Girls just want to have fun
Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel marks the latest fighter to capitalize on Japan’s visual novel craze. Following in the footsteps of Ecole Software and SEGA’s 2015 release Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax and EXAMU’s 2013 mashup brawler, Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match, the game makes extensive use of Japanese publisher Nitroplus’ vast catalog of anime, manga and visual novels, bringing a menagerie of quirky femme fatales together for the ultimate 2D smackdown.
If you’ve ever gone a few rounds with EXAMU’s previous entries, such as Arcana Heart and the aforementioned Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Blasterz. Players choose from a selection of 32 characters from Nitroplus’ properties, which are split up between playable characters and support characters, who jump into the fray and assist the player similar to the Strikers found in several King of Fighters titles. The all-girl cast of Nitroplus Blasterz is rich and varied, with no two characters in the game’s stable of 14 playable pugilists (2 of which are unlocked as DLC) playing quite the same. From Mora, the sledgehammer-swinging vampire hunter with a deadly combination of speed and power, to Muramasa, a web-slinging warrior who can deftly zip across the stage, tangling opponents in her snare-like projectiles and pulling them in for punishment à la Mortal Kombat‘s masked ninja Scorpion. Another personal favorite of mine is Ein, the deadly assassin from the visual novel Phantom of Inferno, who absolutely ravages her opponents with quick SMG bursts, knife slashes and even a stunning blast from a sniper rifle as her coup de grâce. Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel’s roster of warriors is staggering in its diversity, and you won’t find a cookie-cutter shoto among the game’s cast of characters, making them all feel truly unique and versatile in the arena.
Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel brings with it a handful of gaming modes to sate your fighting spirit. The first one you’ll likely jump into is the Story Mode, which is essentially the game’s Arcade Mode, which allows you to fight through a sizable chunk of the game’s roster before going head-to-head with the game’s big baddie, the living grimoire Al Azif Ex Mortis. After playing through the Story Mode you’ll unlock “Another Story”, which is quite a bit more interesting as you play through ten chapters of a rather quirky visual novel-turned-fighter with one hell of a Lovecraftian twist. This mode is fun, allowing you to get a taste of many of the game’s characters while exploring a turn of the century murder mystery full of strange cults, black magic and otherworldly powers. It’s a bit heavy in the dialog, but it’s a still an appreciated addition to Blasterz’ overall package, adding a welcome layer of depth not unlike the story modes found in ATLUS’ recent Persona-themed fighters. This mode can easily last you over an hour, however, if you want to skip the fighting and just enjoy the gibber jabber, you can choose to skip the battles and simply enjoy the story. There’s also a Score Attack Mode, for players looking to slug their way through a pure arcade-style experience with none of the fluff, and the game’s requisite versus and online modes.
Of course, online performance is everything when it comes to versus fighters, and we’re happy to report that EXAMU’s latest brawler handles itself quite admirably in this regard. Our pre-release time with Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel ran largely without a hitch. It’s easy to find and start a lobby, and the online performance moves along without a hitch, save for the occasional slight stutter when players perform their devastating Lethal Blaze attacks, which fill the screen with a massive animated overlay and shower of particle effects. Even then, it still was barely noticeable, and did little to impact the game’s overall online performance. Another thing worth noting is the game’s very welcome cross-platform support, allowing PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 users to find one another and duke it out in online melees with zero fuss.
In terms of core gameplay mechanics, Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel feels rock-solid. The game’s four-button attack system offers the requisite light, medium, and hard attacks, along with a kick. The game’s combo system is intuitive, and you can use your power stocks to execute Variable Rushes, which allow for some satisfyingly free-form surprise combos. Additionally, you can perform Infinite Blasts, which work similarly to Guilty Gear‘s Burst system, allowing you to knock your opponent back, interrupting their offense while giving your some breathing room. The game’s most fearsome offensive attacks, the Lethal Blaze abilities, all look great and feature a stunning amount of animation as well. Simply put, Blasterz is…well, a blast to play. With tight, responsive controls and an easy to pick up but deceptively deep fighting system, there’s an awful lot of fun to be had in this 2D slugfest.
Aesthetically speaking, Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel features some gorgeously drawn character sprites for both the main cast and the staggering array of support characters, full of impressive attack animations and personality.The stages themselves look pretty good as well, but there could stand to be a few more, and environments themselves are almost entirely static, which stands at stark contrast to the game’s impressive degree of character animations. Even still, with all of the chaos going on on-screen (with melees often featuring six sprites throwing down at once), you’ll hardly notice the lack of business in the game’s backgrounds enough to truly care.
Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel is a very welcome addition to the PlayStation 4’s library of one-on-one fighters. EXAMU’s previous work with the Arcana Heart series shines through in this 2D smackdown, delivering a highly-polished fighter that no fans of the genre will want to miss. With a deep and rewarding fighting system, silky-smooth online play and a stable of absolutely off-the-wall characters to master, this is one game you’ll want to keep in rotation for months to come.
Final Verdict: 4.5 / 5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3 ; Publisher: XSEED Games ; Developer: EXAMU ; Players: 1-2; Released: February 2, 2016; Genre: Fighting ; MSRP: $39.99 (PS4) $29.99 (PS3)
Full disclosure: This review was written based on review code supplied by the game’s publisher, XSEED Games.