I’m no stranger to 2D anime-style fighting games: the genre makes up some of my favorite games. However, one thing is for certain and it’s that they aren’t the easiest games to master. If I’m being honest, even though I play many of them, you won’t see me hanging out in online lobbies or tournaments at all. This mainly has to do with the deep level of complex moves that anime fighters like to boast; half-circle turns and the like are all pretty easy to execute, but then there are plenty of combos that some players will just never be able to pull off aside from the most hardcore.
During E3 2017, we got a chance to go hands-on with Nicalis’s recently announced 2D anime-fighter Blade Strangers, a new kind of fighter with the anime-style presentation on par with some of the best, but with a much easier learning curve for fans who only enjoy the roster of characters.
From the initial reveal of Blade Strangers, I must admit that I was excited to see Code of Princess‘ Solange Blanchefleur de Lux make an appearance in a new game. However, that wasn’t the only thing that piqued my interest: we also see in the roaster Curly from Cave Story and Umihara from Umihara Kawase. What? They’re all girls you say? Well what can I say is that I’m a simple gamer who is easy to please.
Moving on: the roster, which has yet to be fully revealed, has a strong start with some of my favorite niche characters. Furthermore, looking through the characters’ avatars on the select screen, it’s evident that Nicalis — who has partnered up with Studio Saizensen — have taken the time to give them all proper 2D designs. For example: Curly is normally an 8-bit girl, but she looks awesome as a fully realized anime-style character.
Let’s talk about the core of the game though: the fighting. Blade Strangers is from the same studio that developed another 2D anime fighter featuring characters from the Shining series called Blade Arcus from Shining. Evidently, a complaint that the developer received about the game was that fans loved the characters, but were often new to fighting games with deep mechanics. With Blade Strangers, Studio Saizensen took this into consideration and developed a game for fans of these characters as well as fans of anime fighters.
The controls in Blade Strangers are made to be simple, there are no commands, and whatever button you push is followed by well executed attack from the character. In addition to normal attacks, there are also special moves that can be pulled off with the press of a button. However, fans of overly complex fighting games shouldn’t be turned away by this approach: it’s just more appropriate to compare the fighting inputs to what you would find in Super Smash Bros. than in BlazBlue.
Playing through the normal Versus mode, I was impressed with the fighting animations and unique skills of each character. This game has so much fan service nested in it for fans of the character roaster that I could clearly tell the developer had spent a lot of time working out these attacks and making sure they were respectful to the series.
Additionally, when I hear the word “simple,” I expect to not have to put up much of a fight, but that’s not exactly the case with Blade Strangers. The controls might be easy, but the enemy AI puts up a quite a fight and at times pushes your skills to the test.
Going hands-on with Blade Strangers left me wanting to play more: I enjoyed the character designs as well as the simplistic controls implemented into a 2D anime fighter. This is a game that players will be able to play with friends, even if they aren’t good at fighting games. It was also explained to us that because the attacks are simple to execute, this reduces the online lag to the point where there is practically no lag at all.
Nicalis and Studio Saizensen are developing a great-looking fighter supported by a roaster of some awesome niche video game characters. I’m excited to see how the community of 2D fighting games approaches this game, but I’m even more excited to see the community grows with players that don’t consider themselves “good” at the genre.
Blade Strangers is coming to PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC — no release date for the title has been confirmed at this time.