that led me to put the game down, but the proceedings all feel a bit unpolished. I also appreciate the fact that there aren’t any hideously complex motions to memorize, a deliberate design decision that allows even new players to pick Dengeki Bunko up and do well.
It’s a good time, don’t get me wrong…it’s just probably a much better time for players who are familiar with the source material. Personally, it just made me want to play BlazBlue, since that’s what I’m familiar with. On the bright side, the graphics and sound are stellar as befits an anime fighter, so at the very least it makes for a great spectacle.
The big draw here as opposed to the import version (which has been available for months at this point) is the localized text, allowing players who can’t read Japanese to enjoy the game’s Dream story mode. As befits a game about light novel characters, this consists almost entirely of dialogue exchanges between battles, with the fights themselves serving as the game’s action. It’s pretty common by fighting game story mode standards, but fans of the series in question are bound to enjoy watching their favorite characters interact shortly before beating the crap out of one another. Online play is available as well and as always it’s a boon, though I found the netcode to be a little spotty at times.
It’s not a bad fighting game, but fighter fans have probably already found “their” game by now what with the various established series that are already out there. Instead, Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax is really meant for light novel fans and anime buffs. It’s a great bit of fanservice for that demographic. Check that character roster – if any of your favorites are on there, then there’s hardly a question!