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BlazBlue: CentralFiction

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: PQube
Developer: Arc System Works
Release Date: Feb. 7, 2019 (US), Feb. 8, 2019 (EU)


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Switch Review - 'Blazblue: CentralFiction Special Edition'

by Cody Medellin on July 29, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Like a well-timed 2D punch, BlazBlue: CentralFiction bashes massive amounts of content and innovation into one slick title that hits hard and keeps the pummeling steady!

Buy Blazblue: CentralFiction Special Edition

Arc System Works undoubtedly knows the fighting game. The developer proved it with its first title, Guilty Gear, and every subsequent 2D fighter it's ever done shows that it belongs in the same conversation as Capcom and SNK in this regard. The developer also knows the Switch pretty well, as evidenced by both Blazblue Cross Tag Battle and Dragon Ball FighterZ. Not only were both of those solid 2D fighters, but one would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the Switch version and other console and PC versions, at least at first glance. For its next fighting game on the Switch, the company has decided on Blazblue: CentralFiction. The nearly three-year-old fighting game was praised upon its original release for being both deep for veterans and accessible for newcomers while also offering up a heap of content that can match any of Netherrealm's offerings in the genre. As expected, the Switch version is no different.

We start with the fighting mechanics. CentralFiction goes for a four-button attack system, with three of the buttons determining attack strength and one triggering unique moves. The game features 36 fighters, some of which were previously only available as DLC. The standard power meter at the bottom of the screen is called a Heat Gauge, and Distortion Drive uses up to half of that meter for a powerful special move. From here, things get really deep. For example, Crush Triggers allow for breaking through defenses, and Overdrive temporarily powers up all attacks. There are two additions to the mechanics. The first is Exceed Accel, which is another type of special attack that can only be done while in Overdrive mode. The second is Active Flow, which can only be used once per round but adds extra power to all of your moves, provided you're an aggressive player and not one who relies mainly on defense.

There's plenty of things going on with the fighting mechanics, and CentralFiction does a good job of trying to make them easy to understand. The standard Training mode allows you to practice everything under any condition, while the Tutorial mode lets you practice every game mechanic and teaches you about every character's unique move. If all of that still seems overwhelming, the title lets you change your fighting style from traditional to stylish, where only simple button presses are needed to pull off effective combos. As such, the game becomes accessible to all players, a boon for a title that's often seen as intimidating due to all of the systems in place.

As for game modes, there's plenty to keep you busy. Challenges has you using everything you learned with the whole roster. Score Attack mode is exactly what it sounds like, while Speed Star mode has you choosing a character and trying to go through everyone you can as quickly as possible, with time bonuses being given if you deal out big combos or flashy finishes. Then you have Grim of Abyss mode, which is interesting since it adds some RPG mechanics to the mix. Kill enough enemies, and you'll get enhancing items to buff you up before you take on even stronger enemies and try to reach the deepest parts of the dungeon.

The meat of the solo modes is the story, and there are two ways to approach it. If you want a more action-oriented route, you can do Arcade mode, which plays out more traditionally with a few cut scenes. It works well enough, but the twist is that each character's Arcade story is chopped up into three distinct acts that can be tackled in any order, giving you up to 24 fights per character. For a game that claims to be the last in the mainline series, it's a bold way to go out, as no other fighting game has an arcade mode go on for that long.

If you want more story, then the aptly named Story mode will fit the bill, as the whole thing plays out more like a visual novel with a few key choices to make and a few key fights to play in between. Unlike other fighting games, there are about eight hours of gameplay time in CentralFiction. That's on the long side but understandable when you realize how many loose ends the game is trying to address in that time. To prepare you for all of this, however, the mode starts off with a prologue that lasts about half an hour. It'll get you to the basics, but considering that it has to encapsulate what happened over three mainline games, you can't ask for much more out of that recap.

Online play is probably the only part of the package that will disappoint some players. To be fair, that has nothing to do with the actual performance, as all of the matches displayed no hitching or lag. This also doesn't refer to the removal of online lobbies, as both Ranked and Player rooms make up for that omission. The disappointment is due to the scarcity of online players. Keep in mind that Blazblue, as good as it is, commands a niche audience, and with this version coming in much later than on other platforms, its community was always going to be small. If you venture online, expect to go up against more seasoned Japanese players rather than those matching your level of play.

The presentation is quite peerless overall. Each of the backgrounds is an exercise in clean polygonal modeling and good texture work, with some sprite work that blends in quite well with its surroundings. The characters are still completely sprite-based, and even though their resolution isn't as high as one would want, their animations and the way they blend in with the particle effects still make everything beautiful. The audio is all in Japanese for the first time, something that will disappoint fans of the dubs in the three other main games in the series, but the acting remains top-notch, while the music teeters wonderfully between hard rock and more traditional anime pieces.

What will impress people the most is how well the Switch version matches up with the PS4 and PC iterations of the title. Except for maybe a texture or two, you can easily put this side by side with any of the other platforms, and you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between them. That shouldn't really come as much of a surprise when you saw the same thing with Arc System Works' previous titles on the Switch, but it also shouldn't surprise you when you consider how the Vita versions of the previous Blazblue games came very close to accomplishing this very thing. At this rate, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if future titles from the developer kept this level of parity going.

The Switch already has a number of terrific fighting games, and Blazblue: CentralFiction Special Edition is certainly in the upper portion of that list. The more offense-minded system, along with the different control styles, make it great for fighting fans of all skill levels, and the deluge of modes means that it can take a very long time before you come close to exhausting it all. The best part is that relatively little gets sacrificed in the port, so there's nothing to reacclimate yourself should you decide to play this on multiple platforms. In short, CentralFiction is a must-have for fighting fans.

Score: 8.5/10

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