I don’t know if we’ll ever have to worry about a lack of 2D fighters. We’ve seen new examples pop up on a regular basis in recent years, thanks to the popular and critical success of stylized games like Persona 4 Arena, BlazBlue and Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign-. If nothing else, they prove there’s more to 2D fighting bliss than old versions of Street Fighter.
As usual in the games industry, success breeds followers, so a lot of these have been anime-style fighters aiming to get a jab or two in on the punching bag of fighting glory…or something. On deck today is Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel, the latest anime fighter to hit the arena.
As it’s based on Japanese publisher Nitroplus’ visual novels, Blasterz is loaded with all manner of characters you’re bound to not recognize. I was immediately familiar with three: Saber from visual novel classic Fate/stay night, Sonico from photography sim SoniComi and Saya from horror visual novel Saya no Uta. Fighting game and/or fanservice fans will probably also recognize the two unlockables: Aino Heart, protagonist of the Arcana Heart series, and Homura from Senran Kagura. Everyone else is kind of a mystery, including the huge number of support characters hailing from myriad visual novels and games. We’ve seen several fighters lately that feature ensemble casts Western gamers are unlikely to be familiar with, such as Dengeki Bunko Fighting Cllimax and AquaPazza, so this is nothing new.
Cast aside, the real measure of a fighting game is in the fighting, right? Blasterz nails this pretty effectively; since this is developed by Examu, developers of the Arcana Heart series, it’s unsurprising that this feels a lot like those games. There’s a unique sense of impact during battle that immediately brings Arcana Heart to mind, though this is more present for some characters while others feel a little weak – Sonico in particular is a proxy character who primarily beats people up with kittens, for instance, which isn’t exactly a recipe for bone-crushing action.
You’ve got several attack buttons, a chargeable heavy action that leaves foes vulnerable on contact and a dodge button. Naturally there are super moves available in various flavors, consuming one section or an entire bar at a time; you can also convert two sections of super bar into a custom combo attack that can do quite a bit of damage. Characters follow the typical fighting game tropes; Sonico fights with proxies, Saya leaves traps and pokes at range, Saber rushes down, Ein zones and so on and so forth. It shouldn’t be difficult to find your favorite archetype represented here.
As for game modes, the typical spread is available. There’s an arcade mode with a largely ignorable plot as well as Another Story, which pushes the story angle a bit more alongside the fighting. Text localization is kind of iffy, though, and if you aren’t familiar with the cast you probably won’t get much out of this. Local and online multiplayer are present as well, though the online connectivity can be a little iffy and this game isn’t likely to see a huge playerbase; at least there’s cross-play between the PS3 and PS4 versions. As usual, online play can work more or less effectively depending on your distance from your opponent and your respective connections, so keep that in mind before buying if you’re hoping to play with friends. Blasterz doesn’t offer many extras, so this is what you get.
This sort of game lives and dies on its presentation, of course. Guilty Gear and, later, Blazblue led to the rise of fighters like this by pushing the hyper-detailed anime 2D aesthetic to its limits. Blasterz does pretty well for its part, though some characters are more impressive than others. Saya in particular was a favorite; if you’re familiar with the plot of Saya no Uta you know she’s more than she seems and this shows during her battle animations. Animation is generally pretty solid and, as mentioned, combat has a certain force to it a la Arcana Heart. Sound and music are on par with the graphics – nice, but not astounding, and unlikely to stick in your head for long.
Honestly, Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel is a decent fighting game that probably deserves a look, but I’m left wondering why the decision was made to localize it. I can’t imagine many Western gamers are going to be familiar with the cast, first off. More importantly, with Under Night In-Birth, Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax, AquaPazza, BlazBlue, Arcana Heart and so many other, similar titles dividing up the game’s potential player base, Nitroplus Blasterz is in for a rough time. Still, if you want to check out the latest and greatest, you could do worse – and chances are this one isn’t going to stay at full price for long…