Various warriors are called to fight in a tournament that will test their skill. Only a single hero can rise to the top and become the true Blade Stranger that will one day travel through time and space to save the universe.
-Accessible and intuitive controls designed to bring fresh blood to the ranks of fighting game players everywhere.
-Play offline Story, Missions, Arcade and Versus modes or try to climb the leaderboards in the highly-competitive Online modes.
-Tutorial and Training modes are available for beginner and advanced players.
Each character has alternate color settings and their own familiar “home” stage for players to select.
-Proprietary development system transforms 3D models and animation into 2D spritework; every frame looks like a gorgeous anime drawing come to life!
Story Mode: 2 Hours
August 28th, 2018
PS4, Switch, PC
In my review of Code of Princess EX, I mentioned how Nicalis has been doing an outstanding job with releasing games on the Nintendo Switch platform. They are publishing great indies and breathing new life into them; many even getting a full release at retail. Currently, they are in the midst of creating their own little universe in the video game world and Code of Princess seemed to be the Iron Man of it all to kick things off.
Blade Strangers is the first true mash-up release and has gained some notice due to the various indie heroes that are making an appearance. Popular indie characters go toe-to-toe in this 2D fighter and will return in the form of a competitive puzzle game called Crystal Crisis later this year. Now that I am two games deep into this universe and know some of these characters, I’m becoming a fan of what Nicalis has going on here. Blade Strangers met my expectations and has me looking forward to more.
Spiritual Content: The character of Isaac comes from the popular video game called The Binding of Isaac. The character’s backstory contains heavy spiritual themes that tie directly into the Bible. It seems to be irrelevant to the story of Blade Strangers, but it is important to know where the character has come from. I recommend reading Maurice’s Backloggery Beatdown on the game for further information.
For the actual story, there is a character that is referred to as a “goddess,” but it seems all she can do is bestow power to the characters in the game.
Violence: Blade Strangers is a 2D-fighting game in which the characters engage one another in combat. There are some black blood-like splatters during special moves and markings in blood are present on a door during a fight scene. Characters use various swords and guns during combat. Actual contact involves bright slash effects and explosions that are accompanied by sounds of impact. One of the characters has a brutal special move where she mounts her grounded opponent and continuously slashes them.
Sexual Content/Nudity: The character named Isaac that was mentioned above is a small naked boy. However, no genitals are shown on the character.
Various female characters wear tight and revealing clothing that expose their breasts and show cleavage. The infamous character of Solange returns from Code of Princess in her nearly non-existent outfit of armor-plated lingerie. Many of these women’s chests have actual physics and animations as well.
The dialogue in the game cleverly addresses Solange’s lack of clothing too. In one incident, a male character seemed to be distracted by it, but most of the interactions people have with the character usually lead to them calling out her attire and questioning it. Solange seems to never usually pick up on these comments, but the one time she does is at the presence of another female.
Language/Crude Humor: The word “a**” is written in the dialogue.
Positive Content: I do appreciate that characters are calling out the lack of attire on others. Honestly, I know that it is simply a humor device. Although, this is the complete opposite of how over-sexualization is glorified in Japanese media such as video games, manga, and anime. It shows that the developers are self aware and these moments act as commentary to those kinds of tropes.
When I first saw Blade Strangers, I was worried it would not meet my expectations. The 2D-fighting genre has some tough competition in the form of already established franchises and big studios making games, like Dragon Ball FIghterZ. Then, there are a handful of lesser known indie fighters, like Them’s Fightin’ Herds, that Blade Strangers is more capable of competing with. To my surprise, I discovered that this fighting game can stand on its own.
Blade Strangers is a fighting game that takes various characters from the properties of Studio Saizensen, Nicalis, and a few other indies. Personally, this mashup gives me a Super Smash Bros. vibe. You have characters from a game called Sayonara Umihara Kawase, which I recently found out is a series of platformers from Studio Saizensen that are currently available on Steam. A few other characters are from Code of Princess. A few characters from Cave Story+ are in the mix, since Nicalis recently published it on the Switch. Lastly, we get a chance to scrap on the 2D plane as Isaac, Gunvolt, and Shovel Knight.
Now that we have established who the playable characters are, I want to speak on the artstyle. Half of what makes a 2D fighter great is the art style and Blade Strangers is impressive on this front. The characters are hand-drawn, while the backgrounds are a mix of 2D and 3D art. The character work is on par with some of the best out there and it was fun to see the anime versions of characters like Shovel Knight and Isaac too. Those polygonal parts of the stages could have also looked potentially horrible, but they look good enough to compliment the action that takes place on the forefront of the screen. You will be facing off in locations of various worlds these characters are from.
The gameplay of a fighting game normally comes down to a six or four button format. Blade Strangers takes the four button approach, likely due to the nature of the joycons. The ‘Y’ and ‘X’ buttons are mapped to light and heavy attacks whereas the bottom buttons are labeled as “unique” and “skill” attacks. There are no half-circles or complicated inputs for special moves; all it takes is to push the stick in a particular direction and the push of a button. It is beginner friendly like Dragon Ball FigherZ can be, but not to the point where combos are automatically executed for button mashers as they are in that game.
The best comparison I can make is that it feels like a King of Fighters game. The combat does not get too aerial, though, there are some fun jump attacks you can perform and anti-air attacks to keep your enemies out of the sky. Another area I see KoF inspiration is the heat up ability, which increases your speed and damage output. Although, Blade Strangers also has a super move gauge that reminds me so much of Marvel vs. Capcom. Both of these are mapped to the shoulder buttons for ease of use and make these mechanics simple for anyone to activate. The simplistic nature of the combat feels great; it does not hold your hand too much and gives players enough room to experiment with various combos.
Blade Strangers offers a decent amount of content. We were given both a story mode and arcade mode, though arcade feels just like the story mode without the dialogue in between. Survival mode and a mission mode are also available if you want to test your skills as your favorite fighter. Training and tutorial modes teach you how to play the game along with letting you practice the moves of a fighter you are interested in learning. The biggest downside is that the servers for the online component were empty even after the game was released. That happens to be the second time I’ve experienced this with a Nicalis game. There are local options if you have someone to scrap with.
The story mode itself is largely forgettable. It is about a group of machines whose world is in peril and they need the help of a hero to save it. There is not much time, so they call on multiple heroes and program them to believe they are fighting in a tournament. The winner ends up saving the world and becoming the blade stranger with the power to travel across worlds. The story occurs in the form of still images and dialogue boxes and the dialogue is what makes the story worth playing. The interactions provide plenty of humor between those who are meeting for the first time and those who already know each other, including the reactions to the character of Isaac and the fact that Shovel Knight wields a shovel instead of a sword.
I cannot say I have had this problem in any other fighting game, but the normal difficulty was too easy. I cleared through most of the characters’ stories in normal mode before I decided to crank it up a notch. Fighting games can be very difficult and drive me right into rage quitting quite often, especially with ridiculously overpowered bosses. It is unusual for me to want that extra challenge and tells me that Blade Strangers might not have the depth that fighting game veterans want, but it is accessible for those who do not play many of these. These games are meant for heart-pounding action that keeps you on the edge of your seat—not to put you to sleep.
Another issue I find, yet again, is the price tag. I can see this with retail since Nicalis usually includes extra goodies in the box, but $40 still feels too steep for a digital purchase. I felt the same with Code of Princess, so I won’t waste any more words on the topic. I have personally enjoyed the work of Studio Saizensen, but their work won’t be as big here as it might be overseas. Blade Strangers is high quality work and worth that price tag, but makes it more difficult for me to recommend it to everyone.
Blade Strangers is a high quality 2D fighter that makes a good entry point for beginners, but lacks depth for veterans. It is available on almost every platform, but there aren’t many fighting games on the Nintendo Switch to compete with. I recommend it if you’re a fan of Japanese development or the work of the publisher. Being a fan of fighting games, I can say that there are better games out there than this one. If anything, I hope it is the indie cameos that bring people in. Blade Strangers can hang with the best of them in terms of quality and presentation, but the combat systems lack something special.
Review code generously provided by Nicalis.
+ 2D art style
+ Combat system
+ Character Interaction
+ Accessible for beginners
- Empty servers
- Forgettable story
- Price tag