In a class all its own

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BlazBlue CentralFiction
Nintendo Switch

CONSIDERING that BlazBlue CentralFiction marks the culmination of an overarching narrative spanning three other releases over a full decade, it’s fair to wonder if Arc System Works and Aksys Games jumped the gun by making it the first title in the series to see appearance on the Nintendo Switch. True, the middle of last year saw BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle hit store shelves and earn a fair share of followers on the hybrid console. Then again, the latter is more an all-star spectacle that features intellectual properties from prominent franchises and makes use of otherwise-foreign premises.

In contrast, BlazBlue CentralFiction is, well, central to the fiction. It picks up from where BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma left off and provides a satisfying denouement to the story arc introduced in BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger and further fleshed out in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift. All 28 characters from its immediate past predecessor are back, bringing the aggregate number to a whopping 36, and all are afforded deep, compelling backgrounds that add to the series’ lore. On the flip side, the information is a lot to take in, even for gamers bent on understanding the motivations of protagonists and the manner in which they everything is tied together.

Admittedly, newcomers may well find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information BlazBlue CentralFiction is able to impart. The operative word is, of course, “able,” with gamers given the option to skip through the half-hour-long recap of the Azure Saga via cutscenes and on-screen text. It is satisfying and extremely well presented, to be sure; the anime art style fits the long-running look of the franchise, and the localization of the original Japanese language tracks are spot-on, making even those leaning toward convenience almost forget the absence of English voiceovers in the otherwise-complete Special Edition version for the Switch.

To be sure, it’s a testament to the strength of BlazBlue CentralFiction’s mechanics that it works absent the depth and breadth of the chronicles of Ragna the Bloodedge. Gamers keen on skipping the elaborate, if confusing, sketch are nonetheless rewarded by an extremely balanced roster of characters unmatched in and by any fighting title on the Switch. With each character boasting of unique combo sets unleashed via properly timed button presses, extensive practice becomes essential even for franchise habitues. That said, those not quite prepared or inclined to put in the requisite hours are offered the “Stylish Type,” which allows for the combos to be pulled off with far less effort.

BlazBlue CentralFiction on the Switch packs a wallop, earning its Special Edition badge by including off the bat every single downloadable content and update hitherto released on other platforms. The menu offerings — from Story to Arcade to VS to Score Attack to Speed Star — are plentiful, and provide a bevy of customization options and, where appropriate, online matchmaking and leaderboards. Of particular interest is the Grim of Abyss mode, which has gamers choose a character and guide it through dungeon after dungeon where hordes of enemies and bosses await. Along the way, they benefit from buffs and upgrades by way of Grimoires.

Parenthetically, BlazBlue CentralFiction leans on a rich combat system that rewards aggressiveness and precision in equal measure. The level of complexity is unmatched and certain to please veterans of the genre, with the various tutorials and supplements proving critical to success. Apart from the fighting-game-staple Training option, there is the Challenge mode catering to the mastery of combos, which, when properly chosen and executed, can deal significant damage and become crucial to advancement.

To be sure, BlazBlue CentralFiction is aided in no small measure by its exquisite aesthetics and sounds. The hand-drawn animations jump out of the display, even with the Switch undocked, bursting into gorgeous blends of colors that serve to further highlight the frenetic pace of fights. Meanwhile, the bombastic music complements the activity on screen but makes sure not to drown out the voice tracks. And, yes, the action remains constant throughout; whether at home or on the go, no discernible frame drops or stutters occur, thereby keeping gamers focused on the tasks at hand.

On the whole, BlazBlue CentralFiction earns its $49.99 price tag. Featuring a myriad of goodies off the grid and online, it presents unparalleled depth and fairness; for all the characters on offer, balance is retained and competitiveness is ensured. And given the replay value, it won’t be a surprise to see gamers invest in a pro controller or arcade stick and subsequently get the most out of their experience. It’s in a class all its own as an exhaustive fighter with sweeping role-playing-game elements. Nothing else comes close.

• Fleshed out narrative
• Completes the Azure Saga
• Provides extremely balanced gameplay
• Contains all content previously released in other platforms
• Presents myriad online and offline options

• Storyline can be convoluted and confusing
• No English dub
• No touchscreen options
• Requires investment of time and effort for maximum returns

RATING: 9/10