Blade Strangers is the latest in crossover fighters, providing fans of the indie genre with some of their breakout stars duking it out in one on one 2D matches. A simplified but intuitive control scheme and colorful cast make Blade Strangers a fun fighter, despite its mediocrity in other departments like design.
The roster of Blade Strangers is a mixture of Nicalis characters and some original designs. Isaac, Shovel Knight, and Gunvolt are only some of the star studded cast. Their playstyle varies, each with their own unique attacks, specials, and supers. The newcomers also sport interesting designs, and I never found a character I didn’t enjoy playing. Characters like Curly use their projectiles to zone, while Shovel Knight relies more on big hits and throws with heavy start up. Differences such as these keep the roster from feeling stale and create a playing field where each character feels viable in the meta, even if some matchups are more difficult than others.
Blade Strangers utilizes a four buttons system: light attack, heavy attack, unique attack, and skill. Unique attacks are used to close distance and open up opponents with lows and overheads, while skills are each character’s special moves. Specials are simple input, simply hold a direction and press skill. The light and heavy buttons can be pressed repeatedly to do short auto combos for beginner players, or those looking to take quick advantage of an opening. Characters also have two super moves inputted using the super button (or combination of buttons) and either down or without a direction. Heat Ups are the final arsenal in Blade Stranger’s gameplay, and acts as a last stand for your character. If you have low health and one bar, you can enter an armored state that prevents you from being knocked down or out of moves on the first hit. This mode drains your skill gauge over time.
Online offers three modes: ranked, casual, and stealth. Stealth mode is odd as it allows players to participate in a casual match without seeing your opponent’s overall and character specific rank. I suppose this mode is supposed to be for players who don’t want to know how strong they’re opponents may be or feel discouraged by who they’re fighting, but I don’t think it was necessary. As far as the online actually runs, I found myself frequently encountering high bar connections, with little lag or stuttering. The ranking system used is simple to understand and you can track your progress to ranking up fairly easily. My only gripe with online however is how it sends you back to the main online menu after a match.
My main criticism with Blade Strangers is that the rest of the game does not reflect the interest and hook of the combat and characters. Stages are serviceable but not particularly memorable or interesting. Elements of the UI look out of place, particularly the timer displayed during a match. Story mode is your general “convergence of worlds” plotline, though it does have some fun moments of dialogue. Oddly enough some of the cast’s stories were locked and only available after completing other storylines, which would be less annoying if not for the fact that beating story mode unlocks an alternate color for said character. Overall, these complaints are minor and don’t greatly hinder my enjoyment of the game, they’re just some annoyances I found throughout my time.
Overall, Blade Strangers marks another solid entry in 2018’s growing line up of crossover fighting games. It’s cast and gameplay provide a satisfying feeling, combined with solid online makes it an overall fun experience. However, its lack of polish in areas such as stage design, and an average story mode keep it from being a standout hit. If you’re a fan of the properties you’ll have fun, but those unfamiliar will quickly find themselves moving on.