BlazBlue: Central Fiction is another fish in a growing sea of Nintendo Switch fighting games. It is a 2D 1-on-1 anime fighter or ‘air dasher’, which means – you guessed it – you can jump and then dash forward whilst in the air.
Now, here lies the problem. Anime fighters, including BlazBlue titles, need pinpoint accuracy for control input. The Switch version’s selling point is portable play using Joy-Cons – plus all 3 DLC characters being included. Joy-Cons, however, don’t have a d-pad… – why, Nintendo, why? So, unless you’re either a madman and play with the analogue stick, you’re only here for some casual fun and a very long story mode – this was me, for the first two BlazBlue games – or own a Hori Joycon with the d-pad, then Central Fiction is probably not for you. That is, unless I can convince you that you need this incredibly fun and unique game, and a Hori Joycon, in your life.
BlazBlue is set in a future ravaged by a being called the Black Beast, doomed to repeat itself over and over. That was, until the girl who wasn’t meant to exist, Noel Vermillion, saved protagonist Ragna the Bloodedge from becoming the Black Beast. It is genuinely one of my favourite stories ever, across all types of media.
BlazBlue: Central Fiction is the fourth and concluding entry in the series and if you like much reading about batsh…poop crazy stories, then you are in for a ride of a lifetime. Bare in mind, fights come along as often as countryside buses in story mode. As the first part of BlazBlue: Central Fiction takes place in a sort of alternate reality, it is very friendly to new players as it sort of takes place at the same time as the original game, but also doesn’t.
In Central Fiction, the storyline is far more linear than previous games, but this is probably a good thing for first time BlazBlue players, as the stories of old got a little confusing. On my first playthrough, I actually thought that Central Fiction had the weakest story of the four games, but after my second playthrough, I now rank it as highly as the second and third games.
‘Confusing’ is absolutely still a fitting word for the story of Central Fiction, as even the 30 minute recap of previous iterations introduces the boundary, prime field devices (shortened to PFD), grimoires, vessels and more. Unfortunately, it offers no explanation of what they actually are, though. For that, you need to take a gander at the most excellent library mode – I bet you never thought you’d hear those 4 words in a row – as library mode explains every little detail in the BlazBlue universe, as well as fighting games in general. There are five hundred items in total! The recap explains the 3rd game really well but is very lacking for the first two. For that, if you’re interested, I’d suggest either watching the anime – which is the end of the first game and all of the second game’s story – or just playing the older games. I replayed some of the original not long ago and it holds up well today.
BlazBlue has built an intriguing universe, and I have to admit, I’m more attached to the characters in BlazBlue than any other video game series, and that’s really saying something as I’ve been gaming since the tender age of 3. There’s nowhere else you’ll find a cat that is the strongest being on the planet, a squirrel girl with underboob, a loli vampire, a strange cat thing with no actual face, a giant red mechanical man, a werewolf butler, a person made of bugs, someone cloned from the past protected by a giant doll, someone in a suit of armour that has loads of little eyes all over it, or a boy and a girl sharing a body with another person living in their staff.
Action is fast, furious and fluid. Blazblue is a four button fighter: you have light, medium, heavy, and drive attacks, the drive being unique to each character. Combos can be extremely difficult and long, but are well taught in the very detailed tutorial and challenge modes. Special, super, and new to Central Fiction, exceed accel moves are flashy without too much difficulty to pull off – unless you use the face buttons on the Joy-Con, that is.
If long combos and intricate button presses don’t sound like your cup of tea, BlazBlue has the answer: Stylish mode. It simplifies the fighting experience so that all you need to do is mash a button and voilà, you pull off a fancy-pants combo. Want to super but can’t pull off a double quarter circle back motion? Fear not! With Stylish mode, just press a direction and the SP button. The great thing about Stylish mode is that it means experienced and beginner fighters alike can play together and enjoy the game. The simple controls allow for easy combos and supers, at the cost of slightly reduced damage output.
BlazBlue is the king of game modes in the fighting genre, so let’s have a quick whiz through them. First up are Story and Library, but you also have gallery and replay theatre. There are modes for learning the game – tutorial, training, and challenge.
Your single player modes are:
- Arcade mode, which has 3 story variants for most characters and a boss difficulty spike that means I personally have to play 1-2 difficulty levels below where I’d like to.
- Score Attack – 12 courses of 10 battles, you have to win all 10 in a row to get a score you can post online.
- Speed Star – like a peanut butter jelly sandwich where fighting meets racing, you race against the clock to beat enemies and earn time by doing things such as combos and counter hits.
Finally, one of the best single player modes ever to grace a fighting game is the Grim of Abyss mode, an RPG-lite mode where you beat courses of enemies and earn books and skills that you equip to characters. The books have stat points and can be leveled up.
The only omission I have found compared to the PS4 version of the game is that the online lobby mode is missing. You can still create a room to play with friends, though, or just an open room for ranked play. A strange note is that Central Fiction doesn’t pause when you press the home button, but does so when you put the switch on standby.
There are 92 rocking songs for you to listen to while you duke it out. The voice acting is full of emotion and character, though it’s worth noting that you should probably turn on the character names in story mode. It’s occasionally hard to tell who’s talking. This point leads nicely into the fact that there’s still no English dub, but there is a lot of voice acting in the game so that’s not really surprising. Character interactions before a fight, every scene in the epic story, and the tidbits of extra story in every arcade mode are all fully voiced acted, superbly at that.
Visuals & Performance
The pixel by pixel character models are fantastic in BlazBlue and the characters look almost as amazing as their PS4 counterparts. Animation, much like the gameplay, is fluid as well. The gameplay is smooth as silk, and I haven’t noticed a single framerate drop when playing in handheld, tablet, or docked modes. Stages are beautifully designed, often full of life and moving sprites – including hype dog, check out @barksystemworks on twitter.
The story mode visuals took a flying leap in quality for Central Fiction. No longer do we just have two completely static portraits standing either side of the screen, now their mouths move and eyes blink. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s akin to eating a fine cranberry-infused French brie cheese, as opposed to a Tesco value Somerset brie.
With the abundance of amazing games coming out on the Switch, is BlazBlue: Central Fiction worth your time and money? Short answer? Yes, go buy it. Oh, you wanted more detail? Okay, well: it contains all the DLC from the previous PS4 release and a roughly 15 hour insane story. However, Arc System Works boasts a 40 hour story, which it certainly isn’t. Perhaps they included all the arcade mode tidbits, as that boosts individual character knowledge massively. If that’s the case, good luck completing the three arcade modes with 36 characters and story mode in only 40 hours!
The other value point worth mentioning again is that you will need a Hori Joy-Con (or use analogue stick) to get the most out of this game on Switch,. You can pick up both Central Fiction and a Hori Joy-Con for a little more than a regular game, and the investment of a Hori Joy-Con is a great one for not just for fighters, but platformers and beat em’ ups, too. Also, for fighting fans, consider picking up a Brook PS4 to Switch adapter or COOV N100 to connect your fight stick to Switch, they really work a treat and make some unique experiences, such as playing in tabletop mode with an arcade stick on a plane or in a hospital bed.
Many game modes
Best tutorials of any fighting game
Smooth as silk gameplay
No English dub
Arcade mode boss difficulty spike
Need to purchase a controller to fully enjoy the game