QCF: Blade Strangers 

ighting games are a staple here at PPR. Capcom, SNK Playmore and Arc System Works still reign supreme in the genre, there's no denying that, but it sure would be nice to have a decent fighting game from a completely different studio—something with high-res sprites, decent backgrounds, maybe a crossover of some kind. Like, if there was a game that took a bunch of obscure but cool characters from a slew of cult classics and indies and threw them into a super-Japanese story involving a bunch of computers and a super-strong deity. It would be cool if it were created by Studio Sai Zen Sen, the creators of Code of Princess EX, and published by Nicalis too.

Eh? Whazzat? This exact thing exists, in the form of Blade Strangers on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4? Oh, neat. And, as it turns out, it's a pretty fun versus fighting game, too? Well, sign me up!

Blade Strangers was an obvious given as a fan of Nicalis' recent works. On the Nintendo Switch, in particular, we haven't missed a single release here at Studio Mudprints, having obtained and thoroughly enjoyed every single launch edition to see release in stores for Nintendo's current golden child. Blade Strangers is no exception, and we had quite a bit of fun playing its various modes alone and with our friends who, as it turns out, are less than huge fans of fighting games in general with the very rare, specific exception (Tekken 3, as it turns out.)

However, what exactly is Blade Strangers? Well, it follows the story of a world controlled by computers called Motes. Their realm is on the brink of destruction from a being known as Lina and, essentially being a bunch of IBM 486's with advanced thought processes but no real defenses, they summon a diverse group of fighters from several different dimensions to fight her. But not before fighting among themselves, obviously. A total of nine fighters are available to start with another five special characters that are unlocked via specific conditions which need to be met through normal gameplay.

If it's technical gameplay you want, Blade Strangers will obviously not be quite as deep as BlazBlue or any such ridiculous Arc System Works fighter or even Street Fighter or Tekken, really. As such, advanced fighting game players may not find the most satisfying gameplay here in this regard. What Blade Strangers does have though is an easy-to-learn control scheme, one of its strongest points. Each character in the game has a bevy of special techniques at their disposal, with easy-to-learn-and-execute move sets not totally unlike Smash Bros., requiring only one direction and input to pull off, typically speaking. Not only does this make playing on the go with a Joycon pretty effective, but it also lets players, both new and experienced, get right into the action with little to no effort. Some combos and super moves require a bit more dexterity and timing, but on the whole, Blade Strangers is a game that requires very little effort to get a lot out of, anywhere players might be. Well, on the Switch anyway.

As for the roster, it's pretty great for those that are into the kinds of releases that Nicalis is now well-known for; fighters from Blade Strangers, Cave Story, and Umihara Kawase are featured heavily. But there are some great additions as well; guest characters from Shovel Knight, The Binding of Isaac and even Azure Striker Gunvolt are also featured in Blade Strangers, each with their own great, themed attacks and super-detailed 2D sprites. Basically, it's a game I can really get behind. Better still, each character is unlocked simply by beating the game with others. Thankfully, for players looking for some versus fighting right out of the gate, Blade Strangers' versus mode features all of the game's characters right out of the gate, but only in versus—it’s a fantastic feature that we feel more fighting games would implement, honestly.

Of course, these days, a fighting game really needs is a good set of visuals and sound to make it stand out and they come through very well in Blade strangers, with flashy, sometimes humorous moves and great special effects. Super moves feel satisfying and each fighter's move-set feels appropriate and pretty balanced, for the most part. Well, except Solange, she's pretty much OPAF and a good choice for a first-time-playing-1CC like I managed to get.

In addition to the single and versus two player modes, there are even a number of online modes to play in, including Stealth Match, Ranked Match and Casual with online leaderboards added for good measure.

While both the Switch and PlayStation 4 versions are by and large identical, the Switch version holds the edge in one respect with its portability factored in. Nothing beats being able to play a versus fighter with full input support anywhere a player – and their opponents – might be. Its simple control scheme definitely helps in this regard. On the other hand, the PlayStation 4 version has snappier load times. In both cases though, the gameplay is identical regardless of the version played.

If you're looking for a really fresh take on a crossover fighter that features elements from games that all deserve way more attention even on their own, Blade Strangers is a game that is sure to satisfy. Thematically, each character is well represented and the overall structure and features make this a fun game for players new and old, wherever they may be (with a Switch, of course.) Regardless of the version though, Blade Strangers does a good job of filling a niche that needs way more love.

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