Arc System Works’ BlazBlue series has always been a series that I’ve played with friends from time to time, and I’ve never quite dived into it as much as I would’ve liked to. A freshmen year college buddy of mine had the first game in the series, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, and as soon as I got a look at the game’s anime art style, I got all googly-eyed. Did I have any sort of clue as to how to pull off massive air combos? Nope…button mashing was my jam. But, you know what? Sometimes it’s okay to button mash, especially when you’re just a beginner whose distracted with all the glorious animations, character designs, and stage designs that are right in front of your Surprised Pikachu face.
Anyways, throughout the years, my friends always seemed to have a copy of some sort of BlazBlue game, whether it be a spin-off, sequel, re-release, etc. — and because of that, I’ve had the great fortune to play the BlazBlue series a bit. However, after 10 years, I finally (FINALLY!) have a BlazBlue game in my possession, BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition for the Nintendo Switch — and it’s pretty lit (see what I did, there?).
BlazBlue: Central Fiction concludes what can be referred to as the “Ragna saga” — the saga for one the series’ main characters, Ragna the Bloodedge. Now, if you happen to not have completely played the story mode in previous BlazBlue titles (like me), BlazBlue: Central Fiction does offer a story recap. The catch is that it can take up to 30 minutes to complete — but really, that’s basically the time it takes to watch one anime show episode — so it’s not that bad at all.
The story itself in BlazBlue: Central Fiction is one wild, drama-filled, action-packed, time-traveling escapade. It’s easy to get lost in it what’s going on with the story, especially since there’s so much to take in like various characters, groups and organizations, individual character plot lines, and more. A good chunk of fighting games tend to have relatively straight forward, simple stories, which is fine, but that’s not the case with BlazBlue: Central Fiction. It has one beefy, fanfare story that’s full of character interactions, dialogue, and scenarios that significantly add to the game’s anime style.
Similar to a shonen anime, BlazBlue: Central Fiction’s story can go from laugh-out-loud funny and crazy to straight up dark and serious in just minutes. You’ll probably end up getting a little puzzled during the game’s massive story, but thankfully, there’s a thorough in-game dictionary that will end up coming in handy. However, making sense of the story might be a bigger challenge for you, though, since just like the original release of BlazBlue: Central Fiction, BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition does not have an English dub, it only has a Japanese dub — so prepare to read a ton of text, if you don’t know Japanese. Since I tend to watch anime subbed (there’s nothing wrong with dubbed — dub fans, please don’t start a pitchfork mob and go after me!), I didn’t mind all the reading, but I would’ve liked for at least some English voice acting to be in BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition since it is, well, the “special edition” of BlazBlue: Central Fiction.
The special edition-ness of BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition is that it includes all of the previous BlazBlue: Central Fiction’s DLC, updates, and also adds an exclusive color option for each fighter. Basically, BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition is more like a Game of the Year edition of a game. I’m thinking that due to how well Switch ports have been performing as of late, Arc System Works wanted to push out a Switch port of BlazBlue: Central Fiction as soon as possible, which I don’t blame them since now is the perfect time to do so, but at the same time, I wish that the Switch version of BlazBlue: Central Fiction at least had a few special new additions.
Despite the lack of new, exclusive content, BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition still has a whole slew of gameplay modes that are all fun to play. The game has the usual fighting game mode, Arcade mode, but what’s interesting about it is how it has you go through various paths — and even has a few character interaction moments. Rather than just beating down an opposing fighter and moving on to the next one, the Arcade mode offers almost a sort of light story mode.
Other game modes in the game are also a blast to play. There’s the Grim of the Abyss mode, a sort of RPG-like mode that has you leveling up a character and equipping skills, grimoires (piece of equipment that grants abilities and stat buffs), and items to take down enemies and bosses in order to progress further down a deep dungeon. This mode reminded me of Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy’s Labyrinth mode — which I happened to sink a lot of hours into — and I did just the same with BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition’s Grim of the Abyss mode.
Other offline modes include a Score Attack mode (a fighting game standard), and a Speed Star mode which is essentially a time attack mode. For you leaderboard pros out there, there are leaderboards for the Speed Star and Score Attack modes, and even online leaderboards to boot. Since I’m not the hottest BlazBlue competitive fighter around, I didn’t play that many matches online. However, I liked how there were multiple customization options — and for player matches, you’re put into a lobby with a little sprite character of your liking, and it’s an adorable and neat feature. As far as performance goes, I didn’t really run into any issues, so the online works well enough — plain and simple.
A fighting game wouldn’t be a fighting game if it didn’t have combat, and let me tell you, BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition has some wicked, smooth, and flashy combat — which is no surprise since Arc System Works is a long-time 2D fighter veteran. There are 36 playable characters in BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition and all of them each have their own unique and fun fighting styles. For me, I’m a sucker for samurai and ninja characters, so I obviously loved using the two-tailed, samurai cat, Jubei, and the self-parodying ninja of Ikaruga, Bang Shishigami. However, all characters are a blast to play as, especially since fights in BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition is like taking part in an epic anime bout.
BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition’s fighting mechanics help make fights even more intense as there’s an Active Flow system that actually rewards players that fight aggressively with increased damage, and there are also Exceed Accels that are basically special moves you can use when in Overdrive mode. When I fought my way through BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition, I quickly learned that defense isn’t exactly the best offense in the game. If you have trouble mastering all the combos and fighting mechanics, there’s “Stylish Type” control scheme that lets you easily whip out basic combos with just a press of a button.
What’s really stylish about BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition is it’s vivid and stunning anime art style. It’s clear just from looking at one screenshot of the game that it is a beaut. Character and stage designs are so beautifully crafted that at first, I often stopped fighting to just look at all the details of my character and the stage I was in. With that said, I did notice a few minor visual issues, like the image resolution during story mode scenes would drop only a handful of times, and the outlines for certain characters during matches didn’t look so sharp. However, whether I was in handheld, tablet, or docked mode, I didn’t run into any major graphical or performance issues while playing, so the game looks and plays well anytime, anywhere.
BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition is a prime example of the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It’s simply BlazBlue: Central Fiction with DLC and updates packed into it but on the Switch. For the Switch release, Arc System Works just wanted to drop BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition like it’s hot, and not mess it up. Overall, with its surprisingly deep and excellent story mode, additional game modes that are fun to play, thrilling combat, and insanely detailed anime art style, BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition is worth getting if you’re a series newcomer or even a longtime fan who wants to brawl it out in a flammin’ hot 2D fighting game.
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