The fighting game genre is a tough scene to break in to. A much beloved staple of gaming, but as loved as the genre may be, it certainly is a niche one. Street Fighter, Tekken, Blazblue, Soul Calibur, Super Smash Bros, and Marvel VS Capcom dominate the genre. Well, perhaps not Marvel VS Capcom anymore. So before even playing Blade Strangers you have to commend them for trying to get a piece of the pie. However, is Blade Strangers gonna make a big splash like Dragon Ball FighterZ? Or will it fizzle out as soon as it gets into people’s hands?
Blade Strangers is a 1v1 fighting title that features a cast of characters from lesser known properties. You won’t see juggernauts of mainstream culture like Mario, Spiderman, or Wolverine clashing against one another, but instead the likes of Gunvolt, Shovel Knight, and Princess Solange.
A story mode, arcade, training, missions, training and online are all the modes to be found in Blade Strangers. Whilst none of these additions are revolutionary, it is also fair to say that they are much desired and some more recent fighting games have started to omit things like an arcade mode.
Let them Fight
Of course there is one thing everything hinges on for a budding new fighter. The mechanics present and how well the system functions as a whole. Blade Strangers features a four button control scheme: Light, Heavy, Unique and Skill are your primary means of attack. From here you can input basic directions to perform variations of attacks or combine inputs like Light and Heavy to perform a grab. A special meter that builds up to a maximum of 3 bars that allows you to unleash special attacks and powered up basic attacks.
Overall the system is solid. Blade Strangers makes the decisions to ditch the typical directional input system of 236 or a quarter circle toward your opponent to perform special attacks. Instead all commands are one directional input and a combination of attack inputs. It is a good trade off, fighters have access to a good range of attacks, but it maintains a simple input for less skilled players to jump in. I also found it to be somewhat slower when compared to fighters like Blazblue for long term fighting game fans this will probably come off as a negative, but again for a newer audience it makes Blade Strangers feel more inclusive.
As mentioned above the average gamer might not find every character in Blade Strangers instantly recognizable. However, with that said, there is no denying the mass popularity of Shovel Knight and Isaac from The Binding of Isaac. The roster features 14 characters which is a respectable number of combatants. Visually they are great. A wide range of characters to pick from and not just palette swaps like the earlier incarnations of Mortal Kombat. In terms of gameplay Blade Strangers feels like it simply ticked the necessary boxes and played it safe. You have Curly the zoner, Shovel Knight and Master T the close ranged brawlers, Solange the all rounder and Isaac the wacky odd ball choice. They are all competent characters to play as, but it would have been nice to see a push to incorporate some truly unique mechanics with each fighter.
Blade Strangers has all the modes you’ve come to expect from a fighting game… or at least used to. Arcade, training, versus, survival, and combo missions are pretty self explanatory and all do what they are meant to do. The story on the other hand is not quite what I expected. It almost felt like Arcade Mode+. There’s no sprawling narrative to really get to grips with in Blade Strangers, but instead a few lines of dialogue before each fight. In fact when you pick to play as Solange and face off against Ali, you will then get the same dialogue if you play as Ali and then face Solange. So in terms of experiencing an overarching story? Don’t expect that from Blade Strangers, but I will say that the interactions and writing for the characters meeting was comical. Emiko asking Solange if she was too poor to afford clothes made me chuckle and Shovel Knight and his shovel branded chivalry always put a smile on my face (or should I say shovelry???).
However, the one everyone wants to know about in any fighting game is the online. With the game being out for some time now and having the opportunity to play a fair few games I can say that the online runs smoothly. In fact hailing from the UK and playing mostly US citizens I can say when I did experience lag it was all down to that individual having a poor connection and not the net code. Sadly the online is quite bare bones. You won’t get to experience the lobby system found in Arc System Work titles, but a simple option to search for a stealth, ranked or casual match. Also the option to search whilst playing offline modes and of course leaderboards.
Visually, Blade Strangers is a bright a vibrant title that is a real pleasure to look at. The stages are all lovely and the soundtrack fits each location well. However, there was one issue I noticed straight away and that was the models for every fighter seemed a bit jaggy. After time it did become less apparent, but it was shame that such vibrant and lovely looking characters were plagued by being quite rough around the edges.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Blade Strangers was provided by Nicalis.