Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel PS4 Review
In a way, 2D Anime fighting games are very similar to the source material they derive from: brilliantly animated, action packed, and borderline impenetrable to all but the most hardcore enthusiasts. Recent fighters like Blazblue, Arcana Hearts and Dengenki Bunko tend to feature a fanservice-seasoned spread of colorful characters engaging in psychedelic battles that can barely be followed by the naked eye, but also come with a strategy guide’s ransom of button inputs, special meters and crucial strategies that bring strict learning curves to these games that most casual players won’t be able to get by with mere button mashing.
This is why Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel feels like such a breath of fresh air; despite its initial appearance (as well as developer pedigree, as Examu had previously released fighting games like Arcana Hearts, which feature the aforementioned complexity that tends to drive away players looking for a simple button masher), Nitroplus Blasterz features some of the simplest and stripped-down mechanics seen in a fighting game to date, to the point that something like Smash Bros feels more complex in comparison. Many of the gauges and gameplay elements that needed to be studied for success have either been stripped entirely or automated to the point that players don’t need to constantly pay attention and can instead work on the fundamentals, such as learning a favorite 3-hit combo or busting out a special move at the most opportune time. The heavy streamlining works greatly in Nitroplus Blasterz’s favor, considering how there are already an uncountable number of fighters in this fashion, and ultimately makes the game far more inviting and approachable, even if its source material feels like the complete opposite.
As a self-imposed longtime Anime fan, even this reviewer could only manage to recognize less than a third of the cast rounding out this crossover. The majority of this all-female ensemble come from visual novels under the Nitroplus brand, many of which have not been translated into English, either officially or by fans. The most recognizable character is mostly likely Saber, who hails from the Fate/Stay Night series (though the Saber in this game is specifically taken from the prequel, Fate/Zero), which has enjoyed several Western releases of its Anime and Manga adaptations even while the original Visual Novel source remains unreleased beyond its fan translation. Other characters that may be more familiar also come from recent Anime releases, such as Akane Tsunemori from Psycho-Pass, Angela Balzac from Expelled from Paradise, and Amy from Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. Hardcore fans may notice that all of these characters share the same original writer Gen Urobuchi, and may also lament the lack of any playable characters from the author’s crowning achievement Madoka Magica. Rejoice, however, that the game does include Saya from Song of Saya, which is also an Urobuchi-penned story and also his most infamous work; anyone who had the stomach to experience Saya’s original source material will no doubt find it amusing that such a disturbing character made their way into this game (even the DLC guest characters from Mortal Kombat would all back away in fear from Saya’s presence).
Unfortunately, such amusing additions to this roster will be utterly lost by anyone who is not keenly familiar with their origins, as Nitroplus Blasterz makes no attempt whatsoever to bring any context to its characters; there are enough bizarre terminologies and character quirks here to fill an entire database, and the multiple story modes in this game just mix them all together in a blender without giving players any idea of its ingredients. If that level of context isn’t important to you, then you can go ahead and drink up the visual madness going on screen, from teenage girls on segways being chased by zombies to Super Sonico’s band rocking out in the middle of battle (while Sonico herself is also a playable character in addition to being the “host” of this crossover, strangely enough). This also includes the screen-filling and lifebar-depleting ultimate attacks that each character can unleash, which is the most literal form of being “Anime’d to death” there is.
As mentioned before, the gameplay is far simpler to wrap your head around than the convoluted backstories of its cast; each character has the same button layout of attacks that include three attack buttons and one launcher. The other commands are initiated through button combinations, which are handily added as shortcuts using the shoulder buttons. These include the ability to call up two supports who serve as non-playable assist characters similar to the original Marvel vs Capcom as well as a button that doubles as both a rolling dodge and barrier block. The last button is mapped to the Infinity button, which is a temporary boost that recharges health, fills up the special meter and even increases damage, similar to the X-Factor button in Marvel vs Capcom 3 (or as Deadpool more aptly put it, “Anime power-up time”).
Most of these mechanics should be familiar enough to fighting game veterans, but what makes them more beginner friendly in Nitroplus Blasterz is how they are seamlessly incorporated into the game, making them much easier to learn and manage. In fact, just mastering one or two of the various systems is enough to get by; the support combinations alone are fun enough to experiment with in order to find the most desired duo to assist the playable fighters (the game also lists which support characters are the most recommended for each fighter, if you prefer to eliminate the guesswork entirely), and they can turn the tide with some serious damage to opposing players in a pinch. Busting out a three-meter ultimate ability at the right time can also make a huge difference, particularly against attacks like Saber’s Excalibur, which is so devastating it can finish off blocking foes at low enough health. The overall list of characters is a bit smaller compared to recent games, but they all play different enough that they are worth learning for competitive play. The online network interface is also simple enough (and more importantly, functional) to mess around with as well.
In the end, Nitroplus Blasterz: Infinite Heroines Duel doesn’t reinvent the wheel for fighting games, and ironically enough it’s all the better for it. The stripped-down mechanics lead to more pick-up-and-play sessions without feeling overwhelmed by too many rules to follow, and the cast of characters are entertaining enough just to witness in action even if you have no idea about their respective origins.