Arc System Works had quite the year in 2018, developing Dragon Ball FighterZ which quickly rose to become the new darling of the fighting game scene, both for casuals and competitors. But Arc Systems had already made a name for themselves in the genre long before this, pretty much becoming the standard bearers for what a 2D fighting game is and giving Capcom and Namco a run for their money. And now they have brought a close (for now) to the series that cemented them as fighting game gods. Let’s take a look at the pinnacle of 2D fighting – BlazBlue: Central Fiction.
If you’ve never played a BlazBlue game before, they are a 2D, 1v1, sprite animated fighting game series, with gorgeous anime ascetics, a sprawling, complex story and very accommodating but extremely hard to master fighting mechanics.
BlazBlue: Central Fiction uses the same control layout as previous entries with four attack buttons, light, medium and heavy, and a special attack button or Drives. Drives are flashy attacks that are unique to each character and usually have an ability or special effect to them. The verity of characters, move sets and Drive abilities is insane, allowing for a tonne of options and experimentation. Pressing all buttons together will activate Overdrive, giving your fighter a power-up for a limited time and new to Central Fiction are Exceed Accel and Active Flow. The fist is a super move that delivers a lot of damage but instantly drains your Overdrive, while the second provides damage and recover boosts as a reward for fighting more aggressively. Neither are massive game changers but add an extra couple of layers to combat.
All this may sound complicated to a novice player but one of the best features of the BlazBlue series is its inclusivity. The game can be played normally or if you’re new to the series, in Stylish mode. The latter allows players to use combos and special moves with simple button inputs, allowing any level of player to experience BlazBlues flashy gameplay without knowing dozens of button combinations. Of course, you won’t be pulling off any one hit kill combos this way but it’s an excellent system to ease new players in and allow player of different levels to play together. BlazBlue: Central Fiction also features possibly the best training mode I’ve seen in a fighting game. Not only does it offer beginner to advance guides for the game overall but also training lessons for each individual character, going through all their moves and abilities and giving tips on the best way to use each fighter.
Something that has to be said about this port is, as great as it is, the Switch Joy Cons are not the best-suited controllers for in dept fighting games like this, especially if you’re using only one Joy Con. I’d highly recommend playing this game with a Pro Controller or for the best experience invest in an arcade fighting stick.
Of course, you can’t talk about BlazBlue without mentioning its story mode, one of the biggest draws and hurdles of Central Fiction. The BlazBlue series features one of the most complex stories in all fighting games, if not video games in general and Central Fiction is the final chapter. If this is your first BlazBlue you will be completely lost, even with the optional 30-minute recap video. BlazBlue’s story is, to be honest, a convoluted mess most of the time with way too many characters, factions, and history. Think Kingdom Hearts but replace hearts and darkness with grimoires and boundaries.
However if you’ve followed the story all the way it’s still satisfying to see these character’s saga conclude and though the story is confusing, the characters are all likable and memorable. If you’ve never heard of an Ars Magus before though, it’s still hard not to love this insane story featuring cat people, guys made of bugs and a knight whose swords can cut through time.
On top of the story and standard arcade and versus modes there is a wealth of content in BlazBlue: Central Fiction. There’s a challenge mode for each character, a score attack, and time attack mode. The most interesting is Grim of the Abyss, which is an RPG like mode where you fight through increasingly difficult stages and earn points to level up your character and acquire upgrades to add different bonuses. For those who want to study up on the lore of BlazBlue, there is a library with an exhausting amount of content, not only on characters, story events, and weapons/items but for 2D fighting game terminology in general. Also, this being the special edition of BlazBlue: Central Fiction you get all the DLC content included, like extra characters and colour pallettes.
Graphically the game is as gorgeous as always with highly detailed 2D sprites moving at fluid speeds on beautiful 3D backgrounds. The super moves, in particular, stand out, with many filling the screen and using a mix of 2D and 3D graphic to showcase some spectacularly inventive attacks. The one thing about the 2D models is they have not been upgraded much since the original game, so if you are playing on a high-end TV you will see some jagged edges. Thankfully, playing in handheld mode looks just as good as docked mode, with no sign of slow down in the gameplay.
The sound and music are on the same high level as the graphics with every fight backed up with awesome metal and hard rock backing tracks and is honestly one of the best video game soundtracks out there. The only real complaint I have about the game is it’s still missing an English dub. The Japanese voice acting is great, don’t get me wrong but it is the only game in the series missing this feature and is a real disappointment to anyone who has experienced the whole series with the dub and associates those voices with the characters.
BlazBlue: Central Fiction is, without hyperbole, the perfection of the 2D fighting genre and even one of the best fighting games full stop. With its amazing fighting system, roster of characters and Stylish mode, anyone can pick up this game and have a brilliant time. The story, though convoluted and intimidating to newcomers, is a great send off to the series and hugely satisfying to fans who’ve played from start. Added to this the almost overwhelming amount of content and it’s safe to say that Arc Systems sent BlazBlue off with a bang and left an unquestionable mark on the genre.