Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Marvelous USA, Xseed Games, Nitroplus
As a fighting game aficionado, I feel that I know what makes a fighting game “good” from some sort of objective standpoint. I know what makes them tick, I know what constitutes smooth gameplay, I know what makes complementary systems work well together without becoming cumbersome to the player. I can overlook a lot in the name of aesthetics, I can overlook strange graphical stylings, and I can understand a licensed game paying more attention to its source material and fanbase than compelling gameplay mechanics. I also know when something’s slapped together for the sole purpose of appealing to a particular target market, and I think Nitroplus Blasterz -Heroines Infinite Duel- is definitely that above all else.
Nitroplus Blasterz is a one-on-one versus fighting game in the classic mold, except you choose from one of fourteen female characters from popular Japanese visual novels. If you’re into that genre, you’ll recognize a fair amount of people here. Myself, I was only able to recognize two characters, and I wasn’t even able to play as the one I wanted to use — but more on that later. Nitroplus is the developer / publisher of the visual novels these characters come from, and a great deal of these novels have, shall we say, mature themes as their main selling hook. This game plays up to that as best as it can, with a ton of panty shots, bouncing breasts and other innuendo as the visual foundation of the game. It knows its audience, and it sells the product right to them. I don’t necessarily have a problem with it, but after playing the game, it’s abundantly clear that the actual gameplay was never the point.
Beyond the fourteen selectable characters — two of which being DLC guest characters from Arcana Heart and Senran Kagura — there’s nineteen support characters that you are able to call in mid-fight to deal extra damage or to open someone up for a nasty string of hits. My biggest personal gripe with the roster is that I didn’t know who any of these people were, and after finishing the story mode with every character, nothing inspired me to care about finding anything else out about them or what franchise they came from. Now, I did recognize Saber from Fate/zero / Fate/stay night, but the most extreme letdown came in the form of an assist character. You see, Akane Tsunemori from Psycho-Pass is in the game, and anyone who knows me knows that I get downright evangelical over the first season of Psycho-Pass. As soon as I heard she was in the game, I thought “she’s my main, no doubt.” Turns out all she can do is tag in, assist you by firing the Dominator, and leaves by simply stepping aside. I was upset with that, because I feel that she would have been a great character in-game.
The game itself is fairly complex, although somewhat easy to play. There’s a Weak, Medium and Strong attack button, a “Heavy Action” button for sweeps and launchers (much like Guilty Gear’s “Dust”), and an “Escape Action” button used to evade projectiles and such while advancing on your opponent. Combos are pretty much Weak => Medium => Strong affairs, and supers are executed by the requisite quarter-circle in a specific direction and pressing two specific attack buttons. Combinations of buttons allow throws and calling in one of two partner assists that are assigned by the player before the match.
You can also press all three main attack buttons at once to trigger the stat-boosting “Infinite Blast,” which acts like a burst / combo breaker option when you’re in danger, or as a combo extender when you’re looking to add on some extra stat-boosted hits. It only works once per round, so if you use it, you’ll never break out of a combo again. Add that to the fact that all assists are on cooldown timers, so you can’t just pull an assist for a chance to hit someone out of their string. Then, add that to the fact that the two-bar-burning custom combo mode makes the attacking character seemingly impervious to all attacks on screen for the duration of the beating. All of this adds up to mechanics that provide a lot of depth, but feel very clunky and routine in their application.
Beyond that, the game itself isn’t much to look at. The sprite work is pretty rudimentary when compared to more recent efforts, the backgrounds are incredibly bland and lifeless, and the UI is an eyesore. The font is chunky and obnoxious, the character select screen is downright barren, and the super-death-move intro movies are the prettiest thing about the game, bar none. The music is beyond forgettable, too. It’s visually and aurally bland at best and unappealing at worst, and that’s a shame when you’re on PlayStation 4. Then, there’s the translation job, which skirts true cringe at times.
Furthermore, the game’s single-player AI isn’t all that great, and the final boss has one hell of a case of SNK Boss Syndrome. Expect projectile spam that will destroy you in a matter of seconds with the chip damage alone, and then when you think you can move, you’ll get hit by something else with ridiculously little startup delay. If you get lucky enough to land a major hit, the boss will teleport behind you and make you feel silly for thinking that having someone dead to rights with a level three super was a good idea. You know, like you would in an actual fighting game.
Online play is the same game, just against other people. The matches I played were all about putting someone into a corner and beating them senseless. Blasting out of it only worked once, then you were getting corner juggled with assists and other things until it was all over. I even had one guy full-on ragequit on me. So, in a double-niche game where it’s in pre-release review state, you can expect 50% of your opponents to quit on you. That sounds like great news for all who want to pick up and play it.
All in all, Nitroplus Blasterz is profoundly underwhelming. The mechanics are there, but they’re implemented poorly. The character sprites are well-designed, but not necessarily well-animated. The backgrounds are dull, the soundtrack is just there, and the game doesn’t offer much to the player outside of frustration. There’s no reason to pick this up unless you fit one of two criteria; one, you love Nitroplus visual novels and want to play the fighting game that features all their characters, or two, you’re a fighting game player that will literally play anything handed to you. If you’re that rare fusion of both, I’d say it’s a must-buy. For everyone else who’s not big on the source material or hardcore enough to play everything that the fighting genre has to offer, you’d be far better off dropping forty dollars on something else. Hell, Skullgirls is half the price, has just as much fanservice, and is a mechanically superior game by all measures. Go play that instead, because this…this just ain’t it, although I will say that it isn’t for a lack of trying.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.
This isn’t a blast.