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Game Review #130: BLAZBLUE CENTRALFICTION: Special Edition (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B.

Developed By: Arc System Works Published By: Arc System Works, PQube Category: Fighting, Arcade, Action, Adventure Release Date: 02.07.19

Price (at time of review): $49.99 (digitally) | ~$42.00 (physically)

Buy BLAZBLUE CENTRALFICTION: Special Edition (digitally) from the Nintendo eShop here.

Buy BLAZBLUE CENTRALFICTION: Special Edition (physically) from Amazon U.K. here.

Sometimes it seems like the world has just moved on from the true 2D fighter. Street Fighter, Dragonball Z, and Mortal Kombat have all abandoned their 2D roots and moved on to the supposedly greener grass of full 3D rendering, even if some still adhere to a 2D perspective. But what about those of us who cut our teeth on Street Fighter II, Turbo or otherwise? What about those of us who long for the simplicity of a hand-drawn sprite launching fireballs at a different hand-drawn sprite? Arc System Works hears you, and Arc System Works is here for you with BLAZBLUE CENTRALFICTION: Special Edition for the Nintendo Switch. The game was originally released on the PS4 in 2016, but the Switch release comes preloaded with all the DLC.

The Revolver System

Combat in BLAZBLUE works like a lot of 2D fighters, which is to say a lot of quarter circle forward/backward and an attack button to perform a basic special attack. One area where it distinguishes itself from the crowd is in its basic combo system. Instead of hitting a punch/kick button a few times to string together a combo, we have the Revolver System. As the name implies, you have to move through the attack buttons in a certain progression to pull off a combo. The four gamepad buttons are labelled A (weak), B (medium), C (strong), and D (Drive). You string together combos by chaining those different attacks. Each character has a unique Drive. Drive attacks are a good way to end a combo, as they have a special attribute attached to them. For instance, Ragna the Bloodedge has a Drive called Soul Eater which absorbs a small portion of health from every Drive attack he makes. It’s a pretty cool system that fans of the series should be well familiar with by now, but it’s easy for new players to pick up, too. I needed a few rounds and some practice sessions to get up to speed, but it was a smooth learning curve.

Tactical Fighting

If you haven’t picked up a fighter since the Street Fighter II days, be wary; they’re a lot more complicated than they used to be. You don’t just guard anymore; you can break a guard, throw up a barrier block, use your Crush Trigger, or use a Break Burst to knock opponents back, just to name a few options. Attacking has its own set of tactical options aside from just attack, attack, attack. You can activate Overdrive mode to enhance your stats for a few seconds or use your Heat Gauge to pull off super-powerful specials called Distortion Drives, among other things. BLAZBLUE CENTRALFICTION comes with a great tutorial mode to teach you the terminology and basic strategies of the game, but it’s a lot to take in all at once. In general, though, the depth of the game’s strategy is well-balanced against the quick-twitch skills required to execute a plan of attack.

Style vs Technique

If you’re having a little trouble adjusting to BLAZBLUE's combat, or if you just want to enjoy the bonkers story (more on that in a minute), there are two modes of controlling your character. Technical Mode is the no-frills, live or die mode where the combo inputs rely solely on the player’s skill. In other words, this is the mode the real players use. If you just want to enjoy the gorgeous graphics or experience the story (or if the person you’re playing against is just that much better than you), you can choose the Stylish Mode controls. Stylish mode offers some assistance with combos by making the combo windows longer and occasionally even outright executing some combos for you. It won’t do the really advanced stuff, though, so if you want to pull off the coolest moves you gotta get good, n00b.

Game Modes Aplenty

No matter how you like to play fighting games, BLAZBLUE CENTRALFICTION has you covered. There are three different practice modes; the tutorial which teaches you the basics, Training Mode which lets you practice moves in all sorts of different situations, and Challenge Mode which presents you with a particular chain to attempt. Story mode is a visual novel-style adventure punctuated by battles that tells the game’s story, and also has a library that explains about the world and characters of BLAZBLUE. There are a ton of battle modes, including an arcade mode, a V.S. mode for couch multiplayer, a survival mode called Grim of Abyss, a score attack mode, and a speed mode where you race against the clock to win as many fights as possible. Finally, there’s an online mode to fight opponents from around the world over the internet.

Ragna Rocks

I mentioned that there is a story mode before, and I feel like I should talk about it some, but… well, the storyline is so anime that I don’t think the English language has the words to describe it. I’ll try anyway. The game opens by trying to summarize the previous entries in the series, but it’s so full of its own lore-based terminology that it can be a little impenetrable. I had to go to the library and look up terms like Ars Magus to refresh my memory many times. The short version is, something called the Novum Orbis Library is hunting Ragna the Bloodege, a sort-of vampire whose arm is a magical artifact called the Azure Grimoire. Ragna is determined to destroy the NOL and thwart their plans for his kidnapped, possessed little sister Saya using the power of the Azure Grimoire. The ride BLAZBLUE takes it players on from there is twisty, turny, and all-around nuts, but well worth progressing through. If you can get past the initial infodump, you’ll find a wonderful cast of characters and an epic story worth every second it lasts.

BLAZBLUE ArtDirection

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better looking fighter out there. One of the reasons I love this series so much are the absolutely gorgeous hand-drawn graphics. The character designs are varied, original, and just plain awesome. Even though the story mode doesn’t contain much in the way of animation, the level of detail in every background and character portrait still makes the game feel visually rich. The character models in the actual game are similarly richly detailed and the animations are perfectly smooth and crisp. BLAZBLUE is simply a joy to look at.

Aurally, BLAZBLUE is a treat as well. The game music is mostly rock and electronic tracks that accentuate the high-octane action of the fights. Further variety is added in the story mode, with some orchestral arrangements thrown in for good measure during the visual novel sections. The story is also fully voice-acted in Japanese, which further adds to the feeling that you’re watching an anime with gloriously cool fight scenes.


From start to finish this game feels like it was made almost entirely to appeal to me. The hand-drawn style character models and anime-style designs are the height of beauty. The game’s lore is deep and confusing and I can lose myself in it for hours. The characters and story are well-developed and engaging. The gameplay is deep almost to the point of being overwhelming, but through the tutorial and Stylish Mode the developers present plenty of options for players to acclimate to the game at their own pace. Literally the only way this game could be any more up my alley is if it were a JRPG, but even that may not be able to give me a higher opinion of this game. BLAZBLUE CENTRALFICTION: Special Edition is a masterpiece of the fighting genre.

Score: 10/10

Buy BLAZBLUE CENTRALFICTION: Special Edition (digitally) from the Nintendo eShop here.

Buy BLAZBLUE CENTRALFICTION: Special Edition (physically) from Amazon U.K. here.

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*Review Code Provided by PQube

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