by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
I’ve been a fan of BlazBlue since BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger. I have fond memories of sitting in my home with all my friends, everyone desperately trying to find a main character to play as. Years have passed since then, and everyone has moved off to different states, so those days are sadly, long gone. The memories remain though, as does the formula of the BlazBlue franchise: You take two parts insane story, and three parts wild, powerful characters. Blend until smooth, and there you have BlazBlue. The original Central Fiction came out in 2016, and while I love ArcSys, and I love all of their fighting games, some things simply have not changed. ArcSys has a habit of releasing ports for their games several years after release, and at least Central Fiction has the excuse of “The Switch is still fairly new”. But this could be a test to see how BlazBlue does on the Switch (aside from Cross Tag), because this is not the last BlazBlue title. Now, I do believe this is the last part of the current storyline, but I doubt it’s the last game in the franchise.
Fortunately, I’ve had Central Fiction since it originally hit PS4, so the Switch version to me is more a question of portability. Sure, I wish it would have hit the Switch last year, but there are positives to having BlazBlue: Central Fiction on the Nintendo Switch. After a few years, people in online bulletin boards tend to yell “Dead Game lol”, but for what it’s worth, the BlazBlue Central Fiction side tournament at CEO 2018 had 70 entrants. It also appeared at AnimEVO 2018 with 117 players. Does it have the same audience as Street Fighter V or Tekken 7? No, of course not. But it’s still alive, and people are still playing it. I don’t know if the Switch version is going to create a wild new influx of interest at tournaments, but I do hope so. It performs great on the Nintendo Switch, and you can take it with you to a tournament much easier than you would a Playstation 4 or a PC. Plus this, the Special Edition comes with all of the DLC characters (including my newfound main, Mai Natsume), giving everyone access to the whole cast, all 36 of them.
Compared to the previous iteration of BlazBlue, Central Fiction does have a pair of new, interesting game mechanics. The first is Exceed Accel, which is a type of Distortion Drive and is executed by pressing A-B-C-D during Overdrive, or by holding them after Overdrive is activated. Overdrive is also activated by pressing A-B-C-D and tends to enhance a character’s abilities in some fashion. Jin Kisaragi’s is “Frost End”, and all of Yukianesa’s Frost Attacks now freeze the opponent (Yukianesa = his sword). Tsubaki Yayoi, as another example, has her Install Gauge automatically charge.
The Exceed Accel attack deals a great deal of damage but ends Overdrive immediately. The next new mechanic is Active Flow, which is the opposite of the Negative Penalty status. Negative Penalty penalizes players for turtling (playing defensively and not attacking), and instead, Active Flow boosts damage and the recovery of the Burst Gauge. Active Flow also increases your Exceed Accel, and you can tell when you’re in it as the emblem on the health bar glows purple-pink and the announcer yells “Active Flow”! These aren’t new to Central Fiction on the Switch, but were additions to this iteration of the game in general. There are also two ways to play the game, as far as controls go: Technical and Stylish. Technical is the traditional way – you need to know combo strings, button inputs, everything. Stylish is for newcomers, and it lets them mash A, B, or C to create combos, and they also have the SP button to easily perform special attacks.
BlazBlue: Central Fiction is still very much a 2D anime fighter, with a four-button system. You have the three attack buttons, A, B, C, and the “Special/Heat” button, D. D is typically where the character’s special focus or features are found. That’s one of the things that makes BlazBlue both stand out, and also feel a little difficult for newcomers. Every single character has their own special trait or skill that makes them stand out and has their own special gameplay mechanics. To me, that makes it fun though, figuring out who does what, and which of those feels right for you. In previous iterations of BlazBlue, I played Jin Kisaragi, though that has changed in Central Fiction. Each attack button’s properties and animations change depending on what direction you held when attacking, which offers so many tactical and combo possibilities. With that in mind, combo strings can feel daunting, sometimes impossible to practice and improve upon. But they really aren’t – like any fighter, you have to practice and make time for it.
The story in a Nutshell – Terumi’s a Jerk: 3.5/5
But how does it actually handle on the Nintendo Switch? I played a few ranked and casual matches on my wireless signal, and personally, I didn’t receive a lot of lag in the match itself. Now, if I were going to regularly play ranked, I would be leery, since the Switch doesn’t have a port for a cat-5 cable. I do however play in the same room as my router, so it’s not a signal that’s going far. I experienced smooth framerates and internet connectivity, but of course, that second point is also dependent on the opponent. So far it’s been positive though. It felt good and responsive in both docked and portable mode, but I prefer to play in docked since I have access to a bigger screen. Fighting Games on a small screen can be terribly frustrating. Thankfully, BlazBlue has a very easy-to-follow tutorial system, and each character has their own special tutorial that goes over the gameplay of said character.
So, after spending time learning, I think there’s a lot to offer here. I didn’t wait very long for matches either, so there have to be people online playing. Most of the lobbies I saw for casuals had a decent amount of players in them, but I’d rather go into Ranked Matches and not wait through a lobby. Though my friends in the BlazBlue scene always tell me the best players are in casuals. BlazBlue: Central Fiction handles great on the Switch, and playing using the Pro Pad felt exactly as I hoped it would. I don’t own an arcade stick for the Switch but I believe there’s only one real option for that at the moment. 2D anime fighters though, in my opinion, feel better on a pad. Though Central Fiction is a few years old, I hope this will still get some attention. It’s a solid fighter, and one I enjoy more than Cross Tag if I’m being 100% honest. I just hope these releases in the future, come out closer together. Plus, being able to take your fighting game on the go to play with your friends? Even better! With the Switch release, it’s never been easier to take your game on the go to practice with members of your fighting game community.