Fighting games bring people in for a number of appealing reasons: the highly technical gameplay, often close-knit communities and possibilities for competition are just a few of the things that draw people into the idea of beating the virtual stuffing out of one another. The genre’s crossover potential is another one of its most tantalizing elements — while characters created specifically for brawlers are plenty interesting, there’s nothing quite like putting your dream matchups to the test in a game that blends personalities from many different series. If you’re a fan of Japanese developer Nitroplus’ visual novels and various game franchises, you’ll probably get that sense of satisfaction from Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel, which lets you duke it out with an assortment of lovely ladies from Arcana Heart to Senran Kagura to Fate/stay night.
If Nothing Else, It’s Eclectic!
Bringing together so many characters from so many different game franchises may give you the impression that Nitroplus Blasterz might have a bit of an eclectic and over-the-top style of fighting gameplay, and you’d be exactly right. The basic moves give you pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a fighter: you’ve got your standard light, medium and heavy moves, in addition to evasive moves and “heavy actions,” which allow you to wallop your foe across the length of the battlefield. There are plenty of wild special moves at your disposal as well: the eponymous Infinite Blasts, which stop your opponent mid-move; Variable Rushes, which get the jump on your opponent with multiple combo hits; and Lethal Blazes, which fulfill the traditional “super combo” role and will set your opponent up for a really bad day. Perhaps most interesting of all, though, is the game’s support character system, which allows you to summon one of 19 extra characters to help you get the edge in battle. You can actually choose the two support characters you like best before jumping into the fray, adding a nice degree of customization to the proceedings.
With such a great basis for a fighting game, and so many varied characters joining the battle, it’s sort of a shame that Nitroplus Blasterz fails to implement its solid mechanics in any memorable modes. Most disappointing of all is the set of two “narrative” modes, Story and Another Story, which really stretch the boundaries of what can be considered a story in the first place. That’s not to say they’re doing anything narratively daring — quite the opposite, in fact, because this game’s attempt at storytelling is garbage. Forgoing the option to implement any sort of plot that ties the characters together, the game instead loosely introduces each fight with a lackluster and humorless exchange between the girls preparing to brawl. Worse yet, don’t expect to have any idea what’s going on if you’re not well-versed in Nitroplus lore; as the game makes no attempt to explain itself to those not in the know, many players will be left in the dark while the dialogue drops dull, obnoxious references and prattles on with in-universe jargon.
Bring a Friend, Beat ’em Up
Of course, you can opt to compete with friends either online or locally, which might be the best option considering the flimsiness of the single-player options. The over-the-top and flashy battles seem pretty well-suited for couch play, as they might be a bit too unbalanced for competitive gamers looking for an even-handed challenge. That might sound like damning evidence, but it’d be pretty difficult to determine just how much the game tilts in favor of one chatacter or another without spending hours upon hours studying and analyzing each girl’s moveset. Still, it’s pretty clear that some girls — particularly those with long-range attacks or speedier movement — have enough of a significant advantage over others to piss off the pickiest of players. If you’re just in it for some colorful chaos, though, there’s plenty of reason to jump in!
Great Graphics, Generic Guitars
Nitroplus Blasterz’ anarchic action all but guarantees some spectacular visuals, and it does not disappoint in this regard. Featuring technically excellent 2D sprite work against a number of well-drawn backgrounds, watching the colorful characters beat the living daylights out of each other is — at the very least — visually striking. The graphics aren’t quite on-par with other fighting games with a similar style, such as Persona 4 Arena, but they’re plenty impressive. The music, on the other hand, is a bit of a disappointment. It’s not terrible, but it’s not particularly memorable, either, dialing the fake-sounding guitar and synth effects all the way up. They’re energetic little ditties, to be sure, but is it too much to ask for — if not instrumentation created by actual instruments — at the very least, some more realistic and organic sounding virtual tracks?
A Solid Effort
Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel is an admirable effort, bringing together characters from a number of visual novels and gaming franchises and pitting them against each other in a solid, energetic brawler. It’s a shame that there aren’t more interesting modes in which to test your fighting mettle, particularly when the two story modes offered are so dull and impenetrable, but at least there’s some good multiplayer fun to be had — just don’t get too interested in completely even-handed competition, as I highly suspect there are serious balancing issues at play here. Still, as a lighthearted bit of fun to enjoy with friends online or locally, there’s enough colorful, flashy eye candy here to satisfy casual fighter fans.
Review copy of Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information about scoring, check our Review Policy here.