Blade Strangers Review — Blades, Guns, and… Shovels
Blade Strangers is here and it's a surprisingly fun fighting game that veterans of the genre and newcomers will have a great time with.
Blade Strangers is a weird anomaly amongst other fighting game titans like Dragon Ball FighterZ, Tekken 7, and Street Fighter V. It’s not afraid to be something a little bit off the beaten path incorporating substantial indie characters like Isaac from The Binding of Isaac, and Shovel Knight from… Shovel Knight, as well as more niche Japanese characters from the Gunvolt series, Code of Princess, Cave Story, and Umihara Kawase. Blade Strangers is such a mixed bag of mechanics and characters, but it surprisingly works. Funny enough, this might be the most significant year for Code of Princess, a series I didn’t think I’d be talking about too much when 2018 began.
If you’re burned out on fighting games that launch with a lack of modes, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear that Blade Strangers incorporates a slew of different modes so they’ll be no shortage of things to do from the get-go. I was surprised to see just how much the game has included. Blade Strangers is a worthy fighting game that’ll be a joy to play for anybody who wants to give it a try.
There are 14 characters in Blade Strangers, and I found that they all feel quite different from one another. Their basic combo strings are similar which may be a turn off to some advanced players at first, but each character varies quite a lot in other ways like weight, reach, aesthetic, and the more advanced combos they can pull off. Of course, I found myself gravitating towards some of the quirkier characters I was more familiar with like Isaac and Shovel Knight. I wasn’t sure I’d be crazy about the inclusion of Code of Princess characters, but they were quite a lot of fun to play as and added some solid variety to the cast. Players should have a good time giving each one a try, and it’s worth mentioning that this will be a great game to gather around a television to play with friends.
I should say that in my mind, I’m very much a “filthy casual” when it comes to fighting games. Jokes aside, it’s a genre that I’ve wanted to start exploring more and that in due-part is because of Arc System Works’ Dragon Ball FighterZ, Arika’s Fighting EX Layer, and I’ve even been playing games on Dreamcast recently like Darkstalkers, SNK Vs. Capcom, and one of my personal favorites, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. Something I like a lot about Blade Strangers is how quickly you can jump in and have fun. In that vein, some more advanced players might be turned off by its relatively basic combo strings. On top of that, I found learning each character quite well doesn’t take too much time.
Aesthetically, Blade Strangers is a very pleasing game to look at, it uses a pixel art style with 3D backgrounds, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me feel like I was playing a retro-style fighter. Even with a multitude of characters I was unfamiliar with, it was exciting seeing their flashy specials go off on an opponent. If you’re into retro fighters especially, you’ll be right at home with Blade Strangers, and I had a lot of fun playing it in handheld mode on the Switch. The game looks particularly great on the Switch’s tiny screen in Handheld Mode, all of the colors genuinely pop.
Blade Strangers has a robust tutorial mode that will get you in and out quickly. You can also find a tab that’ll show you a lot of the different UI graphics on the screen, and it’ll explain their uses to you. As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t the most in-depth fighting game, so it’s pretty simple to learn all of the game’s mechanics quite fast. There’s also a conventional training mode included. While it might not be the most intense thing to learn Blade Strangers’ mechanics, it’s quite nice that the developers added a lot for the newer players who may be unfamiliar with the genre.
There’s a neutral combo that’s short but easy to work off of. You can find plenty of ways to mix in different attacks to get a solid amount of different combos. To counter spam, there’s a bar under each players health that’ll break a combo once a player takes a certain amount of hits. Some players might find this a bit iffy, but I didn’t think it muddled combat in any way.
The first thing I jumped into after the tutorial in Blade Strangers is its Mission mode. This’ll allow you to take on combo challenges or the game’s survival mode. Each fighter has five different missions, and they’re all pretty doable if you have a basic grasp on fighting games. I will say that the Switch’s D-pad made some things a little tough to execute and there’s no option that lets you see an AI do combos which is a feature I always appreciate in these types of modes.
Outside of that, there’s also a Story mode, Versus, and Arcade. As this is a Japanese crossover fighter, the story is utterly ridiculous, but I didn’t ever really have high expectations for a game that has the cast that it does. That’s not a disappointing thing as no fighting game’s storyline is an absolute masterpiece by any stretch. Nevertheless, it’s nice that they included something. However, I spent most of my time focusing on all the other modes outside of the story. Each storyline took me around half an hour to complete, but at one point I honestly stopped paying attention to the visual novel style cutscenes.
I should mention that I only got a little bit of time to play online, so I don’t feel as though I can truly judge the online connectivity. Because the game’s not available yet, I had to wait quite a while to find matches, and the two I got into did have a bit of lag. Nevertheless, they were playable, and I did have fun. A refreshing quality of life feature was a disconnection rate that appears next to your account name so you’ll know what players could potentially leave your matches. There’s also an online ranking system so players who are interested in becoming the best should have a lot of fun working up the ranks. Players can also customize their profile with various titles and avatars that they can put on their profile for lobbies.
Blade Strangers finally delivers a conventional fighting game where you can beat up other fighters with Shovel Knight (looking at you Super Smash Bros. Ultimate). I’m not sure I can confidently say the game will do waves in the fighting game community, but I think it’ll be enjoyable for all players of all different skill types. It’s a testament to the Switch’s ever-growing library of great titles from a whole bunch of different genres and if there’s one thing I can say with confidence; Blade Strangers is worth checking out.