Fighting games can be incredibly divisive. It’s difficult to please both casual players and hardcore players. Hell, it’s difficult to please hardcore players at all. If you’re the type of person that has mastered characters in games like Street Fighter or Blazblue, it’s easy to find the cracks and seams in less polished or smaller-budget fighting games. Thanks to the fighting game pedigree of the team behind Nitroplus Blasterz, though, there’s a lot here for players across the entire spectrum to enjoy.
Nitroplus Blasterz is comparable in a lot of ways to the other recent anime-style dream-mashup fighting game, Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax. Like that game, Nitroplus Blasterz is a celebration of the company Nitro+, taking characters from all their properties and pitting them against each other in a 2D fighting game developed by a renown fighting game developer. Dengeki Bunko was developed by French Bread, famous for Melty Blood and Under Night In-Birth Exe Late. Nitroplus Blasterz, meanwhile, is developed by Examu, famous for the Arcana Heart series, as well as one other less than stellar company dream-match game, Aquapazza.
In terms of character roster appeal between the two, though, Nitroplus Blasterz is lacking. Dengeki Bunko is made up of characters from various light novels published by Dengeki, and all of those light novels just so happened to be adapted into globally popular anime series. Nitroplus Blasterz, meanwhile, has most of its cast made up of characters from adult visual novels that even the most dedicated Western anime fans would struggle to recognize.
The game features a handful of characters that are simply taken from projects where Nitroplus writers were somehow involved, giving the game one recognisable playable character, Saber from Fate/Zero, as well as a handful of notable assist characters from series like Psycho/Pass and Gakkou Gurashi. The game has two other recognisable characters in the form of Homura from Senran Kagura and Heart from Arcana Heart, but they are both DLC characters. The game doesn’t tell you this, though. They’re simply on the character select screen with a big “LOCKED” notification over their portraits, and it wasn’t until I did extensive research that I found out they’re unlocked by giving the game money.
So, on the merit of notable characters, Nitroplus Blasterz is a little flawed. Saber is one of my favorite fictional characters ever, though, which gave me some strong motivation to play the game. The lack of triple-A characters gave me low expectations, and after playing a few rounds, I was blown away. This game is so polished. Attacks feel weighty, throws are responsive and feel powerful, there’s a variety of special attacks that all feel varied and unique, and it all comes together to create an experience I wasn’t expecting at all.
The game has five main buttons; four attacks, and an evasion move, with a two-button combo allowing you to throw. On top of this the game has a few other systems, with one of the more basic ones being a burst-system called Infinite Blast that lets you interrupt an enemy combo. Variable Rushes are special moves that lock you into a powerful super combo, requiring you to continue with button presses in order to advance it.
For the button mashers, this is a great system that makes you feel like you’re doing an amazing technical feat without actually having the know-how. Finally there are Lethal Blazes, super moves that use all your special meter to deal massive damage. Using these moves activates beautiful character art flashes that show them animated in incredible detail, and using Sabers for the first time gave me chills.
There’s also a great assist-character system. After selecting your fighter, you can select two assist characters from a unique assist-only roster, and then utilise a special move from each of them in battle. Some of the moves are pretty basic attacks, but others are absolutely amazing. One character is a small schoolgirl that summons a horde of zombies like Jill in Marvel vs Capcom 2, and another character froze time, slowly turned the screen green….and left. I’m sure it had some other effect, but in the moment it was just confusing and hilarious.
All of this stuff put together makes an incredibly fun and engaging gameplay system. Combos take you into the air and back to the ground, but never in the ridiculous floaty way that Arcana Heart 3 did. Everything feels very precise and easy to engage in, giving inexperienced players plenty to work with.
Outside of the very basic game modes in this package. You’ve got two story modes, training, survival mode, and local versus as well as online versus. The first story mode is a bare-bones arcade mode with a confusing final boss, and after clearing that you unlock Another Story, a series of much more story-heavy episodes in which everything is confusing and weird, and even fans of every franchise represented in this game might be at a loss for what’s happening in it.
The presentation is pretty great too, aside from some small hiccups. The games main promo art and the in-game character portraits are done by different artists, but both are beautiful and detailed. Character sprites are your basic anime-fighter stuff, but interesting lighting effects make them look even smoother and more polished than they are. Character designs are also varied and unique, giving you more to look at than just generic anime schoolgirls.
The main menu and character select screens are super bare bones, but the in-game HUD for health and super meter are strong and well defined. Voice acting is strong, and all the characters I could recognise seemed to have their original voice actors return to do the voice work for this game. Unfortunately, the stage music isn’t memorable at all, and the music played during cutscenes is even worse. While it doesn’t detract from the experience, it definitely doesn’t add to it.
Nitroplus Blasterz will no doubt fly under the radar of many, and that’s a huge disappointment. With strong gameplay and a healthy amount of unique characters, it’s a game that lives up to the pedigree of its developer. In a lot of ways, it even outdoes their previous titles. Casual and experienced fighting game players alike will find something to enjoy in this package, and fans of anime and Japanese media might even walk away with a few new titles to check out.