When I first saw Blade Strangers, I just wanted to ask who even had the idea for such an absurd game in the first place. It is such a weird fighting game crossover that was nice to see but didn’t make much sense for the fans. There were all type of random characters featured in this game from the girl in Umihara Kawase series and Shovel Knight to Isaac from the Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. The fighter roster here takes the award for the most outlandish character roster in a fighting game this year.
So underneath all this oddness, are the fighting mechanics any good? Are they fun enough to give this game a chance? This was the question that I asked myself as I started to play the game. It became immediately clear that this is for the casual fans of the fighting genre because it is honestly one of the easiest fighting games that I have played so far. What I didn’t anticipate was that it will be also fun even if flawed, and not just a broken mess of a fighting game.
Blade Strangers has a fairly simple input system. The four face buttons correspond to each attack that you can execute. It has a low attack, a high attack, and the rest of the two buttons are for special strikes. You can combine directional buttons with the normal attacks to execute different moves. If this sounds similar, it is because this exact system was in Super Smash Bros. It keeps the input simple enough so that fans don’t have to learn many button combinations, but they can still execute some flashy moves throw combos.
So getting the basics of the combat out of the way, what I liked about the game was how simple some of the moves were in comparison to other fighting games. The basic combo attack is easy to start and the timing to connect to the next strike is pretty forgiving, which was a surprise for me since I get used to learning the frame timing in fighting games. It was just easier to study the combat system here. There is actually a tutorial that shows you all the basic moves but it doesn’t really go further in-depth for each character, which is rather disappointing.
As fun as the combat can turn out, the computer controlled AI feels braindead on the normal difficulty setting so there is not really much challenge offered here. The game does feature an online mode that will let you fight other players, and in this regard, there is also the support for starting fights in an arcade mode while keeping the online search going so that you don’t just have to stare at menus during matchmaking. That said, I mostly played the game in local co-op or tested the story mode for the review. I didn’t get much chance to try the online mode so I can’t really speak much for the net code here.
The disappointing aspect of the game is its story mode. It is so basic and repetitive that you will have to force yourself to finish it. This is also a requirement to unlock all the characters. In the start, some of them won’t be playable until you unlock them by completing the story mode a few times. Once everything gets unlocked, the story mode kind of lose its purpose because of how terrible it is, and how insignificant the story cutscenes are for each character. It begins and ends too quickly with a final boss that barely offers any challenge on the default normal difficulty.
In total, there are around 12 playable characters that you can pick from the roster. These are all from other indie video games and with characters like Shovel Knight and Isaac, it feels like the fighter roster here is rather diverse. Despite that, the lack of depth in fighting mechanics means you don’t have much choice during a fight. You can mash buttons just to win your way to victory in most fights by repeating the same combo to trap the opponent. Obviously, this won’t work on human characters but for the AI, it is easy to exploit them.
This brings me to the visual quality of the game. It sports a rather old-school look that reminds me of classic Dreamcast games. It doesn’t seem to scale that well to the big screen when I played it on the PS4, but the Nintendo Switch in portable mode looked perfect and honestly surprised me with its clean look. So if I had to give the nod to a certain platform here, my vote would go to Nintendo Switch. This is also good for short bouts of co-op fun so, in this regard, the Switch version is best suited for it. Not to mention some of the games with characters featured here, like Code of Princess EX, Gunvolt and Cave Story are all exclusive to Nintendo platforms in some way, hence making the game lose some of its appeal on the PS4.
Blade Strangers Review (PS4/Switch)
Game Reviewed on: PS4/Switch
Game description: Blade Strangers is a 2D crossover fighting game developed by Studio Saizensen and published by Nicalis, released on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows via Steam in August 2018, as well as a Japanese arcade release.
Final Score - 7/107/10
An incredibly user-friendly game that is basically developed for the casual fighting game fans. It lacks proper depth but offers a fun combat system and plenty of fan service moments.